Zipp 454 NSW wheelset

With a rim shape inspired by wheel fins, do these wheels from Zipp point to the future?

Sporting one of the most striking rim designs to emerge from a wheelset market ever more obsessed with attention to detail and making tiny gains over the previous generation, the new 454 NSW hoops from Zipp are bold, brash, and exciting.

The polarising looks that come from the SawTooth rim profile are certainly innovative to say the least, but then they do say nature is the greatest innovator. The jagged profile was arrived at by Zipp’s crack team of engineers, who have adopted the developing engineering principles of biomimicry.

It’s a process by which mechanical and structural engineers concerned with modern methods of research and design observe examples of natural evolution in the wilderness, and bring those adaptations – borne of thousands of years of trial and error through genetic mutation – to man-made objects.

In the 454 NSWs, engineers went to the oceans and observed giants of the waterworld (humpback whales, in case you were wondering) that could manoeuvre with effortless ease through water despite their bulk thanks to evolutionary quirks like pectoral fins and unique skin textures.

Carbon can be used to mould more complex shapes compared to aluminium, no more obvious than on Zipp's 454 NSW hoops

If it works there, then why not on land? After all, there’s a reason Formula One car aerodynamics genius Adrian Newey can adapt his skills to both motor vehicle and America’s Cup boats with equal mastery – in nature, the rules are absolute.

SawTooth takes the principles learned from nature, with Zipp customising them using computation fluid dynamics (CFD) to arrive at, what they claim, is one of the most aerodynamically efficient road wheelset rims ever created.

Show it a block headwind or charging crosswind, and the fin-shaped design that undulates between 53-58mm in depth is able to shed attached air more times with each wheel revolution, reducing overall pressure and improving bike behaviour and stability. The latter is key – Zipp say the 454 NSWs profile helps keep the wheel stable in blustery conditions.

Zipp 454 NSW

New HexFin dimples characterise the rim surface – earlier versions can be seen on older Zipp wheels – which help to create a smoother airflow just above the surface of the rim, and the characteristic silicone carbide brake track provides predictable, powerful braking in a variety of weather.

Bang-up-to-date attention to detail drips off the 454 NSWs: check out the printed Zipp graphics that replace common stickers in order to save weight (quite literally a few grams) while not interfering with the HexFin patterns, and slim-line NSW-specific hubs. The internal rim width measures at 17mm, with a maximum external width of 27.8mm, ensuring the wheels are a good fit for 25c and 28c tyres.

Zipp themselves clearly know how special these hoops are – they supply them with super lightweight titanium skewers (no simple alloy anchors for these rings) which helps keep system weight down. That’s an impressive 690g and 835g for the front and rear wheels respectively. You also get individual wheel bags to protect them when in transit – but you’d expect so, given the £3,500 price tag. Now, where are our wallets…

[monetizer101 search=’Zipp 454 NSW’ price=’3500′]


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