Fulcrum have returned to the mountain bike wheel game, coming in with a focus on low weight and strength. So they look perfect for marathon, cross-country and stage race riders who are looking to add a high-end carbon wheel set to their bike.
Of course, matching low weight and strength isn’t always easy, and Fulcrum did have a long research and development process when creating the Red Zone Carbon wheels. This is more than just a nice new rim built to a fancy hub set with high quality spokes. Fulcrum looked at how they could optimise how all the components function together, to create a light weight and strong wheel system.
While being light and stiff for climbing performance was a goal, so was vertical compliance for descending confidence.
A closer look
Visually, you can see that the Fulcrum Red Zone Carbon wheels have a low profile rim with a wide foot print. Fulcrum have used a 28mm internal rim width with a 26mm height. The outer rim width is 33mm, which equates to a slender 2.5mm rim wall. This is internal measurement wider than the 25mm stock rim widths that many new cross-country and marathon bikes come with. Still, it’s not quite as wide as the 30mm rim widths that some top end wheels are built around. Clearly, this is one of the small details where Fulcrum made their decisions based on their research. The wheels are optimised for 2.2-2.4″ tyres, and our experience is that some 2.2″ tyres just don’t work well with 30mm rims – so 28mm may be the sweet spot.
What, no rim tape? Fulcrum use their 2-way fit system which means the internal well isn’t drilled for the nipples. So even if you need to change a flat in a hurry in a race, you can forget about the stress of potentially peeling back the lightweight rim tape. There’s just no chance. A good tubeless setup relies on an excellent airtight seal on the rim – and this really delivers!
Fulcrum also use what they call NipForce. Before you giggle, Nipple Force is a new take on rim offsets. Consider that many modern rims have an offset spoke hole to even out the tension from either the dish needed for the freehub, or that of the disc rotor mount. NipForce has a double assyemtry, with 6mm offset (compared to the typical 2.5-3.5mm) and 3mm offset that alternates for each spoke. While this creates a lateral wave look to the rim, it reduces the effective dish on each side of the wheel, creating a stiffer and stronger wheel with more even spoke tension. This puts less strain on the entire system.
The wheels use 24 spokes in the front and 28 spokes in the back, using straight pull 1.6mm butted straight pull spokes. Thanks to having hubs designed for the rims, each spoke on the wheel is also the same length, making carrying spares to an event easy.
The hubs use centre lock fitments for the disc rotors, but they also use cup and cone bearings. Many will prefer a cartridge bearing, however cup and cone do offer much better fine tuning – albeit at the cost of some slightly more specific maintenance.
The total wheel weight is claimed at 1445g, which is a competitive weight for a pre-built wheel set with a wide rim. It’s a lot lighter than the wheel set on almost any stock cross-country or marathon bike, but not the all-out lightest you could build for a dream bike. But would that wheel set be designed as a system?
The Red Zone Carbon will sell for 1378 Euro, but there is also an alloy Red Zone 3 wheel set available with 25mm internal rims, selling for about half of that. Both wheel sets are built in Europe.
We’re hoping to have a set for review, and we’ll update this post when a pair arrive.