Buyer's Guide

Published on January 23rd, 2017 | by Luke

2017 Zipp NSW Carbon Clincher Wheels Explained.

Offer to buy a roadie any wheelset they want, and most will ask for Zipp. The Indiana-based company has been redefining what constitutes a high-end wheel for as long as they’ve been in business, and they show no signs of letting up for 2017.

Zipp’s new NSW Series wheels take the proven shape of Firecrest rims and increase their aerodynamic advantage, braking power, and efficiency, while dropping rim weight in the process. All this without sacrificing durability or ride quality compared to the renowned Firecrest rims. A revised carbon layup decreases weight at the outer edge of the rim for faster acceleration, and the new Cognition hubset with Axial Clutch  technology lets you keep your hard-earned momentum by disengaging the freehub’s ratchet mechanism when you stop pedaling.

Additional technology seen on the NSW wheels includes the powerful Showstopper grooved brake track, ABLC SawTooth Dimpling, which creates a “wave” profile to the rim’s aerodynamic dimpling pattern, and Impress graphics, which do away with stickers disrupting airflow around the rims.

Zipp’s flagship wheel for 2017 is the 454 NSW. The radically-shaped rim was developed using biomimicry, which models structures commonly seen in biological shapes and processes. In this case, Zipp based the alternating-height rim profile, called SawTooth, on the fins of humpback whales. Each high point, or node, is dubbed a HyperFoil, and is covered with HexFin ABLC dimples. These hexagonal dimples are precisely arranged to work with each HyperFoil, reducing aerodynamic drag and improving stability in crosswinds.

So, which Zipp NSW wheel do you need? Here’s the breakdown. The 202 is an unapologetic climber’s wheelset: light, a rapid accelerator, and stiff enough and aero enough to maintain the lead you built up as you rail the back side descent. If you like hammering the flats as much as sweating out the climbs, the 303 is a true all-around wheelset. For rolling to flat terrain, with lots of sprints, fast corners, and rough pavement/dirt/gravel/cobbles, and even criteriums, the 404 is your choice. For those who want the extra 10% that the highest-performing product bestows, the 454 covers the same needs as the 404. Finally, for time trials, triathlons, and even ultra-flat road races, the 808 is as stiff and as aero as you can get without sacrificing safety and handling.


ABLC SawTooth, HydroFoil nodes, HexFin ABLC dimpling on the 454.

Zipp’s 202 NSW, 303 NSW, 404 NSW, and 808 NSW wheels all share the following:

  • NSW carbon lay up
  • Showstopper brake track
  • ABLC SawTooth Dimpling
  • Impress graphics
  • Cognition hubset
  • Sapim CX Ray spokes, straight pull
  • 18 front spokes, radially laced
  • 24 rear spokes, two-cross laced
  • 250 pound rider weight limit

Zipp’s 454 NSW wheels feature:

  • NSW carbon lay up
  • Showstopper brake track
  • ABLC SawTooth variable depth rim profile
  • HydroFoil individual nodes
  • HexFin ABLC hexagonal dimpling
  • Impress graphics
  • Cognition hubset
  • Sapim CX Ray spokes, straight pull
  • 18 front spokes, radially laced
  • 24 rear spokes, two-cross laced
  • 250 pound rider weight limit

Zipp 2017 NSW Wheels







1382 grams

1444 grams

1532 grams

1525 grams (claimed)

1774 grams








32 mm

45 mm

58 mm

53/58 mm

82 mm

Internal width

16.2 mm

17.25 mm

17.25 mm

17 mm

17.25 mm

Max Width

25.4 mm

28.5 mm

27.8 mm

27.8 mm

27.8 mm


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About the Author


appreciates the climb and its challenges, but is convinced the only reason to pedal faster up the hill is to start your descent sooner. While he has sampled the joys of long rides on the tarmac, the dirt is where you’ll find him. When not on the trail or in the water, Luke likes to drive off into the wild to take his daughter camping in his cherished 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia.

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