2016 ZIPP 808 NSW Carbon Clincher review

With 2016 well into the second quarter, we’ve saw quite a few official product launches over the months that’s made available for those with some money lying around the house. One company on particular was on a roll of late and it’s none other than SRAM. I’ve done a review on the 1×11 system at the end of 2015 and it has caught on pretty well with the general public. The most desirable of all, SRAM’s wireless eTap has been flying off the shelves when stocks arrived in March. I’m still waiting to lay my hands on the TT version and will do a review on the groupset once it arrives.

ZIPP is part of the SRAM family and they had been busy as well. They’ve updated their Firecrest range with new hubs and during last year’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, they unveiled their latest offspring from their renowned lab- ‘The Nest’, the 808 NSW carbon clincher. On 1st contact, it looked like almost any other ZIPP offering. But on closer observation, it’s not quite the same as the other ‘birds’ from ZIPP. What they have here is a new yardstick in terms of aero wheel design.

As a forewarning, the 808 NSW is dribbled with what I think is quite a long list of technical jargon, acronyms and press literature that I’d ever seen for a set of hoops, not to mention the several extras that comes along. So bear with me here; New technologies include Cognition Hubset with Axial Clutch, ABLC Sawtooth, Impress, Showstopper. Now, let’s go through them briefly one by one.

I got the chance to rack up around 100km on the wheels that serves as a demo set, thanks to the good guys from T3 Bicycle Gears and Robert Choy. The wheels are wrapped with ZIPP Tangente Course 700c x 25 rubber and SRAM PG1190 11-28 sprockets. The platform used for the test ride was none other than my DIMOND. The wheels and frame was a match made in heaven and I came with the equation DIMOND + NSW = NSFW

The culprit...

The culprit…

After a warm up spin and a some clear road ahead of me, time to give it the beans and see how the hub spins up. The sense of immediacy was there but there’s something else to it, especially when coasting at speed and that’s when the Cognition Hub does its job. The hub has got a radical ratchet mechanism instead of the usual pawls that we see in most hubs. Pawl mechanisms are easy to manufacture and build but have a few disadvantages, which is higher friction and more frequent cleaning and service required.

The new Cognition Hub disengages using magnets when coasting and re-engages as the rider starts to pedal. It has got the same 36 tooth engagement point as other ZIPP hubs but the spin up felt more immediate, or less effort required when you’re not unleashing a lot of watts. Simply said, the wheels holds up speed pretty well and we’ve not even mentioned about the new aerodynamic properties of the NSW yet. The 808 version weighs in at 1810g, 75g lighter than the FC, if not impressive enough for a deep profile wheelset. Furthermore, the Cognition ratchet system requires less maintainance and only uses light lubricants to keep them running smooth.

Most sportive riders or amateur triathletes irk at the thought of riding high profile wheels due to instability caused by gusty wind conditions that results to some effort required to hold a straight line. Price of wheels notwithstanding. This issue is a lot more apparent for lighter riders whom may be fast, but don’t have a lot of power and build of uber bikers that can mash through gears while holding their path at will. The conditions during my test ride weren’t that gusty, but enough to unsettle the front wheels if I’m on my usual 808 FCs.

See the teeth already?

See the teeth already?

However, the ABLC Sawtooth on the 808 NSW was able to work it’s magic. If one was to look closely, or able to feel and see the physical product, it’s noticeable that the dimple arrangement is slightly different, giving the rim’s leading edge a lovely sawtooth pattern, and hence the moniker. It’s not just to look cool. I shall leave out the details and numbers of how the new dimple patterns does it trick but basically, they cause a lesser laminar or turbulent effect of the leeward side of the wheel which results in less disruptive air on the spinning rim in crosswind conditions, hence making the wheels work better in high yaw angles. And that equates to better straight line handling at speeds for deep profile wheels.

The Impress technology wasn’t something new on the 808 NSW. ZIPP showcased that on some limited edition wheels and made them a standard offering on the 404 Firestrykes. For the uninitiated, Impress technology is the name that ZIPP came up with for imprinting graphics on their wheelsets. Apart from the weigh saving and maintaining the aerodynamic properties of the dimples, albeit minimal, the main upside for me is that the graphics are scratch proof. For the fickle-minded, ZIPP wheel graphics can still be bought and pasted over the Impress graphics for the occasional colour match.

How the Impress tech and Showstopper brake track looks like

How the Impress tech and Showstopper brake track looks like

Like all fast moving cars and motorbikes, good brakes are essential. Otherwise the only way to stop is to hit a tree. As with Impress, Showstopper brake tracks 1st appeared on the Firestrykes as well. The tracks are wider than the Firecrests and the surface has a grooved pattern that aids in braking power and modulation. It’s also given silicon carbide treatment, one of the hardest and most heat resistant substance known to man. This would ease any concerns of riders who stay away from full carbon wheels, regardless clincher or tubular. The climate was bone dry during my week of testing so I wasn’t able to try out the braking in the wet. But I can guarantee that, along with the correct pads used, the wheels stop and slow down as well as any aluminum rimmed wheel that I had ridden before, if not better. Fast wheels needs to slow down fast as well. Heh… Get it?

By the time this review is published, ZIPP had already released the 404 and 303 versions of the NSW. The wheels may cost a lot more that the usual FCs and the difference may be hard to justify for some. But for those looking for a set of new hoops, and especially for people who only have space and capacity to own and stay faithful to only one wheelset, I would say that the NSW would be the only wheelset that you’ll ever need. And I’ve not yet mentioned about the accessories that come along with NSW wheelsets that ZIPP doesn’t include for FCs. Therefore, before I end, here’s the lowdown on the extra kit:

Wheelset includes:

  • Titanium skewers
  • SILCA valve extenders with rubber jacket to prevent rattles
  • Wheel bags
  • Brake pads
  • Tubes
  • Rim tape

In one sentence: “Within the Nest lies a forbidden fruit, which is the 808 NSW.”


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