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The Zipp 454 NSW and Zipp 353 NSW wheelset performance and prices are truly hors categorie or beyond categorization, the term reserved to describe climbs that are like no others.

Despite what its rim depth would suggest, the performance of the 454 NSW makes it hard to place in the aero category alone. It also has a very different riding character than the prior generation 454 NSW.

The same goes for the Zipp 353 NSW. Its range reaches well beyond most all-around category wheelsets and has mostly numbers and letters in common with the 303 NSW it replaces.

The unique performance of these new Zipp NSW wheels and their US$4220/£3376/3798 retail price make them almost hors comparison.

Is this good, bad, or otherwise?

Some enthusiasts will willingly pay the price to get the NSW’s performance. For others, the price of these wheels makes them hors budget regardless of that performance.

For the rest of us, I suspect we’ll find ourselves wondering how much would I be willing to pay for what these wheelsets can do for me.

If that’s you or you just want to have fun imagining what it might be like riding one of these wheelsets, here are our reviews.


Zipp 454 NSW

If you don’t want to pick between wheels that would be fast on flats vs. on rolling hills vs. on climbs or in a training ride, group ride, road race, or crit, I recommend the latest Zipp 454 NSW Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset. It will be fast in all those situations and the fastest around in many of them.

At US$4220/£3376/3798, it better be. But if top performance in a single wheelset in nearly every situation and against nearly every criterion is important to you, it just may be worth it.

That’s the conclusion that fellow testers Nate, Miles, and I reached after riding the Zipp 454 NSW.

At its core, it’s a stiff, deep, and light wheelset. Those three attributes and the 454 NSW’s quick-engaging rear hub make it so responsive that it redefines the term “snappy.”

Practically, the 454 NSW’s superior ability to accelerate made it an ideal partner for 20-30 second break-away efforts and sprint finishes. Except for on the steepest of slopes, Miles said this wheelset “made me faster on nearly any effort I tried”.

And Miles is already a fast dude, regularly winning P/1/2 masters crits, road, and stage races in the Northeast and finishing top 10 at US Nationals.

Even for me, a more average B group level roadie, the sensation of riding this highly responsive 454 NSW wheelset was energizing almost from the first pedal stroke. Once into my rides, I felt like I had great legs every day I rode them.

Nate, our A group Bullet Train ride leader who rode the 454 NSW on some of those early morning hammerfests and out front of 100 and 140-mile one-day rides with 8,000 to 10,000 feet of climbing, initially resisted giving them up for others to test. Despite being a peace-loving guy, he paraphrased Charleton Heston’s line about prying them out of his “cold dead hands.”

Nate has been testing all sorts of wheels along with me for at least the last five years, including the prior generation 454 NSW rim brake wheels. His feedback started with a most definitive statement.

These are the first wheels where I haven’t felt like I was making a tradeoff between aero and climbing performance.

I don’t know what they cost (I’ve trained him not to look at price or specs and just judge performance – ed). I’m sure it will be high. But, I would put them in the category where it just MIGHT be worth paying $1,000 more for these than others which are ALMOST as good but not on all characteristics. (Nate’s capitalization.)

Unlike Nate’s experience with the earlier 454 NSW, where that wheelset wobbled in crosswinds to the point where he slowed on each fast downhill section of a looping road race, he felt confident on similarly fast, windy descents riding this new 454 NSW.

Miles felt far less comfortable in some windy situations. When the breezes picked up to about 20 mph and came directly from the side, it felt like he was getting a slight body check and was pushed around far more than with any wheelset he’s ever ridden.

It may be that the 454 NSW’s sawtooth rim profile is best at reducing crosswinds at lesser yaw angles than what Miles experienced and perhaps more similar to those Nate did. For me, I always seem to be riding into headwinds no matter what course I’m on, and it was no different riding the 454 NSW.

The only other slight knock we had on this wheelset was its ability to hold its momentum on the flats at speeds north of 25mph. While the 454 NSW rolled just fine at that speed, it felt like we needed a bit more effort to keep pace with the average aero wheelset that is often 5-10mm deeper and 200-300 grams heavier. It’s simply a matter of physics and a tradeoff the speediest of enthusiasts might want to keep in mind.

Zipp 454 NSW

When you aren’t on a breakaway, going over rolling terrain, heading up climbs, or sprinting for the line, you are likely doing a lot of handling. And the good news is that this is another area where the 454 NSW outperforms most wheelsets.

We experienced precise, confident, high-speed cornering. These wheels do exactly what you want them to do in big arc turns, 50+mph downhills, slower switchbacks, and even quick, last-second movements.

With the right tires and at the right pressures, the ride is also very comfortable, no matter how good the pavement is. While many wheels are similarly compliant nowadays, some deeper wheels tend to give up comfort by using a narrower rim to keep weight down. You make no such trade-off with this wheelset.

Add to all of this a very smooth rolling hubset and almost silent, fast-engaging freehub. That makes it even more tempting to start a breakaway and easier to crank up a sprint.

