Fulcrum Racing Zero DB Wheels Test – Wheelsets – Wheels
Founded in 2004, Fulcrum has become (intentionally or not) Campagnolo’s brand of wheels for riders who want to benefit from that company’s technologies but don’t want the Italian company’s name on their bike alongside a American or Japanese transmission.
Initially, the lines shared many similarities, but Campagnolo wheels use less common spoke patterns and other unique technologies.
The Fulcrum brand, while sharing many of the same characteristics, has a less polarizing aesthetic.
These Racing Zero DB (disc brake) wheels are the less expensive of the two Racing Zero aluminum variants, designed to share “the same soul as the original Racing Zero”.
In short, this means light, stiff and with excellent handling characteristics. At 1610g for the pair they are not in the same league as a lightweight high end climber wheelset, but then we are talking about a £1000 alloy disc brake wheelset with a semi-deep section rim.
Fulcrum Racing Zero DB Wheels Specs & Details
The rim itself has several interesting and useful features. A 6082 aluminum alloy often found in cranes and bridges is used due to its high strength and corrosion resistance.
Measuring 29.7mm at their deepest points, the Racing Zero rims are milled to eliminate material between the spoke holes, saving weight without compromising strength.
At 8.6mm deep, the rim channel leaves plenty of room for the tire bead to drop, making it easier to mount, but the 19.1mm internal width presents a bit of a challenge, especially when the overall diameter of the heel is greater than – average 634 mm.
The bead seat diameter is 622.8mm, less than a millimeter larger than the ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organisation) standard and makes the tire seat both satisfying and secure.
The nipples are dropped through the valve hole and moved into position with magnets as the rim bed is strong.
With only the valve drilling interrupting an otherwise completely smooth rim bed, no rim tape is needed, so setting up tubeless is a quick and smooth process.
The “two-way adjustable” nature of the wheels simply means that both tubed and tubeless clincher tires can be fitted without additional parts.
A small weight is added opposite the valving position to balance its weight and improve rolling characteristics, and the spoke holes are angled steeply to their respective sides to reduce stress on the spokes.
These spokes are straight-pull aero exclusive offerings, 4.2mm thick and unevenly spread.
Up front, 14 sit in a two-cross pattern on the disc side and 7 radially opposite. In the rear, 7 sit radially on the disc side, with 14 laced in a two-cross pattern on the drive side.
Fulcrum says this to reduce torsional stresses during acceleration and braking, and thus increase wheel durability.
Instead of the usual cassette lock nut thread into the inner surface of the hub, these hubs feature slightly wider hub bodies with external threads requiring the less common but by no means unusual lock nut type rotor retention.
Both hubs have oversized flanges to add stiffness without increasing spoke count.
The front hub has a carbon shell to reduce weight, and both feature proprietary USB ceramic bearings with cup and cone adjustment. In each case, a 2.5mm Allen wrench secures a lock ring to adjust bearing tension, and removal of this lock ring allows axle removal.
Removing the freewheel from the axle requires 14 and 17mm cone wrenches to loosen the left hand threaded nut on the drive end of the axle.
With three pawls hooked to 30 points of engagement and cartridge bearings in the freewheel shell, the drive system is one of the easiest to maintain, providing the owner has the puller and the appropriate press.
Both hubs are certainly simple to disassemble for cleaning and re-greasing purposes.
Only one standard axle is available: 12 mm in diameter, 100 mm wide for the front and 142 for the rear. In other words, the standard that has been more or less accepted for the majority of road bikes and gravel bikes.
With that in mind, Fulcrum recommends tire widths from 23mm to 50mm, broadening the market these wheels are aimed at.
Shimano HG/SRAM 11-speed, Campagnolo and XDR freehub bodies are available. The DB Racing Zeros come with tubeless valves and an appropriate spoke magnet to accommodate if the rider is using a computer or a turbo trainer requiring one.
There is no possibility of adapting these wheels to another axle format, so no spacer is included. The lack of a rim tape requirement means that none of these come with the wheels either, but the cassette lock rings are included.
Fulcrum includes individual identification cards with each wheel, showing that it has been hand built and checked, and each wheel has a barcode to allow traceability for warranty and service purposes.
This makes inquiries easier, as when “what wheels do you have?” is requested a reference number can be submitted for quick and accurate referencing of technical documents and service advice.
Performance of the Fulcrum Racing Zero DB wheels
The Racing Zeros have been tested in a variety of conditions on some of the dirtiest roads in the region.
Being of relatively shallow depth, they are largely unaffected by changes in wind direction, except for sudden, powerful gusts. Even then, they are not nervous. In fact, the journey offers absolutely no surprises. The turns are predictable; the bike goes where it is pointed.
Out-of-the-saddle efforts mean the bike is accelerating. The only unexpected thing to note is that the wheels are stiffer laterally than you would expect from the first few miles.
They feel comfortable and compliant, less harsh than a wheel with this width profile would have been a few years ago, but that belies a stiffness that easily shows when the bike starts to shake.
Most wheels these days are stiff enough to be responsive under power, but few do it while feeling as good on rougher surfaces.
You barely notice the wheels because they just do what we hope the wheels should; roll subtly under us, causing absolutely no problem.
With these wheels, Fulcrum created a problem. Its “aim to save every gram of weight possible and choose the most advanced technological solutions” means that this wheelset could have been made just as well for a significantly lower price.
It’s unclear if the 109kg rider limit takes bikepacking gear into account – the wording suggests not, but any other static weight (matching bags, sleeping solutions, etc.) on the wheels doesn’t seem to not have been taken into account.
The result of Fulcrum Racing Zero DB wheels
There’s no doubt that the Racing Zero DBs are a great wheelset, but at this price it’s hard for a shallow section wheel to stand out.
They’re not the lightest wheels in their class – the HED Ardennes RA Pros are around 50 grams lighter. They also don’t have aero credentials to compete with the Zipp 303S.
While serviceability rivals the VeloElite CarbonWide 350-50s, these don’t use proprietary bearings or spokes, making sourcing spares more difficult.
Then the main snag for many; the Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50 has a deep-section carbon rim and costs a similar £849.
All that aside, there’s a lot to like about the DB Racing Zeros. They’re easy to install, they’re available with freehubs compatible with any groupset, and they’re serviceable – if you’re willing to hunt a bit more for parts.
Not all bikes are suitable for a deep section rim. It’s not hard to consider these wheels as a long-term, and worthwhile, investment.
How we tested
We rated seven pairs of road bike wheels around the £1000 price tag over months of grueling testing.
From varied endurance rides to short but hilly high-intensity explosions, we put these wheels to the test.
Each wheel set had a list of measured parameters – including trueness, roundness and spoke tension variance – out of the box, with measurements taken again at 500 km.