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The latest iteration of the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset picks up where the previous version left off: solid, dependable and perfect for sticking on your rim brake bike for winter miles. Most will prefer something more reactive if they were thinking of racing or riding a fast sportive, but for racking up base mileage, it's a great option.
It's been six years since we last reviewed a Fulcrum Racing 5 rim brake wheelset, where Dave found them to be very competent winter training wheels. In that time, the game has moved on – ever wider rim widths to accommodate fatter tyres, plus steadily decreasing weights as makers aim to stay on the curve of wheelset (and bike) design.
This latest version includes a widened internal rim width – up to 17mm, increasing the volume of airspace to better accommodate a 28mm tyre – and it's also been on a diet, now weighing 93g less than before at 1,650g on the road.cc Scales of Truth.
Meanwhile, it retains much of Fulcrum's tried-and-tested design, including asymmetrical rim depths (24.5mm front, 27.5mm rear) to better balance loads, a 20-spoke design in a 2:1 ratio at the rear with a visibly asymmetrical rim profile to further stabilise performance when giving it the beans, Fulcrum's anti-rotational spoke design which is said to improve spoke tension consistency, and an oversized flange that helps hold everything together when energy gets transferred from hub to rim.
Importantly, and perhaps disappointingly for some, there is still no tubeless compatibility (although Fulcrum does integrate tubeless compatibility – known as '2-Way Fit' – with its equivalent disc brake wheelsets across the range).
For my test miles through a mild but typically changeable autumn period, I fitted a lightly used set of Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 25mm tyres – one of the lightest clincher tyres around, with a grippy compound that inspires confidence when roads are damp.
In short, these tyres that are fast enough to uncover any weaknesses in performance, and despite the reasonable weight of the wheelset, there is a certain sluggishness when accelerating out of the saddle or climbing a significant gradient. Each pedal stroke feels solid, with power delivery consistent, but if you're after a more lively set of winter-ready rim brake wheels for some satisfyingly high-intensity, out-of-saddle hill reps, you might be better served looking a bit further up Fulcrum's range at the 3s.
That said, when merrily spinning along lanes and flatter/lightly rolling terrain, the 5s feel right at home. The sealed aluminium hubs are smooth (with a reassuringly quiet freehub ratchet sound), so once you're up to speed you're able to hold a steady effort easily.
Meanwhile, the air volume that the 17mm internal width affords enables a 25mm tyre to expand more or less to its full width, offering up good comfort on pimply tarmac.
That's balanced by the seemingly tough 18/20 spoke configurations, so if you do happen to dink a pothole, you can carry on going without worrying about buckling or tension loosening.
The alloy track offers good braking power and control in all reasonable conditions, and I've yet to see much in the way of wear.
For those looking for a first upgrade wheelset and a marked improvement over their supplied stock rims, you won't be disappointed. I judge them on a near par with another popular first-upgrader wheelset that I've ridden previously, Mavic's Ksyrium S, in terms of overall performance.
Like Dave found with the previous versions of the 5s, and Ashley has experienced with the current iteration of the 3s, I've no worries around the reliability of construction or build of Fulcrum's wheels. The 5s are built solidly, and I've got confidence that they'll see me through the rest of the winter and probably through the next too.
When it comes to value, you can pitch these against those slightly lighter Mavic Ksyrium Ss (£385), but the Fulcrums substantially undercut those. If you're not bothered about a big name brand then Prime's Race Road Alloy wheelset brought tubeless compatibility and lower weight for £250, though they seem to be unavailable at the moment, perhaps because of the current supply chain issues across the industry.
If you're on a really tight budget and are prepared to accept less performance, you might consider something like Fulcrum's entry-level Racing 6s (£275) or Mavic's Aksiums (£225).
Fulcrum's Racing 5 is a good winter and training wheelset. A step up from the cheapest alloy upgrade wheels, they offer enough performance for a satisfying ride without setting the world alight. But if you're aiming to look after your best carbon rim brake wheels, the Racing 5s are strong options for mucky riding.
Like their predecessors, the Racing 5s are solid training and winter wheels that will also appeal to first time upgraders
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fulcrum Racing 5 Wheelset
Size tested: RIM HEIGHT Front: 24.5 mm and rear: 27.5 mm
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: "The already best-in-class Racing 5 wheelset goes from high to higher performance thanks to its new design. The same qualities that have made the Racing 5 LG such a popular wheelset in the past, combined with new elements in order to make an affordable but also race ready wheel. The 20 spoke design in addition to the 17C wide asymmetric rear rim profile offers remarkable performance in terms of both increased lateral and torsional rigidity as well as increased reactivity. The new design allows for more homogenous spoke tensions and makes for a sturdier, higher performing wheelset."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
- RDB™ RIM DYNAMIC BALANCE
- ANTI-ROTATION SYSTEM™
- F.I.C. FULCRUM IDENTIFICATION CARD
- 100% HANDMADE QUALITY
- WIDE RIM TECH
- DIFFERENTIATED RIM HEIGHT
- OVERSIZE FLANGE
No faults to report - spoke tension has stayed true and balanced throughout testing.
Very stable and smooth rolling... if not that quick. But that's okay at this level.
No complaints so far, even the brake track hasn't shown much (if any) signs of wear.
It's dropped some bulk since we last had a Racing 5 set in to test. Competitive with those around it.
For a shade over £300, I think the Racing 5s provide good value. There are lighter wheels for less, but the Fulcrums feel built to last.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Very easy - I chose to use Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance tyres (which have a very flexible bead), and this is one of the easier rims I've fitted them to.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
High quality, as you'd expect from a brand like Fulcrum.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. They will appeal to many riders, given that they provide a good all-round package as a first upgrade or winter wheelset.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Modern rim specs, smooth performance, reliability, price.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Sluggish acceleration despite weight saving.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
When it comes to value, you can pitch these against the slightly lighter Mavic's Ksyrium Ss (£385), but the Fulcrums substantially undercut those. If you're not bothered about a big name brand then Prime's Race Road Alloy wheelset brought tubeless compatibility and lower weight for £250, though they seem unavailable at the moment, perhaps because of the current supply chain issues across the industry.
Fulcrum's entry-level Racing 6s are £275, and Mavic's Aksiums £225.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Although the Fulcrum Racing 5s don't set the world alight, it's a solid package for the rim brake rider in winter, and as a first upgrade.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: I ride: I would class myself as:
I regularly do the following types of riding: