Fulcrum chose their French counterparts at Mavic as benchmarks, and the visual similarities are evident with the use of large, Flat-bladed Ergal alloy spokes, which increase stiffness and create a feeling of solidity.
Much of the strength and ride character of any wheelset comes from the rim, so Fulcrum have created a hermetically-sealed 23.5mm extruded alloy unit that is triple machined to pare away as much excess alloy as possible without reducing strength.
The hubs employ traditional cup-and-cone bearings rather than the cartridge variety favoured by most others (with the notable exception of Shimano). Servicing and adjustment is easily done with a 2.5mm Allen key, which is a bonus.
Sealing is good thanks to a reliable double gasket seal. If everything is greased and properly adjusted you’ll have little to worry about. Hubs are available in six-bolt international standard or centre lock, and the front hub now has a 15mm through-axle option.
To keep the wheels light yet stiff, Fulcrum opt for what they call 2:1 – basically, using twice as many spokes (16) on the drive side of the rear wheel and rotor side of the front wheel as on the others. This gives more support to the critically loaded parts of the wheel and ensures a longer lifespan for the spokes.
We opted for a standard 9mm quick-release setup with six-bolt rotor mounts. Inflation was the easiest we’ve ever attempted with a tubeless system. We fitted a Stan’s NoTubes Crow on the rear and a Stan’s NoTubes Raven on the front for the fastest possible summer running.
We gave the wheels a good bedding in on both a hardtail and full-suspension cross-country bike, allowing us to get a feel of their ability to roll, turn and accelerate.
Although they’re not the lightest wheels (706g front, 823g rear) they’re far from weighty and so are ideal for cross-country racing, especially if you like to take the rough lines to pass others.
It’s this very toughness and ability under pressure that led us to use them on our trail and even all-mountain bikes. Only the relatively narrow 23.5mm rim width stops us using them on some all-mountain bikes, where performance and feel begins to suffer with 2.3in or wider tyres.
Performance-wise, the Red Metals are almost carbon copies of the Mavic SLRs, which just pip them by having a 15mm convertible hub, whereas with Fulcrum you need a separate wheel.