Sea Otter 2019

Zipp 3Zero Moto Wheels from SRAM (in the flesh)

Words Cam McRae
Date Apr 17, 2019

Reading about something on the webz is one thing but holding that something in your hands can give an entirely different impression. Especially if it's a sea urchin or poison oak. I didn't pay too much attention to the press release about SRAM's new Zipp wheels but the presentation at Sea Otter made me take notice. Ride quality is becoming more and more important to riders and products like CushCore and the Tannus inserts are great examples. These wheels are all about the RQ.


Early carbon rims were made tall deliberately for strength and stiffness. These push in the other direction. 3Zero Moto rims are hand laid in Zipp's Indianapolis facility. Photo - Cam McRae

Rim manufacturers have been taking about compliance more than ever before, clamouring to distance themselves from early ENVE* and other first gen carbon wheels because of their bone-rattling rigidity. Arched and triangular cross sections are giving way to lower profiles to allow vertical rim deflection upon impact, like a moto wheel. We were told that moto rims deflect vertically up to an inch and that this is by design. Offroad motorcycle hoops are made of aluminum or steel and unlike almost all bicycle wheels, they are constructed with a single member with no void.

*EDGE when they first came out


The Australian made Bouwmeester Composite wheels are no longer in production but rims were about 100 g lighter than the Zipp 3Zero.

Like Mello Bouweester's rims,* these are also single wall construction, the goal of both products being improved compliance. Zipp takes it a step further, introducing what they are calling 'ankle' compliance. The idea is that most impacts occur off centre and many will only contact one rim bead. The contention is an off-centre impact can send you off line. With ankle compliance your line is said to be preserved because the rim deflects like your ankle instead of having a force attempting to push the wheel over.

*Mello was hired by Jason Schiers of SR56 to work on Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels and other products in the Selle Royal Group


Ankle compliance is a nice theory but I'd like to see some photographic imagery as proof of concept. It may be that this image is hyperbolic.

The rims are nicely finished but the thing you'll notice most if you get a chance to handle one is how easy it is to squish the rim downward with your hands when it's placed vertically. Other rims have some compliance in this direction of course but I have never felt a carbon rim that feels this 'soft'.


Asymetrical and offset drilling and a nice wide channel. Of course these are hookless beads and tires are said to mount easily, even with inserts. Photo - Cam McRae

In order to make a non-box section rim as strong as something with triangulation, more material was needed. As a result these are a little portly. We Are One's Agents rims are 480 and 490 g for 27 and 29 respectively, while the 3Zero wheels are 535 and 565. The complete wheel difference is larger however with the We Are One Agents with DT Swiss 240 hubs coming in at 1631 g or 1711 (depending on spoke choice) while the Zipps are 1910. Both wheelsets use 32 j-bend spokes.


A strip is needed to cover the spoke bed as well as a conventional rim strip to preserve the tubeless seal, presumable because the spoke heads are allowed to push through the plane of the spoke bed when a significant force is encountered. Photo - Cam McRae

The impressions of a few select reviewers, especially the very hard to please and well-respected Alan Muldoon of MBR, caught my attention most. He even used the dreaded 'game-changer' to describe the riding experience on the 3Zero Moto Wheels. Who doesn't love it when the game changes?


If these perform as well as claimed, the weight penalty may be worth every gram.

The wheelset price includes Quarq's TyreWhiz device which sends real time pressure information to your phone and flashes green to signal that your pressure is in your chosen target range, slow red if you are low or fast red if you are too high. Tire Whiz on its own is 200 USD. You can get these with hubs that have an XD or Shimano HG driver. Shockingly(!) no Microdrive or Centrelock options are available. You can however buy rim only and cross-pollinate that lacing however you like.


Tire Whiz would be useful for me at the start of every ride and when adjusting pressure, but it's not something I feel is missing in my life. Sometimes however, as with the smartphone, we don't know what we need until it arrives. Photo - Cam McRae


$ 1999 USD / € 2099 / £1875


$ 700 USD / € 750 / £ 670


April 2019

For more check the release here...

