First Look | The Zipp 3ZERO MOTO takes an unusual approach to carbon mountain bike wheels

US-based wheel manufacturer, Zipp, is best known for its flashy deep-section carbon fibre road wheels, which have been the hoop of choice for skinny roadies and triathletes for a long time. Aside from a brief flirtation with off-road wheels some 30 years ago, Zipp has largely focussed its efforts on the road side of the market. Well, until now that is.

Zipp comes storming into the carbon mountain bike wheel market with the brand new 3Zero Moto.

Zipp Goes Moto

For 2019, Zipp is rolling out a brand new wheelset that is unlike anything it has ever built before. Called the 3Zero Moto, this high-end carbon fibre mountain bike wheelset is purpose-built with hard trail riding and enduro racing in mind.

Now it might a little odd to see an enduro wheelset wearing the Zipp name, but the 3Zero Moto hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Having been bought out by SRAM back in 2007, Zipp has established itself as the core wheel brand underneath the SRAM umbrella. SRAM has made road and off-road wheels in the past, but those models have all been phased out. Moving forward, it looks like Zipp will be taking the reins when it comes to wheels.

The 3Zero Moto wheels are designed for hard trail thrashing and enduro racing.

Where’s The Other Wall Mate?

There are a lot of carbon fibre mountain bike wheels on the market, but the Zipp 3Zero Moto isn’t like a lot of those wheels. Rather than using a traditional hollow double-wall structure – a profile that had been copied over from alloy mountain bike rims – the 3Zero Moto employs an unusual single-wall carbon fibre rim.

Why single-wall? According to Zipp, it’s all about increasing compliance to create a smoother ride and a stronger wheel. Without need for a hollow structure in the middle, the single-wall structure can be built thicker and with a higher compaction rate compared to conventional hollow carbon rims that rely on thinner carbon walls.

And the solid carbon rims are supposed to be hella tough – so much so that Zipp offers a 120kg rider weight limit and a lifetime warranty to the original owner. The really impressive thing about this lifetime warranty is that you’re covered even if you break the rims while riding. That’s some serious confidence in a product right there.

The carbon fibre rims are solid – there is no hollow cavity inside these like most other carbon rims out there.

Stiffer Ain’t Always Better

The other reason for the single-wall construction is compliance. This is something we’ve seen other brands focus on of late, following years of making super-stiff, deep-section carbon rims. While a stiff rim might feel razor-sharp and accurate on the trail, they can also be quite unforgiving and uncomfortable to ride, with more of those vibrations and impacts making their way to the rider’s contact points. In comparison, a more compliant wheel will offer greater comfort, and potentially more forgiveness when being pummelled through rock gardens.

Now it’s worth pointing out that Zipp is neither the first brand to focus on compliance, or build a single-wall carbon fibre rim. Mello Bouwmeeseter, of Bouwmeester Composites, developed the Aussie-manufactured Tammar V4.8 wheelset some years ago, which also features a single-wall carbon rim. Those wheels were beautifully smooth and quiet to ride, with a very calm feel even when the trail was super rough.

Mello has since been snapped up by Crank Brothers, where he spearheaded the development team for the new Synthesis wheels alongside Jason Schiers (formerly of ENVE). If you’re not familiar with the story of Adelaide-lad-making-it-big-in-the-MTB-world, then check out that story here.

bouwmeester tammar carbon rim
Bouwmeester was the first brand to offer a single-wall carbon fibre rim.

Err, Ankle Compliance?

Needless to say, there are some similarities between Bouwmeester’s single-wall rim and the 3Zero Moto from Zipp.

The 3Zero Moto rim profile is also extremely shallow, which aside from being a real pain in the arse to take photos of, also offers what Zipp refers to as ‘Ankle Compliance’. This is all about letting the rim flex at the contact point on the ground, much in the same way that a trail runner’s ankle would flex when contacting rocks and off-camber surfaces. Rather than pinging off those awkwardly-angled rocks and impacts, the rim is more likely to deform and mould around them – kind of like how a tyre does.

