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Zipp Firecrest 808 Test Ride and Review

zipp 808 firecrest"The brick of pain will start at 8:30 a.m." the email said. Triathlon training session is officially in session with my buddies now that the monsoon season seems to have passed. In these show-no-mercy-sessions, weaknesses stand out like a sore thumb. Bruce and Andy always end up dusting me on the bike. But then it's usually my turn on the run. Today would be different. I had a secret weapon. My Cervelo PC2 now had the latest and greatest Zipp Firecrest 808's on both wheels - courtesy of a demo program out of Target Training in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Target Training partnered with the local Zipp representative to host a Zipp Wheel Night at their training facilities in Greenwich, Connecticut. That night I learned why so many people have raved about the latest Firecrest series of wheels. The industry-leading wheel company took another leap ahead of the competition by, among other changes, widening the width of the wheel. The subtle change in airflow actually increases the stability of the wheels the faster you go. The Target Training agreed to loan a pair of the Zipp wheels to test on the Saturday morning ride.

I brought my Cervelo in Friday to swap wheels. Like a lot of other people, I only went halfway when I invested in my tri-bike. I bought an aero helmet, but I never purchased race wheels. For three years, I have ridden the stock Shimano 500s through sprint, Olympic, half-triathlon, and Ironman distances. Every time I hear that dreaded whir behind me on these races, I know that I'm about to get passed by someone with better wheels. Saturday morning I would be in that enviable position.

Cervelo with zipp 808 firecrestI did a 30 minute warm-up with my main biking pal. When we hit a straight stretch of road I put my head down. When I hit the point where the air resistance usually stops, I just kept going faster. Suddenly, it felt like the wheels locked in like a train on tracks and I found myself going well over 30 mph. I slowed down and actually had to wait for my exceptionally strong biking buddy to catch up.

When I rode to my neighbor's house to start our brick, the Zipp wheels had all the bling I hoped with the 81 mm rim depth. Everyone noticed. The first half of the ride, it was great. I actually led the pack a couple of times. By the back half, the human half of the equation started to bonk, but the ride was exceptionally enjoyable. I easily exceeded 40 mph several times on the course we use.

Unfortunately, I had to return the wheels that afternoon. Jeff Sparling, Marketing Manager for Target Training talked to me about the basics of race wheels while I waited for my old wheels to be mounted. Can I use the wheels for everyday use? "You can, but I wouldn't recommend it," he said. "I tell people to use their stock wheels for everyday training. Even a loose towel that falls into the wheel while on the trainer can cause damage."

If money were no object, how should I decide what wheels to get? "It depends on the races you're competing in. Generally, the sprints and Olympics have lots of turns. You'd want anything up to the 404s. For longer courses with straight legs, you can go bigger."
I mentioned to him that I once I started, the straight momentum was incredible. Turning, though, required some practice. "Ideally, you'd have a 404 up front and an 808 in back," Sparling said.

One day I will. For those of you interested in learning more about Zipp wheels and their technology go to: www.zipp.com. If you are ever in the Greenwich, Connecticut area don't forget to check out Target Training for all your fitness and endurance needs.

Author: Paul Tyler
Paul Tyler is the founder of Triessential.com and a contributor here at TRIJUICE. Triessential offers an iPhone application that provides training tips and motivation every day throughout the entire year.