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Monday
May222017

Trench warfare

Zipp just announced a new price point carbon clincher, the 302. It's basically a set of detuned 303s, no dimples, simple hubs (which may be a better thing, given Zipp's hub history) and most importantly surface-applied decals rather than the Impress(tm) graphics found further up the product line. Not tubeless ready, relatively narrow 16.25mm inside width, $1500 MSRP, and 1650g weight for the set. 

photo from Zipp's site

This set arrives squarely at the center of a lot of stuff I've been turning over in my mind lately. For one, Zipp has never achieved lasting success with down-market options. The Flashpoint/S60/whatever that stuff turned into product bit never seemed to gain any traction and was killed off after several iterations. The 101 apparently had some production issues but for whatever reason got buried after a relatively short time. The 30 and 30 Course may have more staying power, I don't know. I think 302s will be a competent product relative to the price point, and will put a ton of pressure on sticker brands. How they cannibalize the rest of Zipp's lineup remains to be seen. 

To put it bluntly, I think the cycling industry is about to go through a serious shakeout. I predict we'll see 3 big brands off the market within 18 months (which ones I don't know, and the definition of "big brand" is malleable). There are too many brands selling too many products that are too specific to incremental use cases, sales channels are obviously in the middle of incredible turmoil, and pricing pressure from below is extraordinary. I don't think that this is a product that Zipp wanted to make, but it is probably one that they thought they needed to make. 

Given what we know about aerodynamic performance of various wheels relative to 303s, which is where Zipp has always claimed their advantage, I simply don't think there's much room left to play in the aerodynamics and technology realm. 302s are probably going to be better at heat management and braking than any carbon clinchers anywhere near their price, which still means they'll be at a big disadvantage to aluminum builds. They'll also have product liability insurance, which you don't get with Chinese rims. Any individual can make his or her own choice on that, but a lot of shops and builders are bringing in rims and selling them to customers without addressing that. To us, that's just unbelievably irresponsible but others don't see it that way.

With $1500 in my pocket that had to be spent on carbon clinchers, would these 302s be my choice? Tough question to answer since the Al33s I'm on now seem to address whatever these might, only at lower weight, with better hubs, better braking, tubeles readiness, no concern whatsoever about heat, equivalent aerodynamics, and half the price. And said Al33s are a pretty extravagant build within our lineup. So I guess I will pass on answering that question. We'll maintain happy detachment from whatever drama this will set off in the market and keep doing what we think is best for you anyhow. 

In news closer to home, the alloy rim market continues to evolve, improving the option set which we're able to offer. The latest announcement here is that HED has made Belgium+ disc rims available in 24h drilling. Not an earth shattering thing, if they are the right rim for you in 24 then they sure weren't the wrong rim for you in 28, but no-downside option increases are a good thing.

And Al33 ceramic rims are getting closer by the minute. Mavic has distributed Open Pro Exalith dealer pricing so every indication is that those are on track. It's a rare day when we aren't just as happy as quahogs to be doing exactly what we are. 

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Reader Comments (2)

" since the Al33s I'm on now seem to address whatever these might, only at lower weight, with better hubs, better braking, tubeles readiness, no concern whatsoever about heat, equivalent aerodynamics, and half the price. "

16.25mm internal width, $1500, and 1650 grams kinda says it all...awesome wheels from back in the 90's.

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Maybe even 2010, but 2017 not so much.

The unmentioned thing is how they have to purposefully dumb down products like this in order not to gut the validity of 303s at the price they sell those for, which in turn get watered down to legitimize the top-range wheels.

May 24, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdave

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