Zipp 303 Tubular Wheelset Product Review – by Todd Spain

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Cycling, Product Reviews, Race Information

There is no suspense here – I really like the Zipp 303 tubular wheels.

If you try these you will have to have them.  The cool factor is very high, but comes at a fairly hefty price of $2,300 for the pair. However, these are perhaps the most versatile combination in Zipp’s arsenal.  They are light, responsive, climb well, accelerate rapidly, and are very durable.  You can ride them as the perfect training wheel on your road bike, race them on your time trial bike in any conditions, and outclass your competitors at cyclocross in the winter.  If I had the chance to buy just one super nice tubular wheelset, for all the types of riding, this would be my top choice.

The 303’s are similar to the rest of Zipp’s portfolio. They are laced with 18 radial front and 24 radial/1-cross rear SAPIM CX-Ray bladed spokes. External nipples make truing easy. The hubset is Zipp’s 88/188 combo, featuring fat, 17mm aluminum axles and threaded endcaps for easy bearing interface adjustment. These guys weigh in at only 1171 grams per pair.  This is light.

In total, I have ridden approximately 300 miles on these wheels over the spring and summer with Vittoria Corsa Evo KS tubulars. I used the 21mm, 290tpi with the puncture resistant belt.

The 303’s were installed on my road bike for the Paris Mountain Triathlon in the spring.  This course featured a 2.7 mile climb that is quite steep, while the rest of the course is hilly.  The Zipp 303’s are an ideal choice here as they climb very well and are far more aerodynamic than an ordinary lightweight climbing wheel.  They also made their way onto my time trial bike for several of the fast group rides.

Here is what I like:

They feel light and are fun to ride, especially when climbing and sprinting.

Acceleration is tremendous as the rear does not “load up”.  With many lightweight wheels, the applied rotational torque rotates the hub faster than the rim and you can actually feel this load as a softness or sluggishness in the rear until the rim catches up.

Zipp does not compromise on aerodynamics.  The 303’s have much less side/crosswind deflection to the point where there is no reason to consider potential crosswind when choosing wheels for the day.

These guys are solid.  It feels like they could handle the worst spring pothole riddled roadway.  The 303’s have stayed exceptionally true and require very little maintenance.

Since campy record hubs in the 70’s and 80’s, I have not been impressed with any hub for smoothness.  However, Zipp has built a seriously good hub.   They are  s a m o o o o t h.

They look sexy and fast.  The cool factor is seriously high.


Not as crazy about:

The price – they ain’t cheap, nor is there any compromise on quality.

The rear wheel is not as stiff as several other wheels I have ridden.  This would translate well, I believe, to comfort on long rides, but will zap a bit of efficiency along the way.

Switching back and forth with other wheels requires a bit of a rear brake adjustment, unless you are willing to run your rear brake just a tad loose.

Conclusion:

I seriously like the Zipp 303’s.  They are light, snappy, and super comfortable. They’d make an outstanding one-wheelset solution for someone doing road racing, triathlons and cyclocross.  They are a bit pricey, but have fantastic all-around characteristics and are impressively versatile.

Related Videos:

How to install a tubular tire Part I

How to install a tubular tire Part II


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