Zipp 404 Tubular Wheelset

zipp 404 tubular 300x225 Zipp 404 Tubular Wheelset

Zipp 404 Tubular Wheels


Zipp is, without a doubt, the go-to name for top quality aero wheels. From the svelte, low profile Zipp 101 wheelset  to the imposing, deep section 808s, there is a wheel to suit every rider, no matter how fast they want to ride. Of course, you need to know what you are looking for.  Chances are, if you are shopping the Zipp wheel racks and you have that kind of money in your pocket, you know what you want. If you are a triathlete looking for an all-aero powerhouse to slice the wind, then you’ll be dreaming of the 808s. If you’re a road racing, hill climbing mountain goat, then the 101s are for you. But what if you want to try all kinds of riding? Or you want one really good wheelset that can go from the time trial stage, to the criterium, and on to the road race? Or, if you can only afford one set of really, really fast wheels and crave that speed over a stable full of mediocre specialist wheelsets? Well, it makes sense to look down the middle of Zipp’s mid-section profile wheelsets, and the 404 is right there waiting for you.

The perfect balance

I’ve got a brand new set of Zipp 404s myself, and there’s a reason why this HED fan splashed out on a set of Zipps and why I picked the 404s. Fast wheels need to be three things – aerodynamic, responsive, and light. Too much rim depth and you get plenty of aerodynamics, but I can’t push that kind of weight as a smaller rider.  I sure can’t climb and drag deep section monsters, and I don’t appreciate getting buffeted around in a cross wind. On the other hand, I want to be able to ride just about as fast on my own as I do on someone’s wheel, so I want some slice. I’m not a super powerful rider and I hate going uphill, so I want something as light as a feather that won’t waste my precious watts in flex when I get out of the saddle.

The Zipp 404 wheelset fits that recipe just about perfectly. There’s a reason why the 404s are Zipp’s most popular wheelset. These aero wonders, with their 58mm rim depth (don’t let the 404 label fool into thinking they are 40mm), that looks closer to the Zipp 303s, and handles like them in cross winds, but the wind tunnel tested aerodynamic savings are sweetly close to that of the 808s. Basically, if you are looking through Zipp’s wheelsets for the very best aerodynamics to depth ration, the 404s win it hands down.

What about weight? At only around 1230g for the pair, these wheels are lighter than many paper-thin low profile rims out there, so you might as well get these and get some aero benefit. Of course, the downside is you have to ride tubular – no downside if you want to go fast, but a real bummer if you have to call your spouse to come get you after a flat on a remote section of a long training ride. For that reason, I ride these close to home, or save them for race days – or take a few extra grams (430 to be exact) and get the clincher version.

If I have any gripe about the Zipp 404 wheelset, it’s that the super slick, super aero toroidal rim doesn’t give a very sticky braking surface, although that’s the price you pay to slip through the air so much easier than a standard v-section rim. Once again, the clincher model, with its aluminum braking surface, takes care of that, but with my Zipp 404 wheelset I want light and fast, and I don’t care that much about the stop. The toroidal shape – Zipp’s trademark ‘bulge’ on the rim – also makes for less flex in corners or in sprints, but at the same time absorbs road shock with a little outward give. As for responsiveness, the 404s come with a low-flange alloy hub, which is great for power transfer, but I recommend upgrading to ceramic hubs for a rolling smoothness deserving of the 404’s aerodynamics.

Pros ride it, so I want to, too

Even though the Zipp 404 wheelset may be the choice of keen amateurs like myself who can’t afford a stable full of specialist wheels, the 404 is no compromise. These wheels have carried pro riders to the podium in just about every discipline on the road. Best of all, while you need to be serious about riding before you splash out on a Zipp 404 wheelset at around $2300 for the pair, they aren’t priced too far out of line with their mid section rivals. Sure, they cost a little more, but you get what you pay for, and if you really want to win, and in all kinds of disciplines, you can’t get faster for your money than the Zipp 404 wheelset.

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