I finally broke down and bought “racing” wheels. I snagged them on eBay for a damn good price–gotta love auctions that end at odd hours. The wheels showed up on Tuesday, just in time for a serious crunch time at work: late night dinner in Kansas City followed by a 5:30 departure for a flight to Columbus, Ohio. All in, I think I had 12 total hours of sleep between Wed night and Saturday morning; not nearly enough rest for the typical Saturday morning group ride.
I woke up early on Saturday and swapped the new hoops on to the bike. I installed the front wheel and gave it a spin to make certain it was on straight and the brakes were set correctly. The wheel never stopped spinning. After waiting (and watching in amazement) for what seemed like minutes, I finally set the bike down so I could install the back wheel. I finished getting ready and hit the road, headed for Longview and the start of the Bicycle Shack Group Ride. It took exactly 1 pedal stroke to feel the difference.
The 303’s are feathery light (1182 grams) and spin up incredibly fast. The difference is noticeable just rolling down the road…even if the only pointer is the smile on my face. Spin up and climbing aside, the ride quality is probably the most noticeable difference. According to Pez Cycling News, Zipp stated the wheels (clincher version) are tuned for riders in the 175-pound range. If that’s true, I’m spot on. And, as Pez points out, that weight should allow the wheels to be plenty stiff while still absorbing road chatter. The wheels seemed to smooth out even the roughest Missouri pave sections. Road seams still hit hard, but the shock doesn’t seem to transfer through the bike.
The only downside I noticed, which isn’t really a negative but more of a characteristic that will take time to get accustomed to, is the lack of rolling weight on the front wheel. As a result, my bike felt extra touchy and seemed to dart more. I’ll take it! I love a bike that handles quickly and this difference is perfect for my riding preference.
Hopefully I’ll recover from the hard week of work and will feel up to really testing out the wheels. The ride on Saturday was a letdown—both calves cramped soon after the pace picked up, no thanks, I’m sure, to too many hours confined on an airplane, and that was that. I was off the back never to see the front group again. I finished the ride at a comfortable 22.5-MPH pace, and then rode 15-20 more miles so I could get used to the wheels. It’s gonna be hard to take off the 303’s and to not ride them on every ride!