open topic, for anything cycling related.
As this is such a valuable interview - I want to share this in the forum and open up for discussions.
Recently I chatted to Josh Poertner, the Technical Director of Zipp Wheels and let him talk and share his knowledge, refreshing that they (he) understands marketing though prioritises solid facts and performance - Zipp wheels are not easily accessible for all, the company understand their market position (so are not all wheels for all riders) though I specifically asked about Chinese made carbon wheels, and also ceramic bearings and he puts it into perspective.
Josh is an engineer and not a marketer, though he still comes from Zipp and believes in the product, so obviously speaks favourably - whether you are new to carbon, or foster more advanced knowledge, I am sure you will appreciate this, he begins with the basics, classifications or Carbon (3K, 6K, 12K etc) and then looks more specifically at how this fits in with Zipp.
For techies - here are some of the exciting Computational Fluid Dynamics renderings - which are better explained in the article.
Aside from my head exploding while understanding it, some of it sunk in. Forgive my motoring comparison, but he makes a lot of valid points, probably mirroring a lot of car manufacturers attitudes to Hyundai, et al upon their introduction.
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Car comparisons work well, many of his staff have automotive backgrounds and bring in this experience.
On the comparisons it makes you think about what you buy - particularly as Carbon becomes more accessible as is the option of buying a cheap generic carbon wheelset direct. On the one side buying a brand name comes at a price, on the other a brand name should bring with it a level of trust - you know you are getting quality. With most of the carbon production for bikes in Asia, the lines are burred - is the Generic XYZ really that much worse... or is it the same as Brand ABC that is manufactured next door. There is a lot of room for variation. Zipp are 100% US made so differentiate themself in this way - it affects the price though they also don't see themself in direct competition with brands who cater for the entire market (entry - mid - high range).
Great interview. Some of the tech jargon flew right past me, but found this part in particular rather interesting:
I read that and was impressed also
I read that and thought... boy some people are desperate to be ripped off.
Have another read. If you need this 1 watt advantage, this it what it takes - but most riders can do plenty of other things to improve performance before they think about ceramic bearings. For their zipp wheels they run steel races and balls for the bearings but so highly specced that they are better than most ceramic bearings, considering most ceramic bearings are hybrid ceramic bearings with ceramic balls and steel races.
So instead you should think "do I need this, am I getting the value for this?" and his example puts it in perspective.
I understand that, still if you look at the best quality DT hubs ceramic hubs for example they certainly come in way under US$1000 just for a bearing upgrade... maybe he is exaggerating for effect.
Very nice wheels that Zipp make... but you do seem to hear a lot of stories of failures with them.
Interesting article and I do understand some of it. Aerodynamics and carbon-fibre manufacturer is an area of interest of mine, only a side interest mind you.
I do like the Zipp wheels but as TLL hinted, the talk of failures put me off them. I spent my dollars on a different brand, so I'm not really in the market for a set of these soon.
Last edited by g-boaf on Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm more inclined to buy them having read that they control the production for them in house. At least I can see where some of the money goes by having the manufacturing base in the US. They are still out of my price range new though.
On the ceramic upgrades I agree that they are not cheap and am thinking low production high cost. So in the article, perhaps not clearly explained from my side was the lead-in question of when does it make sense to do an upgrade at all - Josh explained that on his zipp wheels, 9/10 bearing upgrades will actually create a disadvantage so in most cases an upgrade is not recommended.
If you have questions about Zipp wheels, I can collect and forward them on, probabably first to the local importer who is also pretty cluey.
As long as Zipp accept their wheels are out of reach to most of us, then they'll understand when most of us are buying Chinese, they are not losing sales.
As for the quality of Chinese carbon wheels, bicycle forum members are doing a great job of alerting which are reliable.
