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The Zipp 353 NSW Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset is the lightest pair of tubeless disc brake wheels it has ever made, and it really is superlight. The fact that Zipp has managed to keep the weight low without losing stiffness is also impressive and means their performance is exceptional wherever you are riding. Hookless rims limit your tyre choices, though, and the price is huge.
The wheels certainly look distinctive with their Sawtooth profile, which uses a series of fin-shaped hyperfoil nodes alongside the new HexFin ABLC dimples to improve airflow and, according to Zipp, reduce aerodynamic drag at all yaw angles.
Exactly how much difference all of this makes is difficult to measure outside of a wind tunnel, and in the real world the only data I can give you is the size of the wow (or should that be WOW!) that left my mouth every time I stamped on the pedals while using these wheels.
At just 1,340g including tubeless tape and valves, their response levels are phenomenal. From a standing start they just take off and you are at cruising speed pretty much instantly, or kick for a sprint and they take off like a cheetah with its tail on fire!
On the climbs it just feels like there is nothing there between your tyres and the frame. If you are coming from a set of wheels weighing 1,500-1,600g then the difference just feels massive.
Now, any brand can make a light wheel. The tough bit is keeping high enough levels of strength and stiffness, something that Zipp has achieved. The 353 NSWs don't suffer from lateral flex at all – well, nothing that could be picked up by my body anyway.
The rear wheel is really tight when riding hard out of the saddle, and it's the same at the front as I rocked the bike from side to side. Heavy braking and steering didn't cause any problems either.
On the flat the rim profile comes into play, and I must say the 353 NSWs feel quicker than their 45mm depth would have you expect. Above 20mph they feel as quick as wheels around 58-65mm deep, cutting through the air smoothly and making it easy to maintain your speed even as you hit small climbs or false flats.
They don't come with the trade-offs of some deep-section wheels either, in terms of the handling in blustery conditions. Ride past a gateway on a windy day and even with a full-on side wind I never found the Zipps to be battered around.
On windy days you can feel some pressure on the rims as the breeze pushes against them, but overall I found the 353s to be generally unflustered and hard to be pushed off their line.
It's the same with cornering. Sometimes deep-section wheels can feel like they 'stall' when changing direction at slower speeds, like on a tight roundabout, giving the front end of the bike an almost cumbersome feel. The Zipps never feel like that. They seem to maintain their agility regardless of weather or road conditions at any speed.
This makes them a quality set of all-rounders for your road bike: aerodynamics and speed on tap, but without any of the drawbacks of running deep sections all of the time.
For this kind of money you'll be wanting a top-level build quality, and that appears to be the case here: I found this set of 353s behaved very well, true straight out of the box and remaining so throughout testing.
Like many new road wheel designs, the 353's rim is wide at 25mm internally and 30mm externally, making them compatible with wider tyres. I ran them with both 28mm and 30mm tyres, both of which created an ideal shape that saw a seamless transition between tyre and rim.
The tyres you run will have to be tubeless, though, as the 353s use hookless rims where you don't get the lip running around the edge of the rim for the bead of the tyre to hook under. It can sound a bit daunting just relying on the pressure of the tyre to secure the bead against the rim, but in reality it works fine.
More and more of the gravel wheels that are coming in for testing are using tubeless technology and I've had no issues with low-pressure tyres coming away from the rims.
Most manufacturers give a top pressure for tubeless tyre/hookless rim combinations of 75psi which is probably quite low for some roadies. Zipp has a table of tyres from various brands that are compatible with the 353's 25mm-wide rim and basically you won't be running anything narrower than 28mm. That's a bit of a drawback for those who, like me, like to run 25mm race tyres (at higher pressures).
Both sets of tyres I tried fitted quickly and easily, although I did need to resort to using an Airshot to get a blast of air to push the bead of the tyre against the rim as quickly as possible.
The rims are made from uni-directional carbon fibre and are laced to Zipp's Cognition 2 hubs by 24 aero spokes front and rear. That's quite a high spoke count for a wheel of this weight and style, but it adds to the long-term strength and durability, and obviously hasn't affected the weight.
Zipp has gone for external nipples, which is good to see as it makes maintenance easier, and should you ding a rim while out riding at least you can get them as close to true as possible at the side of the road.
The Cognition V2 hubs are Zipp's lightest and it claims they roll efficiently because of their Axial Clutch V2 mechanism, which has 54 points of engagement. This means that pick-up is instantaneous and you can certainly feel that when trackstanding at the lights and then giving a quick push on the pedals to move off quickly.
The bearings spin and spin with barely any resistance at all, and though freewheeling brings with it a slight 'buzz', they are nowhere near as loud as some wheels.
