Last fall we had the chance to visit SRAM in Chicago, head out on a ride, grab some lunch and learn a bit about their eTap system and their new ZIPP 302 wheelset. Their modern offices were decked out with locker rooms, showers, bike storage and of course some pretty special bikes. It was pretty much like being a kid in a candy store. We were also fortunate enough to get the chance to check out their eTap Drivetrain and 302 wheels for a bit.
Back in the day, fancy carbon wheels were like grandma’s fine china and were only used on Sundays and special events. Well nowadays, we don’t have fancy china and carbon wheels are on our bikes 365 days a year. Part of this has to do with the “value” oriented carbon wheels on the market; the other half has to do with people shelling out cash as fast as they can drink craft beer. Now you can pick up a pair of wheels for a relatively low price of $1,600 or less (that’s 4x the price of my first car) and lots of brands are offering this in conjunction with their flagship wheels. Pay a little less, get a little less, but the performance offered is still more than most people need.
Normally priced from $1,000 to $1,600, these “affordable wheels” can offer tremendous value and a coolness factor when done right. Priced at $1,500, ZIPP’s new 302 wheelset is aimed squarely at this rapidly growing segment. Unlike many competitors at this price point, Zipp has been around for nearly 30 years. And, like every other ZIPP wheelset, these rims are made in the United States, tested and of course, are backed by ZIPP’s customer service.
Deep dish carbon wheels are like tattoos, you really don’t need them, but you look badass when you have them.
ZIPP 302 Wheelset compared to the Workhorse Zipp 303 Wheelset
ZIPP wanted the 302 Carbon Clincher to deliver the ride that Zipp wheels are renowned at a price that makes Zipp carbon quality and performance more attainable than ever. By sharing technology from the 302’s big brother, ZIPP obtained this pretty well.
The 302 wheelset shares a little bit of design with the existing Firecrest 303 in the rim and then it stops there. From 10 yards away it would be hard to tell a difference just by looking. On the bike it would be just as difficult for the average rider and racer to tell the difference without looking. Both wheels utilize a 45mm depth and aero profile, but the 302 rim lacks ZIPP’s hallmark aero enhancing dimple pattern. By utilizing a smooth rim profile, Zipp is able to reduce manufacturing time — and cost. One thing to note, this rim is also NOT TUBELESS compatible. Zipp does offer this wheel in both rim and disk brake versions.
The next difference on the Zipp 302 wheels is the hub. The 302 rims are laced to a newer more budget-friendly hub set called the 76/176 hubs. They share the same internals as the pricier 77/177 hubs, but use a simpler hub shell and J-bend spokes instead of straight pull spokes. Zipp opted for Sapim CX Sprint J-Bend spokes and brass spoke nipples to build the 302, creating a wheel that is fast but can withstand the day-to-day beatings including gravel, bike trails and some questionable road surfaces. The 302 sports two extra spokes upfront, for a total of 20 and the rear is 24 which is the same as the 303.
ZIPP 302 Wheelset Options
The 302 is available in both rim and disc brake versions. The rim brake wheelset has a claimed weight of 1,645 g (740 g front/905g rear). The disc version comes in 50 grams heavier at 1,695g (785g front/910g rear). Both versions have a 16.25mm internal width, which Zipp says is ideal for 25mm to 28mm road tires. Neither wheel is tubeless compatible and only the disk version is available in thru-axle. You can also pick between black and white decals.
Know What You Are Riding
So what do you do? While numerous wheels on the market are good for consumer pricing, is it good for consumer safety? That is where we question all this. You can pick up wheels on eBay straight from China, brands you have never heard about, or worse yet, a brand that does not have quality control or a warranty.
While talking with a ZIPP competitor a year or two back, the company’s CEO mentioned the wheels they used to get were having a lot of problems, once they started a quality control process and started sending back the crap wheels, all of a sudden things got better. Great for them, but what about the brands out there that don’t have testing in place? What about the brands that don’t oversee their manufacturing? We’re not talking about a tee shirt where the seam might come apart, we are talking about a wheel that can fail at 40+ mph.
Some people think when they pay for a pair of wheels they are paying for a name and a professional team or athlete to ride them, while that may be the case and it is all part of marketing, but you are also paying for research, testing, quality control, and a sense of confidence.
Is the ZIPP 302 as fast as the competition
Well, we went to go out back to our wind tunnel with our wheels and several from the competition and soon realized we didn’t have a wind tunnel … CRAP.
All kidding aside, according to ZIPP the 302 was designed to be an all-around wheel. Zipp says that the 302’s 45mm rim profile, with the same depth, has proven to be “sweet spot” for all around riding as proven by the 303 in the Spring Classics. Think flat wind-swept terrain, punchy hills and prolonged climbs. This is a do-it-all wheel.
Our Conclusion on the ZIPP 302 Wheelset
So the most common wheel in ZIPP’s lineup is the 303 that comes in at a claimed weight of 1,480 g and the 302 comes in at a claimed weight of 1,645g (rim brake). A whopping 165g difference. To put that into perspective, the iPhone X in your pocket weights 174g. Wait, did we forget to mention those three craft beers last night and that burger that seemed like a great idea after those beers? So here is the skinny, as a rider or a racer are you going to notice this? Our guess is no. This wheelset is fast and light enough for chasing Stravas, group rides and even racing. The 302 is a good wheelset, hands down.
ZIPP Tangente Tires
On a side note, we mounted our ZIPP 302 Wheelset with 25mm ZIPP Tangente RT25 tires, a road tubeless tire designed for fast riding and racing and strictly on pavement. We ran tubes in the tire since it the 302’s are not tubeless compatible.