Under 1200g and aerodynamic enough for a flat time trial. Super stiff yet comfortable. Full carbon rims that are strong enough for a heavy rider to race flat out over the roughest roads. Years back this would have been considered impossible. The only wheel that came close back then was Lightweight - that according to legend Ulrich, Cipo and Armstrong sponsored themselves with and paid full retail for.
The Zipp 303 tubular wheels I tested are proof that dreams come true, what is out of reach today will be the norm tomorrow. If this is the case the next version of the 303 could be the perfect wheel. Right now there are a few things that need to be worked out. Braking is better than the older 303’s but it’s still got a jerk in it, the wheels are unbalanced. The combination of the valve hole opposed to the join in the rim has significant weight that can be felt when riding. Not on a bumpy road or climbing, but on a smooth decent it’s like two kids fighting in the back seat.
The weight of the wheels (1180grams) is something you notice every time you ride them. Every time I pulled the bike out of my car I had to give that front wheel a spin. It’s amazing and the effect on my climbing was huge.
The stiffness of the Zipp 303’s is surprising. They are much stiffer than the older model 303’s and they are stiffer than you’d expect. It almost does not add up. As many wheels as I have tested these are unlike any other in this category. It’s the combination of the high tension spokes and the wider rim that delivers this unique feeling. Out of the saddle when accelerating on a climb or jumping out of a corner, the light weight combined with the stiffness makes the 303’s one of the fastest accelerating wheels I have ever ridden.
Comfort is another area where the Zipp 303’s seem to surpass expectations. Stiff and comfortable at the same time. Once again it’s the wider carbon rim that delivers performance beyond the norm.
With all the focus on the rim technology, the straight pull Sapim bladed spokes and machined alloy hubs are quiet performers behind the scenes. This combination has proven to be reliable and relatively low maintenance. In 2010 Zipp are supplying the wheels with the silver stainless quick release skewers - not as sexy and smooth as the black titanium ones they charge an extra $50 for. I am weird about skewers and couldn’t live with the silver ones. Spokes and hubs are only available in silver. They look great and the high quality of the hubs is obvious. Yet, an all black wheel on some bikes just looks perfect but on the right bike the shiny silver has just as much pop.
I reviewed the 303 tubular. The 303 clinchers are a completely different wheel with a different feel and a good deal heavier. For the test, I used the new wider 23mm Zipp tubular tires which are actually Vittoria EVO CX with the Zipp dimpled tread. These tires have always been a favorite for me. The wider tubular seemed to compliment the wider rim and running this setup about 10lbs less than the standard 21mm width felt just as responsive. They are a little better in the corners and not as jittery as the usual 130-140lbs I had raced on in the past. Racing this set up in the rain would not be a problem at all. Earlier model carbon rims not only braked badly in the rain but were often stiff and unforgiving in corners and on descents. The new 303’s with the wider tires have overcome this issue they can be raced with confidence in almost any conditions.
All in? Yes! For me the 303 Tubulars do it all, no compromise race wheel, good enough for me to feel I can race without compromise until the next generation of Zipp wheels are released.