The Second Rail

Since we've announced the Rail, we've gotten a lot of questions about what other depths we'll be pursuing to complete the Rail lineup, so even though we don't yet have the prototypes for the next depth, we thought we'd share our plans.

At the outset of the Rail project, we were interested to quantify what exactly the overlap zones were between wheels.  We'd been selling the 38, 50, and 58, and it sometimes seemed like splitting hairs to choose between them.  The 85s didn't feel very much like splitting hairs.  Subjectively, Mike and I both thought the 38s felt noticeably faster then "regular" wheels, and that the 50s felt a little faster than the 38s, and maybe the 58s were a little faster than the 50s but the difference wasn't as big as it was between the 38s and 50s.  Though it turned out to be much more concept than action (I wound up using 38s for the dominant majority of all of my riding and racing as a long term test), I selected 50s as my race wheels based on these beliefs.  Surprise, surprise - our seat of the pants analysis was pretty accurate indeed.  50s are a bit quicker than 38s, and don't give much up to 58s. 

Being a 52mm wheel that has less aerodynamic drag than our previous 85, the 52mm Rail covers a lot of territory.  It's a better choice for any "pure speed, please" applications than any wheelset we've sold to date, yet its weight and depth make it suitable for any mass start race you're likely to do.  The Mt. Washington Hill Climb might call for a lighter choice, but for the kind of riding that most people do, the 52mm Rail is a great choice all season long.

If I keep referring to the new wheel as the "52mm Rail," there's clearly another depth on the board.  The 38s have earned a huge following.  They're stiff, light, snappy, accelerate like a shot, they're comfortable, they're far from slow, and you can ride them in a hurricane without issue.  And we think we can give them the Steve Austin treatment (better, stronger, faster) without the $6,000,000 fee.  How many people reading this actually ever saw an episode of "The Bionic Man"?  Good lord I'm getting to be like Methusala up in here. 

We are working on two prototype designs which we think will get us where we want to be with the Rail thirtysomething.  The tucks and tweaks to get the shape how we want it to be will dictate the ultimate depth, but we're aiming for the low 30s.  The goal is to have a wheelset that retains all of the positive attributes of the current 38s in a shallower, wider, and ultimately faster package. 

If we're able to accomplish that, we think we'll have the spectrum very well covered.  Tubular versions of both the 52 and the thirtysomething are planned as well.  The drawings for the thirtysomething are sort of kind of almost complete, and then we'll shuffle Sons of Canary Thunder (we're thinking 2 - the design of the shallower rim isn't as obvious as the deeper one was) off the the wind tunnel and go from there. 

Back to blog


We must be missing each other on our points, here, but two quick things 1) we sell single wheels now and 2) we don't have any plans to go deeper.


Dave, My reference wasn't at all to the 'old generation' of wheels, but to the new crop. It's amazing the deals you can get on used FC's, though it seems the 404 is the popular seller there. I need a front wheel for the TT rig and to be honest I am willing to spend a bit more in that respect. Do I care about 2-4 seconds in a TT, you bettcha. I have lost plenty of TTs with less of a margin then that. Again, keep up the good work and I'll wait for the 'deep one' that I know will eventually come. However, you probably won't be selling singles; so, it might be a moot point anyways. Best,Luis


Lots of old fogies around here, or rerun junkies. Luis – Check out this slightly dated Zipp flyer that shows how a 404/808 combo compares to a 404/404 set up – So with the 808 as a rear, you're saving a whopping 2" in this 40k wind tunnel tt that we get sucked into using as our comparison. They have a Firecrest-era equivalent for this flyer, which doesn't show the mixed set. The full 808 combo saves you another 8 seconds, which to a dedicated tt person who has enough opportunity to use a front wheel that deep is definitely something to think about. The thing there is that wheels that deep, no matter how stable they are, have enough surface area to really be a liability in any kind of wind, and even in now wind they aren't any fun to turn. No way are you using those puppies in a crit. Where we think we've done with the Rail 52 is to roll up better speed than the 85 and comparable manageability to the 38. We're in love with the efficiency that that implies. It reduces the heck out of the cost of being no compromises competitive across an enormous spread of use. I'm not saying that there isn't a time and place for super deep wheels, but I am saying that they've been marginalized pretty substantially. It's also worth thinking about that the Firecrest 404, in Zipp's testing, was faster than a previous generation 808. So with the comparison between the Rail 52 and the 404 being what it is, the old thought that "maybe I'll pick up an old 808 for cheap on eBay and use that for TTs" becomes not only irrelevant but almost certainly counterproductive.There's actually a ton more to be said about the depth v speed efficiency thing, but I've got a post in mind to address that more fully. ThanksDave


Know you're focused on getting the 52 Rail to market, but is design of the 30something proceeding on track? Do you anticipate the same 18mm inner width as a target?


I really want some wider climbing type wheels. Do I wait on the thirtysomething? I was already too impatient to wait on the Rail, which I think I'm going to regret.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.