Zipp has had a rather busy year. Following on from its 303 S and excellent 303 Firecrest wheels released in 2020, now it’s launched the flagship of the 303 series, the 353 NSW, to replace the premium 303 NSW.
The 353’s radical ‘sawtooth’ rim shape follows the same design principles as 2016’s 454 NSW, with its wavy inside edge inspired by tubercles found on humpback whale fins.
These Hyperfoil nodes are designed to make it behave like a deeper rim (it’s 45mm deep, like the 303) while reducing the sidewall profile and making the rim much more stable under high crosswinds.
Zipp has used dimpled sidewalls for years to aid aerodynamics, but here the dimples vary in size and are arranged in strips. Zipp claims that this aids crosswind stability and improves straight-line aerodynamic performance.
My test wheels – complete with tubeless valves, 12mm endcaps, XDR freehub body and tubeless tape – weigh 600g front and 704g rear (1,304g pair) – lighter by over a 100g than the already svelte 303 Firecrests.
Zipp 353 NSW details
- Radical rims: The waved shape of the 353’s inner rim gets its inspiration from the fins of a humpback whale. It is claimed to give the aero performance of a deeper rim while having the stability of a shallower design.
- Helpful hubs: The Cognition Axial Clutch V2 rear hub disengages the freehub when coasting with the use of opposing magnets, making for frictionless freewheeling that helps you hold onto your speed.
- Great graphics: The rim graphics use Zipp’s Impress printing, where they are directly printed onto the carbon fibre, making them more hardwearing than decals and lighter than stickers.
Zipp 353 NSW ride impressions
On the road, the tubeless 353s are stunning. They coped admirably in blustery conditions, feeling stable yet speedy, and their 25mm internal rim is perfect for 28mm tyres inflated to Zipp’s recommendation.
They roll as smoothly as the 303s, but when the road starts to rise and fall the 353s come into their own.
Their flyweight makes every climb easier and the smoothness and super-fast pick-up of the new Cognition V2 hub help too.
On descents, all these elements come together: stability, speed and comfort from the tyres.
The Cognition hubs’ clever disengagement when freewheeling – where opposing magnets push them apart, effectively eliminating mechanical drag – is impressive.
When you dive into a corner and come off the power, the lack of drag feels like you’re getting a speed boost, making it easy to maintain speed through the corner and accelerate on exit.
The 353s are beautifully made and finished, and I’m impressed they’ve achieved such a lightweight with standard user-friendly spokes and nipples.
The rim graphics are directly printed onto the carbon surface for a lightweight and hardwearing finish (no peeling stickers here).
Zipp 353 NSW bottom line
Overall, the 353 NSWs are just about the best all-round wheel I’ve ever tested. And yet, at £3,200 compared to the fantastic 303 Firecrests at half that (£1,600), they are certainly not twice as good.
I’d heartily recommend the 353s if – and it’s a big ‘if’ – you can comfortably afford them.
The biggest problem Zipp faces is that the Firecrests are so damn good I’d take those and save a heap of cash over the 353s.