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I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical of the new Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Tubeless Disc Brake wheelset before I rode it.

I’d learned to love the unique combination of comfort and speed of the 303 NSW disc road wheels that Zipp sadly dropped from their line-up after introducing this new Firecrest. And the also new, low-priced 303 S (reviewed here) I tested before the Firecrest didn’t ride like any Zipp wheelset I’ve ever known.

So while I wasn’t sure what to expect, I feared that Zipp and their new, more jagged-looking logo might still be finding their way with this successor to the Firecrest franchise.

After riding this 303 Firecrest disc wheelset on enough paved flats, rollers, and alpine climbs, and a full range of gravel surfaces to get a bead on its character, I can tell you it is blazing a new Firecrest path.

And, for what it costs and what it does, I like that path.

At US$2046, £1780, €1994 for a Firecrest, that path starts at a low price. With the $3200 Zipp 303 NSW disc that replaced the earlier $3200 303 Firecrest both now out of production (the $4000 Zipp 353 NSW and 454 NSW replacing them), that is the lowest it’s been for a Firecrest in, I think, ever.

Add to that, the 303 Firecrest disc is far wider (24.9mm inside, 30.0mm outside per my measurements), far lighter (1383 grams including pre-taped rims), and somewhat shallower (40.4mm) than previous Firecrests. Oh, and it only takes tubeless tires and has hookless rims.

So all that’s part of the new path, one that Zipp claims “is designed for the real world… a world of imperfect conditions, road surfaces, and elements”. Simply put, it’s intended to be ridden on both paved and gravel roads.

For the most part, the Zipp 303 Firecrest disc pulls it off.

As a gravel bike wheelset, the 303 Firecrest is the full package. It’s comfortable and confident, or at least makes me feel that way on any class of surface. Negotiating around rocks, ruts, branches, in and out of lines, this wheelset is nimble and responsive.

Zipp 303 Firecrest Disc on gravel

Stiffness is a plus on these 303 Firecrests. Notably, stiffness wasn’t always a characteristic strength on previous Firecrests and isn’t on other Zipp wheels if you are a heavy rider or putting a lot of watts into them. This greater stiffness also shows up on gravel climbs, where the new 303 Firecrest disc excels.

The hubs also perform well on unpaved roads. They engage relatively quickly and provide the acceleration you frequently depend on riding gravel roads with their regularly changing pitches and surfaces.

Zipp uses their own ZR1 hubset on this Firecrest, a 6-pawl, 6 degrees of engagement affair. This is also a new model for them, something they seem to do with hubs every few years. Because of that, it’s frustratingly hard to know how they’ll hold up over time.

On paved alpine climbs, I found the 303 Firecrest Zipp to be nearly equal to the best lightweight disc wheels like the ENVE SES 3.4 and Bontrager Aeolus 37 RSL. It wasn’t as snappy as the ENVEs or as quick as the Bontrager, but it was steady, strong, and felt like nearly every watt of power I put into the wheels went right to the road.

At a measured 1383 grams with the Shimano/SRAM 10/11-speed compatible freehub on the wheelset I tested, its light weight (about 30 grams heavier than the Bontrager and 40-50 grams lighter than the ENVEs) clearly makes it one you’d want to join you going up long, steep climbs.

On flatter paved roads and rollers, some of the differences between the Zipp 303 Firecrest disc and more expensive ENVEs and Bontragers and more expensive Zipp 353 NSW came out. The ENVE, Bontrager, and NSW are more comfortable and roll smoother on paved roads.

On paved roads, I used Zipp’s Tangente Speed Road Tubeless tires, ones I’ve found to be among the best tubeless tires, to do A-B and A-B-C comparative testing of the ENVE SES 3.4 AR, Zipp 303 NSW, and new Zipp 303 Firecrest. The Firecrest and ENVE 3.4 AR with their 25mm internal width rims got 28mm Tangentes inflated to the same pressure, while the 21mm internal rim width 303 NSW was shod with 25mm Tangentes inflated to the appropriate pressure for their widths, and my weight.

Each of these wheelsets uses different hubs and layups. That might explain the comfort differences.


