Saturday, July 18, 2009

6th Product Review - Zipp Z6 Wheels

This is a review of the Zipp 606 wheelset, with ceramic bearings, the 2009 606 has new toroidal wheel design, new dimpling, and new hubs. The 2006 and 2009 are still a mixed set of a 404 front wheel and an 808 rear wheel. The Zipp website is

A disclaimer, I have never ridden another set of race wheels, either by a different manufacturer or a different Zipp model, and would like to try something else to see if they make a difference. I will also admit that after riding on one set of Zipp wheels it would be hard to imagine racing on something else.

When I bought my first tri bike, it was 7 short months after I bought my first new bike, road bike (LeMond Sarthe), in about 12 years. After spending the summer doing duathlons on the road bike, I decided that the next year I was going to add triathlons, and to do that I should get a new bike. When I went in and bought my bike, a Quintana Roo Seduza, I asked what upgrade(s) would have the most impact. The answer was race wheels. I did one race on the Seduza before the end of the year and it was on stock wheels, I was impressed with my new tri bike. Over the winter I bought the Zipp 606 wheelset, with Continental Competition tubular tires, Zipp Titanium skewers, and an Ultegra cassette. At the time, the wheel set was approximately $2400. I bought them on sale for about $2000, this does not include the cost of the tires, skewers, and cassette. I believe the 2009 set is going to be about $2400. I anxiously awaited the start of the 2007 season and I was not disappointed. I have only ridden on stock wheelsets my whole life and all those were clinchers, going to carbon fiber race wheels with tubulars is a huge difference. Over the last two seasons, plus one race, I have amassed 850+ miles on these wheels, 33 triathlons and duathlons, plus 14 time trials, and some extra mileage for riding on the wheels during warm-up. I have never put any training miles on the Zipps, they are only used for racing. The wheels have been ridden on the city and county roads of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. They have also seen the streets of San Francisco, St. Petersburg, FL, and the county roads around Austin, TX.

The hubs with the ceramic bearings are amazing, they are incredibly smooth. I have demonstrated the smoothness of the hubs by either holding the bike up and spinning the wheel freely or I have a person hold the wheel and spin it. People who aren’t familiar with racing wheels want to know what makes wheels like this so great, at such a high price. By doing this you can feel, and see, the difference between these hubs and other hubs. When you ride the bike the feeling is dramatic, the smoothness is apparent, especially on flat sections of road where you are really cranking away and you can feel the road, the wheels, and the bike. It is difficult for me to describe how these wheels feel. I don’t have technical cycling racing background, so I don’t know how to couch it in the proper language. They definitely feel stiffer, some might say harsher, than non-dished wheels. They feel faster, but they are also faster. You can feel it and see it in the times. Not just my times, but other people who ride these wheels, from amateur to pro. I have no complaints about the way these wheels climb, accelerate, or corner. It would be hard for me to imagine anything better. If you are serious about racing, purchasing a set of race wheels like this is a necessity.
The 404 front wheel and 808 rear wheel give you the aero advantage at the rear with the deeper dish and the handling advantage at the front with the smaller dish. The 404 front weighs approximately 560 grams and the 808 rear 780 grams, for the tubular. The front has 18 bladed spokes and the rear has 24 bladed spokes. Zipp has done a tremendous amount of engineering both in and out of the wind tunnel to come out with a wheel design that is both strong and aero. You can tell the amount of work that went into these wheels when you ride on them.

Another great thing about this wheelset is how they look on a bike. I have gotten a lot of compliments from strangers on how good they look on my bike. As we all know, there is a lot to be said for curb appeal.

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