Freehub options are SRAM/Shimano or XRD.
A brand new set of these 353s will set you back £3,376, which is a huge lump of cash, though not far off the similar looking Princeton CarbonWorks Wake 6560 wheels that I tested back in 2021, which are now £3,399.99. The Wakes are deeper than the Zipps, and about 200g heavier.
If you want wide and deep and don't have the kind of disposable income that these three wheelsets require, you'd be silly not to take a look at Scribe's Elan range.
I recently tested the Wide+ 42-D wheels which have a 42mm-deep rim and a 30mm external width. Internally they are 21mm, which means you can use them with 25mm tyres, and the hooked rim will accept standard clinchers too. The weight is 1,400g including tape, and the price just £1,190.
They aren't quite as quick as the Zipps, but if you can cope with that you'll have around two grand left in your pocket.
Being so stiff with such a low weight, the 353 NSWs offer a very impressive performance. It's a hard price to justify, though, particularly as you're also limited to tubeless tyres only (and 75psi) and a minimum width of 28mm; there are still some of us who would like to pair a superlight road wheelset with 25mm race tyres run at higher pressures.
Impressive performance but rather overshadowed by the price and limitations
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Zipp 353 NSW Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 45mm deep
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Zipp says, "Zipp's 353 NSW Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset is the pinnacle of our pursuit of versatility and speed. This wheelset fuses Zipp's two most advanced approaches, Sawtooth™ rim profile and TSE™, for an all-encompassing approach to performance. With its undulating 45-mm deep rim shape, the 353 NSW provides speed on every terrain with best-in-class aerodynamic efficiency and crosswind stability. The 353 NSW is Zipp's lightest tubeless wheelset yet, making it a fast-puncher ready to fight its way into the breakaway. Zipp's use of hookless (straight side) rims in the 353 NSW is integral to achieving our mission of Making You Faster. With hookless, the transition between the tire and the rim is more seamless and aero. Zipp's hookless rims have more efficient resin distribution, which means lighter wheels. They also are highly durable. Zipp's 353 NSW's Sawtooth™ rim shape with Hyperfoils™ optimizes aerodynamic efficiency and crosswind stability. The Sawtooth™ design also allows the rim to be structurally strong but light. That will help you snap out of corners and maintain that speed no matter the terrain, especially the steep, punchy stuff. The 353 NSW utilizes Zipp's Total System Efficiency™, or TSE™, approach to wheel design: overcoming specific barriers to speed: wind resistance, gravity, rolling resistance, and vibration losses. The wheelset's 25mm internal width is ideal for running wider tubeless tires at reduced air pressure for a more efficient ride. At the center of the 353 NSW is the Cognition V2 Hubset re-engineered with an updated Axial Clutch V2™ mechanism for quicker engagement and lower friction as well as improved durability."
The 353 NSW wheelset is a good all-round road wheel that balances performance and stiffness well.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Versatile endurance wheelset for the modern road bike with tubeless and hookless rim profile
Our lightest tubeless wheelset yet, making it a fast-puncher ready to fight
Optimized tire bed for easy tire installation
TSE™ for greater efficiency and reduced rolling resistance
Sawtooth™ rim with Hyperfoil™ nodes and HexFin™ ABLC dimple pattern for top aero and crosswind-stability performance with an undulating rim depth
Cognition V2 hubset rolls efficiently whether you are pedaling or coasting. Its Axial ClutchV2 technology reduces drag and lowers friction
Ships with 12mm front and rear end caps
Center locking rotor interface. Lockring is included with the wheels
Zipp graphics applied using Zipp's ImPress™ direct-print technology
XDR™ or SRAM/Shimano driver bodies
Campagnolo driver body sold separately
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels stayed true throughout testing.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Fitting tyres was straightforward enough, though you might need to use something like a compressor to help.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The rim tapes were already fitted as were the valves when I received the wheels (they'd been ridden before) and both worked faultlessly. The wheels ship with end caps for 12mm thru-axles.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's quite a versatile wheelset with the aerodynamics of a deep-section wheel and the weight of a climber's wheel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Excellent stiffness considering the weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Hookless rims bring limitations to tyre width and pressures.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are roughly the same money as the Princeton CarbonWorks Wake, which follow a similar design, and a bit pricier than the Campagnolo Boras. Both of those are heavier. Scribe offers very light aero wheels for around two grand less, though, as mentioned in the review.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Possibly, if money was no object.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall, I can't argue with the performance and the weight is very impressive. They are a huge chunk of money, though, and while the Princetons that cost roughly the same scored 8, the price is harder to justify here as the hookless rims do bring a few restrictions.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!