Carbon wheels don’t have a good reputation in the world of enduro mountain biking. Many riders find them too stiff and if you’ve got a harsh riding style, they’re unlikely to survive the rock gardens. Zipp’s 3ZERO MOTO wheels are an exception to this rule. They delivered a convincing performance throughout and offered many positive attributes, but it isn’t all good.
The basic concept of rim design has remained unchanged for ages. To make the rim as stiff as possible, almost all manufacturers rely on a double-wall design. This proven construction method keeps the weight low while making the rim stiff and durable. However, what is an advantage on the one hand can also be the rim’s biggest disadvantage. This double-wall design makes it difficult for the rim to flex and conform to the terrain, which isn’t a problem if you’re riding on the road or on flowing trails, but they lack grip in rougher terrain. Overly stiff wheels also make for a harsher, less comfortable ride. With the 3ZERO MOTO wheels, Zipp have taken a completely new approach.
The unique feature of the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels: the rim’s design
With the 3ZERO MOTO, Zipp rely on a single-wall rim profile, but they’ve reinforced the centre section along the spoke holes. The sturdy rim flanges on the outside are able flex thanks to the single wall profile. We saw a similar design for the first time at the 2015 EUROBIKE from AX-Lightness. However, these wheels are no longer available. Thanks to the controlled flex, the Zipp rims shouldn’t only absorb impacts, but also reduce the risk of punctures while offering more comfort and traction. The “Moto” in the product name isn’t there by coincidence: this kind of design is common on motocross bikes.
The key figures of the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels
Zipp are so convinced of the durability of their 3ZERO MOTO wheels that the American brand offer a lifetime guarantee on the wheelset. As is usual for a modern rim, the Zipp has an inner width of 30 mm, but due to its design it is very wide externally at around 37.5 mm. Zipp are also going their own way in the number of spokes used. While ever more carbon wheels have only 28 spokes or less, the 3ZERO MOTO rely on 32 spokes front and rear.
The rear wheel is built around a Zipp hub. The freewheel offers 52 engagement points, ensuring snappy engagement at an angle of 6.9°. The hub width of the rear wheel is 148 mm. Unfortunately, the hub is only available with an XD or HG freehub body, which makes it incompatible with Shimano’s MICRO SPLINE standard. In other words, you currently won’t be able to officially use these wheels with a 12-speed Shimano drivetrain. Zipp also rely on the Boost standard for the front wheel and offer customers the option of riding the wheels with torque caps. These are hub end caps that provide a wider contact surface on RockShox suspension forks and are intended to increase steering precision. Those who like matching the look of their bike can choose between eight different decal colours. The price for the complete wheelset is a whopping € 2,099, while a single rim can be purchased for € 750.
Wheel size: 27.5 and 29“ (tested)
Weight: 2,040 g (29“ incl. TyreWiz)
Price: € 2,099
Number of spokes: 32
Axle: 110 x 15 front | 148 x 12 rear
Freehub body: XD-Drive/Standard (HG)
Engagement points/angle: 52/6.9°
Torque cap: compatible
Decal colours: eight to choose from
TyreWiz – more than just a smart gadget
A unique feature of the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels is the integrated TyreWiz system, which is integrated into the valve stem and screwed to the rim. It allows you to monitor the tire pressure perfectly at all times via an LED – no smartphone needed. To do so, you put in your desired pressure range for each wheel in the app and the red LED either flashes slowly if the tire pressure drops below this range, or it flashes quickly if your tire pressure is too high; if you’re within the desired range, you’ll only see the green LED flash – brilliant! That way, you can always ride assured that your tires are inflated to the correct pressure, regardless of which pump you use to inflate your tires. However, the selected pressure range shouldn’t be too narrow, otherwise, changes in temperature or altitude alone can cause the red LED to flash.
