The team at Zipp thew me a pair of their 2017 Zipp 302 Carbon Clinchers. I was not sure what to expect from these 'entry level' carbon bad boys... but I'll tell you right now, I think they are possibly the best bang for your buck wheelset available... and you'd need a pretty good lawyer to argue in the contrary.
So where to start with the 302's? I'll keep it simple and won't start talking about drag coefficients, wind angles and all that rubbish. I'll talk to you about how they felt. Well good. Very good. I've been lucky enough to be blasting around the place on a pile of wheels recently and these hoops can easily mix it with wheels that will leave your wallet a lot lighter than the 302s.
They also look awesome. They are full carbon, 45mm deep, use Zipp's 76/176 hubs, Belgian CX-Sprint spokes and built and finished very nicely and just have that tangible feeling of quality. Zipp have been pumping out fantastic wheels for years now and arguably have a lot more experience than just about any other manufacture when it comes to getting serious about wheels. Why is that a good thing you ask? Well when I'm pushing the limit coming down a hill, or pushing on hard in my group ride and don.t see that pot hole I want a wheel that's not going to fold in half and the slightest smell of trouble. I don't have time in my life for a big crash (or any crashing really) and I'll always choose equipment that has solid backing. Rant over.
To further explain this, while out on an evening ride I absolutely smashed into a pothole out near Melbourne Airport, I almost lost it but just managed to hold everything together, the rider in front of me hit the same pothole, and absolutely demolished their carbon rim and tyre. Taxi time. The Zipp... not a mark. Interestingly the rider in front of me was a bit lighter and running the exact same tyres as me.... maybe I just got lucky, or perhaps there is something to a higher quality wheel?
I've not drunk to cool aid that is disk brakes yet so I was rolling on the rim brake version of the 302s. They come in a bit lighter than the disk version and tipped my scales at 5 grams under the claimed 1645 grams. Granted, that's not exactly super light, and and I'd bet that most of this bulk is carried in the the hubs. They are certainly lighter than several wheels I've rolled around on recently that are more expensive and don't offer the same level of performance as the 302s.
On the road they have that nice fast feel that good carbon rims bring, you can just hold those few extra k's an hour with a few percent less effort. I had no issue with flex on nasty steep out of the saddle efforts and even took them on a bit of gravel with absolutely no issue.
Unbelievably, I did not get a chance to ride these in the rain. During the four weeks I had them Melbourne decided to have a winter dry spell... as such, I can't comment on stopping in the wet. As is the case with rim brake carbon wheels I can imagine that the brakes would work in slow motion just like most other carbon wheels. In the dry brakes were just fine, no issues whatsoever.
The only issue I have with these wheels is that have left me feeling a bit silly for spending a lot more money on wheels that well don't really feel that much faster...
Overall, I think these wheels are a perfect mix of price, performance and durability. The only reason you might not choose these is if your name is James Raison and your are absolutely obsessed with things lighter than your little finger.
You can pick up a set of the 302's for around A$2,100 - Head on over to Zipp's website to find out more.
Like all reviews at La Velocita, this review has not been paid for by Zipp or anyone else. We were lent these wheels by Zipp for a month and returned them after the test.