THE LATEST TRI GEAR
They’re 58mm deep, but how swift and stable are these 454s?
All the newest swim, bike and run kit on the market, tested by the 220 team. Plus, final verdicts delivered on three long-term test items
For non-drafting triathletes who don’t like rim wear and want good braking, the disc version of Zipp’s uniquely-profiled 454 NSW wheelset is here. Its rim widths of 17mm internally, and 27.72mm maximum externally are derived from the 58mm deep Zipp 404s, with the name change due to the 5mm height variation of its inner circumference.
That distinctive design is based on Biomimicry – applying natural-world solutions to manmade objects. Taking the tubercles on the leading edge of Humpback whales’ pectoral fins as inspiration, Zipp came up with the Sawtooth profile to improve airflow across the rim. Aiming to stay top of the Kona Wheels Count, the recently unveiled 858 NSW applies the same shaping to the TT-friendly 808 wheelset.
They’re not tubeless compatible and our set weighed 1,642g, which is good but not exceptional. The Sawtooth profile comprises 24 Hyper foils, each featuring dimples on the surface, which together increase wind vortex-shedding frequency. Zipp say that the higher number of smaller air vortices created are more predictable, and shedding them more often really improves wheel stability, while reducing aerodynamic drag and side force at all wind yaw angles.
Large hub flanges, 24 J-bend spokes and rigid rims make the 454 NSWs accelerative, with an instant response to crank inputs. The Zipps are efficient uphill and, although we can’t prove they’re more aero than the 404s, we doubt they’re slower, based on road tests.
In calm conditions, there’s little to tell them apart from other competitors, but when speed or the wind picks up, there is. We deliberately headed out on gusty, hard days on hilly, twisty routes to see how the wheels coped with constantly shifting strong winds. This rim height isn’t immune from crosswinds – we felt a slight nudge as gusts hit – but it was never more than that, and didn’t warrant tightening our grip, or moving from the extensions. Passing gaps in hedges, turning corners across the wind, and descending all gave us similarly minor concern. The front wheel briefly loads up with side force from the wind, then returns to neutral, feeling nearer to 35mm than 58mm deep.
The fact that we were so unconcerned riding these wheels on days when we’d usually have plumped for something shallower speaks volumes. Ultimately, better control is more efficient; not battling the bike saves precious energy that you can use later. The confidence these wheels bring will allow you to go faster for longer.