First Impressions: Zipp’s New 202 Firecrest Clinchers & SRAM Red Quarq Power Meter Crankset
On Monday morning of Interbike week, I joined SRAM and a few other journalists for a ride from the Las Vegas Strip out to Bootleg Canyon to test out the new SRAM Red Quarq power meter crankset and Zipp 202 wheels. Both were queued up on a Specialized Tarmac, which rode fantastically well…not as twitchy and crit-racery as I remembered it from five or six years ago.
For the crankset, honestly, it felt just like the standard “new” Red crankset, which offers vastly lighter overall shifting (in conjunction with changes to the derailleur and brifters, of course) and is as stiff as any normal rider would want or need. And they look good. The Quarq power meter is housed completely within its own spider, so it uses standard Red chainrings. You’ll need the Quarq crank arm/meter package, though, you can’t retrofit the power meter onto the standard Red crank arm.
It communicates via ANT+ with any brand cycling computer that’ll accept and display power data. It transmogrifies the data to show left/right power balance along with all manner of instant, interval, max and average power output.
The star of the show for me, though, were the wheels. More details and images on both below…
The new SRAM Red Exogram crankset has a one-piece hollow carbon crankarm and spider. The Quarq version is actually still using the old (ie. original) SRAM Red crank arm, which isn’t quite as light. And, the new X-Glide chainrings are actually a teensy bit heavier, but they pulled weight out of the power meter spider itself. Overall it’s a bit of a wash, and the unit weight comes in at 778g for the GXP model.
In this day and age, most major brand crank-based power meters are (theoretically) all pretty accurate. And, in reality, you should be basing your performance improvements on consistent data from the same meter. That removes any inconsistency-across-brands-or-devices variables and lets you compare apples to apples. What makes the Quarq unit a compelling choice is that it’s available in versions for most major crankarm brands and the battery is easily user-replaceable. That may seem like a bit of a non-plussed review, but they are what they are and Quarq has a good track record for reliability from what we’ve heard. What’s not to like?
The interesting part of test came during lunch when all of the numbers for each rider were presented. I’m happy to say I had the highest total wattage of any other journalist that day. I’m less happy to say that my power-to-weight ratio and sustained power metrics were below par. Honestly, this was my first ride using a proper power meter, though, and the information was not only enlightening, but fascinating. I can see why people are addicted to this stuff. (They’re emailing me my chart, I’ll add it to the post soon)
The Zipp 202 Firecrest Clinchers had their Tangente Open Tubular 23c tires mounted. The tires are made for them by Vittoria, and they kept the “open tubular” description for the clinchers.
For most of the ride (see pic below), we were in a two abreast paceline and not trying to kill each other with the pace. Roads varied from super smooth to scratchy pavement to a few bumps and pits. All in all, the wheels were well mannered over the variations. While at the front of the paceline, the mild head/cross winds didn’t seem to faze the 202’s.
What really stood out was braking performance. Over the past few years, I’ve had a chance to ride a number of carbon rims and their corresponding brake pads. Like most rim manufacturers, Zipp specifies their own pads for use with the 202’s. These come with their new Tangente Platinum Pro Evo pads (scroll to bottom of this post for details). The combo was grabby in a good way. You could certainly ease into the braking, but when you wanted to slow down, they reacted quickly without having to death grip the levers on the brink of lockup. In other words, braking felt as confident on these as with normal alloy rims, and that’s saying a lot.
As we neared Bootleg Canyon, we hopped on the bike path for a short Strava segment (which was the segment recorded for power analysis and comparison at lunch). It was an up-and-down, twist-and-turn bit that was a real blast to ride. Road Bike Action’s Neil Shirley destroyed all of us (handily), but it was a good quick test of the wheels’ ability to sprint and react.
All that in mind, this was just one ride in dry, moderate weather and without a ton of hills, descents or sharp turns. We have a set headed into the Bikerumor office for a proper long term review this fall/winter, so we’ll dive deeper into it then. For now, if you’re chompin’ at the bit to get new hoops, our first impressions suggest you’d be pretty happy with them.