We've always been fans of Zipp wheels here at Bespoke Cycling. Founded in 1988, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in the carbon fibre wheel market. Of all its advances, it's the iconic golf ball-inspired dimples that it is most famous for. But its newly launched 302 loses the dimples to provide its most affordable carbon clincher wheel to date.
The new 302, available in rim or disc brake version, is a carbon clincher wheelset that makes Zipp ownership much more affordable, with a price tag of £1,299, which is a lot lower than a 303 or 404 costs. It is still made in the US at the company's Indianapolis factory so the quality should be just as high as we're used to from its other wheel models.
The rim is 45mm deep and 26.5mm wide, with a profile broadly similar, but not identical, to the 303, a seriously good wheel for all-round use, and the one that conquered Paris-Roubaix, as you can read about here. But there the similarities end. The biggest change is the smooth rim surface. There are no dimples on Zipp's new 302 wheelset.
Dimples have been a key design feature, and selling point, of Zipp wheels since they were first introduced on the 404 in 2004. According to Zipp, the dimples are essential to controlling how the airflow attaches, flow across and detaches from the rim profile, ultimately contributing to lower drag.
Does this mean Zipp's new 302 wheels means they must be slower than the 303 wheels?
"Depending on the conditions, yaw angle and rider style, a 303 wheel will be on average 2 - 3 watts faster than 302. It is the rim shape more than the dimples that makes 303 Firecrest faster than 302," said Zipp in answer to our question.
"Our goal with the 302 is to offer the performance of Zipp Carbon Clincher wheels at a great value. We had to give up on some features. We made the decision to prioritise the features that cyclists value from Zipp: aero performance, ride quality and reliability. Zipp Carbon Clinchers are known for impeccable heat management, which 302 will offer; whereas this is typically the weakness of other wheels at this price point," Zipp added.
Dimples on golf balls are designed to increase lift and reduce drag, helping golfers to hit balls further since the 1930s. After some motor racing manufacturers dabbled with dimpled surfaces, Zipp embraced the concept and spent time and money developing its now iconic rim surface, putting them through constant wind-tunnel testing.
The dimples are patented to Zipp and it has developed a special moulding process in the US to manufacture the rims. The shape, depth and orientation of the dimples are design to keep the airflow attached to the rim for longer by forming a turbulent boundary layer near the surface of the rim.
But to keep manufacturing costs down, Zipp has developed new moulding tools that dispense with the dimples to make production more cost-effective. " It is a lot easier and more efficient to create a smooth tool than a dimpled one and this affects the cost of the rim," says Zipp.
Here at Bespoke Cycling we're passionate about providing the best products for all our customers. We also know that top-end carbon wheels are very expensive, for many good reasons, but there's a growing market of affordable carbon wheels. Zipp has a strong brand name and recognition and we expect the new 302 to be a popular addition to its range.
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