Trending on NSMB


+3 cyclotoine Andy Eunson Dan
Timer  - April 17, 2019, 4:38 a.m.

That ankle compliance spiel seems fishy.

The rim is asymmetrical, so if there was any noticeable amount of ankle flex it would be much stronger when turning to the left. 

Not to mention that it would introduce bending and friction forces at the spoke nipples which would be hell for any wheelbuild.

The tire Wizz is nice though, especially for racing.


+2 Timer 4Runner1
Cr4w  - April 17, 2019, 8:01 a.m.

The tire Wizz would be cool to get though I would never outright buy it. Get up to go riding, see green, proceed. Though pumping up my tires is now a part of my pre-ride ceremony.


+3 Cam McRae Dan 4Runner1
Timer  - April 17, 2019, 8:59 a.m.

I was thinking in terms of long epic rides and (non-pro) enduro races. Being able to see at a glance that i haven't lost pressure due to burping or a sneaking flat would be nice. But the price is prohibitive and keeping the batteries fresh might be more hassle than it's worth.


+2 cyclotoine Dan
Kos  - April 17, 2019, 7:39 a.m.

Super intriguing, but so far, reviews seem mixed (PB, yeah! BikeRadar, meh).

WR1's approach of just minimizing the box section's depth may be a better approach.

Shootout needed!


+1 4Runner1
Allen Lloyd  - April 17, 2019, 7:41 a.m.

I thought carbon was supposed to be rigid, how does it take to repeatedly being bent?  Conceptually I agree, but have some practical skepticism on carbon being the correct material for this job.


Mammal  - April 17, 2019, 8:47 a.m.

Because carbon doesn't fatigue, as long as it's bending within it's design envelope, repeated flexing should be fine. Good theory, but as always, it depends on the execution.


Andy Eunson  - April 17, 2019, 9:22 a.m.

It can be but think of all those fishing rods made from carbon.


+6 Niels Timer AJ Barlas IslandLife 4Runner1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Shoreboy  - April 17, 2019, 8:14 a.m.

This begs the question as why wouldn't you just run Al rims?  The whole original selling point of carbon rims was that they were stiffer which was 'better'.  Now it has been decided that they are too stiff, so we will make them more like Al rims but at 7x the price. Sigh.


+2 Agleck7 cyclotoine Cr4w IslandLife
Nouseforaname  - April 17, 2019, 8:34 a.m.

Well, alloy rims at WR1 weights will be pretty dent prone or pretty flexy. Carbon offers the promise (only) of light weight, dent resistance and good stiffness. 

If you have to compromise grip (tire pressure) to avoid rim dents, then the alloy rim isn't superior. If you have to accept writing off 1-2 rims (plus associated costs) every season, then the alloy rim isn't superior.

Stans new rims are $115 USD (! $160 CAD?) -one or two of those a year plus wheelbuild costs plus the initial outlay for wheels and it won't take long before a set of no fault replacement carbon wheels is looking like the good budget choice.


+1 IslandLife
Timer  - April 17, 2019, 8:53 a.m.

Only if you run your bike and wheelsets for many years. This may be part stereotype, but from my observations, the kind of people who buy carbon rims are also in the habit of buying a new bike every 1-3 seasons.

But i agree, if carbon is required, WR1, Nobl or Syntace rims are much better in terms of weight and value than Zipp or Enve.


+7 Shoreboy Todd Hellinga Carmel Timer AJ Barlas chachmonkey 4Runner1
IslandLife  - April 17, 2019, 9:21 a.m.

Recently looking for a new wheelset and wanted to really like WR1 wheels as I keep hearing good things, but I keep finding tons of good, strong, stiff but not too stiff aluminum wheels at the same or maybe a tiny bit more weight... for half or two thirds the price.

I'm with shoreboy... after researching wheels for the better part of month now, I really can't see why I'd bother with the cost of carbon.  Even from a company like WR1.


0 Cam McRae 4Runner1
Nouseforaname  - April 17, 2019, 9:55 a.m.

I'm running Bontrager Line Elite wheels - they came with my bike. They're good wheels, but i've severely dented one rim to heck and dented a second despite upping my air pressure.

