Ask RIDE…What are the benefits of a full carbon-fibre clincher?


I am noticing that the major wheel companies all have carbon clinchers on offer now and was wondering what the benefits are since there doesn’t seem to be much weight difference? For example, the Zipp 404 Clincher with alloy braking surface weighs 1,658g, while the new Zipp 404 Carbon Firecrest Clincher is 1,557g, according to their website. So I guess my question is, besides looking much better, does the full carbon-fibre construction result in a faster wheel or is there some other advantage?

Yes, there is a minor weight saving over the aluminum/carbon clincher.

More importantly the unique Firecrest Rim shape offers superior aerodynamic and not just over other clincher rims but over many 80mm Tubular Rims. In fact, the Firecrest shape that was developed for the 404 Carbon Clincher worked so well (aerodynamically) we used the same shape for the 404 Tubular, 808 Carbon Clincher and 808 Tubular. As a basis of comparison the 2011 medel 404 Carbon Clincher is 9 seconds faster than our 2010 404 Tubular over 40km and about equal to the 2010 808 Tubular over 40km.

Another major benefit of the Firecrest profile used for our Carbon Clinchers is improved handling. More specifically, the shape of the rim helps control the airflow on the backside of the rim which creates less turbulence on the back half of the wheel while moving the center of pressure of the wheel behind (instead of in front of) the steering axis (hub). The result is that a side wind will have far less torque on the bike than with a standard “V” shaped rim.

The Firecrest Carbon Clincher has a wider tire bed. This results in better tracking of the tire on the ground and less tire squirm  – or an “ice cream cone” effect in corning (envision the tire rolling over the side of the rim wall when cornering like an ice cream scoop rolling off the top of an ice cream cone).

Wider rims result in better brake modulation. Tires are easier to change so hopefully tyre levers are not essential. And finally, nothing is sacrificed in terms of lateral stiffness or vertical compliance.

Thanks for the question.

Andy Paskins.

Andy is the Marketing Manager for Zipp Speed Weaponry in the United States.

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