To say that we were impressed is an understatement
Zipp takes a unique approach to reducing punctures while increasing control and durability with its new carbon Zipp 3Zero Moto rims and wheels.
In a nutshell: by doing away with the traditional box section rim construction and adopting a motorcycle inspired flat rim section, the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels are designed to pivot around the spoke bed and absorb impacts.
Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset need to know
- Moto inspired low-profile carbon rim that’s designed to pivot locally around the spoke bed, reducing fatigue, punctures and rim failures.
- Single wall construction and custom carbon layup improves radial compliance.
- Rims laid-up by hand and moulded at Zipp HQ in Indianapolis.
- Available as a wheelset or rim only in 27.5in and 29in options.
- Offset spoke bed, 32h drilling only.
- Rear hub has 6.9deg engagement angle.
- Wheelsets come with TyreWiz
- Lifetime warranty, Trail/Enduro use only 120kg weight limit
- Weights: 27.5in is 1,825g wheelset (850g front, 975g rear), 29in is 1,910g wheelset (895g front, 1,015g rear)
Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset review
It’s March 25th, 2019 and I’m pissed off. My bike is upended and I’m sweating like a pig as I unsuccessfully try to plug my second tubeless pinch flat in as many runs.
Once again the fresh rear tyre on the Yeti SB150 got stuck between a rock and a hard place. And once again, it’s the Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rim that didn’t budge. It’s a similar story with other reinforced carbon wheels, the tyre always loses and you count yourself lucky if the rim doesn’t explode on impact too.
With so much tech available, I find it frustrating and ironic that I’m trail-side fitting an inner tube to complete the ride. We have dropper posts that go up and down at the touch of a button, gears that shift without cables or wires, chains that stay on without chain devices, hydraulic disc brakes that self-adjust for pad wear, headsets that never come loose… all this, and we still can’t keep air in the bloody tyres.
And that’s probably because most wheel manufacturers approach the problem in a similar way… they ignore it. Yes, Stan was onto something when he built compliance into the carbon Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Bravo wheels, and the new Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 wheels take this one step further by accounting for the different demands front and rear, but both approaches are more about using the properties of carbon to improve the ride quality of the wheels, not about increasing durability or reducing flats.
Tyre inserts can be an effective defence against punctures, but let’s face it they are a crude afterthought and one that negates the small weight saving carbon rims typically provide.
One brand talking a very different approach to wheel design, durability and control is Zipp. By doing away with the traditional box section rim construction and adopting a motorcycle inspired flat rim section, the carbon rims on the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels are designed to pivot around the spoke bed and absorb impacts, rather than constantly fighting a losing battle against rocks.
The less complex design of the rim profile lends itself more to carbon construction techniques too, and by manipulating the carbon layup Zipp has been able to offer good radial compliance and localized flex at the contact patch, while still maintaining a wheel that fast to accelerate, with enough overall stiffness to rail turns. And because the rim is designed to deform, Zipp also had to adopt a different resin, as the more brittle resins typically used in carbon rim construction simply wouldn’t hold up.
As the name suggests the rim has a 30mm internal width, but take a closer look and you’ll seen that the rim also has relatively thick 4mm hookless beads, making them strong enough to take the hits. Not that the forces will be anything like as high as with a conventional box section rim, because remember, the Zipp rim is designed to pivot around the offset spoke bed, and as such, it not going toe to toe with every root and rock it encounters.
And added advantage of the Moto design is that it should also reduce the degree of tyre roll, as the rim can flex to stay more parallel with the contact patch, boosting grip and reducing the chances of burping. Zipp refers to this as “ankle compliance” — using the analogy of a runner rounding a sharp turn, the ankle naturally flexing to maintain grip as the runner leans in.
During the development process Zipp tested multiple carbon layups before settling on the current design, and at the launch in Portugal we got to feel first hand the differences between the prototype rims. With the low profile Zipp rims in your hands you can feel the inherent flex. Radially, even the stiffest prototype felt much like a com
pliant alloy rim, and Zipp’s bench tests bear this out. Twist the rim however and you can actually feel the bead moving.
