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Aero-vent balance, MIPS and bright shells all trending updwards
Patriotic paint, progressive features and prototype Zipp wheels
From new-school Assos to old-school Italian to a new custom SpeedShop Program
Fulcrum's top-end road wheels are mostly carryover for 2011 but major updates come at the mid-range.
Refinement on the road
Fulcrum's biggest changes on the road side of its 2011 wheel range fall squarely in the mid-range – right where consumers of more typical incomes are more likely to enjoy their benefits.
Leading that charge is the all-new Racing 3 non-tubeless clincher (the tubeless-compatible 2-Way Fit version carries over unchanged), which drops an impressive 104g from last year's version for a total claimed weight of just 1,555g for the pair. Changes include a new milled-down extrusion, fewer and more slimmed-down straight-pull bladed stainless steel spokes, and new alloy hubs with oversized aluminum axles and interchangeable alloy freehub bodies.
Further down the range, the updated Racing 7 alloy clincher goes on a diet, too, shedding about 80g per pair from last year – and all from the rim where it matters most. A mix of straight-pull and J-bend 14g stainless steel spokes join the hoops to new alloy hubs, which feature a larger-diameter driveside rear flange for improved power transfer. Claimed weight is 1,850g per pair.
Fulcrum has also added 'cross-specific versions of the popular Racing 5 and 7 clinchers. The so-called 'CX' variants are identical to the road versions but for additional seals on the hub bearings to better protect against dirt and water. Though Fulcrum targets these models to the mud crowd, road riders who frequently train in inclement might want to consider them as well as long as they can accept the additional seal drag.
Upper-end models are essentially carryover with the notable exception of the Racing Zero, which gets the company's USB ceramic bearing cartridges as standard equipment for 2011.
As before, the usual Fulcrum trademark features carry through nearly all of the range, including two-to-one rear lacing for more even spoke tension and balanced rims that help offset the weight of the valve stem – using unmilled sections on higher-end aluminum rims, a pair of thicker spokes on lesser models, and even additional carbon plies on the flagship wheels.
More axle fitments, lighter weights, and new big-hit models for trail riders
Last year's Red Carbon cross-country/marathon wheels have now been soundly trumped by the new Red Carbon XRP, which sheds 123g from its predecessor for an impressive claimed weight of just 1,347g for the pair. As before, the highlight of the wheels is their tubeless-compatible carbon fiber rim but virtually nothing else carries over.
The lighter hubs feature carbon center sleeves and titanium freehub bodies but larger-diameter flanges for more efficient power transfer. In a big change, those flanges now anchor quad-butted, stainless steel, straight-pull spokes instead of aluminum ones – and just twenty of them front and rear.
The alloy-rimmed Red Metal Zero ZRP is new as well, this time dropping 130g from last year's Red Metal Zero for a much more competitive claimed weight of 1,470g per pair. Changes include an internally lightened rim (though Fulcrum's Ty Dougherty won't say exactly how) that's still UST tubeless-compatible, new bladed aluminum spokes, and all-new hubs similar to those of the Red Carbon XRP with carbon bodies, large-diameter flanges, and titanium freehub bodies.
Big upgrades come with the introduction of the Red Metal 29" XL, which undercuts last year's 1,850g Red Metal 29 XLR by a full 100g. New externally machined aluminum rims are said to be lighter and stiffer than before thanks to a more refined profile while the spokes are now butted aluminum with round cross-sections instead of last year's bladed steel ones. Spoke count has also dropped from 28H front and rear to a more minimal 21/24H arranged in Fulcrum's characteristic two-to-one pattern.
Finally, there's the new, heavy-duty Red Heat model, intended for downhillers and freeriders. Still weighing a competitive 2,202g for the set, the Red Heat nevertheless uses 25mm-wide alloy rims to support higher-volume rubber, oversized aluminum hub shells with widely spaced flanges and 20x110/12x150mm thru-axle fitments, and 32 straight-pull spokes front and rear.
Key models – both carryover and new – get swappable axle configurations to accommodate the latest batch of frames and forks. Adapters for 15mm thru-axles are available for the Red Metal Zero, 1, and 3 and two versions of Red Zone, while the Red Metal 1 XL, Red Metal 3, and basic and XLR versions of the Red Zone rear wheels will be compatible with the increasingly popular 12x142mm standard.