The Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon DB wheels could well redefine the modern bicycle wheel. They're bang on trend for a broad range of today's disc brake-equipped bikes and promise the trinity of light, fast and strong.
First, they're the right material: carbon fibre, with a 3k core and unidirectional surface. And while Fulcrum doesn't tout them as tubeless ready, they are, with only the valve hole in the bed of the 40mm-deep aero section rims.
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The broad carbon rims are laced with 18 spokes in the front and 21 in the rear – a number low enough to keep the weight down, but high enough to make the wheels feel bombproof. The front is laced radially (where the spokes do not cross) on the right hand non-braking side, and two-cross on the braking side. The rear is two-cross on the drive side and radial on the braking side.
The beautifully tight spokes emanate from some of the smoothest and most durable sealed-bearing, disc-specific hubs you can buy in a ready-built wheel. From experience, Fulcrum hubs do well in crappy British conditions, on or off road. On paper then, the Fulcrum DB Racing Quattro wheels should be awesome.
The hubs use an asymmetric design to create a more even tension and working spoke angle between the rim and the hub.
The front hub has the biggest difference, with the right side effectively flangeless, and the right (braking) side having a high flange. In reality, this right flange isn't a traditional looking flat disc with spoke holes drilled in it, rather, it is a piece of CNC machined art, with material hewn away from every conceivable angle. The result is a structure that's barely there, but also incredibly strong.
It positions the braking side spokes up and out to create a good degree of triangulation and, therefore, strength and durability. Looking at the angle of the spokes on the right side, and the space still available – when paired with a TRP carbon fork and a SRAM Rival hydraulic disc brake calliper – the right hand flange could have been another millimetre, possibly even two, further out towards the brake rotor without being near to contacting the inside edge of the brake calliper. This is more of an observation than a criticism, as I have zero complaints regarding stiffness and rigidity.
The rear hub uses a similarly CNC'd right hand (drive side) flange, with the left flange shorter in height and of an arm design – with a radial spoke leading from each arm. The rear hub can be specified with a 10/11-speed Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo compatible cassette body. The cassette body itself is an off-white colour – a Plasma treatment applied by Fulcrum to improve its resistance to corrosion.
The hubs come with a wide selection of interchangeable end caps to allow use with 12mm, 15mm or conventional quick release levers. Whatever bike you ride now, and whatever you might end up riding in the near future, you can be sure the Racing Quattro wheels will be able to slot straight into its frame. They simply push on and pull off as required, yet they don't accidentally fall off if they get knocked when installing the wheels or in transit. Changing the caps takes seconds. A solid design.
The rims are 40mm deep, which is a practical depth for an aero rim. There's enough of an aero effect that it feels like it's worth having, yet it's shallow enough not to be grabbed by every awkward gust of wind.
The rims have an external width of 24.2mm, with an internal diameter measurement (ETRTO) of 17mm. The ETRTO is the important bit as it tells you the range of tyre widths you can safely use without issues. A 17mm measurement means they're good for use with tyres from 25mm and up to 50mm. Given that the global trend, even in the speed and weight conscious pro peloton, is towards 25mm rubber as a minimum, and 28-35mm for a good many of us, the Racing Quattros seem to be right in the sweet spot.
The rims are undrilled, with only the valve hole breaching the carbon rim bed. You might expect, as I did (before I read the small print) that this would mean they were tubeless ready. Well, talking to the folk at Fulcrum it seems that this is a coincidence not a planned design facet. Technically, they're not tubeless compatible – to the point where Fulcrum wouldn't facilitate sending some of its tubeless valves and valve extenders so I could rid the wheels of the black butyl menace. Nevertheless, in the name of science and bloody-mindedness, I converted them anyway. No issues setting them up sans tubes – in fact I even managed it without a track pump.
The rims' bead shape grips the tyres well (with or without tubes) at low pressures, allowing you to experiment with enhanced grip levels and added comfort without worrying about unseating the tyres. I bottomed the rims a few times while riding off road, but so far, to no significant harm.
I ran a set of Schwalbe's awesome new G-One 'go-anywhere' road and trail tyres in 35mm – like the wheels, brand new and bang on trend, and right in the go-zone for the versatile Racing Quattros. They give tons of grip, with low rolling resistance and, so far, no punctures. Their ability to be fast pretty much everywhere matches the versatile Racing Quattro's wide ranging appeal to a tee. Their 35mm width lets you use your hydraulic brakes on all surfaces with freedom and security, knowing the stable carcass even at 25psi won't squirm or fold. The 38mm version of the G-One would be a hoot on these wheels, and still well within the 50mm ETRTO limit.
