When you see a great looking pair of Zipp carbon clinchers for $1500 you have to wonder one of two things: What's wrong with them and if there is no catch, than why have Zipp wheels always been a good deal north of 2K?
For sure there is nothing wrong. The 302's ride and look like the more expensive Zipp wheels. They are only a few grams heavier than the 303 Firecrest and a good deal lighter than the 404 Firecrest. On the road they feel very much like a 303, perhaps not as vibrant and lively, but for sure they feel as fast, smooth, and the braking surface is effective and predictable.
For me at 180lbs (82kg) the 302 is more than stiff enough for hard out of the saddle efforts but comfortable enough for longer rides. It's potentially the one wheel to do it all, with it's brass nipples and beefier Sapim CX Sprint J bend spokes. It's built tough enough to ride every day and for use on big days with confidence.
So what's the catch and how are they only $1500? It has to do with Zipp stepping things down for each component of the 302. The rims don't have the trademark Zipp dimples which makes carbon rim production less expensive. The wheels are still laced and tensioned in Indiana, and have the same two year warranty. However, they are narrower and have a similar but not the same brake track. The spokes are traditional J-bend and not the proprietary straight pull of the other Firecrest clinchers. The hubs are a far simpler traditional flange hub.
For the recreational rider these slight variations don't make much difference to ride quality, but for the pro level racer the small details that make the Firecrest $2099 will be missed. The 302 vs 303 is a great example of the diminishing returns we get as we near the peak of cycling technology and how reverse engineered price point product can benefit dramatically from cutting edge product development like the Firecrest and NSW wheels.
For the buyer it comes down to understanding what one needs from a wheelset. If it's pro level racing and you expect to be split seconds either side of your competitors then you need to look up the tech tree toward the Firecrest and NSW. But for those of us who simply need fast wheels to get back to the parking lot before everyone else has gone home the 302 will do a perfect job.
As for rim depth and overall versatility it's hard to fault the 302. The rims are deep enough for you to feel the aero advantage, yet shallow enough for them to be stable in windy conditions. The wheel weight 1645g is not exactly light weight but it's low enough to climb and aero to offer an advantage in a fast group. These are great all-rounders.
The 302 come in rim and disc brake versions and have a weight limit of 250lbs. They come complete with skewers and rim tape but not brake pads. The 302 comes with white decals only but these can be removed and replaced with black or other color 303 decals.
Hit us up with any questions and let us know how we can get a pair of these hoops on your bike.
Zipp 302 Carbon Clincher Wheelset - $1,499.99
Zipp 302 Carbon Clincher Disc Brake Wheelset - $1,499.99