Upgrading your wheels is one of the quickest routes to improved performance, whether it's lowering the weight or improving the aero properties of your bike. Fulcrum's new Racing Zero DB is a high-quality lightweight aluminium disc brake wheelset; they're fast, responsive and, if you want it, tubeless-ready. They aren't cheap, though, and there are lighter wheels for less money, which makes them tricky to recommend unless you really want an Italian-made Fulcrum wheelset.
No guesses what the DB in the name stands for. Yes, it's disc brake, and that's the big change here over the regular rim brake Racing Zeros these are based on. That means a high-end aluminium racing wheelset manufactured in Italy to very high standards – the most expensive alloy wheelset it offers.
The rims are machined 6082-T6 aluminium, with excess material shaved away in a triple milling process to keep the mass as low as possible. The rim is 30mm deep with a 23.8mm external and 19mm internal width that the company says is compatible with tyres ranging from 23 to 50mm widths. This opens them up to gravel bike use as well as racing and endurance steeds.
It's a tubeless-compatible rim, and while regular clincher tyres with inner tubes can also be used (Fulcrum calls this 2-Way fit), I opted to go for a tubeless setup. I used them predominantly with Goodyear's new Eagle road tubeless tyre in a 28mm flavour.
Initial installation was smooth, helped in part by the completely sealed rim bed with a tubeless valve already in place, and the tyres popped up into place at the first time of asking with a regular track pump. If only all tubeless installations were this breezy. Air retention has been good with no significant loss over the course of a week.
For the hubs, Fulcrum has used a combination of carbon and aluminium for the front and all-aluminium for the rear. The flanges have been oversized and are joined to the rims via 21 spokes in each wheel using the distinctive two-to-one lacing pattern. That's 14 spokes on the left and seven on the right side. They're aero straight-pull spokes with external nipples for easy wheel truing.
Inside the hubs are USB ceramic speed bearings with adjustable cup and cones, and the plasma-treated (intended to increase durability) freehub is compatible with Shimano and SRAM drivetrains. There are optional Campagnolo and SRAM XDR freehubs too.
With most modern disc brake road bikes now opting for 12mm thru-axles front and rear, it was pleasing that the hubs came set up for this standard out of the box. They are compatible with 9mm quick release and a 15mm front and 135mm width rear axle.
Disc brake rotors are attached using the six-bolt design but it also offers a CenterLock option – I'm not sure why it doesn't just stick with the latter as the former is slow to install a rotor, not good when you're constantly swapping wheels and rotors between test bikes. Fulcrum has analysed the impact of the disc brake on the rear hub and used a special one-piece design with internal stiffening ribs to counteract any potential flex.
Weight is 1,670g on our scales, against a claimed 1,590g. It's about 150g heavier than the rim brake version of these wheels. That's light, not crazy light but in the ballpark for this sort of wheelset. The wheels do have a 109kg weight limit, which is worth knowing.
The low profile rims make these a good all-round wheelset and they deal with breezy conditions well, better than the deep-section wheels on my Synapse they replaced. They offer easy and light handling with a good responsiveness when getting on the power and carving through tight corners. There's no obvious flex that I could detect, but I'm well under that weight limit, which might be a factor.
The weight savings might not look all that impressive compared to some rivals, but there's a noticeable quality to how these wheels ride that you can't ascertain from reading the specs. They give the bike a lively and agile feeling, and particularly stood out on the steep climbs round my way. They're not aero, but if you're riding predominantly in the hills then you're at less of a disadvantage.
During the test period they have been trouble-free. The tubeless tyres have remained inflated and I've suffered no leaks or major air loss, the bearings are running as sweetly as when they first arrived, and the freehub provides super-quick engagement.
However, as nice as they are, they are expensive and there are lighter aluminium wheels for less money. The Mavic Ksyrium Pro UST Disc tested last year stand out because they weigh a claimed 1,650g and cost £899, and the price includes a set of quality tubeless tyres. As an investment goes, especially if you're keen to taste the benefits of tubeless, the Mavics are a no-brainer.
And if you want/expect carbon for this sort of money, I direct your attention to the Token Prime Ventous Carbon Disc wheels. They're a couple of hundred pounds cheaper and 200g lighter, and you get a tubeless-ready carbon fibre deep-section rim for improving your aerodynamic efficiency.
All of which makes it tricky to recommend the Fulcrums. If you want speed, an aero carbon wheelset is going to be faster, no doubt about that, and the Tokens offer that along with a substantial weight and wallet saving. If you want the all-round capability and durability of an alloy wheelset, then the Mavics with tyres is a lighter (just) and cheaper option.
Responsive and light wheels, but too pricey for what they offer
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fulcrum Racing Zero DB
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Fulcrum says, "Creating a disc brake version of the legendary Fulcrum Racing Zero was never going to be easy. It had to be something special; it had to retain the responsiveness, balance and comfort that the Zero range is famous for.Introducing the Zero DB. The ride experience is the same – equally exhilarating and now with the added advantage of superior braking in all conditions. Not to mention that disc brakes drastically extend rim life. Fulcrum have succeeded in their goal: the gold standard aluminium disc brake wheel is now available."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Tyre Type: 2-Way Fit™ (Clincher/Tubeless)
Weight: 1590 g
Rim material: Aluminium
Rim height: Front and rear 30 mm
Rim width: 23,8 mm
Very nicely made wheels.
For climbing and fast riding, these wheels perform well.
No concerns here.
They are light, but there are lighter wheels for less money in both alloy and carbon.
Tricky to recommend them on value alone because, as highlighted in the review, you can spend less and get lighter wheels.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues here at all.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Tubeless tyres fitted very easily; this is an aspect of the wheels that really impressed.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
No rim tape as the rim is sealed, the supplied tubeless valves worked well.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For light and responsive riding, these wheels impressed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Easy to live with on a daily basis and calm handling in windy weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
There are cheaper and lighter wheels.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You get can a lighter alloy wheelset, or a lighter aero carbon wheelset, for less money.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? I did.
Would you consider buying the wheel? If they were a bit cheaper.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Probably not.
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're good, but there are cheaper alloy wheelsets with similar features and weight for less money.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.