When Wiggle got hold of a sample pair of the new Zipp 808 wheels, we couldn't think of a better person to test them to their limits than Wills Fuller. He's our Commercial Designer by trade but an ultra-competitive road racer at heart.
It’s a Saturday morning. 7.59am...maybe 8.10am. I tend to run late. I pull up into the group. I get a bit of hassle for over-sleeping. Nothing new. Until they clock the wheels.
They've spotted the 808s. My tardiness is quickly forgotten and chatter turns to the new toys. 'How do they feel?' 'What do they weigh?' 'How fast are they?' I just smile and tell them 'you're about to find out.' It’s a perfect morning for a ride. Sun, low wind. Perfect conditions for a solo breakaway.
My name is Wills and I race to win. I'm a roadie with a massive competitive side, a trait that means I fit in with my local chain gang perfectly. It’s what fuels me to want to beat others on race day (and generally beat anyone else I see on the road). Don’t get me wrong; I still show respect and give a nod or a wave to my fellow cyclists. We all need some rules.
I love talking bikes and riding as much as possible. If you’re here, I’m sure that applies to you as well. I ride a Cervelo S3, a lovely machine nicknamed Ruby. I race at my local circuit at Goodwood or at the Mountbatten Velodrome; both well worth a visit if you're based in the South of England.
Training involves a lot of intervals and pushing myself as you can imagine but what I really look forward to is getting out with my mates every Saturday morning for the local chain gang.
This particular Saturday I've come armed with some serious weaponry. Sleek, slender missiles otherwise known as Zipp 808s, packing shock and awe in equal amounts. If you're all about speed, they deliver one hell of a punch. I’m not talking just any old haymaker. I’m talking that winning Anthony Joshua knockout punch.
With this added fire-power at my disposal, I see my chance for a half-lap victory. I look around. No time like the present. I start my attack and those 808s are ready to go. Like a fighter jet they emit a noise of terror for anybody on the receiving end of them.
Another few strong leg strokes and the wheels are flying. I thunder off down the road. It's at this point that I would normally have to start looking for somebody else to do some work. Not this time. I’m off and away. It’s just me, Ruby and these Zipps.
I’m away from the group, and if I want to stay away I know I need to TT it home. I find a comfortable cadence and a suitable gear and start to spin. This is where these wheels really start to show you what they are capable of. Those long efforts, where you have nobody else to help, and you don’t care. The 808s want to go and you don’t want to disappoint them. So you put more in and you soon see your speed get faster and faster. You notice your heartrate is steady, right in the zone where it should be. This training ride is bliss.
Burning up the chain gang is one thing, but the next test for the Zipps would be the circuit race at Goodwood.
The weather is almost perfect other than the wind blowing down the Lavant straight and I start to wonder if these 808s are too big. Maybe I won’t even be able to handle them with the cross wind in the peloton.
I have of course done my homework about the 808s. According to Zipp, these wheels offer greater 'AeroBalance,' although they still look like sails compared to everybody else at the race track. I start to question if I’ve made a mistake. Did I prioritise writing this review over actually picking up some valuable points in this race?
We line up, I check out the other riders hiding my nerves and frustration. I know I need to focus and have more faith in myself.
Off we shoot. The crosswind is a little stronger than I first thought but I’m not fighting the wind. In fact, I feel ok. I’m staying in the pack and I’m keeping up with the short sharp attacks as they come.
If you have ever raced at Goodwood you will be familiar with the sharp chicane before the final straight. It can get a little bit hairy if you’re not one of the first riders in. I’m not, and it’s the next test for me and these wheels. How are we going to handle this? The harsh breaking and the sprint out of the corner?
This is the point that I experience the first negative on these wheels. I felt I needed to slow down more than usual then use more energy to accelerate out. Once I'm back up to speed though, I feel like I'm performing like a pro again.
The bell rings out for the final lap. The pressure and the pace increase, I know I need a good position into the final corner, so I make my way up the group trying to fit in for a bit of protection from the wind. I could win this, I really could. Up the slight hill and into the curve before the chicane.
I’ve messed up, I’m too far back. Winning is out of the question but still, is there a chance to pick up some points?
Full disclosure: I haven't actually got any points yet this season. I'm ready for it though, especially with the confidence boost from these wheels. I follow a rider who I know is a good sprinter and it’s time to go! Head down legs hurting I make my move 6th, 5th 4th.
I’ve done it. I've finally got some points on the board. Me, Ruby and those Zipps.
A great performance this time but would I be making a more permanent switch to the 808s? Probably not for circuit racing. However for TT specialists or…ahem...a triathlete, I couldn't recommend them more highly. Delivering a smooth ride, you will feel faster during long, sustained efforts but you can be safe knowing that if you do get into a dog fight these 808s can handle themselves.