When we first pulled our new Zipp 3Zero Moto carbon wheels out of the box a lot of thoughts ran through our minds. Sure, there are some big claims and skeptics (ourselves included) may doubt the quirky marketing verbiage, but after seeing the amount of drip and style these wheels pack, we were convinced if the performance was half as good as the looks, they would still be some bad ass wheels. We instantly mounted these wheels on our 2021 Specialized Levo with the intention of pushing them are hard as we could to see if Zipp’s Moto Technology, localized flex and “Ankle compliance” were indeed perceivable on the trail.
Built using a unistitch carbon weave, these wheels have an aesthetic that command attention. The finish is smooth and attractive. Looks are not the only thing that make the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels unique. Featuring an asymmetrical design, 30mm inner width, the 3Zero Moto’s sport a low-profile design that is very reminiscent of motorcycle wheels, which makes sense given their name. While most mountain bike wheels use a hollow D-shaped, box section design, Zipp uses single-wall construction and is an integral part of their Moto Technology. What makes these wheels unique is that the design allows the rims to pivot from either side of the spoke bed. This means that as the bike is rolling over uneven terrain or angled obstacles, the edge of the rim will comply and flex with the impact or terrain. Zipp calls this “Ankle compliance,” and if you think about how a runner’s ankle flexes as they run around a flat turn, it is much the same with these wheels. Zipp claims that the rim can flex locally to stay parallel with the ground which in theory should help with traction, compliance, and smoothing out the ride.
The compliant and classy rims are laced to Zipp’s ZM2 hub set, which are German engineered hubs featuring 12 pawls and 132 points of engagement. The hubs also feature an improved seal design to increase durability and resist contamination from outside elements. Another great feature which we did not test is the integration with Quarq’s TyreWiz. This Bluetooth compatible accessory allows you to set your preferred tire pressure on the app and will light the display on the unit to let you know you have reached your desired tire pressure.
If you would like to further customize your wheels Zipp’s Speed Line graphics are available and give you the choice of five colors to make the wheels really stand out or match your bike. And if looks, promises of performance and customizability are not enough to lure you in, perhaps the Zipp Lifetime Warranty will push you over the goal line, as it really increases the value in our opinion.
Before we get too far into the ride impressions, we wanted to share our experience with trying to mount Maxxis DH casing and Double Down tires on these wheels. Zipp’s website makes claims about easy tire mounting as a selling point, but we had some real trouble mounting these stiffer casing Maxxis tires. In fact, you will notice we had to abort our mission and stuck with a lighter casing Specialized tire. If you run heavier casing tires, this may be something worth noting.
Moving on to the performance however, once we hit the trails, we instantly knew there was something special about these mountain bike wheels. From our first ride on the Zipp 3Zero Moto Carbons, it was apparent that the claims about flex, compliance and enhanced traction were very real. Knowing that E bikes put extra stress on components we mounted these wheels straight onto our Specialized Levo and proceeded to beat the crap out of them. Over the last several months we have put hundreds of miles in on these wheels primarily on very loose dry desert terrain with embedded a loose lava boulder. The unique design has allowed our riders to find traction where they would normally be drifting, and the compliance has given our feet and hands the strength to push harder for longer.
When it comes to the construction of the internals of the hub and wheels, we have no complaints, and they still look as good as they did out of the box. Engagement is quick and natural we like how snappy the wheels feel and although they may not be the lightest on the market, they are reliable and spin well. Plus, we would gladly take a slight weight penalty for the increased ride quality and confidence of a lifetime warranty.
Over the years we have tested a lot of mountain bike wheels. We have noticed they are a component that brands regularly make lots of big claims about, but do not always deliver performance that is truly special or different. Zipp’s 3Zero Moto wheels do not fall in that category. After our first ride on the new Zipp wheels we noticed they were different. The 3Zero Moto wheels offer a compliant and sensitive ride quality that translated to comfort and traction on the trail. They are not flimsy or noodles by any means, instead they offer a tuned amount of compliance which we noticed on off-camber bits of trail, when smacking into large corners or lava rock or big roots. They still cornered well, accelerated quickly, and did everything we would want out of a high-end carbon wheel. If you are a value-conscious gram-counter, these may not be the wheels for you, but if you are a hard charger who value performance, these have a lot going for them.
Simply put, from the top-shelf looks, lifetime warranty and class-leading ride quality, the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels are certainly going to be sticking around on our test bikes of choice for quite a while.
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.