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Zipp offering lower-priced wheels

Published January 16, 2013
The Zipp 30 Clincher rear hub.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (BRAIN) — SRAM-owned Zipp Speed Weaponry is introducing two new road wheels that will sell for lower prices than the company has hit in several years.

The new alloy-rim 30 Clincher wheels have an MSRP of $850 per set. The 60 Clincher, which features a deep carbon aero section rim with an aluminum brake track, will retail for $1,500.

By comparison, Zipp's next cheapest alloy wheels, the 101 Clinchers, retail for $1,325; Zipp's popular 404 Firecrest carbon clinchers, which have a rim depth similar to the 60 Clincher, retail for about $2,700 a pair.

Zipp has offered lower-priced wheels in the past. It introduced its Flashpoint line in 2006 and quietly ended that project in 2010.

What's different this time around?

From a marketing point of view, the Flashpoint line downplayed the Zipp brand. While most retailers and consumers were well aware that the product line came from the Indianapolis company, the Zipp name wasn't featured in its marketing. By comparison, the new 30 Clincher and 60 Clincher wheels are very much a part of the Zipp product family.

From a product development point of view, Zipp engineers have a closer relationship with the new wheels, said technical marketing manager David Ripley.

"Flashpoint, even though it shared the same rim shape (as some Zipp wheels) had a completely different construction. The carbon wasn't dimpled and we didn't have the engineering control over it that we do today. We couldn't fine-tune it they way we did with the (30 and 60 Clinchers).

"The idea was Flashpoint was a price point wheelset, but we clearly distanced it from Zipp brand. But shame on us, because that's (the Zipp brand) what people wanted. We didn't give it that credibility," Ripley said.

"We learned a lot. We learned where we needed to have engineering control, where we needed to put the performance into the product," he said.

With the new wheels, Ripley said Zipp was able to find ways to put some of its high-end technology to use economically.

For example, the 30 Clincher borrows Zipp's trademark "toroidal" rim shape, which bulges wider past the brake track. The rim is extruded in Asia but the wheels are built in Indianapolis. The 60 Clincher uses a carbon rim profile with dimples that is similar to the old Zipp 404 wheels, before the 404 became the 404 Firecrest.

The 60 clincher rim borrows technology from the 404.

"(The 60 Clincher) is not a 404, but it borrows a lot of technology and history from the 404, which was the most successful wheel we've ever done; the 404 was a workhorse. We took basically the same platform, revised the carbon layup to make it more durable, and we have a new hub system that builds a platform that is laterally stiffer and more durable."

The two new wheel models share a new hub design, with different finishes. Ripley said the hubs were designed with an emphasis on durability. "Hubs only become important when they don't work. These hubs needed to be plugged in and basically people can forget about them."

While the new 60 Clincher looks similar to the workhorse 404, there are big differences between it and the 404 Firecrest that, for some customers, will justify the $1,200 price difference. For starters, the 60 Clinchers, at 1,820 grams per pair, are about 300 grams heavier than the 404 Firecrests. The Firecrests have a carbon brake track and a wider rim profile that is said to be more aerodynamic and comfortable.

Likewise, the Clincher 30 at a glance looks similar to the 101 Clinchers — both have 30 millimeter-deep rim profiles. But the 101 rim is wider and the 101 wheels are 120 grams lighter per set.

Both new wheels have Sapim CX-Ray spokes and ship with butyl road inner tubes, quick-release skewers and rim strips. They will be available in March.

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