First Ride: Zipp Enters the Mountain Bike World With New 3ZERO Moto Carbon Wheels
The wheels are built for aggressive trail riding, and while they're designed to handle all of the rigors of enduro racing - Adrien Dailly and Jerome Clementz have had podium appearances with them - Zipp stress that they aren't meant for DH or e-bike riders. In other words, if you have a dual crown fork or a motor on your bike, these aren't the wheels for you.In addition to being pre-taped and ready for tubeless tire installation right out of the box, the wheels are equipped with TyreWiz for easy tire pressure monitoring. The TyreWiz app allows riders to set their preferred tire pressure, and then a light on the valve-stem mounted device blinks red or green to signal if the pressure is correct. Even if you don't have a smartphone with you, the LED will still indicate whether or not the pressure needs to be adjusted. The low profile rim shape gives the wheels a featherweight look, but they're actually not the lightest option out there – the 27.5” version weighs a claimed 1825 grams, and the 29” model is 1910 grams. The complete wheelset is priced at $1,999 USD, or the rims are available for $700 each.
The vast majority of carbon mountain bike rims on the market have a very similar shape to their aluminum counterparts, which isn't that surprising – the box shaped profile is a proven design that's been around since the 1930s. It's an effective way to create a stiff and strong rim, but it's also possible to create a rim that's too stiff, especially when carbon fiber is used.
What's the benefit of the 3ZeroMoto wheels over a set of aluminum wheels? According to Zipp, the wheels are able to survive impacts that would completely destroy an aluminum rim, and do a better job of damping low power, high-frequency impacts, the type of forces that can lead to hand and arm fatigue.
I started out on a set of Roval Traverse carbon wheels, which I reviewed earlier this year. They're stiff and precise without being overly harsh, and they've held up well to everything I've thrown at them. In short, a good benchmark to compare the 3Zero Moto wheels to. Once those first laps were completed, I made the swap to the 3Zero Moto wheels. Part way through my first lap on the Zipp wheels it became apparent that there was a clear difference, and a significant one at that. The Zipp wheels were noticeably more compliant, but this wasn't a case of carbon wheels feeling like aluminum – it was a different sensation altogether. It felt like there was more 'give' to the wheels, but they still had plenty of support for hard cornering and landing jumps and drops.One section of trail had an extended straightaway that was full of roots covered by an inch or so of dust. Those hidden roots made it tricky to hold a line; letting off the brakes, looking ahead and hanging on for the ride seemed like the best tactic. With the Roval wheels, I had to really focus to keep the bike tracking the way I wanted it to due to all of those repeated, erratic impacts. On the 3Zero Moto wheels it was a different story – there was a level of traction that wasn't present with the Rovals, and it was much easier to keep the bike heading the way I wanted it to.When I switched back to the Roval wheels, the difference in handling became even more clear. The Rovals felt stiffer and more precise, but they didn't offer the same level of grip and resistance to deflection as the 3Zero Moto wheels. They also transmitted more feedback into my hands and forearms – the 3Zero Motos had a much more 'comfortable' ride feel, similar to what running 20 psi versus 30 psi in your tires feels like.Zipp's claims of compliance, pinch flat prevention, and superior impact resistance to aluminum rims are sure to raise some eyebrows, but I'm convinced the 3Zero Moto wheels have the potential to offer a significant performance benefit by delivering a very noticeable increase in traction and comfort in rough conditions. Keep in mind that a few rides doesn't constitute a full review – I'm going to keep putting the miles in on these wheels in order to test out those durability claims. I'm also curious if comfort leads to better lap times out on the trail, and how a bike will handle with a Zipp wheel up front and a stiffer wheel in the back, or vice versa. The 3Zero Motos are a very interesting new option, a direct challenge to the 'stiffer is better' mantra that's often touted in regards to carbon wheels.