Fulcrum Red Wind XLR USB wheelset review£1,249.99

Fast clincher wheels

BikeRadar score4/5

The Fulcrum Red Wind XLR wheelset delivers a combination of carbon aero performance with the day-to-day simplicity of an aluminium clincher. At 50mm deep and with an external rim width of 20.8mm, the Red Wind XLRs offer a decent rounded tyre profile, but shy of trendsetting competitors.

Last year, BikeRadar tested the slightly cheaper Fulcrum Red Wind H50 wheels and loved them. In comparison, the XLRs save 148g via upgraded hubs with lighter aluminium axles and smoother rolling ceramic bearings, giving a total weight of 1,710g (120g more than claimed) without the 118g skewers.

The 50mm-deep rim handled crosswinds comfortably but, as expected, acceleration lagged behind that of lighter, more expensive full-carbon offerings. Nevertheless, compared with equivalent wheelsets from other brands, the XLRs are competitive on the scales and hold speed well.

The rim construction features a material hybrid of carbon and aluminium. An aluminium top section provides a secure hold of the tyre bead, and a reliable brake track, whereas the carbon forms an aerodynamic shape and provides structural integrity for the easily accessed external spoke nipples. This merging of materials creates a stiff structure that reacts well to rider input without feeling harsh; just enough vertical flex is available to quietly smooth road imperfections.

A mechanic's joy – external nipples on the fulcrum red wind xlr wheels:
A mechanic's joy – external nipples on the fulcrum red wind xlr wheels:

A mechanic's joy – external nipples on the Fulcrum Red Wind XLR wheels

Brake performance was faultless, the rims perfectly true out of the box and with precisely machined brake surfaces. A small side perk of the rim construction is the lack of spoke holes drilled at the rim bed, leaving a sealed, rim-tape free surface for the tube to rest on. Unfortunately, even with this sealed design, tubeless use isn’t recommended.

The wheels are tightly and evenly tensioned together via short, bladed steel spokes (18 laced radially on the front, and 21 at the rear using Fulcrum's Two-to-One lacing pattern, helping create more even spoke tension from left to right and with less stress to singular spokes). The rear hub features an oversized driveside flange that further reduces spoke length and increases overall wheel stiffness under power.

Fulcrum hubs have a solid reputation for durability, and the USB (Ultra Smooth Bearings) ceramic bearings add faster rolling to that trusted toughness. Often, other hub brands using ceramic bearings offer questionable durability, but the Red Winds are well sealed against contamination to aid in long lasting performance.

Included with the wheelset are Fulcrum branded wheel bags, valve extenders, and some of the best internal cam quick-releases available. Fitting the Red Winds to an existing bike shouldn’t present any issues, with Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM freehub bodies on offer, each 10- or 11-speed compatible and with 10-speed spacers included. 

Adjustable hubs on the fulcrum red wind wheels use standard tools:
Adjustable hubs on the fulcrum red wind wheels use standard tools:

The adjustable hubs use standard tools

If the white, red and black colour scheme doesn’t suit you, the 50mm XLRs are also available in a stealthy Dark Label version. You can also opt for one of two other bearing configurations, a slightly cheaper stainless steel or an upgrade to bearing perfection with the ceramic CULT.

A perfect balance of versatility, durability and value makes the Fulcrum Red Wind XLR a top choice for the enthusiast seeking a day-to-day performance upgrade.

Note: The Fulcrum Red Wind XLR USB wheelset is also available in Australia, through FRF Sports, for AUD$1587, offering great value for money.

David Rome

Former Editor, Australia
Dave was the editor of BikeRadar Australia until early 2016.
  • Age: 28
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 79cm / 31in
  • Chest: 89cm / 35in
  • Discipline: Mountain, road and cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Fast and flowing singletrack with the occasional air is the dream. Also happy chasing tarmac bends.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Fuel EX 27.5, SwiftCarbon Detritovore, Salsa Chilli Con Crosso
  • Dream Bike: Custom Independent Fabrications titanium, SRAM Etap and Enve wheels/cockpit
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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