While I don’t expect top-end aero performance from a 40mm deep wheelset, the 30mm outside width of the Firecrest vs. the 32mm measurement of the ENVE 3.4 AR front wheel might explain the speed difference I felt in its ability to hold speed.

But at its price and used primarily for gravel and alpine climbing, the Zipp Firecrest 303 disc wheelset is a great option for those riding purposes and a good value. And, for what that’s worth, I’m somewhat partial to the new logo too.

You can order it through these links to recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), Merlin, and Tweeks Cycles.

You can see how the Zipp 303 Firecrest Disc compares to other gravel wheels here and to other lightweight, climbing wheels here.

In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive, and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.


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  • Would you recommend these or the 303s for 28mm tires on primarily rough paved roads with occasional gravel riding? Priorities are aerodynamics, weight, and longevity. Thanks!

    • Hi Graham, I’d recommend the 303 Firecrest over the 303 S for the kind of riding you are doing with 28mm tires. The Firecrest has a wider internal rim (25mm vs 22.5mm) which will give you more compliance on the rougher roads and gravel with the wider tires. It’s also a good deal lighter and has a more robust hubset. Steve

      • Just what I was looking for. Thanks, Steve!

      • I’m in the same situation as Graham except that I will rarely go gravel. Do you still recommend 303 Firecrest over 303 S? Also, any other carbon disc wheelsets to consider in this price range?

        • Ed, I do. My comparative review of wheelsets in the 303 Firecrest price range can be found here. For comparative reviews in the 303 S range, go here. Steve

          • I’m about to pull the trigger on these wheels after reading your review and several other reviews. Sounds like a great set of wheels, even for recreational riders like me (~1,000 miles/year). And definitely a great upgrade to the stock DT Swiss R470 wheels on my 2020 Roubaix Comp.

            Although I’ll be riding basically exclusively road, is it worth it to have 30 or 32 mm tubeless tires for this wheelset? Or should I stick with 28 mm? I suppose it depends on factors such as typical road condition, topography, average speed, etc but perhaps the comfort and energy saved of the 30/32 may be better than any aero benefits of the 28.

          • Ed, The 303 Firecrest will indeed be a very nice upgrade over the DT Swiss stock wheels. If the site has helped you make your wheelset decision, I hope you’ll consider supporting it by buying your wheels after clicking on one of the links to the stores we recommend for their price, service, selection, and support. As to the tires, there’s already a lot of comfort built into your Roubaix Comp and you won’t get a noticeable aero improvement with 28mm tires over 30 or 32mm ones based on what I’m guessing your average speed is as a recreational rider. The biggest benefit you’ll notice going to a good 30 or 32mm tire over a 28mm one will be better handling with no downside that I can tell. That’s a smart move to go for the wider tires. Steve

  • Hey Steve, great articles on carbon wheels. I’m going from a Dogma F8 rim brake with 303 NSWs to a Dogma F12 disc and I have selected the new 303 Firecrests but I have the chance to change. I.m a 215 guy that is strictly road and am a B rider 17.5 to 18 mph avg rider and loved the NSW,s that I had for long rides. I want fast a bulletproof and easy to maintain wheel set. The NSWs were great but required special oil and servicing by skilled techs. Are the new Firecrests the best choice because I’ve never used Envee wheels before. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Steve, The F12, as with a lot of newer high-end bikes, is designed to be a lot more aero than the F8. I’d expect you’ll be going faster than you have before because of it. Just hope it’s stiff enough for you. The F8 rim brake bike Nate and I tested didn’t have a very stiff rear triangle and we only weigh around 150. In keeping with the aero design of the F12, you’d be better off with an aero wheelset (reviews here) or at least a deeper all-around one (here) than the Firecrest Disc. Aero isn’t the strong suit of the new Firecrest Disc. Steve

      • Thanks Steve. I have more question. My weekly/ daily routes are 2k to 3k but also I will be doing some more frequent 4K to 5k of climbing and need to be prepared. I enjoyed the 303 NSW wheels but maybe I was leaving some performance on the table. I saw your top pick was the 4.5 Enve, can please give a couple of suggestions can would be good for rolling sand climbing as well as flats? Like a said before I love riding 40 plus miles at a time and doing a lot of metrics but I am planning some climbing trips as well and will be running a bigger cassette for those trips. Once agin, great articles and thank you so much, Steve

  • Hi Steve! and hello readers!

