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Squeezing More Speed from the Zipp 404

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May 25, 2015 – The 202 made headlines for its lightweight and incredible durability. The 303, at one time a forgotten depth, has emerged as the ultimate all-around wheel, but the venerable 404 is still Zipp’s bread and butter. It was the 404 that really showed what an aero carbon wheel can do and it’s the 404 that is still pushing boundaries.

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The 404 has gotten an incredible amount of development during its tenure, in both materials and shape – all that really remains of the original is the 58mm depth. It was the first wheel Zipp ever made in full-carbon clincher and it was the first to get the new Firestrike designation last year. A subtle tweak over the Firecrest clincher in both shape and materials, Firestrike added a sliver of aero performance, better handing and improved braking with the new Showstopper molded brake track. It also added a few bucks to the price. Firestrike clinchers go for well north of $3000. Zipp’s goal was to create a wheel that would allow riders to confidently handle all the aero-induced speed of the original 404 Firecrest in any situation – rain, mountains, technical courses, rough roads.

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Now Zipp has given the 404 tubular the Firestrike treatment, with a few added features that the clincher will get as well. The tubular uses the showstopper molded brake track with Silicon Carbide for wet weather braking Zipp claims is on par with alloy. Based on our experience with the Firestrike clincher we’d agree that’s a fair assessment. It also features the new Impress printed graphics as well as CeramicSpeed bearings. The shape is also the subtly tweaked profile for better cross-wind performance with help from a new pattern of famed Zipp dimples. The 404 Firestrike uses Zipp’s last v10 88/188hubs with no more preload adjustment.

*clincher pictured
*clincher pictured

Perhaps the biggest change the new Firestrike brings to the 404 is the new Carbon Shield lay-up. Zipp tested it in Europe over the harshest cobbles on the Roubaix route, riding at pressures so low other rims would have been smashed to pieces. Run after run, the new uni-directional carbon ply sequence survived without a scratch. In addition to this new durability, Zipp has actually shed weight from the rim, bringing the 58mm tubular set down to 1395grams versus 1470grams for a 404 Firecrest tubular. The new Firestrike 404 is now only 60grams heavier than the much shallower 303. For our money, this is the single biggest reason to pony up the steep price. Zipp is also giving the clincher version Carbon Shield lay-up as well.

Showstopper refers not only to the molded pattern, but the new Silicon Carbide material as well.
Showstopper refers not only to the molded pattern, but the new Silicon Carbide material as well.

Zipp is making only 404 sets of these wheels. Wonder where they got that number? But be warned, they already sent us a set for review and the Axeon team has been riding them all year, so a few sets are already spoken for. If your fragile race day psyche needs a boost, lining up with the fastest set of wheels Zipp can possibly make, when no aero trick or engineering technique is left on the table, the 404 Firestrike could just be worth every penny of $3600.

Photo: ©Nils Nielsen
Photo: ©Nils Nielsen

Look for a full review of the new 404 Firestrike Tubular soon in the pages of peloton. For more info hit up Zipp.com

Tubular Details
•1,395g
• 58mm wheel depth
• 27.8mm max width
• 24 rear spoke count
• 18 front spoke count
• Sapim® secure-lock nipples
• Sapim® CX-Ray® spokes
• 88/188V10 2x lacing pattern
• Ceramic bearings (CeramicSpeed)
• Available in 10/11-speed cassette body
• ImPress graphics

Availability: May 2015
Price: $3,600

Clincher Details
• 1,620g
• 58mm wheel depth
• 27.8mm max width
• 24 rear spoke count
• 18 front spoke count
• Sapim® secure-lock nipples
• Sapim® CX-Ray® spokes
• 88/188V10 2x lacing pattern
• Ceramic bearings (CeramicSpeed)
• Available in 10/11-speed cassette body
• ImPress graphics

Availability: May 2015
Price: $3,600