Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Road Wheel - Clincher $1,497.95
The best just got better.
Contrary to popular belief, one wheel is able to do it all. Case in point is the Zipp 303. Name any race, and the 303 has either won it or won a stage in it. Seriously. And now, Zipp has found a way to improve upon perfection with the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher. More stable, more aerodynamic, and faster than its predecessor due to the refined 188/V9 rear hub design and a more efficient spoke lacing pattern.
Zipp first relied on the implementation of VCLC, which involves the insertion of a visco-elastic material between carbon laminates in the rim, which delivers a ten percent reduction in road vibration. When it came to carbon resin, Zipp faced obstacles in relation to applied heat. It found that clincher rims handle all of the air pressure along with the tire, resulting in catastrophic failure when over-heated. Part of the solution came from the development of the Firecrest clincher rim shape, and the other came out of an exclusive deal with a Formula One carbon resin manufacturer. Together, they worked out a new resin that improves heat dissipation enough to pass European safety testing.
Zipp's Firecrest design is steeped in a wider-is-better ideology. Zipp found that a wider rim offers greater vertical and lateral compliance for increased control, comfort, and rigidity. For the clincher, they found that distancing the hook beads further apart allowed the tire to take on a more stable shape without adding rolling resistance.
For strength and rigidity, the Firecrest 303 utilizes both unidirectional fiber and woven fiber. In this design, unidirectional fibers are used to handle the tensile and comprehensive loading within the rim, and woven fibers are used in the spoke-hole areas. A woven silica-ceramic fabric and a woven carbon fabric encapsulate the braking and tire-mounting surfaces. The combination of fiber patterns creates the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio in Zipp production.
The Firecrest is Zipp's most ambitious rim shape to date. Designed to account for differences in airflow between tubulars and clinchers, the Firecrest 303 carbon clincher maintains a rim depth of 45.0mm and an aero width of 28.5mm. Using computational fluid dynamics, Zipp improved crosswind stability by moving the center of pressure towards the steering axis. This creates the most stable and predictable deep-section rim on the planet. To counteract drag, the Firecrest maintains a near-constant width around the spoke bed to control the air flow around the back half of the wheel where the curved sections stick the airflow to the rim surface, forcing the flow into a high energy state that creates a turbulent boundary layer near the surface. This action reduces pressure drag, and increases skin friction which is ten times lower than pressure drag.
For the build, Zipp used its proprietary 88 hub on the front and the new 188/V9 on the rear. This new hub has larger precision Swiss steel bearings for increased durability, and it provides an increase in lateral stiffness over its predecessor. According to Zipp, this new bearing/cartridge system also delivers a 25% increase in torsional stiffness compared to the leading competitive hubs currently available. The wheels still receive an 18/24 Sapim X-Ray spoke configuration, but on the rear wheel Zipp moved from a radial non-drive side and two-cross lacing drive side pattern to its new "virtual three cross" lacing configuration on both sides. Zipp uses the word "virtual" here to describe the manner in which one spoke doesn't actually contact the other two spokes it crosses. The result is a stiffer overall construction that more effectively transfers power directly to the rear wheel, which is crucial for those out-of-the-saddle sprints and climbs.
The Zipp Firecrest 303 Carbon Clincher Wheels are sold individually as either a front or rear wheel, and are available in the color Black. The rear wheel is available with your choice of a Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo 11-speed compatible freehub body. Each wheel includes a Zipp steel skewer, alloy valve extender, rim strip, and Zipp Tangente cork brake pads.
Please note that Zipp's Tangente Platinum Pro and cork brake pads are designed specifically for use with its carbon clinchers. Zipp also recommends a maximum rider weight of 250lb for these wheels.
Reviews & Community
STIFF and FAST
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I've been on the full lineup top to bottom from Zipp, as well as my fair share of wheelsets from other brands. Without a doubt the 303 is the best all around wheelset for stiffness and speed in any condition.
If you can, find a local dealer or riding buddy to let you give these a test drive. It's a challenge to accurately depict just how incredibly strong and stiff the 303 is; a seriously robust build while keeping lightweight and agile.
45 mm deep profile is plenty aerodynamic, without turning you into a sail boat in the cross winds. You can feel the benefits at your typical slower climbing speeds in the 8-15mph range, but that sweet spot is in the 20-30pmh range or going full bore on descents. With the width profile on these bad boys, I'd challenge you to find a more stable wheel at 50+ mph harrowing speeds on descents.
Every bit of energy you put into these reflects in immediate results on the road. No, it actually feels more intuitive than that. There is no response time, they just go. The entire system runs at absolutely maximum efficiency in all conditions. Stiff rims, strong spokes, fluid and reliable hub, all coming together in a lightweight 1540 g package with the clinchers. It's a wheelset you can rely on to take a corner at speed, maintain stability through the chaos of a group sprint, or hold tempo through a punishing headwind with less effort than you've ever had to use before. There's a reason they're used at Paris-Roubaix.
Overall, I don't think you can find a stronger or better all around wheelset than the 303. The real questions is not should I ride the 303, it's Clincher or Tubular? For me, I like the intimate road feel and weight savings of the Tubular, but I certainly understand the benefits for the clincher as well.
Have any questions, want to talk some more details? Please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun fact: I have a pair of 2002 Zipp 303 Tubular's I still race crits on to this day. Durability is impressive
the description notes that the 303 Firecrest...
the description notes that the 303 Firecrest has a aluminum brake track fused to a carbon rim. Surely this is wrong? This sounds like the description for the old 303.
Thank you for reaching out to us and sorry for the confusion, This seems to have slipped through the cracks from the previous model. This information will be updated shortly.