Don't ceramic bearings have other advantages too? I was under the impression that they would last longer and be lighter[/sarcasm]
On a more serious note... Zipp struggle with overheating issues with carbon clinchers while Gigantex lower the brake track
Interesting to read that zipp rims can handle 232 degrees, Farsports are now claiming that some of their rims can take 220... looks like the chinese manufacturers are catching up (if the claim is accurate)
Last edited by usernameforme on Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Zipps cater for a specific audience - there are plenty of brands that cover a broader spectrum such as DT Swiss which has been mentioned that have fantastic top of the range wheelsets but also more affordable wheelsets.
As suggested, where a brand stands behind a product, regardless of where it is made, the brand has their reputation which is on the line if they deliver subpar. But the Generic "no name" carbon - who knows what is behind that. You could see over compensation that negates the value of using carbon fibre or product that aims to fulfill criteria such as light-weight and in doing so dramatically increase the risk of failure. As consumers we are told 'carbon, carbon, carbon" but carbon itself is not the be-all and end-all. For consumers it is knowing what you are buying.
On the ceramic bearings I would say that the weight is neglible - the rolling resistance is coupled with the lifespan. Why would you upgrade though?.. rolling resistance.
You're probably better off getting carbon bearings in your chain cleaner.
Having paid for such an upgrade you'd naturally feel like cleaning your chain more often, saving more watts than if you'd put the bearings in your wheels.
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I would love to know where the current Chinese wheels fit on the Zipp timeline. I don't think many people are silly enough to believe that Zipp and Farsports are even in the same ballpark, but there is no question that Farsports is going to be within 10 years behind. What I want is an honest appraisal based on the testing. Is the Farsports wheel 3 years behind? 5 years? 5 months?
I'm much more sympathetic to the off your mammaries insane prices for the Zipp when you consider that the wheels have as much, if not more R&D than the top frames, and let's face it - it's not like the wheel doesn't any less labour or effort than the top frame.
From a previous Zipp interview I remember reading the copies are not far behind in layup and design. They just buy a wheel, copy the profile, chuck it in the oven and melt off all the resin and then work out the exact carbon lay up ( ok probably over simplified )... ok quality of products used my be not as good but not far behind etc etc.
Be interested to hear from an independent wheel builder as to their thoughts as well.
I am going to buy good wheels again for next season, not sure what yet having just sold my DuraAce... leaning towards Mavic at the moment being that they are local.
To do this properly it probably means getting the Chinese gear into a wind tunnel and then doing some stress testing. I assume that this data exists for the top brands as part of their testing.
For bikes I was in contact with a few Chinese suppliers but they quickly cease contact when I say 1) for review I am not buying the frames and 2) we want to cut a frame open. I am still keen though really needs proper lab testing to get the values which also costs money.
Yep the tunnel is pretty much essential. The yaw and basic aero, as well as the hubs, are the only things you need to physically test, and the only things that you have no true data for. I am willing to assert that it would be industry suicide for mid tier brands to allow themselves to be exposed to this kind of testing... and it is just too pricey to just buy the wheels and chuck into a windtunnel....
If a Chinese copy is identical profile to a Zipp then it will have with in a flea's appendage of the same drag... doesn't tell me anything about the build quality though.
Good point of discussion TLL - it would be interesting to see because we wlao get hubs and spokes in there and unknown would be Yaw because we don't know how the carbon reacts - if a Chinese wheel has been layered up and is too stiff (overcompensation), I and sure this would influence the readings - even if it is small, there would probably be enough differences to show a difference.
While this debate is going off on a slight tangent re:- Zipp v Chinese imitations I feel the real comparisons are Zipp v Lightweights/Madfibre/Enve etc which are more comparable & in a similar price range albeit more expensive in most cases.
Personally if I were to consider a set of $3000 Zipps & a $3500 set of Madfibre's or a custom built ENVE rim on some super high end hubs I'd opt for the latter hands down.
Good article all the same.
Gas propulsion.......it's natural don't fight it.
I think there is definitely scope for both questions. The simple fact is that we are outside our ability to test.
I personally would love Greg from TWE to put up some of his wheels against the Zipps. He claims that they are comparable, but there isn't much Australia love on the forum. I personally would use him, just annoying that I don't have 1000++ to pony up for a couple wheels
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