    Thanks so much for what you do here with this website. The information you share, and the way you share it, has been an invaluable resource to me. I check this site often if there are new articles and am always excited to see a new one. Also great about your site are the comments and your interaction with everyone, super cool.

    A bit about me and my journey: I’m 6’4” and weigh in at around 200 to 210lbs. Finding bike components with adequate stiffness has been a very expensive challenge.

    Frames that are reviewed as stiff can end up like a wet noodle once in the 62 cm range and that can only be determined after assembly and testing.
    Most long stems feel like rubber, FYI the Easton EA90 stems solve that.
    Some rear wheels with high end spokes constantly came loose until the drive side were replaced with heavy duty spokes like the DT Aero Comp.
    For years I’ve stayed away from lightweight factory wheelsets but had some recent luck with stiffness, but not with their tiny bearings.
    As you can imagine tire size and pressure have a huge impact on me. 28mm is the smallest I will ride. So far 32mm at about 63psi has been fantastic.

    I’ve been thinking about an aero wheelset for a long time but have been afraid to pull the trigger. I ride for fun and have taken aero more and more seriously over the years. I’ve had a recent bike fit and found a slightly better position. I have a bike with aero features and can feel the difference compared to others. When comparing the various wheels in stock, the ones with 24 bladed spokes make a noticeable difference. The 32 spoke bladed roll with less effort than their similar rounded siblings. I typically hover around 32 to 35km/h without much issue on 32mm GP5000 paired to a 21mm deep aluminium rim. All my road rims are 20mm wide (internal), and about 21mm deep. I really notice and enjoy the forward reaction and confidence in steering/cornering that a stiff wheelset offers. If an aero wheelset will make the speed range I travel at a bit easier, then I’ll be happy.

    So all that said,
    Where do you rate the 303 Firecrest in your comparison table? Does it get a + for stiffness?
    Does it maintain momentum?
    Do you think it fits my profile? Or is the ENVE still the undisputed king, even for my use case?

    Thanks a lot,


    • Bob, Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for what I try to do with the site. I welcome your support.

      As to your situation and questions, yes the 303 Firecrest disc is plenty stiff but isn’t an aero wheelset and won’t add anything to the aero improvements you’re trying to make. For that, I’d go to the deeper and wider ENVE 4.5 AR. It will be stiffer still and with the right 28mm tubeless tire that sizes slightly narrower than the front rim (see my tubeless chart for the 3.4 AR here) you’ll max out the aero performance. You could put a 32mm tire on the rear wheel to max out your comfort with little effect on aero performance. Compared to the narrower alloy rims you are riding now, you’ll find these far stiffer and more comfortable at your weight even with 28mm on both wheels. Steve

  • Very interesting and in-depth research provided on this site. When I bought wheels in early 2019 it helped clarify some of the differences in these wheels (Gen 1, 2, 3, etc.). The articles on the different ‘tiers’ of wheels manufacturer was interesting as well. As Steve notes, he considers quality an important attribute of wheel selection – obviously, this makes sense, and I don’t question his opinions on this. However, my comment relates more specifically to warranty and my experience trying to claim.

    After a fair bit of research I bought the Zipp 303 Firecrest golf ball dimples version. Good solid reliable wheels I thought, and I did take them off-road occasionally. Unfortunately, less than 18 months later I hit a pothole (as happens on UK roads) – thought nothing more of it until I got home, where I found significant cracks in the side of the rear rim. I tried a warranty claim with a well known UK web retailer and the retailer / Zipp declined the claim as it was caused by ‘impact’, and offered no discount or replacement options whatsoever.

    Sure you can argue rider error, but now I am looking much more closely at the manufacturer warranty policies and Zipp seems to stand alone in the premium brands with this approach. They are now lauding their new ‘lifetime warranty’ and crash replacement ‘discount’, but there are equivalent brands giving replacements even in circumstances as mine e.g. Bontrager (a friend had the same issue as me and got a new wheel, and even a courtesy wheel while he was waiting).

