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Fulcrum Speed 40C wheelset review

14 Jun 2018

The Fulcrum Speed 40C’s are impeccable all-rounders that are a few design tweaks away from being hard to beat

Cyclist Rating: 
•Smooth easy to service hubs •Great breaking •Low weight •Comparatively good value
•Not compatible with tubeless tyres •Internal rim dimensions are a touch conservative

Despite Campagnolo being its parent company, Fulcrum’s wheelsets are not simply rebadged Campagnolo products designed to appeal to the users of Shimano or Sram groupsets.

While they share much of the same technology, Fulcrum products contain a lot of design features unique to them and the company presents a much broader range of products, serving more riding disciplines and more price points within those disciplines.

The Speed 40C clinchers sit at the premium end of Fulcrum’s road line, promising to provide much of the same performance as the 40T tubular wheels used by the WorldTour team Bahrain-Merida.

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On paper they should do just that: a claimed weight of 1420g is equal to or better than most of the Speed 40C’s rivals of a similar rim depth at this tier of the market.

The light overall weight is backed up by carbon front, aluminium rear, hubs that roll on ceramic bearings in an easy-to-service, cup-and-cone design; a 2:1 rear wheel lacing pattern that promises wheel stiffness, longevity and balance; and a rim shape attempting to blend aero efficiency and stability.

Another headline feature is something borrowed from Campagnolo: its AC3 brake track, a technology that uses lasers to scour away imperfections in the resin of the braking surface, then scribes subtle sipes into the track, similar to those on Zipp’s high-end wheels with Showstopper brake tracks.

The AC3 braking surface was the first attribute of the wheels that really made its presence felt when I put the wheels to test. Given my privileged position at Cyclist I am able to test plenty of carbon wheelsets and while carbon braking performance in general is only getting better, inter-brand variability in quality is still huge.

In this regard the Fulcrum Speed 40C wheels compare very well against many of their competitors - the sipes and scoured tracks produced powerful, consistent braking the equal of aluminium in the dry. Initial bite was reduced in the wet but total power remained high and consistent enough for me to have confidence in the wheels’ ability to safely slow down in grotty conditions.

Getting back up to speed was no fuss either. The weight of the wheels is exceptionally low and the rear hub in particular has several features geared towards promoting wheel stiffness, such as its oversized driveside flange and 2:1 lacing pattern, so the Speed 40C’s were very reactive and a pleasure to accelerate on.

Combined, the braking and acceleration of the Speed 40C’s would a have distinctive effect on the ride of any bike they were slotted into.

Rim depths of around 40mm are often touted as the ‘Goldilocks’ compromise of aero benefit, stability and weight. I’d always be inclined to opt for wheels at 40mm or deeper - while it is hard to perceive a huge difference in drag at this depth, it has little effect on weight or acceleration so an advantage, subtle or otherwise, may as well be had.

The pointier shape of the Speed 40C’s is slightly different to the now more common snub-nose designs that purport to be more stable in crosswinds, but as a heavier rider 40mm rims haven’t ever really been deep enough to misbehave for me in crosswinds anyway. The 40C’s felt no slower at higher speeds either, so I’d say they were just as aerodynamic as their competition.

An area where they may lag behind slightly is their internal rim width. The most progressive brands are going for 20mm+ internal dimensions, whereas the 40C’s measure to just 17mm. Fine for 25mm tyres, but go for anything wider with the aim of improving comfort or grip and that width tends to create a lightbulb shape that may undermine the aerodynamics of the rims.

Fulcrum says these wheels are aimed at racers, but proper racers would probably be on Fulcrum’s tubular equivalent to the 40C’s anyway. So surely Fulcrum has the scope to widen these wheels slightly and support the direction of the market, which is moving towards 28mm tyres as standard.

The Speed 40C’s are a prime candidate to make tubeless compatible too, as Fulcrum already constructs them with undrilled rim beds.

As it stands there are areas where the designs from other brands hold an advantage over the Speed 40C’s, but when you consider these wheels are significantly cheaper than a lot of those wheels they remain a compelling option anyway. Incorporating a couple of small design tweaks would be all that is needed to make it hard for me to recommend anything but the Fulcrum Speed 40C’s.

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