Zipp FC 303/404 combo or just 303s?

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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Posts: 231
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:46 am
Location: Toronto

by SSB

I'm interested to see what others think around here, I was thinking about the 303 Firecrests for a while and have them ordered, but I also have the choice to go for a 303/404 combo. I decided that 404s were probably too deep for someone my weight (55-60 kgs), and from the info I know, the 303 FCs aren't losing much aero advantage compared to the 404s, yet I was also told that the combo is the best of both worlds, only 50 grams or so heavier than the 303 set, while still easy to control in the crosswinds and slightly more aero from the deeper rear wheel. I also ride mostly flat areas, but will be doing some significant climbs later this year in Europe.

I had already considered the ENVE SSE 3.4/6.7s, which are slightly heavier, about the same aerodynamically and more expensive than the Zipps (I can get a better deal on them.)
2012 Cannondale CAAD10

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by solarider

Aerodynamically unless you are going pro speeds, you won't notice that much of a difference, so don't be swayed by the 404 for that reason particularly. Actually, despite the improved shape of the 404, the 303 is better in a cross wind so possibly a more versatile every day/all condition wheel.

Similarly you won't actually notice that much of a weight difference either even though it is rotating mass, so that shouldn't be a factor.

Aesthetically, the combo definitely looks more 'pro', although I personally prefer the matching pair route, and if you ever come to sell a matching pair would be slightly easier to shift.

Something else to bear in mind is that the longer (and therefore heavier) valve on the 404 can make it a very slightly less balanced wheel than the 303. Only very slightly, but you are really comparing minutiae here.

Also, consider that Zipp generally only sell in matching pairs, and that judging from recent experience, they don't tend to change every model in unison. For example, they changed the 303 and 404 to Firecrest in different model years. So you would end up with current spec front/old spec rear or vice versa at some point in the future.

None or all of those factors might be important to you, but I just wanted to point them out.

The performance advantage/disadvantage of either route is so slim, that I would just go for what you like the look of.

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

by CerveloBert

I'd just go with the 303's as your everyday wheel. I feel like the aesthetics are better on 303's. I personally don't like the look of the wider 404's even though I own a pair and I prefer them for my triathlon use.

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by Unbrokenchain

Interesting as I was trying to make similar decisions and most people I know said aero trumps weight and to go for 404s f/r (granted the 404 is only slightly more aero,but also only slightly more heavier). Especially seeing you ride mostly flats, the 404 would seem the best option. I am no expert but just stating my decision process.

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by Zigmeister

I run a set of 303 FC tubulars for everything now, training/racing. I love them. Great all around wheel. Nice ride, aero, lightweight.

The aero is so close between these and the 404s, I would stick with the 303, get the weight savings of approx 100gms (this is weight weenies!).

With Vittoria Corsa CX 320tpi tires around 110psi, the ride is pretty nice. Takes the bumps well, they don't want to yaw/weathervane into the wind, and are very stable overall. Climb well also.

Only complaint I have is that I need to move the rear brake pades a little wider than I normally like, due to the wheel rubbing on the pads when climbing, hard sprint efforts.

I thought I had read from Adrian on his wheel test, that means the wheel has better lateral stiffness if it moves more between the pads?

Probably the only other set of wheels I would consider is something stiff, like the Cosmic Carbone Ultimate. The aero isn't going to make much of a difference in the peloton, but the stiffness I would enjoy.

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