Attention, comfort-seeking gravel addicts: according to Zipp, the 101 XPLR wheelset can turn your gravel bike into a magic carpet, ironing out all the bumps. Is it more than just marketing hype? We put the € 1,941 wheels through their paces on our local woodland paths to find out if they’re capable of delivering on this promise.
If you’ve been looking for ways to make your gravel bike more comfortable in recent months, you’ll inevitably have stumbled across the XPLR epithet adorning various SRAM products. Check out this article on our website to find out what it’s all about. The three brands SRAM, RockShox and Zipp, all part of the SRAM empire, have put their heads together to come up with a plan that promises to make riding your gravel bike more enjoyable. Along with the SRAM XPLR groupset, RockShox suspension fork and hydraulic dropper post, you’ve got handlebars, tires and wheels completing the picture. This is where Zipp come into play, rolling onto stage with the 101 XPLR wheels. Read on to find out what the thinking was behind the gravel wheelset and how it performs in practice.
The Zipp 101 XPLR wheels in detail – Mountain bike technology for the gravel win?
Zipp aren’t just known for their high-performance road and gravel bike wheels but have also made a name for themselves in the mountain bike sector. And it’s in this sector where they launched their Moto technology in 2019. Compared to other brands who constantly seem to be chasing lighter and stiffer designs, Zipp take a different approach. Instead of putting stiffness at the top of their priorities in developing the rim, spokes and hub system, they believe it should offer a certain degree of compliance. In this case, the single-wall rim is designed to be able to twist horizontally to conform to the terrain, pivoting on the spoke bed like a human ankle, allowing it to absorb the energy of impacts. As a result, you have fewer vibrations getting transmitted to the bike and rider, which in turn reduces fatigue, offers more control and reduces the likelihood of punctures. Sounds good? We thought so too and wanted to find out more.
According to Zipp, combining these rims with high-volume tubeless tires and running them at low pressures is guaranteed to let your gravel bike ride like a magic carpet. With an internal width of 27 mm, the Zipp 101 rim offers plenty of support for gravel tires ranging between 40 and 45 mm wide. The rims are married to Zipp ZR1 hubs, which promise long service intervals even in the worst conditions thanks to an improved seal design. Another standout feature is the quick response of the freewheel thanks to 66 points of engagement, and it’s relatively quiet, too, so it’s no substitute for a bell if that’s what you were hoping for.
The Zipp 101 XPLR wheels in action – Does more comfort equal more grip?
Let’s start at the beginning. Fitting the tires – in our case the matching Zipp XPLR G40 gravel models – is very easy to do, so much so that you won’t even need a tire lever to get them on the hookless rims. However, you’ll want to make sure that the tires you’re using are hookless compatible. The Zipp XPLR gravel tires sealed immediately when we pumped them up and they stayed fully inflated for several days. That’s how it should be! When accelerating, you’ll quickly realise that there are more lively models on the market as they take a bit longer to get up to speed, weighing in at 1,666 g for the set.
The Zipp 101 XPLR wheels can definitely play to their strengths best when riding off-road. The stiff frame of the CUBE Nuroad C:62 SLT test bike offers minimal comfort and limited traction through the corners, though that all changed with the Zipp wheels. It was significantly more comfortable off-road, and the rim and tire combination did an excellent job of taking the sting out of bigger hits from roots and rocks. Previously, as the rider, you’d feel the bumps going into your spine and wrists unfiltered, though now the impacts were noticeably defused.
We were equally impressed with the XPLR wheels when cornering on gravel, offering plenty of grip and instilling you with confidence. While the intentional flex can be a bit too much for racers who do a lot of riding on-road and demand maximum stiffness, it offers an immense benefit to most gravel riders. Before, we had to scrub off speed and go carefully around some of the corners on our test track aboard the CUBE, but the Zipp wheels transformed it into a cornering king. The wheels also proved to be very robust during the course of the test and Zipp are so convinced of their durability that they offer a lifetime warranty on the 101 XPLR.
Our conclusion on the Zipp 101 XPLR wheels
With the Zipp 101 XPLR gravel wheels, the US-based brand under the SRAM umbrella demonstrate all their off-road know-how. The gravel wheels are superbly comfortable in rough terrain and generate tons of grip by providing a pleasant amount of intentional flex. Even though they aren’t the lightest and need a bit of encouragement to get up to speed, tipping the scales at 1,666 g, we’re convinced that they would be a big upgrade on almost any gravel bike.
- very comfortable
- generate a lot of cornering grip
- very responsive freewheel thanks 66 points of engagement
- fitting tires couldn’t be easier
- lifetime guarantee
- not the best for sprints
- not compatible with all tires due to hookless rim design
For more information about the Zipp 101 XPLR wheels, visit sram.com/zipp
Duaration 4 weeks
Price 918 + € 1,023 (€ 1,941 for the set)
Weight 773 g + 893 g (1,666 g total weight including rim tape, excluding. valves)
Intended use gravel
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Words & Photos: Philipp Schwab