The only non-composite wheels in the Zipp aero arsenal, the 101s are very expensive for an all-alloy design – but does their outstanding handling mean they’re a worthwhile upgrade?
The 30mm deep rims are just deep enough to benefit from Zipp’s bulged (21mm at the brake track, 24mm at the widest point) ‘toroidal’ rim technology. Zipp claim wind tunnel drag reduction similar to much deeper, flat sided rims, but with much better handling.
Sapim’s CX Ray bladed spokes (18 front, 20 rear) fix into relatively wide stance aero clamshell hub flanges on the Zipp 88/188 hubs. A fast-engaging 10-degree freehub and adjustable Swiss-made steel bearings under teardrop axle caps complete the build.
We were sceptical about the drag drop claims, but these wheels really do seem to reduce the expected ramp in effort once you hit 20mph and above. On flat, fast chaingang runs with riders on 50mm deep wheels we felt at no disadvantage. At 1,646g (772g front, 874g rear) and with most of that weight in the rim, they’re slow to accelerate compared to super-light alloy wheels, but once they’re moving they sustain speed noticeably.
It’s the handling that really sets them apart. The wide rims mean a broader tyre profile that smooths out rough road surfaces extremely well and adds traction in sketchy conditions. They turn in precisely and hold a line beautifully too, with a complete lack of any crosswind gusting immediately adding confidence to descending. There are no carbon-related braking worries in dirty weather either, so you can take it to the limit.
The only dilemma is that rating them depends on what you compare them with. They’re either heavy or vastly more expensive compared with shallower alloy wheels with 25mm tyres that would match them for comfort, if not aero advantage. Their performance gains and price are par for affordable 45-50mm clinchers, though, and their handling, braking and overall ride feel is far better suited to all-round riding.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.