Fire and brimstone.
While you may not find yourself battling for position shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Boonen and Kristoff this spring, we can think of plenty of other ways to put Zipp's new 303 Firecrest Carbon Disc Brake Tubular Road Wheel through a good workout. But don't let us assume—maybe you will be lining up at the start line of Flanders or Roubaix, in which case, the 303 Firecrest will be right at home, its predecessors having blasted through days of unrelenting weather and hand-numbing cobblestones to deliver their riders to victory in both races already. Whether you trust it for your next 'cross race or take it out on a road or gravel ride through mixed conditions, the 303 Firecrest will adapt admirably, especially when stopping power comes from a dependable set of disc brakes. This year, new 77/177D hubs and a weight loss of 35g bring an added dose of durability and efficiency to an already powerful wheelset.
Zipp addresses aerodynamic efficiency along with control with the 303 Firecrest's rim profile, striking a balance between the two with a 45mm rim depth. This depth ensures the wheel will handle reliably in crosswinds, as does Zipp's decision to shape the rim in a way that aligns the wheel's center of wind-resistance pressure more closely with the steering axis, lessening the likelihood that the wheel will feel off-balance in harsh gusts. We've all gone out for a ride on days that start out calm, only to discover a stiff, gusty breeze when we reach the top of a climb, already miles from home, and these characteristics make the 303 Firecrest a wheel that you can confidently bring out on days when the weather feels deceptive.
Aerodynamic wheels and Zipp go hand-in-hand, and the 303 Firecrest received the same obsessive attention to efficiency as its aggressive siblings in the form of an updated version of Zipp's signature Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) along the surface of the carbon fiber rim. ABLC refers to the strategic arrangement of dimples of varying sizes along the rim, whose presence establishes a secondary artificial boundary layer while you ride. This artificial layer forces the laminar boundary layer towards the forward part of the rim to become turbulent. The somewhat counterintuitive result is that airflow is able to remain attached over more of the rim of a longer period of time, providing a lower level of integrated drag. According to Zipp, this creates practical, real-world results that you don't have to be riding in a wind tunnel to experience.
The 303 Firecrest now spins on Zipp's new 77/177 hub set, featuring, as new hubs usually do, improved stiffness and durability over its predecessor. Zipp achieves this by focusing on the bearings, standardizing the pre-load across every wheel in production so that costly mistakes in preload adjustment no longer occur. This drastically reduces the likelihood that bearings will experience premature wear and tear, and with the improved bearing protection and sealant, contributes tangibly to Zipp's claims of improved longevity.
Zipp engineered the rear hub to be compatible with a separately-sold XD driver body, which allows you to swap out the cassette for something wider, like SRAM's 10-42t option, without having to re-dish the wheel. Further contributing to the wheel's user-friendly design, redesigned quick-release skewers now feature a wider handle, making installation easier and giving the skewers a cleaner aesthetic when closed.