Zipp debuts 650c Firecrest

What’s that? New 650c wheels? I thought those were going the way of the dinosaur, along with external cable routing and non-integrated brakes.

It’s true. I’d like to ask that you join me in a moment of silence in honor of this momentous… no - spectacular day. Heck, fill in whatever descriptive word you want, because it’s a good day no matter how you look at it. Zipp is officially – finally – releasing a 650c version of the Firecrest 404 carbon clincher. You may have noticed the prototype non-dimpled version on the 2012 Kona bike of Mirinda Carfrae, which we detailed HERE.

Without further ado, let’s roll ‘em out:

The shape of the rim is just like the 700c version. Its internal width is officially ETRTO 16c, and Zipp recommends tires from 21mm to 28mm wide. Also similar to the 700c version, they see the best aero performance with tires on the narrow end of the spectrum. As we’ve observed from controlled rolling resistance tests, however, wider tires tend to have a lower Coefficient of Rolling Resistance (Crr). Choosing a tire size is a balance of this aero vs Crr battle.

Part of the issue in 650c is simply finding those tires. You have a lot fewer choices than 700s. We asked whether Zipp plans to sell a 650c version of their Tangente, and at this time the answer is ‘no’. Zipp does however, make a 650c version of their Tangente butyl inner tube.

We can see that the updated rim now has dimples, like the rest of the Zipp line:

The max rim width is 26.5mm. Depth is 58mm. The whole rim is made of carbon, and is said to have Zipp’s proprietary high-heat resin technology, offering reliable performance on steep descents (when used with their Platinum Pro brake pads):

The front wheel features the Zipp 88 hub, and has 16 Sapim CX-Ray spokes:

The rear wheel features the Zipp 188 hub, with 20 Sapim CX-Ray spokes. All 2013 Zipp hubs are 9, 10, and 11-speed compatible.

The latest 188 retains an adjustable bearing preload nut on the non-drive side. We covered the full service procedure for this hub, linked at the bottom of this page.

At this time, Zipp representatives tell us that they do not plan to make a tubular version of this wheel. The reason is simple: most of the customers for this wheel are triathletes (who do not have the luxury of a team car to hand them a new wheel when they suffer a flat tire). Along with the Crr benefits of clinchers, and the shrinking weight delta between clincher and tubular wheels, they did not see a need to open a tubular mold just yet.

I can’t say I blame them one bit for this decision. The big battle is getting something new in 650c. Yes, we’d love to have clinchers AND tubulars. We’d love to have an 808, too. My personal opinion is that the modern perceived need for twenty wheel choices can be a huge hurdle for manufacturers to act quickly (this goes double for new manufacturers). Why step in to a new market or offer a new innovative product? We can’t afford to make ALL of the possible options, because we don’t know if we can sell enough of them. So we don’t act at all. Zipp finally took action in 650c, and I think they were wise to do it in a calculated manner. My guess? If this wheel does well, we could very well see tubulars or 808s.

What about discs? While nothing is yet official, Zipp hinted that they’re not ignoring this category. How about a Super-9 carbon clincher in 650c? I think it has a nice ring. If they tackle that and a legitimate aluminum training wheel, I think 650c riders will have a great selection on their hands.

For now, we get the lone 404 carbon clincher to roll around on. Well, I don’t think we should ride these press-only photo samples… but the real versions will hit shops in March 2013.

Zipp 404 Firecrest carbon clincher 650c specs:

Material: Aluminum hub shell, stainless steel spokes, Carbon rim
MSRP: $1,227/€1,138 Front
$1,498/€1,387 Rear
Available with SRAM/Shimano® Cassette body or Campagnolo®
Wheel Color: Classic White or Beyond Black decals, black Sapim CX-Ray spokes, black 88/188 hub set
Weight: Front 670g, Rear 795g
Compatibility: 9/10/11 Speed
Max Rim Width: 26.53mm
Rim Depth: 58mm
Spoke Count: Front 16, Rear 20
Availability: March, 2013

Ships with Zipp Tangente butyl road inner tube with removable core (650 X 18-25mm, 90g), Zipp Integrated Valve Extenders, Zipp Valve Extender Wrench Set, Zipp Tangente Platinum Pro Evo Brake Pads, quick-release skewers and rim strips. Compatible with cassettes of up to 11-speed to work with all modern drivetrains.

All images © Greg Kopecky /