Given their premium pricing, one might argue that your money would be better spent on a mid-range carbon wheelset. But what Fulcrum's Racing Zero tubulars lack in composite flash, they more than make up for with their fantastically solid and confident feel plus a top-notch build quality that should last for years, even with daily use.
Total weight for our test set is 1,494g, plus 120g for the included skewers – a respectable but far from super-light figure, especially in comparison with some similarly priced carbon offerings. Likewise, even aggressive inner wall machining on the differential-profile (26mm front, 30mm rear) rims yields modest 400g and 435g claimed front and rear weights – far from heavy but not as impressive as one would hope from relatively shallow tubular hoops.
Head out for a ride with them, though, and instead of dwelling on the mass you're instead reveling in their superb radial and torsional stiffness as you step on the gas, pound across bad road surfaces or dive down a fast and technical alpine descent. Other high-end pre-builts may be lighter, but few if any can match the Racing Zero's seemingly indestructible and bomber personality, and the outstanding rigidity makes them feel faster than you'd think.
Helping to produce that distinct feel are the rims' solid outer and beefy inner walls, and the fat, tapered and bladed alloy spokes used throughout that lend more of a steamroller-like quality than thinner-gauge steel spokes' typically springier feel. Widely spaced spoke flanges and 2:1 rear lacing only adds to the overall theme.
Likewise, the hubs aren't just bare-bones items that place a premium on light weight above all else. Locking threaded preload collars allow for perfect adjustment on the impeccably silky-smooth standard hybrid ceramic bearings, the large-diameter alloy axle assemblies easily come apart with standard tools if and when service is needed, and serrated steel axle end inserts provide a sure, slip-free grip on dropouts and fork tips.
The steel Shimano/SRAM-compatible freehub body isn't as light as an equivalent alloy unit but it's not subject to scoring from cogs, either.
Our Shimano/SRAM-compatible version also uses a thin-walled steel freehub body instead of the more common alloy construction – a heavier choice but not by much, and we noted no cog scoring whatsoever after a couple of months of regular use. Additional positives include the full-contact gluing surface (though it lacks a centre channel to accommodate thicker-seamed tubs), the predictable all-weather braking performance of the machined aluminium sidewalls, and the vice-like grip of the internal-cam skewers.
There's no way around the fact that the Fulcrum Racing Zero tubulars aren't all that light and are quite expensive as well, but weight isn't everything and if you let that singular figure dictate your every component choice, you're sure to miss out on occasion as even Pro Tour riders still reach for these in certain conditions on race day.
If you're after a solid-feeling wheelset that's durable enough for long-term, everyday use and carries no weight restrictions, these should be on your short list. And for those who don't feel like dealing with tubulars, there's a tubeless-compatible clincher version that should offer a similar feel.