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If you were asked to close your eyes and imagine a pair of carbon wheels, you’d probably think of the Zipp 404—and not just because you’re currently reading this review. A pioneer in aero carbon wheels and setting the industry standard ever since, Zipp has created an iconic wheelset that is easily one of the most winning wheels in recent memory, if not the most winning.
After over two decades of Zipp leading the industry in aero, carbon wheels and introducing myriad new rim shapes and hub technologies in the name of going faster, you probably already know that Zipp’s 404 NSW is an excellent wheelset. We’d like to just leave the review at that so we can get back to riding them—you won’t regret choosing them.
With Zipp forgoing a 404 NSW tubular version, this wheel marks a bittersweet passing of the torch for its go-to-wheel for pros to the tubular 454 and its SawTooth rim profile. While we could wax poetic about no longer seeing the wheel at the forefront of the cycling aero revolution raced at the highest levels, for the rest of us with no support car and mechanic to change our flats, this tubeless version is the best option Zipp has ever developed.
NSW stands for Nest Speed Weaponry, the ‘Nest’ being the nickname for Zipp’s engineering lab, and much like Specialized’s S-Works, it is a badge of distinction letting you know these are the most advanced wheels the company offers. Now that this wheelset is available in tubeless, you get all the same speed, stability and confident braking we love in the original 404 NSW with the added benefits of greater comfort from running tires at lower pressures and reduced roadside flat fixing.
The tubeless version of the 404 NSW continues to use Zipp’s Cognition hubs which reduce friction by disengaging the rear hub ratchet mechanism while coasting, eking even more speed out of these already fast hoops. Stealthy graphics, courtesy of a specially developed Impress printing technology that prevents the graphics from hampering airflow across the iconic dimples, serve as further testament to the company’s insatiable quest to make the best wheels possible, leaving no stone unturned.
Zipp continues to make concerns with stability and braking on deep section carbon rims a thing of the past. The 404 is stable in crosswinds and inspires confidence even while descending the steepest climbs or stopping short for an unexpected daredevil squirrel crossing the road.
The only complaint we have with these wheels is that we’ve had to relearn how to descend local climbs because they find so much speed between switchbacks. Allegations of half-wheeling from our training partners are also up significantly.
Like we said before, the Zipp 404 NSW tubeless is an excellent wheelset. But, you probably already knew that. $3200; 1620g; zipp.com