We’re continuing our coverage of Things That Roll (wheels and tires), and honing in on some of the latest disc brake and tubeless-compatible goodies. It has become clear that both technologies are here to stay, and both have made the leap into triathlon. Of course, not all of you are using disc brakes and tubeless tires, but the tone set by bike manufacturers shows that these will increasingly become what are spec’d on your complete bike purchases.
Today we’re featuring a product from an unsung hero of wheels. The name 'Fulcrum' may not jump out at you, but they’re a subsidiary of a much larger and more well-known company, Campagnolo. The Italian component maker sought to expand their horizons some years back, to offer a line of wheels with compatibility for drivetrains other than Campagnolo (read: Shimano and SRAM). Campagnolo is proud of their heritage, and didn’t want to see Campy-labeled wheels on a Shimano bike; thus the new name.
My very first set of performance wheels were from Campy – a set of Zonda aluminum wheels from ~2003. At the time, they were cutting-edge. 30mm deep rims, bladed spokes, and a then-groundbreaking 2:1 rear spoke lacing pattern. More importantly, the wheels were absolutely bombproof, staying perfectly true and having zero complaints over many, many miles. I’ve since come to regard Campagnolo (and Fulcrum) as top-tier in terms of build quality and reliability. They may not immediately adopt every new rim shape fad or axle standard, but when they finally execute – they nail it.
With that preamble in mind, I was very excited to get my hands on a set of modern, tubeless-ready, disc-brake-compatible carbon clinchers from Fulcrum. They’re called the Wind 55 DB, and they represent the top-of-the-heap in aero performance from the brand. In other words – for triathletes, this is the wheel you want to focus on.
Let’s hit the basic specs. The wheels come in at 1,680 grams per pair. The outer rim width is 27mm, with a 19mm inner width. Rim depth, as the name suggests, is 55mm.
The rims feature external spoke nipples for quick tension adjustments. Aerodynamic penalties can be debated, but I generally prefer this nod towards serviceability. A small drain hole / pressure release hole can be seen above on the sidewall of the rim.
These wheels are tubeless-ready, using what Fulcrum calls the 2-Way Fit system. This simply means that the rims can be used with either tube-type or tubeless clincher tires. The rim bed is a thing of beauty, using a fully-sealed design – meaning there is no need for tubeless tape. From a wheel building perspective, this does complicate things somewhat, as the spoke nipples must be fed through the valve hole and guided to each spoke hole with a magnet.
The spoke lacing on the Wind 55 DB is cutting edge. I mentioned in the introduction that Campagnolo was an early adopter of 2:1 lacing for rear wheels. While that has become fairly common for rim brake rear wheels, it is far less common with disc brake wheels and front wheels. Fulcrum uses 24 spokes both front and rear… 16 spokes on the dished side, 8 spokes on the opposite side. They pull this off with crossed lacing all around, which is highly desirable for the added forces of disc brakes. You end up with very even spoke tension all around, which translates to long-term durability and a reduced chance of ever breaking a spoke. Bravo!
Fulcrum uses the Center Lock disc brake standard, and supplies their own low-profile lockrings. They snug down using a standard outboard-bearing bottom bracket wrench – but note that the narrow profile requires a steady hand to avoid slipping off.
Installation and Riding
My set of wheels arrived several weeks back, and I’ve had the chance to get familiar with them over quite a few miles. The fit and finish are outstanding, and exactly what I’ve come to know from Fulcrum / Campagnolo.
A small kit includes tire levers, tubeless valves, and calve core tools.
I transferred a set of 28mm Schwalbe Pro One tires (2019 model) from another set of wheels, which installed with relative ease. Note that “relative ease” is different between tubed and tubeless tires. In this case, I was able to install the tires without cursing heavily, and was just able to inflate them with a normal floor pump (one wheel required some fast pumping to make the tire beads catch). The tire width ended up right at 30mm. In sum, this is exactly what you’re looking for in tubeless setup.
I strapped the wheels up to my recent test rig, a Cannondale Topstone Alloy gravel bike. These are road-focused wheels, but I’ve found that the Topstone functions just fine as a road bike. My only limitation with fast wheels such as the Wind 55 DB is the 46x11 top gear. I had plenty of tire clearance to spare, but as they say – it’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
Out on the road, the Wind 55 DB wheels met and exceeded my expectations. They brought back that familiar feeling of balanced performance and zero mechanical headaches. Paired with the Schwalbe Pro Ones, they cut somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 – 10 minutes off my usual 20 mile loop, compared to my most recent competitor (some 650b gravel wheels with 47mm tubeless tires).
Are these your next triathlon wheels? Road race wheels? Gravel wheels? Indeed, they can serve a variety of purposes. It’s also worth noting that Fulcrum has just now released an even fancier version, dubbed the Speed 55 DB (pictured above). They feature 21 spokes front and rear, a new rim profile, and a 100 gram weight reduction. Also note a hike in price, at €2,045, vs €1,249 for the Wind 55 model. So – if you’re a racer and want every last advantage (and have the scratch to pay for it), go with the Speed version. If you’re on a tighter budget but still want a great set of hoops, go for the Wind version. Learn more about both wheels at the Fulcrum website.