As the sister brand to Campagnolo, Fulcrum wheels are able to indulge an engineering and manufacturing legacy that many other wheel makers can only envy. Like many of Campy’s hoops, the Fulcrum hoops begin their life at the factory in Vicenza, Italy, before being shipped to an assembly plant in Romania where they are laced and boxed.
With the singular goal of increasing performance for the climbs, Fulcrum engineers have revamped their lightweight climbing series with a new offering—the Speed 25. It’s on the high-end of their catalog and draws inspiration from Fulcrum’s Racing Light XLR with a selection of modern improvements.
Dimensions include a 21mm internal rim width, a 26mm profile (to blend in a bit of aero gains, according to Fulcrum), and a measured weight of 1291 grams (with valves and an XDR driver).
Fulcrum’s two-way fit ensures tubeless and tube compatibility. The hooked-rim design has been a mainstay in Fulcrum’s catalog for years, and the tubeless setup remains fairly predictable and simple. We were able to mount 30mm Panaracer Agilest tubeless tires with a standard floor pump. The solid rim-bed design catalyzes the process as well, since there is no need for rim tape.
Fulcrum uses a proprietary matte finish (that comes out of the mold) to cut down on excess weight from glossy paint treatments. Although they claim a 1285g wheelset weight, our XDR-spec’d wheels read 1291 grams with valves. It’s a competitive weight and in the same realm as Roval’s $2650, 1239-gram Alpinist wheels, Enve’s $2850, 1197-gram SES 2.3 wheels and Hunt’s $1500, 1213-gram 32 Aerodynamicists.
An asymmetric front rim is paired with an equally asymmetric rear rim to minimize weight and balance the added forces applied to the rear wheel. Both wheels feature a U-shaped construction with the rear wheel offset to the non-drive side to improve spoke tension. It’s one of the most extreme and striking asymmetric wheel designs we’ve gotten our hands on.
Fulcrum specs USB ceramic bearings with the aluminum hubs to add a premium touch to the build. Twenty-four straight-pull, stainless steel, bladed spokes add a bit of aero flair. They’re laced in a two-cross pattern and held in place by aluminum nipples.
On our first few rides we hit some of our steepest local hills to put the 25s to the test. Like most shallow wheels, the benefit of the weight savings comes with the acceleration from each pedal stroke. Uphill the wheels felt stiff and springy. We noticed the quick feel of the rims as we had been testing Hunt’s aero-focused 1700g Limitless Aero Disc wheels previously. Anyone making the switch from a heavier, deep-section wheel should notice the high responsiveness the wheels have on the climbs. The 25s feel like they are pushing the rider forward rather than feeling sluggish in the apex of an uphill switchback.
Descending, responsiveness remains high and the performance matches, but there is a noticeable lack of momentum that a mid-depth or deeper-rimmed wheel provides. The wheels are ideal for riders looking to capitalize on their climbing performances that don’t mind the trade-off of minimal aerodynamic features.
Of course, the standout virtue of these wheels is that unlike wheels with deeper (50mm-plus) designs, front-end handling is never negatively impacted by crosswinds, nor that flush of wind from a passing semi-truck that can otherwise bring unwanted “auto-steer.” This was a virtue that more than a few riders put a priority on versus the less-than-measurable benefits of a deeper aero rim. For these riders, too, climbing was part of the ride where they could appreciate the most performance gains.
As much as we can appreciate Fulcrum categorizing the Speed 25s as “climbing” wheels, we disagree with this ode to market categorization. The wheels are no more a climbing wheel than any sub-15-pound road bike is necessarily a climbing bike. In short, they perform well everywhere. We’re reminded here of the time (two decades ago!) when Trek provided Lance Armstrong with a special climbing bike to use in the Tour de France, only to have the Texan decide to race the bike for the entire three weeks! Point being, despite their unfashionable shallow profile, these Fulcrum wheels are as capable on descents and flat roads as any wheel. Best of all, due to their shallow design, the ill effects of crosswinds are far more negligible than the de rigueur deeper wheels popular with the aero set.
At $2762, the Speed 25s are near the higher end of wheelset pricing. Those looking for a premium pair of hoops now have another option to consider. Given the ceramic bearings, simple tubeless setup and subtle aesthetic, Fulcrum has quite the bundle of features for a modern wheelset. Anyone looking for a value-focused package may want to look at more reasonably priced offerings, but should note they likely won’t have all of the features Fulcrum has managed to pack into the Speed 25s.
• Made in Italy
• Laden with engineered features
• Shallow and fast
Price: $2762 (SRAM XDR)
Weight: 1291 grams