Campagnolo the famous Italian component manufacturer has made it’s mark in history many times over. From innovating the modern rear derailleur to building satellite chassises for NASA in the 60s. There is little doubt to the quality and reliability that comes with the brand. Fulcrum was establish in the early 2000’s under the wings of Campagnolo in order to expand it’s in house manufactured wheelset as they wanted to shift away from the tense rivalry in the groupset market between themselves and Shimano. Fulcrum todays has an extensive range of wheels ranging from MTB, cyclocross, Road and even Time Trail specific wheelsets.
The Fulcrum Racing Zero is definitely a wheelset that comes with a reputation, they are the gold standard of alloy wheels. Built with the idea to transmit energy down to the asphalt without wasting any energy in the process. The wheels comes with ceramic bearings which are indeed ultra smooth, hence the name USB ( Ultra Smooth Bearings). Not to be confused with a USB port on your computer.
Initially I had not thought much about these wheels other than a wheelset that was priced above it’s actual value. For the price of the Fulcrum Racing Zero you can purchase a decent pair of carbon clinchers. To put it into perspective I was not expecting much from these wheels as I set out on my maiden voyage. The first impression was that they felt insanely stiff. Now when I mean stiff, I mean feeling every bump on the road, feeling the imperfections of the asphalt as you pedal along. The wheels felt very stable in cross winds, however that was to be expected from it’s shallow design of 27mm in height in the front and 30mm in the rear. Cutting through the wind was obviously nowhere near comparable of an aero wheel of 50mm and above.
As I cruised along, I found it difficult to justify the price tag on these alloy wheels, yes the bearings were smooth, the design was ecstatically pleasing and braking was sublime. The 2:1 (Two To One) spoke ratio technology made the wheels feel very responsive. Despite all of it I could not wrap my head around them.
However that all changed as the gradient began to increase and the climbs dawned on me. Suddenly the wheels felt alive, springing forward to every pedal stroke. It somehow felt easier to deal with the steeper gradients on these pair of wheels. The stiffness finally made sense, the Razing Zero was made for the mountains, taking on the steep switchbacks and gradients that would build so much lactic acid that you would cringe with pain. On the descents the wheels held up fantastically, the responsiveness of the Racing Zero’s made tackling technical corners a breeze. Braking was immediate, no lag from squeezing the levers to feeling the wheels slow down before each corner. This made me feel a whole lot safer and it increased my confidence as I was never a great descender to begin with.
To conclude the Fulcrum Racing Zero review, the wheelset are a great pair however it has it’s limit and I would not recommend purchasing them if you ride mostly in flat or rolling areas. As they are meant for the high mountains. Also for a pair of alloy wheels, they do not come cheap. For the price you do however get a quality product which a heritage to match.
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