    In summary – look closely at warranty before you part with your cash! In particular, be very wary with Zipp – I of course will not be buying any SRAM/Zipp product ever again.

  • Hi Steve, first, sorry for my English.
    I write you because I want to ask you some questions about the Zipp 303 firecrest 2021. First of all I ride only on road, not gravel. A year ago I tested a pair of Zipp 454 NSW and the sensations were very good, but in addition of the price, I’m looking for wheels with less shallow than the 454, so the responsible of the shop where I buy the material, recommended me the Zipp 303 firecrest. I usually ride a minimum of 70 km and a maximum of 120 km, although I like to increase the distance, and always I climb one or two mountain’s port, its means between 10 or 30 km of climb in each ride.
    Now I have a pair of Syncros RP 2.0 Disc with 28 mm tyre, so with the new wheels I want to improve the aerodynamic, reduce the weight, and improve the sensation of security in the downhills, because the downhills are very bad for my.
    My principal doubt about the new zipp 303 firecrest is the low pressure, usually I ride nearly 101 psi (not tubeless) and this wheels are limited to 73 psi, with the low pressure It is possible that will I have the sensation of the wheels are flat? Could low pressure be a penalty in flat roads?
    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Gonzalo, The two wheelsets you are comparing – the Zipp 454 NSW and Zipp 303 Firecrest disc – are very, very different. The only things they have in common is they are both made by Zipp and they are both sold by your bike shop. Most bike shops will only recommend wheels they sell and those might not be the best wheels for you. That’s why I started and continue to post to this website. I encourage you to consider what wheelset would be best for you. For that purpose, I wrote this review.

      As to your questions, the answer to both is no. Wheels with a 25mm internal rim width have more volume than those like your Syncros with a 19mm width. Riding at a lower pressure in a higher volume wheel will give you the same amount of force opposing your weight as a wheel with lower volume at a higher pressure. Steve

  • How does the 2021 Zipp 303 Firecrest compare in crosswinds with the Enve 3.4 AR? I’ve been considering these two, but my spouse is quite a bit lighter than me and feels buffeted by crosswinds more, so I’d prefer the more stable set since they otherwise seem reasonably similar.

    • Hi Jim, I’m 145 lbs and didn’t sense any effect of crosswinds on either wheelset. Neither are very deep and most modern wheelsets from companies like Zipp and ENVE that have been designing and testing carbon rims for a few generations now don’t have crosswind issues anymore with even deeper rims. Steve

  • Hi Steve.

    Another great article. I’m an enthusiast cyclist, 85kg, who rides 3000-4000 miles a year (mix of flat and hills) average 18mph solo and my wilier is spec to take 28mm tires with my current wheels of DT Swiss RR22 dicut Schwalbe Pro One TLE 28mm. For this combination I measure the tire to be 28mm wide

    I was getting close to pulling the trigger on the 303 Firecrest when I was reading one of your articles “ZIPP 303 JOINS THE PARTY” which mentioned the space needed in the chainstays for 30mm rims. My Wilier forks and seatstay are 40mm+ but the chain stay narrows to 36mm at the leading edge of the wheel and to 34-35mm at the widest point of the tire which makes me think I close to the limits of what I can fit in the rear and the 303 Firecrest may push me beyond what the bike can fit.

    The reason for the upgrade was to gain little aero and maybe loose a little weight, gain bit of comfort and handling and if I’m being honest make the bike a bit cooler too. The firecrest was close to the upper end of what I’m willing to spend and if I’m correct and it’s to wide for the frame would you recommend the 303s or another wheelset to work with 28mm tubeless tires. One of the issue’s I’m a little concerned about with the 303s is that it uses the older hub and these hubs have a bad reputation in the UK because of the wet weather.

