Curiosity led Zipp engineers to study the fins of humpback whales when developing the Zipp 454 NSW wheels
Zipp engineers had a radical idea: to design a wheel that is not quite round... at least in its inner diameter, where the spokes are attached. They thought that carbon lugs could improve stability and aerodynamic efficiency.
This premise has become a reality in the form of the new 454 NSW carbon clincher wheel, with its Sawtooth™ rim profile featuring Hyperfoil™ lugs and Hexfin™ indentations.
After a series of unsuccessful attempts to incorporate wavy shapes into bicycle wheels, Zipp development engineer David Morse began to discover the words 'tubers' and 'biomimicry' and to study them in the context of Zipp engineering.
While researching waveforms and fluid dynamics, David Morse came across academic work reporting the effect of tubercles on the fins of humpback whales. The introduction to an article in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology stated: "Humpback whales have highly mobile wing-like fins for lateral tilting and turning. The large, rounded tubercles on the edge of the flippers are unique morphological structures in nature.
After 4 years of development, 252 hours in the wind tunnel and 35 rim prototypes, Zipp engineers discovered the shape that would become known as the Sawtooth™ technology of the 454 NSW wheel. Thus was born a wheelset with aerodynamic efficiency and crosswind stability far superior to conventionally shaped wheels, the most innovative and efficient wheel Zipp has ever designed in its 28-year history.
The Youtube film: