The Zipp 454 NSW Carbon Clincher is Zipp upending the wheel business. Again. This time, their biggest new innovation is the HyperFoil nodes in the SawTooth pattern on the spoke side of the rim, giving the rim a wavy appearance when seen from the side. It’s unlike anything else Zipp has done. But before we go there, we should cover the rest of the wheel.
You’re probably familiar with the depth of the Zipp 404. It’s 58mm, what has been established as the heart of mid-depth wheels. You’re also probably familiar with their 404 NSW wheelset, which is chock full of innovations. The 454 starts with the cutting-edge 404 NSW, and takes it beyond.
The 454 shares a number of features with the 404 NSW. Both utilize the Showstopper brake track. Showstopper refers to finely-molded directional grooves that help channel water and debris off the rim as it spins and cool the track as well. Better, more consistent braking in the wet, in the dry, and even when you’re dragging the brakes. The goal was to match the best aluminum rims on the market: Showstopper does so at the low- to mid-lever forces, and exceeded at the high-lever forces.
Both wheels also utilize Zipp’s Cognition hubs. The front, weighing 110g, features a scalloped edge for the spoke beds. This results in the pressure from the spokes being more evenly distributed and doesn’t deform the bearing bore under high loads, like when you’re sprinting out of the saddle. The rear, weighing 225g, has a pawl design with an Axial Clutch, which reduces pawl drag by 50% when coasting, and with a 36-tooth engagement, you’re driving the wheel the moment you start pedaling. Sapim CX-Ray spokes are used: still the best in the business.
Where the 454 diverges is in the rim shape. Zipp started with the 58mm depth, 26.4mm width at the brake track, and 27.8mm max width of the 404 NSW. But they wanted the wheel to be faster. It needed to be faster both with no wind, and with crosswinds. There, they looked into ways to better work with the wind. And that took them away from industrial machines and to the natural world. They saw that some wavy shapes do a better shop of dealing with flow than constant shapes. Basically, what they found though extensive modeling and simulation is that the waves help reduce drag by shedding air more quickly and preventing side loads to develop on the wheel. More little disturbances are faster than fewer, bigger bigger disturbances. Where it works best is in side winds, and most of the time you’re riding into moderate side winds, where those gusts can potentially push your wheels, and your bike around. The waves dissipate the wind faster and will push you around much less.
As a result, you’ll find 18 HyperFoil nodes on the front wheel, and 24 on the rear. The top of the nodes are 58mm deep, just like a regular 404, while the bottom of the nodes are 53mm deep. That 5mm difference explains the “5” in 454. By timing the nodes with the spokes, the airflow is better, and the rim lighter and even stronger.
Also clocked with the nodes are the new Hexfin dimple pattern molded into the rim. You’re familiar with the golf-ball style round dimples of rims past. These are hexagonal to create a sharper air break and improve the boundary layer between the rim and the air, keeping the airflow staying closer to the rim for longer. The hexagonal dimples are formed into fin-shaped clusters to further increase the benefits of the HyperFoil nodes.
Putting all the pieces together, the new 454 NSW is lighter and laterally stiffer, and far more aero than its predecessor. The front wheel weighs 690g, the rear 835g, saving 15g each wheel, for a 1525g wheelset. Think faster than the 404, as stable as the 303. With less side force felt than on the 404 NSW, which itself was great in crosswinds.
The finishing touch to the wheels are the ImPress graphics. They print the Zipp logos and the fine stripes directly onto the rim. Thinner, lighter, and don’t interfere with the rim’s aerodynamics.
As should be expected, you can choose between a Campagnolo-compatible 9/10/11-speed cassette body, and a Shimano/SRAM body. You can also pull these bodies and install a SRAM XD cassette body for even more diversity of applications.
The wheels, sold individually, come in a Zipp wheel bag (which can be secured to a second such bag), a black anodized Zipp titanium skewer, a Zipp valve extender, a Zipp Tangente tube, Zipp Platinum Pro Evo pads (please specify Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM), And Zipp rim tape. As of this writing, the Zipp 454 NSW Carbon wheelset will be clincher only.