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Mark, Your goals and the gear you are thinking about may not be in sync. A 28mm tire is only going to be “aero” with a rim that’s at least 30mm and likely more like 32mm wide externally and at least 45mm deep. There aren’t many of those. The right 25mm tire can be comfortable and aero on the right 45mm+ wheelset but most are going to cost you at least what the 303 Firecrest Disc does. And while I know it’s hard to avoid the rain riding in the UK, it’d be a shame to buy an expensive wheelset that is going to require a lot of service if you plan to ride it often in the bad weather. I’d suggest you prioritize your riding objectives between comfort, aero, weather, etc. a bit, and knowing your budget and the limits of your frame, take another whack at your options. Check out my tubeless tires review for tire/rim width aero considerations and my review of how to choose the right wheels for you to prioritize and lead you to a wider range of options. Cheers, Steve

      • Thanks Steve

        After lots of reading on your informative site, thinking and measuring what will fit in my bike I think I nearly there and likely to go with the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 TLR Disc. I was initially looking for something nearer 45-50mm to give a bit more aero gain but as I will likely continue to use 28mm tires and it needs to be an all round wheel that’s as good at climbing as it is on the flats then this looks like a good option. There’s the added bonus I can buy if from my LBS that I have used since I was a child.

        There’s the outside chance that I could go with the Hunt 44 UD Carbon spokes as friends have recommended them and they have a some good reviews from the usual publications. You didn’t seem to be a fan of the Hunt 50 carbon wheels and I wonder if the newer 44 wheels are any better although I suspect the hubs will be just as loud which would not be to my liking.

        Thanks again, Mark

        • Mark, There’s not a whole lot of difference between the two in terms of their aero/flats performance or climbing characteristics. The Firecrest is a capable gravel wheelset; the Aeolus is not. There’d be other reasons to choose between them that I outline in the reviews and of course your preferred shop would be another reason.

          I’ve no experience with the Hunt 44 UD carbon. Steve

  • Hi Steve, great article and information that you are providing. I am looking at the Zipp 303 Firecrest as well as considering Enve 3.4 AR and Bontrager’s Aeolus RSL 37V. I plan on using a 36-40mm tubeless slick for road use and very light gravel riding. Since I am using 1x eTap AXS any advantage to staying within the SRAM family and just get the 303 Firecrest? The reason I am also considering the RSL 37V is that it is a hooked rim which allows for more tire choices, allows more tire pressure flexibility, and perhaps more safety. Enve is also attractive given its lifetime incident protection. What would you recommend? Thank you.

    • Mario, No functional or performance benefit of staying in the SRAM family. As to hooked vs. hookless, on wheels that wide, the tire pressures you’ll be running are well within what is safe for hookless, even if you were to put on a 28mm tire for the road. All gravel tires work with hookless and most tubeless road tires do as well. ENVE’s tire compatibility chart shows a myriad of tires that work with hookless, far more than those that don’t. I haven’t ridden the RSL 37V yet but I compare the ENVE 3.4AR, Zipp 303 Firecrest, and RSL 37 in this review of climbing wheels. Steve

  • It’s not possible to detect the impact on speed of the aero or rolling resistance differences between the 3.4 AR and Firecrest 303 based on human perception. The differences are too small, there are too many variables and perceptions are too influenced by sensory bias.

    Stiffness and comfort, on the other hand, are easily perceived. As are many of the other points in your review.

    So my question is, why make these statements about “carrying momentum”? It tends to undercut the really good points in your review. Why not just say, “they feel really fast, which is nice” and leave it at that?

    You’re not the only one who does this. If you read or cyclingtips, you’ll see some technical expert say you can’t tell in the same issue some reviewer writes “the sense of incremental speed was palpable….”

    The reason I’m commenting is I’m trying to decide if these new 303s are legit or marketing hype and I can’t test ride them, so I’m very dependent on the reviews. Yours is one of the most thorough, so I’d really like to rely on it…

    • Mitch, OK. I get your passion and frustration on this topic. As with all my reviews, I describe what I and my fellow testers experience with each product in comparison to others we’ve tested as best we can. Our perspective is that of a fellow cycling enthusiast trying to decide what gear we should get based on using the product and tuning out the marketing hype rather than a paid reviewer for an ad-supported cycling publication and all the potential conflicts that come from that. It may not make us any better or worse or more right or wrong, it’s just where we’re coming from.

      In addition to what I’ve written in the post and in response to your central question, yes, the new 303 Firecrests are legit in the sense that they perform the way I’ve described from our experience, regardless of whatever Zipp says in their marketing. Steve

      • Hi Steve. What are the wt limits for the 202 and 303 zip clinchers rim break wheelset? Arthur

        • Arthur, Haven’t ridden the current 303 Firecrest rim brake wheels but my 200 lb fellow tester found earlier models to not be stiff enough for hard riding. Zipp doesn’t make the 202 Firecrest clincher anymore. Steve

  • Avid reader of your site; first time commenting. I just picked up this wheelset for my 2017 Roubaix, relegating my Mavic Kysriums for winter duty. Up until this point, my only carbon wheel experience was on a friend’s Madone SL7 with Bontrager’s mid-value hoops, so I didn’t have much of a conclusion to draw. After putting the 303 Firecrests on with Schwalbe Pro One tires, the difference between my alloy hoops and these were night and day. Like you, I found that they love to climb amd were very efficient, using what feels like all of my pedaling power to propel me forward. Compared to the Ksyriums, these felt effortless when the road points up and fast on flat roads. Also rode very comfortably on the pock-marked roads where I ride (SE MI). I can’t relate to deeper wheelsets or the Enve ARs, which I had also considered but they were outside of my budget. The other wheelset I considered were the Enve Foundation 45s, but after reading your review, I saved up a few more pennies and went with the Firecrest. Haven’t regretted the decision! Keep up the good work!

  • Hi Steve. Thanks for the review.
    I’m currently looking for an upgrade on my endurance/off season bike and I’ve settled on the 303 firecrest with a 28mm tyre. I average 18-19mph on this set up, riding mainly road routes.
    Which tyre got close to 105% – or should I not care based on minimal aero benefit?
    Also, Do you have experience of Pirelli P Zero Race TLR’s? Them seem to be a good all round tyre.
    Thanks for your views.

    • James, I’m looking at some additional tires now to add to my tubeless tire review here. Not testing the Pirellis as independent testing of their rolling resistance came up a good deal higher than other everyday tires with a puncture belt. Aero less of a consideration for this width and hookless rims makes for better flow at the tire/rim intersection so hard to know definitively 105 applies. That said, 28c Schwalbe Pro One and Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite were best at about 102%. Steve

  • Hi Steve, I am looking to put together a disk-brake Mosaic RT2 with ENVE AR forks (max clearance 38c). I am mainly a road rider, 184cm, 83kgs and I am trying to work out whether to go for ENVE foundation 45’s (£1,850 in the UK) or Zipp 303 FCs (£1,600 in the UK.) I would be running 28c tires. I like the idea of a tire that can take me onto gravel, but I will mainly be using it on the smooth but also slightly rubbish roads and lanes of the south of England. I’d like to save the £250, but I have heard some bad stories about Zipp and delamination. Am I comparing the right tires? Should I be looking at something else entirely? I’d be really grateful for your thoughts. Phillip

    • Phillip, if you want to ride 28mm tires, at your weight and for the occasional off-road or cracked pavement ride, the wider rim is going to give you the better ride. That would be the NEW Zipp 303 FC which is 25mm internal. The ENVE 45 foundation is 21mm internal. But make sure you’re looking at the NEW 303 FC. The prior model has the same logo on it but is only 19mm internal. I’ve not seen the NEW one in stock for a while at the many stores we follow there. You can backorder the new one using this link to Tredz and get it at£1530 using the exclusive In The Know Cycling discount code ITKTDZ10. The delivery dates sound crazy out there so you might want to check with them before you order.

      Another option that’s available now is the Zipp 303 S. It’s 22.5 internal, doesn’t ride as well as the ENVE 45 but is £985 and 10% less with that same exclusive discount from Tredz. Here’s my review of it here.

      And no, I’m not aware of any delam problems with current Zipp wheels. Zipp was one of the first to make carbon wheels, they were rim brake and yes, the first generation rim brake carbon wheels from Zipp Firecrest models did have rather famous delamination problems at a couple of the spring classics. But those issues were addressed several generations ago in Zipp’s rim brake wheels and we’re now 4 generations into disc brake wheels which of course don’t brake on the rims. Steve

      • Very interesting, many thanks. Sorry, do you mean ENVE 45 in your second para?


        • Yes. Thanks. I’ll edit that.

          • A few more questions if I may! I have been comparing the ENVE foundation 45’s to the ZIPP 303FC, but a lot of people seem to compare the ZIPP 303FC to the ENVE 3.4, a model up from the 45. Is that its natural competitor, and if so, does that mate the ZIPP 3030FC a level ‘up’ from the 45?

            Also, width. the ZIPP is 30mm wide, so probably any 28mm tire should pass your rule of 105, where with the ENVE 45, only a few make it. Then there’s the inner rim width. Would the 25mm of the ZIPP give more versatility? What’s the deal with 21mm internal vs 25mm? Is 25 the future, or just more ‘AR’, the flipside being, is 21mm more ‘road’? Would you say the ZIPP 303FC with it’s width of 30mm, and inner rim of 25mm is more modern/progressive than the 45? And finally (!) what’s more aero?

          • Phillip, They’re all different wheels with different goals and approaches in mind. You’re getting tangled up in the specs. I’d suggest you focus on performance with your goals, rider profile, and budget in mind. The 45 is a value carbon road all-around. The 303 FC and 3.4 are best at climbing and can serve as slower all-arounds and the 303 FC is also a gravel wheelset. The 303 FC and 3.4 are better performers at what they do than the 45 is at what it does but neither may be right for what you want to do.

            I’d suggest you go back to my post on how to choose the best wheelsets for you and work through that to get headed in the right direction. Steve

  • Aha! Thanks. Minor light-bulb moment…

  • hello can you use tubes with a compatible tubeless tire? if so, which tire would you recommend? thank you

    • Jonathan, you can use a tube with any tubeless tire but at low inflation pressures (max 74psi recommended for this rim) expect more pinch flats. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    This review is excellent and very timely. I have a 2020 Roubaix and want to upgrade the stock DT Swiss R470 wheels to carbon tubeless. The Zipp 303 Firecrest work for my budget. I ride in the NW Oregon area. Lots of rolling hills with chip seal. My goal is to head out on 2-4 hour rides, maximize comfort and minimize flats. I am in my late 60s, 160lbs and average 16mph on my current wheels. Primarily looking for improved performance over my current wheels, good value and dependability. Will the 303 Firecrests be a good choice for me and should I be concerned about the hub? Thanks so much!

    • John, Yes, a good choice for what you describe. I had no issues with the hub on the 303 FC and also when we’ve tested it on the 404 FC. Several fellow enthusiasts I know have been riding these wheels throughout the year and they are very happy with them. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    Thanks for this review.

    I love riding long hour on my bikes, this year i’m doing 2 ?ultra races (1000km and 12000D+ each other)

    According to you, what’s the best wheels between the ZIPP 303 FIRECREST DISC or 353 NSW for this kind of ride and long hours on the saddle.

    Many thanks. Max

    • Max, having never done anything even near that long, I don’t feel worthy to offer anything other than a question – Are you crazy? 🙂

      I’m not even sure what performance criteria you prioritize (e.g. speed vs. comfort) or what the terrain is like, how fast you are going, what kind of bike you are riding, etc. All of those might help determine which of these would be better or whether another wheelset would be better still.

      Generally speaking, you would likely get more comfort out of the 353 NSW as its width would allow for a wider tire without as much handling or aero losses. It’s also lighter so would help you if you have a lot of mountain climbs on the route. But if the road is in generally good condition and the climbs aren’t too serious or many, you probably wouldn’t lose a lot by going with the 303 Firecrest and could use the saved money toward other things that might make for an easier route.

      Good luck, Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    Thank you for your this and the 404FC review.

    I live in London where many roads are plagues with debrit and pot holes.

    Looking for a new wheelset on my Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 Di2 to gain in the following – stiffness, speed, better at climbing (most rides range from 1500-2000ft of climb with one monthly 3000ft-4000ft), rolling resistance and manage cross winds.
    I weigh 65kg.

