PRODUCT REVIEWS: ON TEST: FULCRUM RACING ZERO 2-WAY FIT
October 28, 2009


THE STORY
Fulcrum’s Racing Zero is the Italian wheelmaker’s best aluminum wheelset, and 2-Way Fit means that the Zero rim profile accepts tubeless tires without any special rim strip. Fulcrum wheels are made at the Campagnolo factory and use exactly the same extrusions, spokes and manufacturing protocols. Why two brands? Campagnolo realized that drivetrain loyalists who prefer SRAM or Shimano Dura-Ace are, for the most part, reluctant to display the Campy logo anywhere on their bicycles. To expand into the greater marketplace, Campagnolo initiated the Fulcrum brand to offer its cutting-edge wheel technology to elite-level riders outside the fold.

TECH
Fulcrum Racing Zero 2-Way Fit is visually striking, with black and red rim graphics and red-anodized, aero-profile aluminum spokes. The hub flanges feature a straight-pull spoke interface, and the spokes are gradually thinned into a wide blade as they radiate outward towards the rim. The 2-Way Fit rim requires no rim strip, as the spokes do not protrude through the upper level of the extrusion to provide a perfect seal for tubeless tires. Fulcrum wheels are available with Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM freehub bodies. The wheels come with dedicated spoke wrenches, quick releases and a Fulcrum wheel bag. The pair weighs 1420-grams without quick releases and costs in the neighborhood of $1800 for the set.

Campagnolo’s rim manufacturing technique, used on all Fulcrum wheels, creates a very thin-wall extrusion to reduce weight. The spoke interface is left thicker and then machined between each spoke hole. During that process, the rim is dynamically balanced so it will run gyroscopically smooth at downhill racing speeds. The balancing process assumes the weight of an average Presta valve stem in its calculations. Fulcrum makes it clear that the Racing Zero is perfectly suited for conventional tubes and clincher tires—and remember to subtract the weight of two unnecessary rim strips from the Racing Zero’s total weight.

Spoke lacing is 16 radial spokes up front, seven radial on the left, and 14 laced two-cross on the drive side. The freehub bodies are aluminum, as are the hub shells and axles. Fulcrum chooses high-quality bearings (Campagnolo would not have it any other way), and one spin of the wheels will telegraph this fact to non-believers. The front wheel weighs 625 grams and the rear 800 grams, which puts the Fulcrum Racing Zero in close competition with other elite aluminum wheelsets, like the Mavic Ksyrium.

RBA SAYS
Stiff and predictable are the hallmarks of the Racing Zero wheels. These are the wheels to reach for when your race or ride takes you into the mountains. The braking surfaces are race-car smooth, and modulating the brakes is beautifully precise. At 1420 grams, the Fulcrum wheels are not as quick on the sprints, but the lateral rigidity of the ’Zeros can take whatever your legs can dish out. After the first three pedal strokes, the Fulcrum wheels deliver more power to the ground, and in a straighter path, than is possible with an ultra-lightweight wheelset. Until you ride a balanced wheelset, you will not appreciate the smoothness that the Fulcrum Racing Zeros bring to the table. Switch back to a non-balanced wheelset and you will instantly feel the vibration at speed. We used Hutchinson tubeless tires for half of our test and then switched to conventional Vittoria clinchers to make a comparison. For starters, the tubeless tires mounted and inflated without the need for a fancy pump or compressor. The ride of the tubeless Hutchinson tires was measurably smoother (but we already knew it would be). The Vittoria Corsa CX tires with tubes were about 30-grams lighter per side than the Hutchinson tires, although there was no discernible difference in the acceleration of either setup. Mounting the tires was possible with fingers only, but the Hutchinsons were a tight fit.

VERDICT
Vanity is reason enough to buy Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels. The red, silver and black graphics and whirling red spokes can turn an uninspiring, carbon-fiber racing bicycle into an animated expression of power and speed. Beyond the vanity, Racing Zero 2-Way Fit wheels deliver elite-level performance and over-the-edge technology to back up their looks. The greater benefit of 2-Way Fit is that the tubeless option brings an added measure of safety (they can run flat), lower rolling resistance, and greater comfort. As more tire makers join the tubeless movement, Fulcrum Racing Zero riders will be ready to taste their fruits. If a better, standard variety clincher shows up, they will be able to take advantage of that also.

PRICE: $1800 (including quick releases, tools and carry-bag)
INFO: www.fulcrumwheels.com
BONUS POINTS: Striking graphics, overall performance and tubeless compatible

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