TECH NEWS

Zipp launches 'lighter and faster' 303 Firecrest wheelset

US brand says new version is also more capable over varied terrain

Zipp has launched a new version of its popular 303 Firecrest Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset that's said to be faster and considerably lighter than previously, and more capable over varied terrain. Zipp describes the new design as a 'versatile endurance wheelset for the modern road bike', indicating that it expects this model to be used both on and off tarmac.

We told you about the new Zipp 303 S wheelset earlier in the month, the first indication that the US brand is shifting from concentrating almost exclusively on aerodynamics to a wider focus, and that continues with the new 303 Firecrest.

Check out our Zipp 303 S wheelset review. 

2021 Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels - side.jpg

Zipp says that the 303 Firecrest Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset is the first to feature what it calls TSE (Total System Efficiency) Technology, with greater speed resulting from reduced:

• Wind resistance
• Rolling resistance
• Weight
• Vibration losses

The rim profile is a little more bulbous than previously and comes with a 25mm internal width, 30mm external width, and 40mm depth. The previous 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc-brake wheels had a 21mm internal width, 29.9mm maximum external width, and a 45mm depth.

"The profile provides low drag and an improved transition between rim and tyre, boosting aero efficiency on the road," says Zipp. 

The idea is that airflow is smoother between the tyre and the wider rim – in simple terms, the profile is shaped less like an ice cream perched on top of a cone! The minimum tyre width Zipp recommends is 28mm while the maximum is 55mm.

"The wide rim stance also features less tyre deflection for reduced rolling resistance," says Zipp.

"The combination of the wider tyre, increased tyre volume, and lower tyre pressure helps to reduce rider fatigue by smoothing out the ride over imperfect pavement and road conditions – the tyre and wheel system absorbs the shaking, not the rider."

Zipp has told us it expects the market to grow for all-rounder bikes capable of riding fast on multiple surfaces – tarmac, gravel, the lot – and these wheels are in part a response to that.

2021 Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels - action 2.jpg

Our reviewer Matt Page talked in his review about the hookless rims used for the 303 S wheels (scroll down to the 'Straight sides' section of the review for the details) and Zipp has gone with a hookless profile here too (the rest of Zipp's wheels have hooked rims).

Zipp doesn't put restriction on the brand of tyre to be used, unless the tyre specifically states incompatibility on hookless rims (it says that, along with other rim and tyre manufacturers, it is currently involved in discussions with ISO – International Organization for Standardization – for the creation of a new norm for tubeless systems on the road).

The tyre bed is designed to make it simple to inflate a tubeless tyre without resorting to an air compressor. Matt reported that the 28mm Schwalbe Pro One TL tyres he used on the 303 S wheels inflated easily with a basic track pump, so we hope the same is true here. 

The maximum tyre pressure for Zipp hookless tubeless-compatible rims is 72.5psi (5 bar).

2021 Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels - XDR hub.jpg

Zipp hubs haven't enjoyed the best reputation for quality in the past, so a new German-engineered ZR1 DB design is included here, an improved seal design intended to increase durability.

The rear hub features a 6-pawl leaf spring design (two groups of three pawls), a ratchet ring with 33 teeth, and 66 points of engagement.

You get the option of either Shimano/SRAM or XDR driver bodies, or buying a Campag one separately.

You'd expect the 303 Firecrest Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset to be lighter than the previous version courtesy of the reduced rim depth, and it is with a claimed weight of 1,355g. That's a whopping 300g reduction. 

The wheels take Center Lock rotors (lockrings are included), ship with 12mm front and rear end caps, and feature Zipp's new graphics. They come with Zipp's new lifetime warranty which is potentially a huge bonus. 

The front wheel is priced £780 and the rear is £820 – so £1,600 all in.

Zipp has also given hubset upgrades elsewhere, all of its Firecrest wheels now coming with the new ZR1 hubs (while the NSW wheels feature Zipp's Cognition hubs). The wheels have also been updated with the new 2021 model year graphics.

Get more info from www.zipp.com.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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