I now need a second rim and wheel build.

If i'd bought the wheels new, they are $800. Decent value, alloy wheels. There are cheaper, and there are more expensive. 

Mid way through last season a new rim is $100 and spokes and build is another $100. So after a season I'm at $1000 for my wheels, Now coming into a second season I'm needing to drop another $200 taking me to $1200 just to get to the start line this year. Assuming on going trends, but the time my wheels are reaching the end of this season, I'll be once again shopping for a new rim and rebuild. 18 months in and my $800 wheels will have cost me $600 to keep running. 

I'm glad I don't have to lay out $800 on alloy wheels, but if I was in that market I'd be having a hard time NOT buying carbon (with the right warranty). Hubs - meh - as long as they are cartridge and rebuildable who cares.

If your trails are flowy loamers then alloy wheels make sense. On the shore and surrounding areas IMO it's penny wise, pound foolish to buy alloy wheels as a better value. Until there's a new wheel size/axle spacing/axle diameter.


+4 Timer Dan IslandLife 4Runner1
Shoreboy  - April 17, 2019, 10:23 a.m.

If you are the type of rider going through 2-3 rims a season, then by all means get the carbon ones with the no fault warranty. Id guess you will also be damaging/cracking carbon rims at a similar rate, so you will still be paying for the rebuilds.

Is it possible that your tire/air pressure/rim combo is insufficient for your riding? I guess what I am getting at is, have you always had the rim damage issues historically, or is it just the current setup?


-1 4Runner1
Nouseforaname  - April 17, 2019, 11:40 a.m.

Fair question - part of it comes from going faster, a bit from riding more and probably a good chunk comes from riding more aggressively. And that's not the way everyone rides for sure.

+3 chachmonkey IslandLife 4Runner1
Jerry Willows  - April 17, 2019, 12:58 p.m.

I see lots of carbon wheels break/crack so the argument that they outlast Al is kind of a myth.  A friend of mine went through 3 WR1 agent rims in a month.  I think an Al rim with some kind of an insert is the way to go.

UFO  - April 17, 2019, 7:30 p.m.

I can only speak to the Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels: 1 week (5 working days) turn around from when the rim broke on trail to a fresh built wheel from brown Santa. Included paid for shipping both ways, no cost on spokes/rebuild.

+2 Timer 4Runner1
IslandLife  - April 17, 2019, 1:54 p.m.

That's a fair and good point.  But for someone like me (average rider, amateur enduro racer #dadracing) who rides in the same area.  I just don't damage alloy rims to the extent you seem to.  Have dented a couple for sure, but nothing I couldn't bend back and have no further issue with.  And then I finally got off EXO casings, and haven't dented a rim since.

I'd also say, that if you're destroying alloy rims you'll be breaking carbon rims.  Now the warranty with WR1, Santa Cruz and others is good, so you don't have to worry about buying a new rim... but do they cover building a new wheel as well?  Honestly don't know...

Couple guys I ride with intermittently were chronic wheel breakers (what is it with you guys??  You know legs are suspension too right?) and they both switched to carbon (one Santa Cruz and the other WR1) thinking it would be the end of dealing with their wheels all the time.  Both loved them but both have since broken a couple rims each.  Sure they were warrantied, but both were off the bike for a week to 3 weeks depending each time.  Also, one of the instances ruined a race... and he's going back to alloy with an insert out back because of it.

So back to me... as someone who doesn't wreck wheels... good, light and much cheaper alloy choices are fairly plentiful these days.  And if I do start smashing rims, I'd probably just buy stronger alloys or add an insert.

But hey, the warranties are great, and WR1 is a great company, sounds like you might as well try it out when you're in the market.


Vik Banerjee  - April 17, 2019, 11 a.m.

"That begs the question" = https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/grammar/begging-the-question-how-to-use-it-correctly

I've run carbon and AL rims on two very similar bikes on the same trails, same tires, same pressure, same rider, etc... The AL rim were KIA'd due to dents and the carbon rims are going strong. Cost of Light Bicycle carbon rims was double that of the AL rims. So within a couple years of use they'd be cost neutral. Carbon rims were lighter and no issues with them being too stiff.

Currently my main bike has AL rims because that's what came with it. I'm going to ride the heck out of them. If I was building up new rims I'd probably go with another set of Light Bicycle carbon hoops again.


Shoreboy  - April 17, 2019, 11:12 a.m.

Grammar check noted.  Will keep that one in mind! Thanks!

Part of the premise of this whole article is having carbon rims that are more compliant.  The LB rims on my wife's bike are quite stiff, but they are an older set. They were no lighter than the equivalent Al rim (which is true of most carbon rims). I assume that the current LB rims are also quite stiff?


+1 Shoreboy
IslandLife  - April 17, 2019, 2:08 p.m.

What's the warranty process like with Light?  The pricing is so similar to WR1, I don't see the advantage to going overseas vs built at home.

And though I don't seem to break aluminum rims, as I mentioned above, a couple guys I ride with intermittently were chronic wheel breakers and they both switched to carbon (one Santa Cruz and the other WR1) thinking it would be the end of dealing with their wheels all the time. Both loved them but both have since broken a couple rims each. Sure they were warrantied, but both were off the bike for a week to 3 weeks depending each time. Also, one of the instances ruined a race... and he's going back to alloy with an insert out back because of it.


Shoreboy  - April 17, 2019, 2:37 p.m.

LB has a North American warehouse now.  If it is in stock, they say you can get things in two days.  I have no idea on the warranty, as my wife is so light I dont think she will ever damage a rim.  I bought them back when LB first started (5+ years ago) and they are still going strong.  I imagine you would be out of luck for at least the same 1-3 weeks as your friends were should you meet their stringent warranty requirements.

Crash replacement is 10% discount?  Yikes.


+4 Mammal Todd Hellinga AJ Barlas 4Runner1
Shoreboy  - April 17, 2019, 8:46 a.m.

Just my preference, but Id take the gamble on the new Flow EX over these.  As you stated they are ~$115US ($160CDN) vs $700US ($980CDN).  I guess I dont run pressures so low that I am always denting my rims, so there is little chance I would be going through 1 or 2 a season.

I am impressed at what they are able to do with carbon, but the prices are still prohibitive over the benefits in my opinion.


+4 Shoreboy AJ Barlas Niels 4Runner1
Todd Hellinga  - April 17, 2019, 9:40 a.m.

I have a pair of flow ex's on hope hubs that are well into 5 seasons of smashing, I'm not a heavy weight by any stretch, but they've seen plenty of hard riding and racing. the new EX3's are pretty much top of my next wheel list.


+1 Timer
IslandLife  - April 17, 2019, 9:29 a.m.

Expensive, heavy and carbon. The trifecta of items I typically avoid in my wheelsets, pass.

Of course I am totally dismissing the technology here, but couldn't the same thing be done in aluminum? For less money? And maybe even less or similar weight? As they say, the tech comes from the moto world where they do it with aluminum. Are aluminum versions on the way?

Also that picture showing one edge of the rim being pinched while the side of the tire happy remains almost fully expanded kinda rubs me the wrong way...


+2 IslandLife 4Runner1 Tjaard Breeuwer Jacob Richard
Timer  - April 17, 2019, 10:51 a.m.

Some say that the flat profile rims are just an easier, cheaper way to build carbon rims and the whole "Moto" story was thought up afterwards to justify and market the cost-cutting as a feature.


+2 Cam McRae 4Runner1
Andy Eunson  - April 17, 2019, 9:33 a.m.

My personal experience with Zipp road wheels was less than stellar. The first set had an uneven brake track that pulsed under braking. Then the spokes on the rear wheel all became loose. No thread lock of any sort. Then the front hub was recalled. I agree with the above sentiment that the drawing of the rim twisting is hyperbole. Also with that much compliance, the spokes will be loaded and unloaded far more than a standard rim. I think that will end up breaking spokes more rapidly. I read that a special spoke washer will be used to allow for some movement at the nipple rim connection.


Please log in to leave a comment.