Zipp 303, 404, 353, and 454 Wheelsets

Founder, Mr. Mamil

The Zipp 303 and 404 wheelsets have been the most popular in Zipp’s lineup for the past ten years. They have been many cyclists’ preferred wheelsets for their aerodynamics and weight.

Between mid-2020 and mid-2021, Zipp refreshed the 303 and 404 lineups and introduced the Zipp 353 and 454 NSW wheelset range.

  • Zipp 303S Tubeless (May 2020)
  • Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubeless (June 2020)
  • Zipp 353 NSW Tubeless (April 2021)
  • Zipp 404 Firecrest Tubeless (June 2021)
  • Zipp 454 NSW Tubeless (June 2021)
  • Zipp 454 NSW Tubular (June 2021)

The sections below compare the differences between the Zipp 303, 404, 353, and 454 models.

Internal and external rim widths

Zipp modelInternal widthExternal width
Zipp 303S23mm27mm
Zipp 303SE23mm27mm
Zipp 303 Firecrest25mm30mm
Zipp 353 NSW25mm30mm
Zipp 404 Firecrest23mm28mm
Zipp 454 NSW23mm28mm
Internal and external rim widths of Zipp wheelsets

At the time of writing, most tubeless wheelsets for road bikes have an internal rim width between 17 to 22mm, and an external rim between 23 to 25mm.

The Zipp 303 Firecrest and 353 NSW are the widest, optimized for 28mm tires with an internal width of 25mm and an external width of 30mm.

The Zipp 303S and 303SE are slightly narrower, optimized for 28mm tires with an internal width of 23mm and an external width of 27mm.

On the other hand, the Zipp 404 Firecrest and 454 NSW are optimized for 25mm tires, with an internal width of 23mm and an external width of 28mm. Keep in mind that not all 25mm tires are compatible with the Zipp 404 Firecrest and 454 NSW.

Tire compatibility

Hooked vs Hookless Rims Design
Hooked vs Hookless Rims Design. Photo : Enve

All Zipp 303, 404, 353 and 454 models have a hookless rim design, which doesn’t have a hook on the inside. The protruding hooks, like the ones found in clinchers and most traditional tubeless rims, allow the tires to stay on the wheel when under pressure.

The hookless rims are flush and flat on the inside. It’s also called Tubeless Straight Sidewall (TSS) and is often quoted by tubeless tire manufacturers such as Continental.

Remember that not all tubeless tires in the market today are compatible with hookless rims. Newly launched tubeless tires will likely be compatible with hookless rims. Be sure to check the tire specifications before purchasing or installing. Zipp has recently updated their hookless tire compatibility chart.

Examples of hookless compatible tires available today are;

Rim depths

ModelRim depth
Zipp 303S45mm
Zipp 303SE45mm
Zipp 303 Firecrest40mm
Zipp 353 NSW40 to 45mm (Sawtooth design)
Zipp 404 Firecrest58mm
Zipp 454 NSW53 to 58mm (Sawtooth design)
Rim depths of Zipp wheelsets

The main difference between the 303 and 404 has always been the rim depth.

  • A deeper rim (>50mm) would excel in the flats as they’re more aerodynamic and can hold the speed better, especially above 25mph (40kph). However, they’re heavier and more sluggish during acceleration to pick up speed. The sprinters would always opt for a deep wheelset for sprint stages.
  • A shallower rim (<30mm) excels in hilly terrains as they’re lighter and accelerate quicker. The climbers would choose shallower rims, sometimes as shallow as 20mm for the mountain stages.

The Zipp 303 is between 40 to 45mm deep, depending on the model, and is often labeled as all-rounder wheel as they’re versatile for all types of terrains.

The Zipp 404 is 30% deeper than the 303, with a depth between 53 to 58mm.

The NSW models have a Sawtooth design where the rim depth alternates between 40/45mm (353 NSW) and 53/58mm (454 NSW). Zipp claims that the Sawtooth design helps to reduce drag and maintain balance when riding in cross-wind conditions across all yaw angles.

