New Old Wheels, Zip 303s

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I have been debating the value of posting about my wheel purchase back in early January, but I like them so much I figure I what the heck. If you don't want to know about 2007 model wheels skip this post.

Back in early January, Mavic released a recall on all R-SYS front wheels. In case you have not seen the recall notice it is here. It said that it would not be shipping replacement wheels until the end of March, but would provide some of their low end wheels for keeps so that R-SYS owners would not be wheelless. I was not too concerned about being without wheels, since I had a couple other wheels and likely would ride my Rolfs, but I was thinking that March was a long way off. And knowing sort of how some of those recalls work I was pessimistic about seeing a new wheel by May or June.

Well it so happened that my usual shop (Schwab) had a new, unused pair of 2007 Zip 303s Clinchers they were looking to get rid of. So, of my four wheel sets, I paid the least for these 303s but they are the most expensive wheels I own. In other words, I got a kick-ass deal. These being 2007 models, I think the main difference when compared to the 2008 and current model is the '07s have a smooth surface and the newer models have dimples sort of like a golf ball. These dimples reduce drag, but honestly, I think only the pros at the top of their game would be able to know the difference, and since I am far from any sort of pro I was not going to worry about dimples.

Anyway, I remember my first ride. These wheels are fast. There is a particular downhill stretch on my warmup that I usually coast down and with no effort at all I was doing 5mph faster than on either my R-SYS or my Elans. Weight wise, the 303s are ~300g heavier than the R-SYS, but the aerodynamics seem to make up for it on the downhill. Since I like to pretend I am a climber, the real test has been some of my climbing rides. This has ranged so far (remember, this is Feb. and I just got these in Jan. and it is winter) from a couple 4500ft climbing days over 4-10% grades to short extremely hard climbing exercises on 1-2mi stretches of 10-17% grades. These 303s have proven to be pretty decent for climbing. I love them. I recently compared them to my Elans which are very light but suffer on the stiffness side and I think I would rather climb on the heavier 303s than on the Elans. Plus, with the 303s being stiff and aero, it makes the descent that much faster (and fun and dangerous). The only down side is the 303s do pick up cross winds. I got caught out in 75mph gusts, not only did I get blown off the road, I was blown off my bike and was afraid the bike was going to blow away. That is an extreme case. Lower cross winds seem to be manageable as long as they are not gusty.

All in all I love the 303s. When I get the Mavics back I'll have to do a comparison again. I do have a bit of frustration with the Mavics and how I seem to tear the valve stem quite often causing sudden ruptures during rides one of which almost cause me a nasty accident. So, when they are back we'll see how they stack up.

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