The new Firecrest wheels have a lot to live up to. After all, Zipp's 404 and 808 models are probably the most widely-recognized deep dish carbon wheels in the world of triathlon. According to Zipp's own data, their wheels have been killing the Kona wheel count since 2006. And for the last four years, more athletes rode the Queen K on Zipp wheels than every other brand combined. And the most common wheelsets represented from Zipp's lineup are the venerable 404 and the 808. In fact, it was a pair of 404's that won the women's race under Mirinda Carfrae, and a brand new set of 808 Firecrest Tubulars that won for the men under Chris McCormack. So when Zipp announced a radically new shape in the 404 and 808 models, it had some pretty big shoes to fill.
We snagged two pairs of the new Firecrest shape - the 404 and the 808, to put them through their paces. Our first impression is that these are some VERY well-built wheels. They're light, but not insanely so - the clinchers come in at 1557g for the 404 and 1759g for the 808 clincher, they are definitely competitive with their competition, and significantly lighter than the previous-generation alloy-rimmed clinchers from Zipp.
The historical problem with carbon clinchers is that they can be too delicate to withstand the heat and pressure involved in braking on a rim. Other models of carbon clinchers have been pulled from the market for that reason. And Zipp wasn't going to produce one until it had the technology to do so reliably. Finally, that technology is ready for prime time. Zipp has some special resins and production processes that are said to make its carbon clinchers hard enough and heat-resistant enough to do the job.
So how did we like the wheels? Check out the video review, above. We liked them a LOT. These wheels represent a nearly perfect balance between light weight, aerodynamics, and fantastic ride quality. Plus, the new aero tech comes in a convenient clincher package. There's a lot to love here, and we really can't praise them enough. The only real drawback is that they aren't the cheapest set of hoops on the planet.