The wheels use standard j-bend spokes and because the rim is a single wall construction, the spoke nipples sit slightly proud of the rim bed. Which is why the Zipp wheels have two rim strips. The first one is narrow and made from a reinforced fabric and it sits directly over the nipples. The second, wider rim strip, makes the rim airtight for tubeless tyres.
Zipp claims that after 56,000km of field testing with four different generations of rim under 37 different test riders they only had two pinch-flats. Which is impressive given that I had two punctures on the Santa Cruz Reserve wheels in less than 10mins.
The new Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels are available in 27.5in and 29in for £1,875 and the package includes TyreWiz, and standard 21mm and Torque Cap compatible 31mm end caps for the front hub.
Zipp 3Zero Moto rims will also be available separately priced £670 each, which seems expensive compared to the wheelset option, but it is great news if you already have a quality set of hubs. Spoke drillings are 32hole only and the rim kit include both rim strips, a tubeless valve, and spoke washers.
Zipp Moto 3Zero wheels and rims also come with subtle Speed Line graphics, giving you the choice of eight colour options. There’s no clear coat over the Speed Line graphics so you can pic and choose which colour to run.
Zipp Moto 3Zero Vs Santa Cruz Reserve 30
So the concept behind the new Zipp wheels is very compelling, but how do they actually ride? I got the opportunity to answer that question at the launch in Sintra, Portugal, the day after the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate test session.
We rode the same test track as the one use to back to back the 2018 Lyrik against the new Rockshox Lyrik Ultimate so it was instantly familiar and this time I noticed a big difference in performance between both products.
The first runs were on our wheelset of choice and as you already know I was riding Santa Cruz Reserve 30 wheels; considered by many to be the benchmark in durability and damping.
After three runs on the Santa Cruz wheels with two punctures, the second impact being so light that I couldn’t believe that I’d flatted a fresh tyre in the exact same spot, I switched to the new Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels.
We ran the same tyres (not the ones with holes in) at the same pressures and we were off down the same track in the same conditions.
The first thing I notice with the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels was how much calmer the bike felt. It was noticeably quieter too. On the roughest sections of trail I didn’t have to fight the bike as much to hold a line and the overall level of fatigue in my hands and feet was much lower.
Second run down on the Zipp wheels and my increased confidence was translating to increased speed, but I was also able to hit some off camber lines that were simply out of reach on the Santa Cruz wheels.
With the Santa Cruz wheels it often felt that the trail dictated which line the bike would take and I just had to try and hold on. With the Zip wheels however, I could choose my line or load the wheels and change lines at a moments notice. And it wasn’t just that I had more control and grip, it also felt like I had more time to make better decisions.
As the tempo increased, I was hitting sections faster and with more confidence and control than before. And this is where you start to notice the flex, not in some vague, squirmy fashion, but more like the way good suspension responds to being loaded up, reacting with controlled rebound. And just like well-tuned suspension, the Zipp 3Zero Moto rims boost control, grip and confidence. To say that I was impressed is an understatement; the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels are genuinely game changing.
But the test session wasn’t over. In a true ABA back to back test format I when back on to the Santa Cruz Reserve wheels just to make sure that the changes I was experiencing weren’t just down to me getting to know the test track better with every lap. It only took one run to figure this out though. And while a different line choice meant that I didn’t puncture on my final run on the Reserve wheels, the reduced control and comfort of the stiffer Santa Cruz wheels was pronounced as I pinballed through the roughest sections of track with white knuckles and bated breath.
With the test session complete, I rode the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels for another day on the trail network surrounding Sintra. It’s an amazing place to ride, because the terrain is so varied. One minute you’re on loam, next it’s sandstone dusty DH tracks or high-speed single track. Not once did I notice anything weird or quirky about the way the Zipp wheels respond. I smacked the rear wheel hard several times too, much harder than the glances that punctured the exact same tyres on the Santa Cruz wheels, without so much as a drop in air pressure.
How the Zipp 3Zero wheels hold up long-term remains to be seen, and after just two day’s riding I can’t comment on the durability of the ZM1 hubs, but the wheels come with a lifetime warranty so even if their only benefit is to stop you punching holes in your tyres they’d be well worth the money. Factor in the extra traction, comfort and control and it’s the system approach to wheel design and the superior ride quality of the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels that are the real selling points here.