    I am trying to figure out what would be the best suited wheelset out of the following –
    303 Firecrest
    404 Firecrest
    Split – Front 303FC, Rear 404FC
    Split – Front 404FC, Rear 404 NSW

    I do not mind going for tubeless (never had tubeless before) or clincher.

    What would you suggest would be best suited for my requirements?

    • Hi Chris, I feel your pain about lousy roads. For that reason and your other objectives, I’d suggest you go with the 303 FC front and back. They’re nearly as stiff, not a great deal slower unless you are racing or averaging speeds well north of 20mph range, will climb easier, be better in crosswinds, and be more comfortable with a wider tire on their 25mm inside width rims. Rolling resistance will in part be more dependent on the tires you chose (rather than the wheels) and the pressure you set the tires at. If speed is you jam and outweighs all the other goals, you want the 404 FC and just have to deal with having to work a little harder on the climbs and managing the crosswinds. But with the Endurace bike, I’m guessing your more of an all-around rider and think the 303 FC would be a better match. Cheers, Steve

  • Steve, thanks for all the in depth reviews. So helpful. Have you experienced any water issues with your gravel carbon rims? I’m running Zipp Firecrests on my gravel bike and have found after a multi day ride that they are filling up with water. No visible weep holes but water running out of spoke holes and the valve stem if I release the lock nut after a weekend of creek crossings! Any tips?

    • Matt, No water issues on my test wheelset but I honestly didn’t test them in creek crossings. I do run through 6-12 inch deep puddles on many of my spring gravel rides but nothing like what you’re describing. Haven’t had the issue you’re describing with any of my test wheels from Zipp or others. I’d ask Zipp about this. They pre-tape the rims; perhaps there’s a defect in your set or they haven’t tested their wheels in creek crossing conditions either. If not, that’s bad on their part and they should make good on your wheels. Steve

  • Hello Steve, great review! I’ve read it very carefully as well as all the comments, since I’m considering buying these wheels for my gravel bike as a do-it-all set, and I think I’ve found already some answers.
    My concern is the hookless technology: I only have 1 bike and I’m using it for road & gravel changing tires of course. Having only 1 pair of wheels, I’m riding tubes.
    With the 303 i’ll be force to run tubeless? not that I don’t want to, but I would want to change the latex everytime.
    As per tires i’m using a 32mm for road and 40 for gravel, I could also plan to use a 33 or 34 as a do-it-all unless it’s really necessary to wider.
    What do you think? Hookless is not the best idea in my case?
    TThe other wheels I’m considering are the Parcours Ronde, 39/35mm and 1400gr, specs pretty close to 303 but hooked.

    • Dario, You may be conflating a few things here. First, you should want to run tubeless tires on gravel and road. They are faster (lower rolling resistance) than clinchers, more comfortable (run at lower pressure), and there are more gravel choices to pick from in gravel tires. Whether you use tubes or sealant is your choice. If you’ll be switching back and forth often, tubes will be easier but have drawbacks. Tubes are more prone to pinch flat, especially at lower inflation pressures and on rougher surfaces. You’ll experience both conditions on gravel and rougher paved surfaces. I don’t know of many people that run tubes in gravel tires. Using butyl tubes on road tires also adds 3-5 watts of added rolling resistance; latex tubes around 1 watt.

      Hookless vs. hooked wheels is unrelated to any of this. Most gravel tires are hookless compatible and the best road tires are now hookless compatible as well. While the current ETRTO standard recommends not inflating hookless tires beyond 70 psi, you’ll never approach the need for that pressure with the width of wheels and tires you are using. You can use tubes with hookless rims and installing tires is no easier or harder on hookless vs hooked rims. Steve

      • Hi Steve, yes you’re right, maybe I did a bit of confusion in the exposition of the concepts.
        I still use the inner tubes more for convenience, changing the tires I didn’t want to go tubeless, although I know that most of those who do gravel (but also those who do a lot of road now) go tubeless.
        Hence the “fear” of buying hookless, but if I can actually install tubes if necessary, then I’m ok. In fact even now with both road and gravel wheels, not inflated to more than 60 psi, so well within limits.
        Thanks for the reply!

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