Again, this is all about increasing compliance and ensuring a smoother, more rattle-free ride quality.

Those rims are so shallow! It does mean there’s less real estate for graphics, but Zipp has its reasons for the single-wall design.

What Are The Specs?

Zipp will be offering the 3Zero Moto as a complete wheelset in both 27.5in and 29in diameters. There’s a single rim profile (for now), which features a 30mm internal rim width that’s designed to suit most modern mountain tyres between 2.3-2.6in wide.

The rims are of course tubeless ready, and our test set came setup with with a central groove that allows the spoke nipples to sit low down and underneath the tubeless rim tape. The rims use a hookless profile, with 3.75mm thick beads that are about as stout as we’ve seen from a carbon mountain bike rim. Spoke holes are drilled 2.5mm from the centre of the rim, which aims to better balance spoke lengths and tensions for a more durable wheel.

Thick, hookless carbon beads for impact strength.

The complete wheels are built around Zipp’s own ZM1 hubs, which feature large alloy hub shells that are packed with stainless steel sealed cartridge bearings. The rear hub gets the 4-pawl DoubleTime freehub mechanism that delivers 52 points of engagement. If you’re not on the Boost-wagon yet then you’re out of luck here – the 3Zero Moto wheels only come with Boost hub spacing.

Each wheel uses 32 x Sapim D-Light spokes and Secure Lock alloy nipples, which are strung together in a good ol’ fashioned 3-cross lacing pattern. We reckon mechanics will be pleased by the externally adjustable nipples, spoke washers, and J-bend spokes too.

The hubs are Boost-only, but the front hub can be converted with Torque Caps for use with modern RockShox forks.
Zipp will be offering the rear hub with both SRAM XD and Shimano HG freehub bodies. No word on Micro Spline, but we’re guessing that won’t be an option.
4-pawls are offset into a dual-phase, which creates 52 engagement points.

How Much?

Weight-wise, they’re not the lightest hoops out there. We’ve got a set of the 29er wheels on test, and they came in at 1960g on our scales of truth. Given these are billed as a full-blown enduro race wheelset (with riders like Jérôme Clementz racing them all over the globe), that’s about right.

Talking dollar-y-doos, the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset will set you back the not-inconsiderable sum of $3,499. Certainly not cheap, though that’s right up there with other premium carbon wheelsets from the likes of ENVE and Crank Brothers.

It’s worth noting that if you’re the sort of rider or wheelbuilder that prefers to do it your own way though, Zipp will be offering the 3Zero Moto rims on their own. A rim on its own will sell for $1,299 in Australia. Phew!

quarq tyrewiz
Fancy digital pressure gauge talks wirelessly to your smartphone. What a world we live in!

That Whizz-Bang Pressure Gauge

Maybe going some way to ease the pain of that sticker price, is the addition of not one, but two TyreWizzes with the complete wheels. The TyreWiz comes from the Quarq stable, and follows a similar path to the Quarq ShockWiz, albeit with the ability to live-read tyre pressure. Like the ShockWiz, the TyreWiz pairs to an app on your phone to record data from the device, while providing you with stats on your tyre pressure. As well as giving personalised recommendations, it can also be setup to give you pressure alerts, which is potentially a useful tool for racers.

While we love the ShockWiz though, we’re not entirely convinced on this tyre pressure version just yet. We’re keen to give it a whirl though, and see what recommendations the app comes up with…

The 3Zero Moto wheels come with some bold claims, and we’re eager to find out if these luxurious hoops deliver.

We’ll be putting our test wheelset through the wringer over the coming months, to find out if they live up to the hype that Zipp is pedalling (Ha! Geddit?). In the meantime, check out the full specs below, and as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Zipp 3Zero Moto Wheelset Features

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