When someone makes a big marketing claim, one that promises “compliance”, superb strength, and a ride quality unlike anything else on the market, I can’t help but roll my eyes. This reaction is a sentiment that I’m sure you, the readers of this very website, also feel! The cycling industry is always coming out with the next best thing and trying to get you to buy it. That’s why when I take on something to review, I like to really give it a go because if I’m going to tell you something is worth your hard-earned money, it damn well better perform.
Please don’t mind this introduction, I just wanted to explain how long I’ve been thinking about writing this review and how it’s going to seem that I was paid to sing the praises of these wheels. Spoiler alert, I was not and yes, these wheels really do live up to the marketing hype!
For the past 10 months, I’ve been riding the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO 29er wheels on my hardtail and I am a firm – pardon the pun – believer that these wheels are the best thing to hit the MTB market in some time.
Part of my job is to pay attention to what others are saying about the product I’m reviewing. That goes from reading magazine reviews, website reviews, and even what other riders think about that product. Leading up to this review, I’ve been intrigued by what others are saying, yet none have taken these wheels on the ride I feel like they were made for: hardtail trail mountain bikes.
You see, a hardtail is the most beneficial MTB for the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels because they are unlike any other carbon wheel I’ve ridden. Different in their appearance, their technology, and their ride quality.
It’s no secret that the MTB world has stolen borrowed technology from the motorcycle industry. You can thank the moto world for disc brakes, suspension design, and even tire design, so it would make sense that eventually, the mountain bike world would look to dirt bike rim design for their next acquisition.
Up until this point, carbon wheels in the mountain industry have marketed that stiffer is better. There are arguments on both sides to this claim but I will say it’s not the stiffness that made me want to ride carbon rims, it’s the durability. I don’t have to spend time pulling dents and re-truing the wheels I ride but I will say, there is a tradeoff to this lack of maintenance. Riding stiff wheels on a hardtail can really beat you up. Even as a bigger dude, I still get worked over, but the tradeoff has always been there for me.
These wheels, however, are designed to flex. The secret is the profile. Their shallow and wide profile allows for the wheels to flex both up and down, as well as side to side. Think of the lateral movement like trail running. When you step on a rock, your weight moves laterally thanks to your ankle. Now imagine if your ankle was super stiff and couldn’t flex laterally. You’d have an issue, right? There’s no surprise that Zipp calls this movement “ankle compliance.” When the wheel can move laterally, as well as vertically, upon impact, it greatly reduces pinch flats and maintenance overall.
These rims are laid up, by hand in Zipp’s Indianapolis facilities and come laced to their ZM1 hubs in either 27.5 or 29 diameters for $1999. You can also buy just the rim for $700. Not cheap but not on the higher end of the spectrum. Yet, the lifetime warranty really sweetens the deal.
Their single walled design and layup profile result in a 30mm internal width with a 37.5mm external width. Zipp engineered the profile to only be compatible with Boost or SuperBoost hubs due to their wider spoke lacing and bracing angle. i.e. if you use a non-boost hub, the spokes don’t create enough lateral support. A few millimeters makes a big difference.
Zipp’s ZM1 hubs aren’t anything flashy but they get the job done with Hyperglide and XD driver options, as well as a 4-pawl design and 52 points of engagement. They let out a pleasant hum, rather than a scream like my other hubs. That said, they’re nothing to write home about in terms of look or feel, so if you’re looking to build a truly balleur set of wheels, then lace them up yourself to some blingy hubs. Onyx, King, I9, you name it.
In terms of weight, these 29er wheels weighed about 1970 grams. Pretty spot on to Zipp’s claimed weight. They’re not the lightest wheels on the market but they’re not exactly on par with anything else available!
Another nice detail is that Zipp offers many different colored decals, depending on the color scheme of your bike! From black to neon green, there’s something for everyone.
Hardtimes on the Hardtail
This summer beat me up. I spent about a month riding in the Lost Sierra, in Downieville and the surrounding trails, as well as my home turf on these wheels. Usually, at the end of the year, my body is pretty broken from excessive mountain biking on my hardtail of choice. These wheels aren’t going to completely smooth out the ride but they do make a huge difference.
Coming from other carbon and even alloy wheels, the 3ZERO MOTO wheels legitimately feel flexier. It didn’t take long to notice the difference. Carving turns, railing rock gardens, and even casing jumps made these wheels really sing. Once I got the tire pressure dialed they offered a ride quality unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
Side note: Zipp sends its TyreWiz™ system with each wheelset, an integrated tire pressure monitoring system. The gist is, a blinking light lets you know when your pressure is too high or too low, yet I decided to be a trooper and take a DIY approach to figure out what pressures worked and didn’t work. Also, I tend to be technology adverse when it comes to blinky lights and such. Plus, the wheel just looks better without some weird piece of tech surrounding the valve stem.
The sensation of these wheels really takes some getting used to. When turning at speed, they can feel like you’re about to roll a tire but that sensation subsides as you put your faith in the rim profile to do its thing. If we’re using the trail running anecdote here, the first time you hit a rock garden with these wheels, it feels like running with extra cushy soles. I really can’t emphasize this enough!
Hardtails can really beat you up but these wheels have made it a whole new experience for me. In the 10 months of riding the 3ZERO MOTO wheels, I’ve only had to do a bit of light maintenance, including replacing a spoke after a branch went into the rear wheel, which is a shame because I was really hoping to see how well they maintained their shape on their own.
It’s no secret every new product or new bike is meant to be an improvement over its predecessor, yet it’s so dang hard to sift through the upgrades that are worthwhile. After years of wheel manufacturers making and marketing stiff carbon wheels, the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO wheels are truly a vast improvement and one we didn’t even know we needed. Riding bikes shouldn’t be painful. Especially not riding hardtails! They should be enjoyable and any product that makes these simple bikes more fun to ride is a-ok with me.
Up next I’d like to ride these on my Starling Murmur, a steel full suspension bike that is already very compliant! Stay tuned…
If you ever get a chance to ride these wheels, don’t pass up the opportunity. They really are worth their weight in gold.
Check out more information at Zipp and be sure to drop any questions in the comments. Have you ridden these wheels? If so, what did you think?