The 454 NSW defies categorization. It’s the wheelset equivalent of a hors categorie climb, one that is beyond categorization.

Based on its 55 to 59 mm deep rims, you might think the Zipp 454 NSW is an aero wheelset. You wouldn’t be wrong. Judging from its 1388-gram weight, you might guess it climbs well. Indeed it does. Hookless, 23mm inside rim width will make for a very comfortable ride, right? Yes, and perhaps worthy of riding gravel, though we didn’t test it off-road.

So is it an all-around wheelset? Yes, that may be the most encompassing definition though it is faster and better than any all-arounder we’ve tested on terrain that never exceeds 5-6% up or down and faster than many aero wheels on the flats and climbing wheels on steeper pitches.

Perhaps it’s best to call it an all-everything wheelset. Or just fast anywhere you want to ride.

You can buy the Zipp 454 NSW using these links to Competitive CyclistBTD (BikeTiresDirect), Sigma Sports, and BikeInn, all stores I recommended and rate highly for their prices, customer satisfaction, and support. You can also find it and compare prices using this link to Know’s Shop, which shows all the stores I recommend that carry this product.

In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive, and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.


Despite a depth that suggests it is an all-around wheelset, the Zipp 353 NSW wheelset doesn’t carry the momentum that all-around wheels do and climbs nearly as well as the best climbing wheels. It also performs well on everything from smooth paved roads to rough gravel ones.

Indeed, versatility is one of its greatest strengths.

At 1248 grams with an XDR freehub (20 grams more with an HG, aka 11-speed Shimano/SRM freehub), the 353 NSW is almost freakishly light for a non-tubular wheelset. It’s only about 100 grams heavier than the lightest, pure climbing wheelsets I’ve reviewed.

Zipp 353 NSW

And boy, does it climb! I almost had to check that I hadn’t left my water bottle or saddle bag at home when I hit the hill a quarter-mile mile from my house the first time out.

Miles blew away the competition when he rode the 353 NSW in the Crank the Kanc race with a 5-mile, 7% uphill finish. Since the race starts with a 10-mile 1-2% grade, he put these Zipps on his Giant Propel aero bike. It turned that bike into a legitimate climber. That’s versatility for you.

We didn’t experience any effects of crosswinds riding the Zipp 353 NSW both on flat and downhill terrain. While its rims have the sawtooth pattern designed to neutralize them on their deeper 454, crosswinds haven’t been an issue with the last couple of generations of Zipp mid-depth wheelsets we’ve tested. Even Zipp told me they used the sawtooth design on the 353 NSW principally to reduce weight.

Tracking in turns, making quick direction changes, and doing other handling maneuvers on both good and rough roads with these Zipps produces a confident thrill unmatched by most wheelsets.

And comfortable? You bet. Nate described them as “plush over bumps at high speeds.” Miles called them “fantastic, so comfortable cruising over imperfections.” I concur.

With its inside hookless rim width I measured at 25.5mm, we rode the 353 NSW with 28mm Schwalbe Pro One TLE during our test rides between 55 and 60 psi. I measured these tires, and the 28mm Specialized S-Works Turbo and Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite all narrower than the rim. That will give you reduced aero drag at high speeds.

Zipp 353 NSW

Yet, these Zipp 353 NSWs aren’t aero stars. All of us noted that you’ve got to keep the pressure on the pedals to keep your speeds up.

I rode the 353 NSW back to back on the same day and the same route against the Zipp 303 NSW that it replaced. The 303 NSW was clearly superior in my ability to hold speed or momentum. I’m not sure why – likely because the 303 NSW is a 250-gram heavier wheelset, only a touch deeper than the undulating 42-46 mm deep 353 NSW and with an earlier generation of the smooth-flowing Cognition hub – but I noticed a big difference.

We had split opinions on the stiffness of the 353 NSW. Nate, one of the strongest age-group climbers in the region, was “underwhelmed by their stiffness.” He found them sluggish on short, punchy climbs. On the other hand, he thought the rear hub engaged more rapidly than the many other wheelsets he’s tested.

Miles, no slouch when it comes to climbing and only a few kgs lighter than Nate, thought these Zipps were “incredibly stiff,” but engagement felt average, especially when he accelerated on the steepest gradients during his hill training. Once engaged, however, he loved the way they accelerated.

To-mA-to, To-mAH-to? Hard to know.

I’ve now done a few gravel events on the 353 NSW. As expected, the comfort, handling, and climbing ability we’ve enjoyed on the road translates well off of it.

While the Zipp 353 NSW is clearly a standout climber and would likely perform with the best of them on gravel, it’s not as fast against other all-arounders. It’s almost as if its versatility works against it, especially when trying to justify the US$4220/£3376/3798 price tag.

But if what it does well is the combination of things you are looking for, you can pick it up at Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), Merlin, Sigma Sports, and BikeInn.


  • Hi Steve, how do you feel the 353’s and 454’s stack up against the Enve 3.4 AR and your current best all-round wheelset 4.5 AR’s? Thanks in advance.

    • Joe, they stack up well. I’m working on a post that compares the best of the best but have additional wheelset reviews to get through first before I can get that one out. Steve

  • Also, what tyres were you running in the 454’s, in particular what width tyres would you recommend with these wheels?

    • I would like to see these wheelsets compared to the Roval rapide slx 51-60 wheelset. I bet they perform similarly to the zipp 454’s.

      • Ed, I’d like to compare them too but as I mentioned when you left the same comment recently in my Best Carbon Disc Wheelset review, I haven’t been able to get a hold of the Rovals. Steve

    • Joe, the 454s are best with 25c tires as they’ll provide the best aero profile. We tested them with the Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless tires that Zipp also used in their development. Unfortuntely, those are now discontinued. I mounted and measured others on them that also work with hookless rims as well. You can read more about your options in my tubeless tire review. Steve

      • 25c or 28c? Per Zipp’s hookless-tire-compatibility chart, you can mount 25c to 32c depending on the tire.

        Look at thier chart for compatibility.

  • Great reviews Steve! I have to say I was a little disappointed with the new 303 Firecrest and 353 NSW prioritising other areas at the expense of aero compared to the older versions since I always felt (having owned a set of 1st gen 303 NSWs) that the 45mm depth was really where perceptible aero gains are felt for me. From what I’ve read, those two new models seem to be less impressive in the “holding higher speeds easily” department than the ones they replaced.

    It’s also disappointing, if somewhat understandable, that even the latest aero wheels are mostly sticking with 25c tire optimization (where 28c would exceed the 105 rule). I’m one of those much more comfortable on 28s on my local roads but also avg 30-32 km/h and appreciate the aero gains of deeper wheels. The new Roval Rapides with a 35mm max external width are an exception.

  • Grant, Thanks for your kind feedback. Regarding the 25c vs. 28c tires, recognize that in the case of the 454 NSW, the rim is already 23mm internally so that you’ve added volume to make the ride comfortable with a 25c tire the way you might on a 21mm internal rim with a 28c tire. We found the 454 NSW very comfortable with 25c tires and it’s clearly more aero than 28c tires.

    More generally, I find 28c tires aren’t always necessary to make for a comfortable ride or one that reduces energy or impedance losses from road surface imperfections. Some riders, especially those of us who have been riding for a while and are used to inflating tires to between 85 and 110psi on rims with 15 to 17mm inside widths and 21c and 23c tires we used to ride often have a hard time reducing pressure to the 60-80 psi level that is more appropriate for modern day, wider rims and 25c tires to get better handling, more comfort, and less impedence losses.

    And then there’s the reality that 25c tires used to measure closer to 27mm wide once inflated and installed on most rims until the latest round of new tires brought on by current standards. Now, some current 28c tires measure less than 28mm once installed. And tires from different brands of different construction that measure exactly the same once mounted and inflated can be wildly different in their level of comfort and handling. Same goes for the rims and wheels. So talking about a 28c or 28mm tire is almost meaningless without knowing the tire model, age, rim you are mounting it on, and pressure you are inflating it to. The whole wider tire thing has been overhyped and misunderstood. The focus needs to be on the rim-tire combination for whatever mix of aero, handling, and comfort/impedence performance you prioritize and not just 28C tires for their own sake. Steve

    • Agreed re confusion in the industry with sizes, psi, etc. I run 28c tires (29.3 actual) on 21mm internal width and 29.4 max external width rims, 70psi rear 65psi front. I tried 25c tires (27.3 actual) on the same rims and was getting pinch flats at the max psi I was comfortable riding, that’s why I switched to 28c…

  • Have you had a chance to test the new 404 disc firecrest hookless yet? If so will you have a review soon and what do you think so far?

  • I find it quite interesting that despite all the benefits of the lower weigth and undulating rim profile of the Latest NSW, the Moviestar team riders are in majority still using what appears to be standard fire crest rims, and numerous teams on the continental ALX ltd tubulars.

    I do understand that there is a risk to benefit of using reliable and grippy tubular tyres however given the advertised and proclaimed benefits of wider, deeper wheels with tubeless tyres, one would have thougth the professionals would embrace these technologies if being so advantageous.

    Ive followed both the TDF and Giro and bow Vuelta and its clear that being in a peloton and/ or break away, the ‘aero’ benefits available are not necessarily that highly regarded.

    Perhaps in time trials is where we see the deep wheels, undulating profiles, but then the tyres are narrower and not wider.

    For us ‘average’ riders, ‘lone’ riders and passionate hobby enthusiasts, it is personally perhaps more about the excitement and feeling of having something special. Just like we appreciate a nice sporst car, latest technology phones/computers….or fashionable shoes/bags/accessories for the women

    • Eric, I wouldn’t base any gear choices on what the pros do. They ride in a commercial environment without all the options consumers have. Teams have sponsors, budgets, directors, technicians, and biases that affect the gear their cyclists use. Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    Thank you for that insight. Especially the sponsors and budget.

    It is a bit comforting to read, as its easy to get pulled in to marketing not always knowing what’s pure advertising with negligent benefits for our use and whats benefitting our actual needs and our rides.

    I really liked your article about this in deciding on what wheels one need and to what use.

    But it is sure fun and interesting reading about gear and the reviews….and bikerollingresistance 😉

    Cant wait for the RSL 62 review…

    Thanks again

  • Steve, do you reckon the 353s would give a heavier rider an advantage over the 454s, especially on the hills? Or is the weight difference close to negligible? I’m debating getting one or the either, and I’m heavier rider (6’5” 198lbs) and my main weakness is climb speed.

    Thanks for all the detailed reviews and write ups!

    • Rodrigo, Even though the 454 is very light (1393 grams per my measurement), the 353 is noticeably lighter (1248g) and is an incredible climbing wheelset. But I don’t see why a lighter or heavier rider would notice it any more or less. Unless you do a lot of long, steep climbs in competitive situations, I’d go with the 454 which is already as light a most clincher (i.e. not tubular) “climbing” wheels today and will be faster on the flats and rollers with its added depth. Your climbing weakness may be best overcome by doing more climbing training during the season, strength training in the offseason, and shedding body and bike weight. Steve

  • Hi Steve, first of all congratulations about your reviews, among all those you can find online, they are the most genuine and detailed.
    Choosing an upgrade, an expensive upgrade like a new wheelset, is always difficult, and you can’t just choose over specs or manufacurer’s claims.
    At the same time it’s impossible to test them before buying, so that’s why I find your reviews really valuable.
    The first-hand experience of real riders, even though each rider has its own preference, it’s very important for us to make a sensible choice.
    I’m really looking forward you review of Aeolus RSL 62, and It would be a dream if you can put your hands also on the newest Vision Metron 60 SL, that promises to be a fantastic contender.
    They’re both new generation of wider rims (23 mm int – 31 ext for Bontrager and 21mm. int – 33 ext for Vision) that should handle much better crosswinds, and much lighter than previous generation of Deep wheels (1520 gr. for RSL62 and 1460 gr. For Vision Metron 60), something that should help chose them even for climbing (a part from Alpe d’Huez or Mortirolo).
    I currently have a Trek Emonda with the standard Aeolus Pro 37 (1505 gr.). I’m a tall and heavy rider (192 cm. and 88 kg.) so even though I climb, I’ll never be fast enough after 5-6% climbs.
    I think I might improve my rides, even those with climbs, with a modern deeper set of wheels, capable of helping me improve my average speed in all the flats, descents and mild hills, without sacrifing my below average climbing times (condiering that my actual wheels aren’t lighter than the new deep wheels mentioned).
    The 454 are fantastic indeed, but I’m still a clincher guy and they’re hookles and tubeless only (and pricey..)

  • Steve,
    Thanks for the great write-up and review. I’m torn between these as I do both a lot of climbing and a good amount of undulating/flats. Any thoughts on how combining these two by riding 353 on the front and 454 on the rear might perform?

    • John, If the 454s didn’t climb as well as they do or didn’t manage crosswinds as well as they do, I might consider going with a 353 in the front. But, they climb very well and aren’t bothered by crosswinds. You’d lose aero benefits with the 353 in front and the weight gain would be small. On the more practical side, the 353 is also very hard to find now.

      I’d revisit Nate’s comment about the 454 not forcing you to tradeoff climbing ability for aero benefits. And climbing is Nate’s jam. Yes, the 353 is crazy light and would be ideal for a week of long steep climbs in the mountains but at under 1400g and stiff, the 454 is as light as most dedicated wheels that aren’t tubular these days. Steve

    • Hi Steve, for the 353s, I’m looking at ordering them online and I don’t understand the difference between the XDR and HG versions. Can you enlighten me? I want to get either a Dura’s or Campy’s drivetrain. Thanks!

      • Jay, XDR is the rear freehub you want if you have a SRAM eTap AXS 12-speed group set. HG is for Shimano/SRAM/Campagnolo 11-speed groupsets. Campagnolo 12-speed is another freehub that isn’t available for this wheel. Steve

  • Steve, if you had to pick between ENVE 5.6 and ZIPP 454 as your one wheel set, which would you choose? Thanks!

    • Justin, If money wasn’t an issue, I’d go with the Zipp 454 NSW without a doubt. My fellow testers Nate and Miles would as well. Indeed, Miles had that choice and a few others to take with him to Masters Nationals and the Green Mountain Stage race this year and he took the 454s without hesitation. Steve

      • Awesome, thanks for the insight!

      • Hi Steve, kudos for building such an extensive knowledge base and the pragmatic approach to the subject!

        One thing I am wondering is about the 454 NSWs vs Enve 5.6 SES – looking at the numbers from Hambini’s website, the “humpback whale” design on the NSWs is actually making them less aerodynamic by something around 9-15W at 30-50km/h compared to “best” wheel of a similar depth.

        Not meeting the 105-108% rule costs another 6-25W at 30-50 km/h (I am also taking the numbers from Hambini) and replacing 28c Continentals 5000s with Bontragers to meet the 105-108% rule costs around 5W x 2 at 30 km/h (and probably something like 18W at 50km? even worse, this loss is all the time, even when sitting in the aero shadow of another rider).

        So, does the 454 NSW light-weightness (1350g vs 1550g) and general “fun” factor compensate for the losses on the number side (or maybe I am missing something regarding the numbers)?

        Would you also pick 454 NSW vs Enve 5.6 SES for solo riding, not necessarily in the mountains?

        • Tomek, I follow and enjoy Hambini as well. However, I’ve not seen any test data he’s published on either the current 454 NSW disc or ENVE SES 5.6 disc wheelsets or any wheelsets made after 2019. Based on the wheelsets he has tested, most of which are 2017 to 2019 models, Hambini’s has written that he sees little difference in wheelsets of the same depth range. While I don’t know where you found the numbers, the 9-15 watts of aero drag difference you cite may only be true when comparing models at the ends of the bell curve. Likewise, your quoted 6-25W difference for not meeting the rule of 105 is not consistent with anything I’ve read or been told from those who’ve studied drag differences for rim to tire ratios. As to the 454 NSW vs ENVE SES 5.6 disc wheelsets, my reviews of them tell you all that I can about their differences and my recommendations. Steve

          • Hi Steve, thank you for the swift reply. You are right – I should be more specific where these numbers are coming from.

            1. The aero 9-15W extrapolated difference between 454 NSW and Enves 5.6 is coming from the graphs on:
            where most of “good” 50-60mm deep section wheels come at 181-182W at 30 kmh and 587-591W at 50 kmh (so I assume that Enve’s will be in the same area, with hidden spoke nipples, etc.).
            But the 2018 454 NSWs are the end of the pack with 190W and 603W respectively. So that yields around 9W at 30 kmh and sometimes even 22W at 50 kmh aero loss for the Zipps.
            Now, this is also extrapolated, but the rim design didn’t seem to change that much between 2018 and the latest, so I am assuming it will be the in the same ballpark?

            2. The 105% rule penalty – this also comes from Hambini’s website ( – and I actually misinterpreted the graph, but the difference is still there:

            – at 30 kmh, for shimano C60 it is between 3 to 5W depending on the tire.
            – at 50 kmh, for C60 it is between 15 and 18W.

            7.8s in this test seem to perform better, probably because the air is able to reattach.

            I don’t want to obsess about the numbers too much, but I was just curious if this difference is perceivable in the real world usage scenarios – or do other factors, such as stiffness, weight or vibration reduction overcome the aero losses – with the latter happening mostly when going solo/on the front of the group.

          • Tomek, Assumptions and extrapolations are tough to base quantitative judgments on. In this case, where neither of the wheelsets in question are tested, I wouldn’t put much faith in that approach. Compared to the 2018 454 NSW rim brake, hooked wheelset tested by Hambini, the 2021 454 NSW disc tubeless wheelset is wider both internally and externally and is hookless. A tire will be shaped differently on the two different NSW rims because of the different widths and hook vs hookless. So it’s hard to know how different the drag might be. (The humpback design is there for crosswind stability and doesn’t affect the drag.)

            I’ll also note that Hambini’s protocol uses the same tire model and width (23c Conti GP4000s II) in his testing of the 50 or so wheels in his complete list. While that makes sense in reducing the number of test variables, it doesn’t mirror what we do in the real world. You may get rim to tire ratios that are less than optimal in reducing aero drag and certainly less than the optimized tire size and model for each tested rim. The Shimano C60 vs. ENVE 7.8 using the Conti and Vittoria tires you link to make this point. The C60 is a narrower rim that probably isn’t as wide as even the 23c tire once that tire is installed and inflated. It’s also a couple of generations older than the design of the 7.8. And the Vittoria tire likely sets up narrower than the Conti. And both are clinchers on hooked rims and inflated to levels most riders don’t ride at anymore.

            Regardless of tire model and width, the big difference in the design and era of these two wheels would likely be noticeable on the road in speed, crosswind stability, handling, etc.

            So while there’s much to like in what Hambini does especially in his turbulent vs. steady-state approach to wind tunnel testing which does a better job of mirroring the real world, it only goes so far with his fixed variable tire protocol and becomes less relevant as we move to a new generation of wheel and tire design. That’s why I measure rim to tire ratios for current tires on different rims at different pressures in my tubeless tire review. It’s also why I and my fellow testers with different riding styles and speeds and road surfaces, etc. report on what we experience against the criteria that we find matter most to enthusiasts in my comparative wheelset testing.

