Review: Zipp’s 3Zero Moto Carbon Wheels Live Up To Their Compliance Claims

by | September 18, 2019

Light, stiff, strong; for years those have been the ultimate goals when it comes to building up a set of high-end mountain bike wheels. Recently, a different word has been appearing, especially with regards to carbon rims: compliance. It turns out there’s a tipping point when it comes to wheel stiffness, and it’s entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. Zipp’s 3Zero Moto wheels use a single-wall carbon rim design that’s designed to allow them to absorb impacts that stiffer rims would transmit directly to a rider.

As the name suggests, the inspiration for the rim design came from the motocross world, where single wall rims are the norm. The 3Zero Moto rim is designed to pivot from side to side around the spokes – Zipp calls this motion “ankle compliance.” Along with creating a more comfortable ride, Zipp also claims this can help prevent pinch flats and rim damage.

Zipp 3Zero Moto Details

• Intended use: trail / enduro
• Single wall carbon fiber rim
• 32 hole, 3-cross lacing
• 37.5mm external, 30mm internal width
• Hub: 4 pawls, 52 points of engagement
• Weight (29″): 1970 grams, 920 front / 1050 rear
• Laid up and molded in Indianapolis, USA
• Lifetime warranty
• Price: $1,999 USD / $700 rim only
www.zipp.com

The rims are laid up and molded in Indianapolis, Indiana, and come with a lifetime warranty. There are 27.5” and 29” wheelset options, which are laced to Zipp’s ZM1 hubs and retail for $1,999 USD. That price includes the TireWiz pressure gauge, which allows riders to monitor their tire pressure via a blinking LED light, or a quick look at their phone or cycling computer. The 29” wheelset tested here weighed in at 1970 grams, including valve stems, rim tape, and the TyreWiz devices.

The 3Zero Moto rims use a single wall, asymmetric design, with a 30mm internal width.

Details

We covered the story behind the wheels when they launched back in April, but it’s worth taking a moment to reiterate the key points.

As mentioned, the 3Zero Moto rims use a single wall design, as opposed to the box-style profile that’s commonly used for most aluminum and carbon rims. It wasn’t a quick process to settle on the final carbon and resin recipe – Zipp’s engineers experimented with over 112 different laminate configurations and six different resins on their way to creating the final product.

The rims have a 30mm internal width, and a 37.5mm external width. The single wall design does mean extra care needs to be taken to use the correct length spokes, since spokes that are too long could potentially poke through the rim strip. A washer is used under each spoke nipple, and a thin fabric rim strip is placed over the nipples underneath before the wider tubeless tape is applied.

Zipp’s ZM1 hubs use a four pawls design, with 6.9-degrees between engagement points.

The rims are designed specifically for use with Boost or SuperBoost hubs – the wider bracing angle of those hubs is needed to provide enough lateral stiffness.

The ZM1 hubs use a four pawl design, with 52 points of engagement – that equates to 6.9-degrees of crank rotation between engagement points. There are Hyperglide and XD driver options for the hub, but no Microspline. Riders that are keen on running a 12-speed Shimano drivetrain will need to purchase 3Zero Moto rims and build up their own wheelset.

Ride Impressions

My first rides on these wheels took place in Portugal, where I was able to do back-to-back runs, pitting them against Specialized’s Roval carbon wheels. The difference in that case was eye-opening, and made it clear just how much more comfortable the 3Zero Motos felt in rocky, hard-packed terrain. I don’t consider the Rovals to be uncomfortably stiff at all, but after switching back to them it felt like I was getting knocked around and pushed off line much more often than with the Zipp wheels. With the 3Zero Motos, the increased traction in rock gardens and chunky corners made it feel like I’d significantly dropped my tire pressure, even though that variable hadn’t been changed. That feeling persisted during my testing on the rooty, loamy trails of the Pacific Northwest – the wheels have a way of muting harder impacts and tracking the ground that’s very enjoyable.

If there’s a noticeable difference between carbon vs. carbon, how about carbon vs. aluminum? Compared to a set of Stan’s Flow EX3 wheels that I also had in for testing the difference in ride quality wasn’t nearly as dramatic. However, it did seem like the Zipp wheels had a more ‘springy’ feel to them. It’s a tricky sensation to put into words, and it was a fairly subtle difference, but the Zipps felt like they did a better job of absorbing impacts when I was pinballing through really rough sections of trail, a feeling that I preferred.

The one scenario where the 3Zero Moto’s performance faltered a bit was in the bike park, on high-speed, hard-packed bermed turns. I had a couple instances where the handling felt vague, similar to what it feels like when an underinflated tire rolls over on the rim. If I was spending the majority of my time schralping berms on machine built trails I’d probably want something stiffer, but that was really the only scenario where the wheels felt on the verge of being too compliant.

Recently, a few companies have released wheelsets with different rim profiles in the front and rear, pairing a stiffer rear wheel with a more compliant front. It’d be nice to see that as an option in the future from Zipp, especially for bigger riders who may want a more precise feel from the back end of their bike. During testing, I found myself installing just the front 3Zero Moto on a bike when I knew I’d want the maximum amount of traction and comfort; wet weather rides on rough terrain being the prime example.

Durability

The 3Zero Moto rims have survived everything I’ve subjected them to, including multiple big days in the Whistler Bike Park. Most of the aluminum rims I’ve spent time on in the park this summer have ended up with at least a small dent or two, or needed multiple trips to the truing stand. With the 3Zero rims, they’ve barely required any attention other than a couple of minor spoke adjustments. The low profile shape also seems to have the added benefit of not getting scuffed and scraped up as easily as taller rims – there are barely any marks to be seen. I haven’t had any flat tires either (knock on wood), despite several big impacts that I was sure would have inflicted some damage.

The bearings are still spinning smoothly, although a tiny bit of play has developed in one of the rear hub bearings. The hub engagement isn’t the absolute quickest out there, but it’s quick enough that I didn’t give it a second thought. If I was in considering these wheels, I’d likely go the rim-only route in order to build them up with a hub that could accept SRAM XD and Shimano Microspline freehub bodies.

TyreWiz

It’s easy to poke fun at the TyreWiz, and with a $200 aftermarket retail price the “Who needs that? My thumb is all I need…” comments are understandable, but it actually ended up being one of my favorite features of these wheels. Once the desired tire pressure range is chosen using the app, the blinking LED light makes it easy to quickly assess whether or not you need to add more air before a ride. A slow blinking red light indicates an underinflated tire, a fast blinking red light signifies it’s overinflated, and green means everything’s good to go.


Pros

+ Deliver extra traction, especially in rough terrain
+ Very comfortable and compliant
+ TyreWiz is a convenient feature

Cons

On the heavier side for high-end carbon wheels
May feel too soft for bigger riders
Made-in-USA doesn’t come cheap


Pinkbike’s Take

bigquotes Zipp are rolling down the right path with the 3Zero Moto wheels – they’re very comfortable, and track very well in rough terrain. They’ve also held up extremely well to five months of hard usage. Yes, there are lighter and less expensive options out there, but the single wall rim design does offer tangible benefits on the trail.  Mike Kazimer


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