Carbon fiber wheels sound like a good way to throw money at a cross bike with little return. Not so, says Rob Karman, who is impressed with Zipp's carbon hoops.
For the past several years, deep dish carbon wheels have been a popular choice among racers, first on smooth roads, and then in cyclo-cross. The unique demands that the conditions of cyclo-cross place on equipment has led wheel maker Zipp Composites to develop cyclo-cross specific versions of its two most popular wheels, the 303s and 404s.
First introduced at Interbike last year, Zipp's cyclo-cross specific wheels differ from their road brethren in three ways: the rims have an extra layer of carbon which Zipp claims increases their impact resistance twofold while only adding about 40g per rim; the hubs have been modified with extra seals to keep grit and grime out in the muddy conditions 'cross is famous for; and the wheels use Sapim Race butted (2.0/1.8mm) spokes for added strength. A full technical description of Zipp wheels can be seen in our recent review of the 404 road wheels.
So what does this mean in the real world? We got our hands on a pair of 303 'cross wheels and beat on them for about a month to find out.
Read Rob Karman's entire Zipp 303 'cross wheels review here.