What happens when you update a do-it-all wheel with a wider and tubeless-ready rim bed and disc brakes, while shedding nearly half a kilogram? Zipp is betting that you’ll be able to squeeze out more speed with less effort, and have more fun all around.
The re-engineered Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake was developed incorporating Zipp’s Total System Efficiency (TSE) technology. The Indianapolis-based wheel and components manufacturer touts much of the design process for the 303 Firecrest was focused on feedback from real-world road testing, not just data derived from clinical numbers obtained in a wind tunnel.
SRAM’s road technical manager has indicated that the “new 303 Firecrest is 5 watts faster than the Zipp 303 S and 15 watts faster than the previous 303 Firecrest – based on real-world efficiency testing,” and confirmed by an independent third party using an aero stick.
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The Zipp 303 Firecrest rim profile is slightly shallower and more bulbous than predecessors. Zipp shaved 300g from the previous generation of its wheels in part by reducing rim depth to 40mm. This shape has tested to be marginally faster, according to Zipp. A wider rim also means you can use wider tires, with a greater volume, that can be inflated to a lower pressure. This means better grip and more comfort on smooth pavement as well as on dirt and gravel.
The wide rim stance also should provide for less tire deflection at recommended tire pressures, yielding reduced rolling resistance. These made in the U.S.A. wheels ask for 28mm or greater tire widths. But if you want to go big, you can wrap the Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake wheels with tires as wide as 55mm, if your bike’s rear triangle allows.
The Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake wheels can handle tires up to 55mm. Photo: Zipp/Jered Grubber
The 40mm Firecrest rim has been finished with an updated profile at the top of the brake track, with a smoother transition from rim to tire. This should create less turbulence, so less drag, and improved handling in nearly all conditions. Zipp’s “Tubeless Made Easy” design incorporates a hookless tire bed that allows for tool-free installation and removal, with no need for an air compressor to seat the tire. VeloNews is really eager to test this out — but without the penalty of going flat while testing. For those who just don’t yet want to manage sealant, traditional tubes can be used with the Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels, but since there’s no hook on the rim, tubeless-ready tires are the sole option.
The Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake rims are laced around the Zipp ZR1 hub. Photo: Zipp/Jered Grubber
The Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake rim has been laced with 24 Sapim CX-Sprint spokes around a German-engineered Zipp ZR1-DB hub, which has 66 points of engagement, through 6 pawls on leaf springs engaging 33 teeth, for a quicker and more positive response when stepping on the gas. The 303 Firecrest ships with 12mm front and rear end caps, and a center mount rotor lockring is included. The Zipp Firecrest 303 tubeless disc brake can accept SRAM/Shimano or XDR drivers; a Campy driver body can be purchased separately.
The Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake wheels are $1,900/set available from zipp.com.