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First Ride: Zipp 30 and 60 Wheels

February 15, 2013
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The new Zipp 60 wheel combines the stopping familiarity of an aluminum braking surface with one of the brand’s hybrid toroidal carbon rim profiles. (Photo: Eric Wynn) 

SRAM’s 2013 media camp in Tucson, Arizona, centered on new offerings from the corporation’s Zipp and Quarq brands (see RBA‘s previous coverage here). And while the presentations were plentiful and informative, there’s nothing quite like getting out on the road for a first ride on the latest and greatest wheels. Here are some of our initial thoughts on the Zipp 30 and 60 wheelsets.

A small band of SRAM master mechanics, which included Justin Koch (above), was tasked with setting up a couple of dozen demo bikes for the event.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ZIPP 30 ALUMINUM CLINCHERS – If ever there was a ride ideally suited for gathering first impressions on a wheel’s toughness (short of Paris-Roubaix), then our first day’s excursion is certainly in the running. Rolling out of the Starr Pass Marriott hotel, our group headed west to Gates Pass Road, a 2.5-mile climb well known among local Tucson cyclists, and took in another local-approved route, the scenic McCain loop. And while the cacti- and mesa-filled vistas were a sight to behold, the roads themselves were, well, bad.

SRAM also provided a fleet of TT and triathlon demo bikes for those so inclined.

The roads were pleasantly winding, to be sure, but the actual road surfaces were chewed-up, covered in coarse gravel and sand, and there were wheel-devouring potholes lurking every 100 meters. Imagine compressing all of the road imperfections you’d ride in an average century into a 35-mile jaunt and you’ll start to get the picture. About 7 or 8 members in our 10-strong group were riding the Zipp 30 clinchers (fitted with Zipp Tangente tires in size 23c), and not a single problem was reported during the 2-hour rumble strip march.

The camp’s second ride day was hampered by sudden snowfall. 

The event’s second day included the bulk of SRAM’s presentations on its latest products and was scheduled to include another 2- or 3-hour ride in the afternoon. Unfortunately, a rainstorm made its way over to Tucson and falling temperatures brought snow into the mix. The ride was nixed for safety reasons. But the third and final day of the event had something special on the dossier that more than made up for some bad luck: a climb up the famed, 22-mile Mt. Lemmon. The weather report called for clear skies, so I went to sleep dreaming of an epic ascent the following morning.

The biggest climb during our demo rides was Gates Pass, which we tackled from different sides. From the east (above), the road funnels through a canyon with a gradual incline before opening up to an expansive swath of gorgeous desert landscape.

Sadly, the storm the previous day had covered much of Mt. Lemmon in snow down to the climb’s 2-mile marker. But credit goes to the folks at SRAM for offering a backup plan: riding over Gates Pass to the McCain loop, just as we had two days prior. The 6-mile McCain loop’s mix of undulating terrain and short punchy climbs would provide us with an ideal test track for trying out different wheels, tires and the like.

SRAM mechanics followed the riders in one of the company’s neutral service race vehicles, complete with spare bikes and wheels.

And after a few additional runs on the Zipp 30 wheels, my initial impressions were confirmed: the wheels are plainly durable and, despite weighing in at 1655 grams (claimed), they handled some short, punchy climbs with little trouble. And although the rim profile is admittedly less aerodynamically advanced than Zipp’s premier aluminum offering, the 101, the 30 can certainly lay claim to being developed with Zipp’s vast experience in the wind tunnel. I won’t say too much about the overall ride quality just yet, because the roads were quite rough and I didn’t have access to a familiar, comparable aluminum clincher wheelset. But I will say that the 30 wheels descended quite well, and provided a feeling of confidence even over the rough stuff. We can’t wait to give the 30 a long-term test.

My demo Specialized Tarmac may not have been an S-Works model, but I was still able to test out both the Zipp 30 and 60 (above) wheelsets.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ZIPP 60 CLINCHER WHEELS ? After several dozen miles on the 30s, I traded them out for a set of Zipp’s other new 700c offering, the 60. But the 60 wheel isn’t exactly ‘all-new.’ And that’s because the 60’s hybrid toroidal rim profile was originally developed for the company’s higher-end 404 wheel. Then came the development of Zipp’s ultra-wide Firecrest profile and, along with it, a prime example of trickle-down technology.

SRAM brought out a demo fleet of Specialized S-Works Tarmac road bikes to let attendees try out the company’s latest products. 

Swapping from the 30 wheelset to the 60 didn’t require changing brake pads, because the 60 utilizes an aluminum braking surface. But the 60 is narrower at the brake track than the 30 (18.7mm versus 20.4mm), so a quick tightening of the brake cables was all that was needed before I went on my way.

Several SRAM and Zipp employees took the time to ride. One of the few BMC Time Machine TMR01 road bikes seen out in the wild belongs to Zipp wheel engineer, David Morse.

The first thing you notice when riding the 60 wheelset is its distinctive whirring sound. It’s the same one that you’ll hear when riding most any medium- or high-depth carbon wheels, a sound that, if nothing else, makes you feel like you’re going way faster than you actually are. The second think you’ll notice is that the 60 wheels are quite comfortable. They’re a bit heavier than the 30 wheelset (1820 grams versus 1655 grams), and this was evident in a noticeably less snappy acceleration during my back-to-back demo loops. But once up to speed, the 60 wheels roll incredibly well and carry momentum much better than the 30, which is likely due to the 58mm depth and more advanced aerodynamic profile.

SRAM has been hosting annual media camps at the JW Marriott Starr Pass resort for a few years.

The SRAM media camp test rides were subject to some windy conditions, but despite some gusts upwards of 15 mph, neither the 30 nor the 60 felt difficult to handle. Compared to Zipp’s popular 404 Firecrest full carbon clincher, the 60 is noticeably more susceptible to crosswinds, but not by much. This is most likely due to the Firecrest profile being significantly wider. Our recent experience testing a variety of wider profile wheels confirms that, when done properly, the wider, blunter edges of wheels like the Zipp 404 offer enhanced crosswind handling capabilities. Just like the 30, we’re looking forward to a long-term test of the Zipp 60.

Despite the roads being a bit rough, the western side of Tucson’s typically sunny weather and beautiful scenery make it a great riding destination. (Photo: Eric Wynn)

WIN MICHAEL’S SCHWAG! – Here’s your chance to win the Zipp prize package you see above, which includes a pair of Zipp socks, a Zipp cycling cap and a Zipp Purist water bottle! Send your answers to the following questions to letters@roadbikeaction.com and a random winner will be selected. Good luck!…

1. According to Zipp’s website, how many versions are there of the 404 Firecrest wheel?

2. What is your dream set of wheels?

3. Why do you ride bikes?

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