Zipp 303 650b

Getting back on the Modal, rev’ing it to 2.0, and riding big miles on Maui I realized aero-road and gravel bikes seduced me away from where I’m most comfortable. Those bikes, the premium ones, are awesome and highly recommend, but for the all-day, head-clearing, stress-reducing rides I prefer now, metal is where it’s at. To that end, riding a custom Ti bike with steel fork doesn’t mean I don’t want to go fast at times. I do and Zipp sent me their 303 650bs to try out.

Fast forwarding away from any wheel-size debates, the 650b permits much larger volume tires for rough roads with all of Zipp’s tech. With more tire between the rim and the ground, the overall wheel diameter including the tire is similar to a standard 700c wheel and road tire combination. Without a bb-drop correction, the Modal does feel a bit “low,” but hey I got a HUGE tire in there.

My brown bike does not feel like that.

The Zipp 303 650bs look at sound cool too. I’m riding them now beyond the blacktop and pretty much wherever the roads (paved or not) take me.

Zipp’s technology is the culmination of two years of intensive prototyping and testing. Zipp understands the definition of what’s considered “road cycling” has evolved to include road bikes on dirt. Not only is Firecrest more aerodynamic than any other rim design, it improves handling in crosswinds and overall ride quality.

I’m fully aware the aero claims are contentious, but I promise you these wheels handle the windiest conditions, and I wrote about that a few Maui trips ago.

With an internal width of 21mm, the 303’s 45mm rim depth is an ideal option for the surfaces I’m riding. Designed to be tubeless compatible, the rim bed features internal ridges to lock the tire’s bead in place. I don’t travel with tubeless, but when I return to Seattle, they’ll get set up that way. Setting the 303s up with tubes wasn’t that bed, after working the tire onto the rim, I just made sure the bead “popped?” and the tube wasn’t pinched.

I’m running them thru axle, that was part of the update to the Modal, but to ensure compatibility with any bike, the 77D/177D hubs come with swappable end caps to work with QR’s and thru-axles, including 12x100mm and 15x100mm front thru-axles as well as 12x142mm rear thru-axles.

Also, as soon as 1×12 road starts shipping, the 177D rear hub also XDR driver body compatible for use with SRAM 10-42 cassettes.

This wheelset retails for $2500 and weighs about 1450 grams. If you’re looking for a more reasonably-priced wheelset in 700c, see the 302s. I can run those on the Modal too, but I’ll stick with the bigger tires.


Riding in Maui now. Here’s the Modal with the 303 650bs and Compass Loup Loups Pass. See more on Instagram.

Modal 2.0 with Zipp 303 650bs.

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