Hub design

Zipp 303S77/176
Zipp 303SESyncros (non Zipp)
Zipp 303 FirecrestZR1
Zipp 353 NSWCognition V2
Zipp 404 FirecrestZR1
Zipp 454 NSWCognition V2
Hub models of Zipp wheelsets

Zipp introduced two new hub designs with the current 303’s and 404s; the ZR1 and Cognition V2.

  • Cognition V2 hub is Zipp’s most advanced hub design and is used in the Zipp 353 NSW and 454 NSW models. It uses the AxialCluch technology, which is more efficient due to the reduction in drag between the hub shell and the driver body. It has better protection against the elements with an improved seal design.
  • ZR1 hub is used in the Zipp 303 Firecrest and 404 Firecrest models. It has 66 points of engagements vs 33 in the Cognition V2 hub, making it slightly noisier when freewheeling but more responsive during accelerations.
  • 76/176 hub, used in the previous 303 and 404 generations, is used in the Zipp 303S to reduce the overall cost.

The driver bodies are available in SRAM/Shimano 11-speed, SRAM XDR, and Campagnolo. There is no Shimano 12-speed driver body, although a Shimano 12-speed cassette can be used on the SRAM/Shimano 11-speed body.

On a side note, there is a Zipp 303SE made exclusively for Scott. The Zipp 303SE is specced in top-of-the-line Scott Addict RC Pro models. The difference between the Zipp 303S and 303SE is the hub, where the 303SE uses a Syncros hub instead of the 76/176 hub.

Wheelset weight

Model (for XDR body)FrontRearWheelset
Zipp 303S711g819g1,530g
Zipp 303 Firecrest613g739g1,352g
Zipp 353 NSW580g675g1,255g
Zipp 404 Firecrest660g790g1,450g
Zipp 454 NSW631g727g1,358g
Zipp wheelsets weight

The latest Zipp 303 and 404 lineup has seen a major weight reduction across all models (except the 303S). They all weigh below 1,500g, with the SRAM XDR body models being the lightest among all.

Zipp attributes the weight reduction to the hookless rim profile. Combining a straight sidewall, lesser materials, and a new carbon resin allows significant weight reductions.

The Zipp 353 NSW is the lightest, followed by 303 Firecrest, 454 NSW, 404 Firecrest, and 303S.

Wheelset availability and pricing

The Zipp 303 and 404 wheelsets can be purchased individually as a wheelset (front or rear). They are available at your local bike stores or local online retailers. Due to dealer agreements, you cannot purchase Zipp wheels outside your country.

Pricing starts from $1,157 for Zipp 303S to $3,989 for Zipp 454 NSW.

ModelWheelset (USD)Availability
Zipp 303S$1,157 to $1,250
Zipp 303 Firecrest$1,500 to $1,805
Zipp 353 NSW$3,264 to $3,989
Zipp 404 Firecrest$1,500 to $1,769
Zipp 454 NSW$3,264 to $3,989
Retail pricing and availability of Zipp wheelsets

Which Zipp wheelset is for you?

Each model is designed to excel in certain areas and has pros and cons. With five models to choose from, one of the most common questions cyclists have is, which one is for me?

  • Zipp 303 Firecrest is my value-for-money pick. It’s the sweet spot between weight, performance, and price point. The 40mm deep rim is an all-rounder and excels in hills and flats. The wider internal rim width allows low tire pressure on a 28 or 30mm tire.
  • Zipp 303S is an affordable, entry-level, carbon wheelset. Although marketed as a gravel wheelset, it’s equally at home for road rides.
  • Zipp 353 NSW, if you want a top-of-the-line, performance wheelset for races on rolling and/or hilly terrains.
  • Zipp 454 NSW, if you race competitively in flat criteriums or triathlons.


What is Zipp’s wheelset warranty?

What is the difference between Zipp 303S vs 303SE?

Alex Lee at Mr.Mamil

Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.

He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.