It’s a measure of the success of the disc wheel market that the Racing 5 now sees a disc brake version. There’s a Campagnolo Zonda disc coming soon so expect there to be a Racing 3 disc that mirrors it. Throw in a full carbon Quattro db and there’s really something for most budgets. So, within a single manufacturer the market has really exploded. And elsewhere it’s becoming a veritable feast. Even the carbon disc aero market (yes that’s a thing) is taking off. So whatever the UCI think, discs are here to stay.
I’ve had a lot of disc wheels now ranging from stock to handbuilt. The Pro Lite Revo I run are probably the lightest (a shade over 1600g) and to date have performed very well. I still hate the fact that tyre changing is an operation rather than merely a chore. But such is the nature of the tubeless wheelset.
The Fulcrum Racing 5 db are not tubeless but they are wide so you get that nicer shaped tyre on your rim with that bit more grip and and security. It’s not significant but it is nice to have. Spec wise they’re nothing special. Their 27.5mm depth is neither aero or shallow. Their 1715g weight (they are as claimed) isn’t light but it’s actually lighter than my Fulcrum Racing Quattro which have proved to be quite excellent. Spoke wise they’re really designated as a road wheel I guess given their 21 spokes front and rear. The spokes are stainless steel and double butted. Good enough for road. Good enough for cross? We’ll see, they certainly feel laterally stiff and I’ve yet to trouble them with flex. And given that I managed to bend an FSA chainring on my SuperX (we’ll talk about that in my review of that bike) then there doesn’t seem to be any strength issues here. The spokes are laced in Fulcrum’s usual 2:1 ratio with more spokes on the drive side.
You can argue all day long about whether Fulcrum’s use of 2:1 is necessary. But the main point of worry might be the lack of spokes on the braking side. 7 in fact, just 7 to stop all those forces coming through. An issue potentially exacerbated by the sheer strength of the brakes I’d partnered them with, the Shimano R685 hydraulics. Anyway, more of that later. But the rims are also asymmetric which allows, it is claimed, better balancing of spoke tensions. Even more interestingly the spokes are 2 cross on the front (following accepted school of thought) but radial on the disc side on the rear which flatly contravenes it.
The Racing 5 is unusual in offering a number of different setups. You can choose between variants of quick release or bolt thru and 6 bolt discs or “centrelock.” Save that Fulcrum don’t call it that, they call it AFS which is short for axial fixing system. And that’s the version I bought, quick release with AFS partnered with Shimano RT86 Ice Tec rotors. You can see what the setup looks like below.
So, why not centrelock? Because, bloody standards, Fulcrum have decided to come up with a different take. Whereas Shimano use a lockring that screws internally into the hub using a cassette lock ring tool Fulcrum instead use a lock ring that threads externally over the hub and don’t tell you what tool you need to do them up. The video below tells you how to do it but not what tool it is.
Well, I’m happy to report that it’s the tool I thought, namely a Shimano Hollowtech bottom bracket tool. It does need quite a lot of torque. And I mean a lot otherwise there is some rocking of the brake. Overall I like the centrelock system. It’s far quicker and the capacity to round off one or more of 6 bolts is removed. And with that you also avoid the need for drilling out that rounded off bolt (something I have done a few times).
It’s quite a nice looking wheel with some bold graphics. If you want to remove the stickers you can making them a bit more for everyone than the Pro Lite Revo. The stickers probably won’t stand up to too much racing and will start to look scruffy but for road use they are fine.
I initially used them to test the Schwalbe S-One and getting tyres onto them is pretty easy. Indeed, Fulcrum are one of the better manufacturers out there in that respect. I could get the tyres on by hand only.
To take care of those braking forces the flanges on the hub are massive. That’s primarily evident in the front where the flange only needs to be large on the braking side and not the drive side. They’re nice hubs as well with a gloss sheen. You can remove the stickers that remind you of the 2:1 ratio if you want.
So far these have proved to be excellent wheels. In terms of any lateral flexibility I really can’t detect anything awry when out of the saddle and sprinting. Indeed, I’ve been using the SuperX as a fast road bike recently to see if I can ascertain its limits. With these wheels and tyres it flies and I’ve put some pretty high average speeds in.
In terms of braking, despite the limited number of spokes on the braking side I simply cannot detect any deflection at all. That’s interesting because, with the more spoked Pro Lite attached to my Condor Bivio with XT brakes there was a small amount of deflection that I could see. As I alluded to above the R685 are exceptionally powerful brakes and braking on the Fulcrum is an extremely confident experience.
Of course braking isn’t the only thing to consider about wheels but I make no apologies for prioritising it for a disc wheel. So what about everything else?
Well, I could claim that they “spin up well” and are “significantly faster than (insert.” But that would be rubbish. The bearings are lovely, turn the bike upside down and they go on and on, so of course they “spin up well.” But short of shot bearings so do most wheels. Does the 100g deficit over my Pro Lite mean that they are slower wheels on the flat, that they need more power or that they’re less good up hills? No. Not in the slightest. They feel much like my Racing Quattro in fact. Good quality wheels that ride well. Not the last word in weight and I guess you could make some improvements if you shed 300g or so. But in the ballpark of wheels that weigh 1550g up to 1800g or so I’m not sure that the benefits of the margins aren’t overstated.
What they do appear to be is a plush wheel that, partnered with the Schwalbe S-One, provide a nice ride. Again, the SuperX has something to contribute to that so let’s just say that it all works nicely as a package.
Price? Well, that’s probably the only remotely contentious area. RRP is £349.99. If there’s someone somewhere on the planet who paid that, I salute you. But it’s likely that no-one has. Shop around and you can get them really cheaply. Certainly less than £250 if you spend a few minutes and, if you’re really canny, as I am, at around £210. And that’s a good price if you concentrate on the headline of 1715g. There are cheaper wheels, such as Wiggle’s Cosine Disc. There are those that cost more and save a few grams. Decide what’s important. And the choice is only likely to improve.
I’m pretty much past weight as a measurement within a certain range. My Samsung phone weighs over 150g. Pick yours up. Imagine that weight being added to your wheel. Do you think it will make any real difference?
I really like these wheels. They look nice, the DO spin really well (!) and they work very well in my setup. I may or may not give them a go for cross and if I do I will report back. But they’ve impressed me and they will be the posh wheel of choice on the SuperX on the road for now. If you can shop around, price match and get them for a good price then they’re a great alternative in a crowded marketplace.