Fulcrum Racing 5 Wheelset


Fulcrum Racing 5 Wheelset - By Steve Cooper
  • Oversized Hubs with sealed high quality bearings.
  • Bladed spokes 20 front wheel and 24 in the rear
  • 2 to 1 spoke ratio on the rear wheel
  • Dynamic balance
  • Weight - 1755 grams for the set
  • MSRP - $495
Intro
What should you expect from a mid level clincher wheelset like Fulcrum's Racing 5? Don't plan on drooling stares from a gram conscious weight weenie. Nor will the gear snobs on your Sunday ride be duped into thinking you've hit the lotto. And although the wheels look sharp, they'll likely look a little downtown on that TdF team poser bike at your local post-ride coffee joint. But if you're like me and none of those things matter because you're simply looking to put in lots of real world training miles on a tough set of wheels, expect Racing 5's to fill the bill.

Solid, durable, medium-weight and bargain priced; they incorporate some cool design features that trickle down from Fulcrum's top of line models, like dynamic balancing and 2:1 aero spoke lacing. Available from both online and brick and mortar retailers, a set of Racing 5's can be scored for a deep deal if you're willing to do a little digging.

The wheels are decaled with racy red, black and white graphics that, depending on your perspective, occupy the pleasing middle between garish and subdued. The medium profile rim, flat black bladed spokes, gloss black hubs, and clean internal cam quick releases scream functional with just enough form to complement most any mid to upper level frameset and build kit. And if you're interested in practical training wheels to use day to day, mount up a pair of Racing 5's and save your expensive uber-light wheels for race day. At 25 mph, no one will be the wiser.

Tech Details
Fulcrum's website lists Racing 5, without quick releases, as 776 grams up front, and 980 grams at the rear. Those numbers don't add up to a light weight wheel, but are spot-on for a medium weight training wheel. Listed as Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo compatible, the SRAM 1070 cassette used during this review fit perfectly. The hub uses sealed bearings in a one piece aluminum body that incorporates the freewheel body and pawl.


Fulcrum Racing 5 Wheelset
Fulcrum promotes dynamic balancing across their wheel offerings. On their high end wheelsets like the Racing 1, the rim is machined to fine tune the balance. The mid-level Racing 5 isn't milled to provide balance; instead both the front and rear wheels are laced with 2 thicker round stainless spokes on either side of the valve stem drilling. With tires mounted (Michelin Pro Racing 3) and light weight tubes with long stems, the front wheel was subtly heavier at the valve stem. Perhaps by design, a speedometer magnet opposite the valve stem was the perfect counter weight. The rear was perfectly balanced.

Both wheels were out-of-the-box true to within half a millimeter, certainly inside my tolerance for a training wheel. The spokes were uniformly tensioned. Overall build was quite nice.

Racing 5's medium sectioned, 24mm wide, eyeleted rims come in either a black anodized or silver finish. The front is radial laced, with 20 spokes, a fairly typical set-up. The 24 spoke rear uses Fulcrum's Two-to-One™ lacing pattern on the drive side, with radial lacing on the non-drive side. A little tangent here - it doesn't seem possible that a spoke pattern could be patentable, but I'll leave that for the future patent attorneys in the world to figure out.

To my eye, the 2:1 lacing pattern looks plenty tough. Basically its 8 pairs of parallel spokes that run straight out from the hub's larger drive side flange to the rim, counter-pulling on 8 radial spokes from the smaller non-drive flange, creating the effect of a heavy duty radial laced rear wheel, with twice the spokes. The bladed spokes are stainless steel, anodized black, and connected to durable brass and chrome nipples. At the hub, the spokes are hammer headed, to positively lock into their aero position even when tensioning the nipple. As with most of today's factory built wheelsets, finding a broken replacement spoke on the road won't be easy. It's a plus that these spokes look tough.

The internal cam quick releases have a nice soft locking feel to them when clamping, and the nuts are large with four raised ribs that are easy to hold with gloves when tightening. They provide secure clampling.

On the road
The wheels feel plenty stiff when climbing, one of my favorite workouts. At 205 pounds, I'm too big for many wheels, but the Racing 5 ascended solidly without detrimental side to side flex, even when standing and hammering up stout 18% grades. On the fast, twisting backside descents, I was deliberately riding a rough line, over cracked surfaces, and diving late into turns to see if I could unsettle the wheels. But shod with sticky Pro3's, these rigid wheels held my lines just fine, even over rough surfaces. I'd characterize their ascending/descending handling as very stable and predictable, transmitting back plenty of useful road surface feedback.

On the flats the wheels tracked straight and true, rolling smoothly under my weight; a light rider might find them less compliant. As you'd expect, the Racing 5 doesn't feel as tight and snappy when accelerating as a light racing wheel. If there'd been a line sprint, I'd have been hankering for a different wheel. But with my endurance training, it's long miles, lots of hills, and time in the saddle. After loads of miles on varied country roads, I found the Racing 5's to be a comfortably functional wheel.

When coasting, the freewheel has a pleasing mechanical buzz. Pawl action is quick to engage and very positive, while the sealed bearings roll smoothly. The rims' braking surfaces aren't machined or welded at the joint, but the wheelset we were sent have a smooth transition so braking was fine, without any significant notchiness. Once the pads set-in on the rims, braking was very controlled and confident. Going from slight drag to full lock was reliably progressive, without grabbing.

Switching back to my Velomax race wheels after a few weeks of riding the Racing 5's, I could feel the crispness of the lighter wheels. The Fulcrums Racing 5's aren't heavy, but instead felt durable and tough, a trait I look for in the Dura Ace/Open Pro, 3 cross wheel I typically train on; in other words, a real-world road-ready wheelset. If I'm out 50 miles from home, I need to count on my wheels to get me back - these fit that bill.

In spite of how tough I've been on these wheels, they are still running smooth and true. For a little more comfort over longer distances or for rougher surfaced roads, run a more forgiving 25mm tire. If your rides consist of shorter loops or are paved smooth and clean, you'll be fine with narrow 23mm race tires.

Strengths
  • reliable wheelset for real-world conditions or training
  • lateral stiffness provides stable handling
  • dynamic balancing reduces wheel hop at speed
  • attractive graphics
  • quick release is powerful, yet easy to close
  • universal freewheel design
  • very affordable
Weaknesses
  • welded rim junction
  • lack of machined braking surfaces
  • a middle-weight wheelset
  • overly stiff for a light rider
Bottomline
Fulcrum Racing 5 is a great medium-weight wheelset that handles well, providing plenty of road feel. Braking is good, although a fully machined rim surface would provide smoother modulation. They're durable, and well suited for training rides and long miles, even under a heavier rider. At their listed price point, they are hard to beat.

Value
5
Overall
3.5

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