Review: ZIPP 303 Firecrest Wheelset

If you are looking for a wheelset that helps you in sprinting on a flat road and stiff enough that doesn’t flex when going uphill. Look no more. Zipp 303 Firecrest are the wheels that you want as it is pretty much all rounded. Zipp wheels are made in Indianapolis, USA and they are part of SRAM group now. This same wheelset that won two most famous Cobbled Classics – Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders. It was the 1st carbon wheels that won in cobblestone race too.

It has a 45mm deep profile that cut thru air easily and 28.5mm wide. I believe you can fit in any tires with that kind of width but the main purpose is for improving aerodynamics. It is a carbon wheels but not the lightest within its range. Mine is clincher wheelset and the weight as below with rim tape included.

Front wheel          : 720g (published weight 725g)

Rear wheel           : 920g (published weight 900g)

Combine weight : 1640g (published weight 1625g)

Front wheel

Rear wheel

Ride experience

I had these wheels for a year now and my 1st high profile wheels, as my previous 2 were 30 and 34mm deep. With a deeper profile, everything is so much different when your speed is increasing. Once I hit 35km/h my legs were like asking me for more and more speed. With my old wheelset I couldn’t even hold on to 35km/h for a long time but with Zipp wheels I am maintaining 40km/h with no issue.

I think a lot of us will have one common question. Automatically we all will think high profile wheels will suffer when during climb. So, how about the stiffness? These are a pair of very stiff wheels. The wheels didn’t flex at all when I was standing pedaling even with an 8-12 degree gradient climb. Based on my Strava record for a Full 800 Climb (6.5km) in Teluk Bahang, I have improved 2 mins or an average speed of 1.5km/h. I believe I have not extend to my full potential yet. A lot of people may wonder if the wheels are too stiff, will I get fatigue in long ride. Well, I don’t. Probably my frame has absorb most the vibration but I didn’t hear any complaints from my friends who uses the Zipp wheels too.

Since this is the carbon wheel, does it affect the braking when wet or a long descent braking? I didn’t ride during heavy rain but I had no issue with drizzled. It might degraded slightly but I never go fast when the road is wet. How about long descent? On my most recent ride to Genting Sempah, I had descended 528m in 15km and it worked perfectly fine. Of course, I didn’t press on the brake all the time but I had a few hard braked when the oncoming traffic headed towards me.

The rolling of these wheels are superb. The 188/V9 hubs that paired with these wheels have made my cycling like effortless. Again, I am comparing with other high profile wheelsets that cruised down a slope. I noticed my bike can glided down and gained more momentum than other riders. I would said we are about the same body weight or I may be slightly heavier body compared with others. So, weight can be ignore.

They designed the tip of the wheel to be rounded to minimize the crosswinds. Crosswinds not only a drag when cycling and can be dangerous too when going downhill at high speed. I have seen my teammate bike swung left and right when he went thru an area with strong crosswinds. I can’t say I wasn’t affected by it but not as bad as his and I can easily steer back in line.

You may wonder why there are so many dimples on the wheelset. It is their patented technology that smoothen the airflow. It is called Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control or ABLC in short.

The only thing I haven’t try is to put a 25mm on the wheels as the Continental GP4000SII tire will rub my frame even with my old wheelset. So, I didn’t bother to try with the Zipp since these wheels has wider width.

Pricing

How much does it cost? Well, a new set is MYR7.8-8k and used is around MYR4-5k. Clincher cost slightly higher. But, it is definitely looks good with the aero frame.

Summary

Ride quality is definitely there but need to pay a hefty price for it. So, if money is not a problem for you then this wheelset can put in your bucket list or get a used one like me.

Note

Please take note that  Zipp has made a recalled on its front hub. I have copied the link here but it may be subjected to change. Please do check at their website for more details or contact your local dealer. https://www.sram.com/sites/all/themes/sram_2011/_pdf/recalls/sram-zipp-88-consumer-notice-final.pdf

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