Zipp’s composite enduro wheels promise the 'transformation of the mountain bike wheel for the speed-obsessed' but do they deliver and what are the downsides of DH/Moto derived compliance?
Zipp has taken a long time to get into the mountain bike wheel game but the Indianapolis-based wheel specialists have finally arrived with a very different take on construction and trail control. Loosening spokes for a baggier, grippier, more tyre friendly wheel is a proven technique on the downhill scene, but Zipp has built that same ride character into the rim for a more predictable, durable and driveable result. Rather than a conventional box-section design the US-made rim uses a single thick deck of composite with a raised spoke ridge in the centre. At just 14.8mm deep that gives it the same profile as the ‘Dutch roadster’ rims that have been around for over a century although Zipp cite the far sexier world of Motocross as its inspiration.
As the 3Zero name suggests it’s 30mm wide internally but extra thick 3.75mm sidewalls give it an overall width of 37.5mm. That’s enough to support wider tyres comfortably and sealing is nice and simple too, which is a relief after SRAM’s previous wheels.
Unlike similarly compliant control wheels from Crankcrothers and Hunt, Zipp uses the same rim front and rear and it also uses the same number of spokes each end. Interestingly Zipp hasn’t gone for the most flexible and resilient spokes to match the rims, but the ones most likely to hold tension in a constantly shape-shifting wheelset. The Double butted Sapim D-Lite’s sit in the middle of Sapim’s strength/stiffness/weight range with a 1.65mm centre and 2mm ends. Using 32 in each wheel spreads the load and means a snapped spoke is less of an issue and the J-Bend design makes finding a ‘make do’ replacement easier than a straight pull ‘rod’ spoke.
Compared to the Cognition magnetically controlled axial clutch hubs of its latest NSW road wheels the ZM1 hubs are relatively conventional for maximum durability. A ‘Double Time’ four-pawl design on a 26-tooth ratchet ring to gives a 6.9-degree engagement that’s neither hyper-fast nor obviously laggy. In terms of options, you can choose a standard splined SRAM/Shimano or SRAM XD freehub but, unsurprisingly, Shimano hasn’t licensed its 12-speed Microdrive spline design to its main component competitors. The wheels only come in Boost width but you get standard 21mm end caps or RockShox’s 31mm Torque Caps supplied with the wheels. You also get a choice of Silver or Slate ‘ZIPP’ and ‘3ZERO MOTO’ decals with eight different colours of highlight ‘Speed stripe’.
The Moto wheelsets also come with Quarq’s TyreWiz valves which Bluetooth your tyre pressures to a TyreWiz smartphone app with a +/- 2% accuracy variance. They’re an extra $200 if you buy the rims separately and they push the wheelset price up significantly, too.
With a weight of nearly 2kg with the valves fitted, the Moto’s are a seriously heavy wheel and that’s obvious in the effort needed to get them moving upwards or along. More sensitive riders will feel the extra weight in the suspension too, so you might want to take a click off the rebound to reflect the increased inertia. Compared to Hunt and Crankbrothers wheelsets, the rear is as soft as the front which definitely eats into the perception of eagerness when you’re putting some effort into the pedals. You can feel that if you’re really pumping or pushing the rear wheel through corners and the compliance of the wheels in both twist and vertical planes also reduces feedback precision in favour of ground-moulding grip. In other words, these are not the wheels you’re looking for if you want increased pop, responsiveness or agility in a trail/enduro bike and they’re certainly not a cross-country wheel.
Where the Moto’s come into their own is offering amazing stiction onto the trail. There are more and more wheelsets offering some degree of ductility but the way the Zipp’s suck up roots, rocks and sharp edges is definitely the most obvious we’ve used. It’s not twangy or wandering like a flexier wheel or flaccid like a soft wheel either, it feels similarly damped and controlled to well tuned suspension.
Because both wheels behave the same, that impact-melting smoothness runs right the way through the ride character, so you don’t flow over something at the front that then chokes you at the back. While the front wheel isn’t light and lively to lift, the way the front end sticks down despite the localised deflection of the rim means you’ll find yourself tracking tighter. On the trail that translates into barreling right down the centre of your targeted line, or staying high across a radial root spread or rough off-camber rather than being forced wide/down and struggling to hit the exit. As long as you tweak rebound to suit the impact damping effect of the rim definitely offsets the sprung/unsprung ratio in terms of sensitivity too and the overall quietness of the wheelset reduces hand and foot fatigue on extended runs. The medium freehub engagement also makes pedal kick back on high anti-squat bikes less obvious than instant engagement wheels. You don’t have to be hitting stuff hard or fast either, you’ll feel the rims doing their thing even when you’re playing at rock crawlers up technical climbs at the fat end of your Eagle cassette.
They also damp long drops, ugly landings and careless cases as though you’re running a heavier carcass tyre and the broad rim walls reduce the chance of sidewall damage. While we’ve not had the wheels long ourselves our sample set was a year old, with Alpine and Whistler trips under their belt and no obvious damage to show for it. They have a Clydesdale compatible max recommended weight of 125kg/275lbs too and the Zipp ‘lifetime’ MOTO warranty means they’ll swap them if you break them riding or replace them at cost if you drive over them or do something similarly dumb by accident.
Zipp’s 3Zero MOTO takes compliant rim character to a whole new double-ended level and the amount of impact suppression, ground-moulding grip and target-fixated tracking is truly outstanding. The way the rim shrugs shocks and keeps tyres alive means you can carry speed smoothly through sections that will knock other wheelsets off line or pinch your sidewalls. In other words, if you want a set of wheels that will make your trail/enduro bike feel like a coil-shocked DH bike they’re the best we’ve used. Price aside the TyreWiz valves are an awesome piece of tech for pressure pedants.
The weight of the wheels and damped-rather-than-dynamic feel is obvious when you’re trying to grab that speed in the first place though. Not everyone is going to like the damped, anaesthetised ride feel - especially at the back - either. Price is high too even if the lifetime warranty and better tyre survival definitely make them an investment rather than just an indulgence.
Tech Specs: Zipp 3ZERO MOTO carbon enduro wheelset
- Price: £1875, €2099, $1999
- Weight: Front 925g rear 1045g = 1970g complete
- Spokes: 32 Sapim D-Lite
- Freehubs: XD / Shimano HyperGlide
- Axles: Boost 15x110mm and 12x148mm only, RockShox’s Torque Caps