            I’m currently doing some research to try to quantify some of the tradeoffs you mention, eg. aero vs. hysteresis but even with that, there’s nothing better than actually riding and comparing different wheels and tires to assess how they perform against what matters most that you’ll find in our comparative reviews and my recommendations.


          • Steve, thank you for the detailed explanation and looking forward to tradeoffs summary!

            On the sawtooth shape, I found a comment from Hambini on Apr 27th 2021: saying that 454 perform worse, specifically because of the shape.
            It is also discussed here:

            Even Zipp seems to state that the new generation 454s are 4W slower aerodynamically at 40 kmh – but save power in other areas (not sure how much on a good surface though).
            So everything seems to point to a fact, that aerodynamically, Enve 5.6 would be more efficient than the Zipps – but that’s exactly what sparks my interest – is the claim from Zipp about savings/comfort in other areas indeed true in your opinion?

            Enve 7.8 vs C60 – I think you mentioned 5-15W on the 105% rule page here, which would be in the same ballpark figure. But another thing that I found on the same video as above is that actually the deeper the rim, the higher the chance of airflow reattaching:, so with Enves being 1-2cm deeper, that might explain it as well.

  • Great comments and write-up. I’m really understanding more about these wheelsets. I’ve got a new Pinarello dogma F disc for delivery next year with new groupset dura ace Di2. Very torn between:
    – Enve SES 3.4 (or AR version)
    – Zipp 454 nsw (new version)
    – Campagnolo bora ultra wto 45 or 33
    – Princeton Carbonworks 4540 grit
    – Lightweight meilenstein evo

    Money not a factor.

    The Lightweight is not very convincing to me due to the outdated rim width (although the stiffness sounds great!).

    Very keen on the new Zipp but I’ll have to stay with their hub and bearings (no option to put any ceramic bearings as far as I know).

    Enve is also very interesting with the possibility of changing hubs and bearings.

    Campy sound great too, as do the Princeton carbonworks.

    My type of riding is flat and hills in and around London. Rarely mountains, so I don’t think I’d benefit from say the Zipp 353 or campy bora ultra wto 33.. having said that, I wouldn’t want something too deep that could give me trouble on the climbs…

    Average speed for a 100km flat ride would be around 35kmh. Love sprinting and keeping high speeds on the flat. Tend to climb hills at around 24-28kmh (of course it depends on the type of climb).

    What wheelset would you recommend?


    • Luca, For the riding profile you describe and for what I know of the wheels you’ve listed, I’d recommend the Zipp 454 NSW. Ceramic bearings themselves haven’t been shown to improve riding performance (e.g., reduced rolling friction) to a consequential degree (or any degree that I’m aware of) for the kind of riding you describe. Perhaps they last longer, but steel bearings on most wheels will already last well beyond the usable life of the wheels. Ceramic bearings are a marketing feature. Steve

      • Thanks Steve! Now that the GP 5000 S TR tubeless tire (hookless compatible) has been released, I thought it would work with a 25mm tire but actually it seems as if Continental doesn’t allow 25mm tire on an internal rim width of 23mm like the 453 NSW. Zipp says minimum 25mm is okay, but continental says it’s not. In fact, now the Zipp website says that you can only use 28-30-32mm Gp 5000 S TR on their wheels, not the 25mm.

        Would you recommend using a 28mm tire on 454 NSW? I wouldn’t want to get them and then be Forced to use a 28mm tire with high rolling Resistance… I’d rather use 25mm tire on that wheel, but I couldn’t possible use the new GP 5000, so I either go with the 28mm version (but I’m afraid the too low pressure would make me feel sluggish on climbs etc), or use a different tire brand (Pirelli, Goodyear, Michelin or Schwalbe).

        I really love Gp 5k and I’m quite disappointed that the 25mm tire is not okay for the 23mm internal rim width….

        Thanks for your thoughts,

        • Luca, haven’t measured it yet (because tires aren’t available) but expect that the 28C version of that tire on that wheelset will be best. Just answered a similar question for Ryan regarding the 303 S. See my more detailed comment here.

          • Thanks Steve! Does anyone know what the external rim width of the 454 is? All I know is the internal at 23mm. Was curious to heck the rule of 105 for 25 and 28mm tires.


  • Hi Steve

    I have a pair of 353 NSWs and after reading your review of the 454s, I was wondering if it would be beneficial to run a 353 in the front and 454 in the rear. Both would be running 28s. Thank you!

  • Graham, depends what kind of riding you are doing. If you are climbing in the mountains, stay with the 353s. If you are riding the flats at aero speeds, the 454s both front and back are best. The only reason to put a shallower wheel on the front is for crosswinds but the 454s are good in crosswinds. Steve

  • hi Steve, I am in the market for an wheel upgrade on my venge, over the present roval clx 64. they are seriously fast once at speed, but they feel a bit sluggish accelerating and not very stiff & susceptible to crosswind. also I do descent clearly worse than on the supersix with enve ses 4.5. i am looking for something more snappy, better climbing and descending, while accepting only minor aero losses. now I am concerned about tires, seems it makes no sense to spent that money on a wheelset, and then use slow tires. on the roval I use 25 corsa speed with latex tubes. now your review on the nsw 454 makes them sound fantastic, but there are no useful tires except the gp 5000 s, but it would need to be 28, too wide to be aero according to common knowledge. did anything change wrt the 105 rule? enve says, 3.4 at 27 mm outer width is aero optimized for 25 tires, but sure they will come out wider on the 21 mm internal width. campy bora wto ultra is 26 mm, so should be run with 23 tires? as much as i might like the 454, as long as there is no suitable tire, it makes no sense. in the meantime i am thinking about trying 23 tires on my enve wheels, to find out if i could live with 23 tires. then more wheels options would become available, like campy and pcw 6560 or 4550 for example. do you have any thoughts or comments on this? as you may realize from my comments, all out speed is my priority.
    many thanks

    • Michael, what you describe about your Roval CLX 64 on your Venge is exactly what Nate, who has the same bike and wheels, experiences. And what you describe you are looking for is exactly what he experiences on the Zipp 454 NSW. He’s a seriously fast dude, leads the “bullet train” group ride, etc. and he readily gives up the Rovals for the Zipps for anything but a TTT.

      As to tires, I’m not aware of any changes with the Rule of 105. I am efforting to get Josh and a few wheelset product managers to share if/how it changes with changes in rim shape and hookless rims but nothing to report as of now. I don’t know that the rules of physics have changed so the Rule of 105 or at least the rim wider than the tire probably hasn’t either. I do cut tubeless tires on hookless rims some slack (see my latest tubeless tire update) as the tire walls are slightly straighter than on hooked rims so smoother air flow. Maybe Rule of 102 or 103.

      That said, the 27.8mm measured outside width of the 454 NSW (and 404 FC), makes the 25mm Schwalbe Pro One TLE the current choice now. It’s narrower than the rim by a few hairs. Those are the tires we’ve used on this wheelset so it is a “useful” tire per your description above. Still, it’s not going to be faster in a drag race than the Roval as reported in the review. If you are heavier than 175lbs/80kg and inclined or guided to increase pressure above 75psi, then you need to go to the 28mm Schwalbe Pro One TLE (and run lower pressure) which will put you a few hairs wider than the rim, all of this depending on your inflation pressure (higher pressure, wider tire). But don’t go more than 75psi which is recommended max pressure for 454 NSW.

      Conti announced a new Grandprix 5000S TR that’s compatible with hookless. It’s not available just yet but that may be a good option. Will report on it when I get some. I don’t test/measure race tires without puncture belts like the Corsa Speed so don’t know about those. Depending on whose test you look at, the current Conti 5000 TL and Schwalbe Pro One TLE are very close on rolling resistance. The 5000S TR claims to be faster than the 5000TL but that’s only a claim. If it turns out to be faster, perhaps the gain in rolling resistance may make up for the loss in aero if it’s wider than the Schwalbe.

      Meanwhile, there are so many other things to like about the 454 NSW – responsiveness, handling, climbing, descending, stiffness, and speed – that it trumps not having the pure speed in a flat drag race… though Miles rode them to finish 2nd in the crit in his age group at Nationals and win the crit at the GMSR this year.

      If all-out speed is your priority, stay with the Rovals. You can put just about any tire you choose on them and still be aero. 23mm tires is going backwards in handling and rolling resistance. Steve

      • Hey Steve,

        As I’m 86kg body weight, then would you suggest using 28mm tire on 454 nsw? See previous post. I was thinking of using 25mm but indeed that would go slightly above the hookless threshold… I’m very worried that a 28mm at lower psi would feel very sluggish and slow compared to a 25mm at higher pressure…

        • Not to worry. Frank Boyle figured this out in 1662. Not sure how good a cyclist he was but his law says “For a fixed mass of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional”. And you need the same amount of air to hold up your weight, whether it’s in a higher volume tire at a lower pressure or a lower volume one at a higher pressure. Your rolling resistance and handling might be a touch better since that weight will be spread more across the width of the tire patch than along its length.

          Enough physics for now. Training is the best way to get faster.

          • I keep referring back to this article and the one linked below for tire and rim widths / compatibility. So, thanks for being a solid trustworthy reference!

            On the topic of physics, I noted that you seem to equate heavier wheels with maintaining speed. I presume what you measure is the aero benefit of deeper or simply more aero wheels. Please note that rolling (not rotating) physics apply to a bike. Wheel weight counts the same as frame weight. There is no inertia effect of heavier rims. This is according to Curt Austin’s bike calculator.

      • dear Steve, thanks a lot for this fast reply. sorry that I have not explained my case very well, although your answer indicates you still understood me. I am looking for something which is 1) more fun and 2) faster on a competitive 60 miles, 6000 feet ride with shorter punchy climbs, some technical descending and also some longer climb at 5-7 %. I am already among the fastest in class on the flat, so it is more important to stay with the stronger climbers and descenders than to win a drag race ( for that I will keep the rovals).
        now the 454 seem to tick that boxes.
        having that said, I was indeed refering to the 5000 s, which in 25 mm is not approved for the 23 mm rim. at the rear I could go for a 28 ( 73-77 kg, depending on the shape). so mainly I doubt about putting a 28 in front or not. but thank you for your suggestion on the schwalbe tire. is that approved in 25 mm? the zipp page is very vague, saying “manufacturers have communicated compatibility for “some” of their tires”. to me in fact that sounds pretty lazy from zipp, they are trying to sell a 4000 USD wheelset and all they have to say is that? ok, maybe it is just me. the thing is I heard some people had issues with the schwalbe tires, so at first hand, I had excluded them. but if you experience with the schwalbe in 25 mm on that wheel is good, that may indeed change my mind. also I would have imagined the final width difference between 28 and 25 to be more than a few hairs. but if so, the 5000 s in 28 might work as well in front.
        thanks a lot again

        • Michael, Had an exchange on very similar set of questions with Ryan on October 8/9 exchange here See if that helps. Steve

          • thanks Steve, indeed it is the same question, thanks for the link. yes, I kind of wished somebody to tell me i can mount 25 mm 5000 s at least on the front wheel. it may be perfectly ok, but of course if something goes wrong can be too bad…. guess i wait a little until there is some experience on that issue. thanks a lot, highly appreciated

          • You cannot run a 25mm GP5K S TR on either the 404/454 or the RSL series. You buy either and you have to give up the Crr advantage of the contis over any other tire, if you want to run a 25.. It’s frustrating, as the delta in Crr between tires is massive compared to any two modern design wheels of the same depth. But it is what it is. As Tom A. always said “low rolling resistance can make up for a LOT of aero sins”.

  • Hi Steve, sorry for the late question, but I just purchased the 454nsw wheelset and trying to figure out what tires to run and width. I want to run the most aero fastest tire out there, which I think would be the Corsa speed G+ 2.0 in the 25mm width. My question is as a 195 lb rider , after bike weight and some gear the recomended tire pressures from ZIP are 71psi front around 76psi rear so I am pushing the spec limits of the tire pressure. Is that an issue? Would u size up to 28mm? THank you

  • Hey Steve, great article! I am buying a new trek madone 2022 and am looking at the 454 NSW wheelset due to your article. Only thing holding me slightly back on ordering is the fact that I am a heavier (85kg) relatively powerful (320W FTP) rider that rides a lot on flat fast roads with my cycling club. We ride 2 by 2 so a lot of riding in the wind. Would the new enve 6.7 wheelset or Zipp 808/858 give me a considerable speed advantage under these conditions? Because I live in flanders, I often ride the spring classics so that will probably be better with the 454. Thanks for your comment!

    • Thomas, Wheels like the 6.7 and 808/858 are intended for TT and triathlon riders who are looking to get those last few watts of marginal gains available using the deeper rims to reduce aero drag. In group riding, the added depth will help you close gaps faster (and rip the legs off your mates if you want to attack them and lose friends) but if you are riding in the wheels most of the time, deeper wheels won’t matter. In solo riding on flats, they’ll be faster but only marginally so until you get up to 40 km/hr type speeds and they’ll accelerate more slowly and on hillier terrain, you may find yourself working harder. You also might want to consider the new ENVE SES 4.5 (my review here) as we found they are more stable than the 454 NSW in strong winds and while still quite responsive, their 100g or so of added weight compared to the 454 NSW won’t be noticeable on flat terrain. If you scroll up above that review, there’s a comparison chart for the 454, 4.5 and other wheels of that depth. Steve

  • Hi Steve, I notice you have the Parlee altum paired with the NSW hookless 25mm width tires in this article. I’m considering the 303 Firecrest, which have the same width. Can you shed any light on how those zipps fit into that Parlee Altum and what size the bike was?

  • Reading over these comments…

    Did you find the outbound 303 NSW better for road use exclusively? I am considering a new set of 303 NSW Discs over the current 303 Firecrest or 454 NSW. The price is very agressive and that factors into my decision, but it would not cost a ton more to get the updated 303 Firecrest. I wont be using these for gravel and have some nice wheels for that area already.

    • Alan, Depends what kind of riding you do. The 303 NSW held their speed better when you’re riding over 20mph/32kph. The 303 Firecrest climb better on >7%, mile or even km-long pitches. Steve

  • Late to the party here, but I’m surprised there is no mention of the Cognition Hubs service requirements and longevity. This is my major concern with the Zipp NSW line up, and why I chose the 303FC. Any feedback on the rear hub?

    • Raymond, No mention of them because I’ve not found the Cognition hubs to be a major concern. I’ve ridden cognition hubs on three wheelsets over several years and never had any longevity issues. And yes, you do want to service them annually as with most hubs but that’s not onerous. Steve

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