Looking back with Zipp

For this Triday Andi Boecherer asked some questions of one of his big sponsors, Zipp.

| June 8, 2018 | GEAR

Andi Boecherer races at Challenge Gran Canaria.

Andi Boecherer races at Challenge Gran Canaria.

Photo >James Mitchell

For this Triday I decided to ask one of my sponsors some questions. Have fun reading about their history!

You are one of the best in your sport and have already made your way to the top of the world. I'm interested in how you did it. Where do you come from, how did your development go? 

Zipp was born in the shadow of the Brickyard, and we have a history like no other company in cycling and triathlon. Headquartered within sight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Zipp's design, wheel production and testing facility is deeply rooted in both motor sports and bicycle racing. The company traces its origins directly to open wheel race cars and composites engineering in the late 1980’s. Founder Leigh Sargent started as a Formula 1 engineer at Williams in England. He came to Indiana with a Cart team, but, when the team folded, he stayed to set up shop doing chassis repair, nose boxes and wings. In fact, he invented a molded carbon fiber driver’s seat, a concept that is still in use today. The company employs a fascinating blend of old world craftsmanship and new world technology. Painstaking, labor-intensive handwork combined with sophisticated tooling and machinery results in some of the most advanced components available.

And how did you come to triathlon?
After building our first disc wheels, utilizing revolutionary materials and production methods previously  used only in motorsports, we created the first tri spoke wheel in 1989. It was available in four colors, painted to match the discs and were meant to give riders an aerodynamic front wheel option. Then in 199,2, the first Zipp 2001 aero beam frameset went into production. As it happened, both of these products became nearly ubiquitous in the sport of triathlon.

You rarely see the everyday life of a world-class athlete. What does a normal training day for you look like?

A normal training day here at our headquarters in Indianapolis begins with an easy pre-breakfast revolutionary idea spin, hosted by our engineers, designers, athletes and everyday riders alike. Followed by a willing-to-suffer-at-the-highest-level-for-a-long-time endurance ride to really get all the details worked out. Then we’ll do a hand craftsmanship and advanced manufacturing techniques build-up session. We have a lot of fun while training and keep an eye on our goal: To create the fastest and best performing products available.

An athlete without his team is unable to perform at their best. Do you mind introducing us to your team?

A well functional motorsport team is essential to the success of a driver. Likewise, an athlete without his team is unable to perform at their best, and we would not be able to first set and then push the status quo in triathlon wheels and products without a well-functioning team. Let’s take a specific look at the word, “handwork,” for example. If you visit our factory in Indianapolis you’ll hear it a lot. It’s easy to envision giant, faceless machines that work through the night, stamping out flawless carbon bits and stuffing them in packaging. But, each Indianapolis-made 858 NSW rim requires 12 hours of labor to create and represents a true blending of hand craftsmanship and advanced manufacturing techniques. The interaction between the carbon technicians, wheel builders, engineers, designers, and riders are absolutely key to producing the best products. 

What was your toughest competition?

Definitely time. A tough companion to beat and we still learn from him. A reoccurring theme in our history is technological development resulting in products almost too cutting edge for their time. For example, we offered carbon cranksets in 1997, almost a full ten years before carbon cranks really took off in the modern road market. Somewhat less constrained by tradition, the exploding triathlon markets were more willing to adopt new technologies.

Which of your achievements are you particularly proud of?

This is a tough one to answer… It’s a toss up between making history by becoming the first carbon wheelset to win cycling’s two most famous Cobbled Classics, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, or crushing records at an Ironman and contributing to the cause that bikes can be the difference between poverty and education in the less developed world. We feel humbled to be part of all of these movements. But one thing is for sure: we are proud of who we are.

Is there anything that your fans should know about you? Fun fact?

At last year’s Kona wheel count, Zipp led the way with 1,887 individual wheels. That’s more than six times than the next leading brand, which had 289 wheels.

Finally, the question that gets asked again and again as a professional. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Kona, 2028: Watching the sunset, chasing records, innovations, and who knows? Maybe by then we can beat our toughest competitor: Time.