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Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon DB wheelset review

18 Mar 2019

Fulcrum has broken new ground with its Racing Zero Carbon DB wheelset, with great effect

Cyclist Rating: 
• Tubeless compatibility • Stiffness • Reactivity
• Rim width could be pushed even wider

Fulcrum has a vast offering of wheelsets to suit many budgets and riding applications, but its new Racing Zero Carbon DB wheelset is ostensibly the most intriguing design it currently offers.

For starters, the Racing Zero Carbon DB is Fulcrum’s first tubeless-compatible carbon rim. The Italian brand has long sold its carbon rims with undrilled rim beds, citing the increased stiffness and structural integrity this imbues the rim with, but this is the first time the rim bed and sidewalls have been specifically designed to seat tubeless tyres.

The Racing Zero Carbon DB’s rim is also wider internally, with Fulcrum suggesting the 19mm diameter will pair well with 25mm and 28mm tyres.

Buy the Fulcrum Zero Carbon DB wheelset from Chain Reaction Cycles

The wheelset is the only disc-brake design on the market to pair aluminium spokes with a carbon rim too. Fulcrum currently has the monopoly on this construction technique - the only other design is its own rim-brake version of this very wheelset.

The talking points don’t end there: the front hub houses USB ceramic bearings inside an aluminium and carbon-twill shell, while the rear hub is machined from a single aluminium billet, again containing Fulcrum’s USB bearing set.

The Racing Zero family is known for its lightweight and acceleration, so duly Fulcrum makes some bold claims about this wheelset’s reactivity - the brand says oversized hub flanges and bladed, double-butted aluminium spokes provide the Racing Zero Carbon DB wheelset with a rigid build quality that promises to help the rider accelerate and power up sharp inclines.

Fulcrum says rim weight is kept helpfully low in this regard thanks to an idiosyncratic construction technique, which it dubs ARC technology. By building the main structure out of T800 unidirectional carbon then reinforcing the spoke holes with 3K carbon twill, the brand claims to have reduced weight by eliminating unnecessary material between each spoke insertion.

The logic behind this technique is sound - in alloy at least. Fulcrum has attempted to replicate the effect of aggressively machining metal rims between spokes, which has been a technique used to good effect for a long while by Mavic and Fulcrum themselves. However, with it being a relatively unproven method in carbon rim construction there could be an increased chance of rim stiffness being sacrificed.

On paper at least Fulcrum’s novel construction techniques have borne fruit - the Racing Zero Carbon DBs tip the scales at 1450g, which is competitively light for a 30mm deep disc-brake wheelset - it compares favourably with wheels costing a substantial amount more too.

On the road

The stealthy, lacquered finish of the carbon rims combined the the bladed aluminium spokes hint at the wheels’ aptitude for acceleration even after simply just slotting them into a bike. Their unusual construction has created a visually striking wheelset, lending the round-tubed, traditional-looking bike I put them into a decidedly modern and aggressive edge.

The Racing Zero Carbon DB wheels have the ride quality to back-up their looks. Despite the rims apparently eschewing every bit of unnecessary carbon the overall rigidity of the wheelset is palpable. Combined with the wheels’ light weight this means the Racing Zero Carbon DBs impart a reactive, racy character to a bike, making surges of speed unusually rewarding.

The 19mm internal rim width (and 26.5mm external with) pairs nicely with 28mm tubeless tyres. Designs from other brands on the market currently have shown that there is scope to successfully push internal rim dimensions even wider, so perhaps that is an area Fulcrum could seek to address in future iterations of this design.

That said, the transition between the rim wall and the Pirelli Cinturato tyres I used was very clean, a feature that current research suggests helps airflow over the wheel-tyre system to improve aerodynamics. I can’t say I noticed the wheels holding fast speeds like deeper rims, but equally, at 30mm deep I wouldn’t expect a wheel to be overly aerodynamic.

Buy the Fulcrum Zero Carbon DB wheelset from Chain Reaction Cycles

In this case, I would say the trade-off of a shallow rim depth for the level of reactivity and ride feel these wheels provide is more than worth it anyway.

Lastly, I found the undrilled rim bed of the Racing Zero Carbon DBs was a fantastic advantage to have when it comes to the set-up of tubeless tyres. It is simply a better system than rim-strips or plugs - it makes setup inherently less fussy and more secure and is a feature that more brands should consider designing into their wheelsets.

Fulcrum’s Racing Zero family is held in high repute thanks to an extensive heritage of high-quality, original and innovative designs. I would say the Racing Zero Carbon DB wheelset does nothing but bolster that reputation and legitimately extends the Racing Zero name into the contemporary wheel market.


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