Fitting and installation of the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO
Fitting the tires onto the wheels is just as easy as installing the wheels on the bike. Thanks to the pre-taped rims and tubeless valves already fitted, all you have to do is fit the tire, add tubeless sealant and pump it up. We were able to inflate the tires with a high-quality floor pump – excellent. Those with RockShox forks will be happy to know that the 3ZERO MOTO also work with torque caps, and for everyone else, the standard end caps are also included. To use the TyreWiz system, you’ll have to set aside an additional 5 minutes to install and set up the app.
The Zipp 3ZERO MOTO on the trail
To put the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels through their paces, we tested them on various bikes over a period of six months and also compared them with a set of Santa Cruz Reserve 30mm wheels back-to-back. The latter are a very popular choice amongst our editorial staff and performed as well as ever, offering tons of durability and precise handling. In back-to-back testing, we ran both wheelsets with identical tires: a MAXXIS ASSEGAI 2.5” WT EXO up front and a MINION DHR II 2.4” WT EXO+ at the rear. For the remainder of our review, we experimented with different tires, casings and different tire pressures.
The stand out feature of the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels is the significant amount of added traction and comfort. Do your hands hurt or you get arm pump after a non-stop descent of almost 1,000 meters in Brixen, South Tyrol? With these, they won’t! The wheels don’t get knocked off line as easily and are better able to hold a direct line over slanted roots and rocks. It almost feels as if you’ve got an extra centimetre of travel that filters out small vibrations and shocks more effectively. This was despite the fact that we rode with the same tire pressure as we always do – our usual set-up is 1.7 bar (approx. 24 psi) up front and 1.9 bar (approx. 28 psi) at the rear. Depending on your riding style, terrain and personal preference, you can go lower or higher, of course. However, for our 85 kg test rider, Christoph, that was the perfect compromise. Zipp claim that you can ride the tire pressure lower than with other wheels, but after a few tries we ended up with the same tire pressure setup as we ride with other wheel/tire combinations. The main reason for this is the more precise handling that you get from higher pressures, which we prefer.
It almost feels as if you’ve got an extra centimetre of travel
Another aspect that was also clearly noticeable in back-to-back comparisons is the slower acceleration of 3ZERO MOTO wheels due to their higher weight, and their handling is less precise. If you’re looking to buy carbon wheels to make your bike livelier and more direct, you’ll be disappointed with the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO.
We encountered no issues with burping over the entire test period and despite occasionally smacking them into roots and rock, the rims remained completely unimpressed. We only suffered a single pinch-flat during a test session in Latsch. However, we have to mention here that we had deliberately reduced the tire pressure to around 1.6 bar on the rear wheel at the time.
Carbon wheels that feel like aluminium wheels, but costs a lot more – what are the advantages?
If you only look at the hard facts of the Zipp wheels, you’ll quickly get the impression that they’re too heavy considering the price or maybe not stiff enough. We often hear people saying they could buy a decent aluminium wheelset for the price of one Zipp wheel. And to some extent, they’re right. Nevertheless, there are a few reasons to buy the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO. On the one hand, we never had any issues with dented rims during our review and the wheels behaved inconspicuously over the entire test period. This reduces the risk of having to stop riding because of a dented and leaky rim. Should something happen, the wheels have a lifetime guarantee. On the other hand, the number of punctures we suffered was significantly lower compared to other rims. On top of that, the integrated TyreWiz system guarantees that you always ride with the correct tire pressure, regardless of which pump you use to inflate them. If none of these reasons is convincing enough, some people will buy them purely because of their unique looks.
Conclusion: who are the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels for?
If you weigh each of your components individually and are looking for a bike that is as light and stiff as possible, the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO aren’t for you. Rather, the wheels are aimed at riders who are looking for more comfort, traction and composure. On long descents, your hands will tire significantly less and punctures are generally reduced. We also love the TyreWiz system. It’s a shame that the wheels aren’t available with a MICRO SPLINE compatible freehub.
- reduces arm pump and fatigue
- reduced susceptibility to punctures
- not very light for carbon wheels
You can find more information about the wheels on the Zipp website.
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer