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The wheel is one of mankind’s oldest inventions, dating from the Ancient Greeks, who first used it in wheelbarrows. Thousands of years later, the modern bicycle depends on wheels for its incomparable qualities. Not only do they bear the full weight of rider and machine but they also interact with the elements: Earth (smoothing the surface on which we ride), Fire (combating the heat of braking friction), Wind (cutting through the air that restricts our speed) and Water (overcoming the rainfall that attacks bearings and slickens roads). The four classical elements were first identified by Greek philosopher Empedocles, who lived on the Italian island of Sicily—and that’s where we decide to test a new wheelset.
Landing in Catania, the island’s second largest city, we meet up with Thomas and Tommaso, our two local test riders. It took them a little time to identify the perfect Sicilian location to test the new Zipp 454 NSW Disc carbon clincher on its maiden voyage, but they wisely chose the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. This ancient land boasts some of the best examples of Greek architecture outside of Greece, and it also happens to be the birthplace of Empedocles, the “four elements” philosopher. Cycling fans, of course, may remember Agrigento as the site of the 1994 UCI world road championships, where Lance Armstrong vainly tried to defend his rainbow jersey against a French national team led by Luc Leblanc. But to the rest of humanity, Agrigento is a mecca for lovers of Greek temples. So what better way to break in a new wheelset than a loop around the Temple of the Concordia, Temple of Heracles and the architectural jewels that sit below the hilltop town of Agrigento…
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