For the past year, I have been riding on the Zipp 303 Firecrest carbon clincher wheels which have been a very pleasurable experience! The wheels are fast, lightweight, and let's face it, everyone loves the look of a deeper rim profile! If you're born to be a mountain goat, there's not too much that can hold you back from being the KOM on your club rides or local races. However, if you're not blessed with great power-to-weight ration, every bit of rotating mass can really hold you back from even keeping up with the group on those long climbs…
This is where the new Zipp 202 Firecrest carbon clinchers step in: Listed weight is at 1375 grams from Zipp (our set weighed in at 1340 without skewers or rim tape) which is a pretty impressive weight for 32mm aero carbon clincher wheelset. However, some concerns jump to mind: How big of a difference will these be from the deeper 303's? Will I be sacrificing aerodynamics? How durable will this wheelset be with less surface area to dissipate braking heat?
|Pinarello Dogma 2 with New Sram Red on Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers.|
Within the first few miles, we noticed that these wheels were dramatically stiffer than the 303 s. This may seem a bit odd since the spoke lengths are longer... However, what is not visible to the naked eye is the latest technology that Zipp used to construct these beautiful wheels. Underneath the exterior of this carbon rim, they've utilized Kevlar in the construction to increase strength with a minimal weight penalty; they call this Carbon Bridge Technology.
The braking surface is something new for 2013. Zipp took into account the issues that most carbon rims face: heat. In the past, a carbon braking surface caused spikes in rim temperature which caused inconsistent tire pressure, thus creating issues with braking and handling. To solve this, this is what Zipp did:
"...Chemists and engineers from our composites supplier made repeated visits to Zipp and developed an exclusive heat-resistant resin based on the materials used in motorsports brake systems. This proprietary technology improves heat dissipation so substantially that all Zipp Carbon Clinchers pass stringent CEN safety standards without any limitations on rider weight or brake pad choices – a certification that no other full-carbon clincher wheelsets have achieved."
Now we're not engineers, but around here, there's nothing but hills and descending is something that is inevitable (which we love!). On the first ride, we definitely felt confident going fast if not faster than on the 303's!
Zipp’s Firecrest technology is used in these 32mm carbon rims. The rim itself is definitely wider than most shallower wheels available these days, boasting a 25.4mm width at it's widest point and 24.62mm at the brake track. Firecrest rims have a near-constant width from brake track to spoke bed to improve aerodynamics and better control airflow. This means that no matter which rim depth you choose, you're gaining the most aerodynamic advantage possible. This is all achieved through Zipp’s CFD software.
Now that we've discussed some of the technology that goes into these wheels, here are some thoughts:
These rims are definitely amazing! They track well, spin up fast, and definitely are not slower in a group ride than other riders using a deeper rim. Solo rides will show the differences between the 202's vs. 303 s on flat or slight roller pavement. The 303 s seem to coast a bit easier, where as the 202 s will require you to put in a bit more work to keep at the same pace. However, when in a group ride where you're not out front hammering, they spin just as easily as the 303 s (most likely due to the same high quality steel bearings they use in all their aero wheels). The 202 s provide a much easier climb when facing a steep, long hill, so riders that are similar to myself where flats are more favorable, this is a pleasant aid.
The Firecrest braking surfaces on these wheels are on par with the other carbon clinchers from Zipp, so there's no need to worry when coming down a long, technical descent such as Mt. Diablo. The bike dove into the corners with no tracking issues, if anything the lighter wheels made the bike feel more responsive! Almost like a faster steering rack ratio for those who are into motorsports.
All-in-all, it is a tough decision between the 202's and the 303 s. In my current cycling physique, I would pick the 202 s to help me keep up with the mountain goats, but even if I were stronger, I'd still look over the ride profile before switching over to the 303's simply due to the lighter rim with minimal aerodynamic loss.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact us so we may help you decide which wheel will be best for you! Thanks for reading!
Wrench Science, Inc.
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