£2320 › Down­sized, high-per­form­ing Zipp

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS -

Zipp 303 Firecrest 650b tube­less disc wheels, Spe­cial­ized Power Arc Pro sad­dle, Ge­netic Schizo ped­als, Quoc gravel shoes.

IN KEEP­ING WITH CUR­RENT BIKE trends, Zipp have cre­ated a 650B ver­sion of the 303 Firecrest wheelset, which is nat­u­rally tube­less-ready and for disc brakes only. The emer­gence of road-plus and gravel bikes, with tyre widths from 28mm to 50mm, has in­creased the need for small­er­diam­e­ter wheels. That’s be­cause a high­vol­ume tyre on a 650b wheel has roughly the same over­all di­am­e­ter as a 700c wheel, but of­fers in­cred­i­ble grip, com­fort and ver­sa­til­ity. Small­er­diam­e­ter wheels fit­ted to an ap­pro­pri­ately scaled bike are help­ful for shorter or younger rid­ers, too, per­mit­ting equiv­a­lent han­dling and per­for­mance to a larger ma­chine.

De­signed for tyres of 28mm and larger, the 303 650B rims have a new car­bon-fi­bre layup, and are 21mm wide in­ter­nally with ridges that lock a tube­less tyre’s bead in place so it re­mains se­cure at low pres­sures. They’re 45mm tall, with the blunt-nosed shape mea­sur­ing 28.9mm at their widest point ex­ter­nally. Zipp’s ABLC (Aero­dy­namic Bound­ary Layer Con­trol) dim­ple pat­tern is moulded in to the rim all the way to the tyre for im­proved aero­dy­nam­ics, es­pe­cially at yaw an­gles of 10 to 20 de­grees that, Zipp say, you face over 50% of the time.

We weighed our pair, in­clud­ing the fac­to­ryin­stalled tube­less rim tape and valves, plus thru­axle end caps, at 1525g, which is good for rea­son­ably deep tube­less wheels. Also in­cluded are ex­change­able end caps for 15mm front, and 12mm front and rear, while it comes with quick­re­lease skew­ers and a valve tool, too. The 77D and 177D hubs fea­ture 17mm axles, and come with a stan­dard free­hub body, but will also ac­cept SRAM’s XDR driver body for 10-42 cas­settes. They’re built with 24 Sapim CX-Sprint straight-pull spokes, have ex­ter­nal nip­ples and a rider weight limit of 250lbs/113kg.

Our first ex­pe­ri­ence of the 303 650B wheelset came at the Roc D’Azur’s new Gravel Roc race, us­ing many of the same tracks as the moun­tain-bike event in the coastal hills near Fre­jus in the south of France. With 47mm wide, al­most slick tyres fit­ted, and nearly 3hrs of dusty, rocky trails, heaps of climb­ing and even a beach on the course, the Zipps took a sound thrash­ing and didn’t miss a beat. More re­cently they’ve proved their met­tle on Bri­tish sin­gle­track and gravel, with 2.1” Maxxis Aspen tyres, which seated very eas­ily and re­mained se­cure through­out, even when run­ning at 20psi.

Re­peated ac­cel­er­a­tions out of cor­ners and short, sharp climbs tested the stiff, small wheels’ cre­den­tials, and they per­formed su­perbly well, their low mass re­ally help­ing slow-speed get­aways. Their ex­tra depth is ideal on sus­tained high-speed sec­tions and keeps the spokes shorter for a taut feel. The 303 650B Firecrest wheelset is re­spon­sive, fast, re­li­able, light and ro­bust, and more than ca­pa­ble of tak­ing you any­where in style. But sadly, it’s not cheap.

WE SAY Rugged speed, ex­cit­ing re­sponse and great looks... for a price

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