I ran the wheels with 12mm thru-axles front and rear on a new Turner Cyclosys cyclo-cross frame with a TRP disc brake-ready carbon fork. The bike isn't a classical 'cross frame, more of a 'nu-school' crosser, with a nod to the new gravel and adventure markets. A slacker than average head angle, loads of tyre clearance and semi-compact, slightly sloping top tube make it ready for whatever you place in front of it, on tarmac or dirt. Coincidentally, the same MO as the Racing Quattro wheels.
This is where the wheels threw up a curve-ball. They ride like function-specific race-day wheels, all revved up and raring to rip up the road, and so, naturally, you expect them to be fragile and delicate, with a need to be guarded from harm and children's sticky fingers. In reality, they're street tough and ready for couple of pints and a scrap. They complement the Turner perfectly.
You could road race on these wheels no sweat. In fact that's what they're primarily for. Similarly, they'd be good on a disc brake-equipped tri or time trial bike, their aero rims cleaving the air with authority. But they're also in their element on a cross bike or a gravel bike up to their bits in grime. In fact, if you've got a new road bike with disc brakes, and you want a set of ultra-reliable go-fast carbon wheels for it, you've arrived at your destination. If you need that race day feel and speed, but with the build quality and general 'gung-ho' attitude to ride 365 day a year, then the Racing Quattro DB Carbon wheels are a mighty, mighty fine choice.
The first thing you notice when you turn the cranks on the Racing Quattros is their willingness to get off the line. They feel lighter than the scales say they are, and that's pretty light. Of course anyone perusing the spec sheets will see that there are numerous sets of cheaper alloy-rim disc brake-compatible road wheels, with similar stats, that don't cost a grand. That's true. Why bother with carbon and the added expense? The answer is that annoying non-tangible, nebulous and highly subjective area of feel...
Having tested many pairs of carbon and alloy wheels, the truth is that carbon wheels feel soft, or smooth, yet often ride more precisely than alloy wheels thanks to having inherently stiffer rims. I'm generalising a bit to make a point. Of course, there are crap carbon wheels, as there are crap versions of every great thing. Good carbon wheels deliver a ride feel that you have to experience to understand. That's the biggest problem with them: you have to feel their great ride in order to get your head around the added cost.
Once up to speed they hold it well, sending back low amplitude feedback from the road – enough to paint a detailed picture of the road surface, so you know what's going on with grip and how much speed the road (or trail) might have left in it.
Bumps, from the unseen road buzz right up to hitting stones and roots on tracks, seem to be absorbed with less jarring – the carbon rims definitely play a critical role in this.
Naturally, any wheel with such low mass will climb well, and these certainly don't let you down as you go up. The freehub and tight spokes deliver fast, reliable power, and I've never seen or heard of a Fulcrum freehub giving up. They have the solid feel you want from a wheel in a high performance situation. When that pesky rider glides past you on a steep pitch, you get to the 'u' in 'just go' and the Racing Quattros are out of their traps like a greyhound to let you bridge the gap.
> Check out our guide to the hottest disc brake-equipped road bikes for 2016 here
I've been pretty hard on these wheels, riding them off-road in typical cyclo-cross conditions and some that border on mountain biking. I wanted to see if they were stiff enough, strong enough and durable enough to cope. They are. I'm quite confident you can ride or race these wheels anywhere. Even, though Fulcrum will hate me for saying it, in a cross-country mountain bike race on 1.9in rubber (the max width limit of the rim). So, if you're a 'ride everything' type and own N+1 disc brake-equipped road and cross bikes, and possibly a 29er mountain bike, this could be the best value pair of clincher wheels you ever bought.
Stuff I don't like? The little clip out widgets that stop the valves from rattling didn't fit our valves for some reason and then got lost before we could tape them to the road.cc fridge door for safe keeping. The wheels don't come with valve extenders either, which is a bit of an oversight for any rim with any kind of depth. And when did Fulcrum stop shipping their expensive wheels with wheel bags?
Light, fast, stiff and strong, and very, very versatile
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Make and model: Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon DB wheelset
Size tested: 24,2 mm, ETRTO 17C (tire fit 25 mm to 50 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?
The wheels are designed as aftermarket upgrades for anyone wishing to lose weight and increase the performance of their bike.
Fulcrum says: "Whatever the situation, the promise is to become the ideal ride companion every day.
Thanks to its magical balance, the new 40 mm profile of these road bike wheels will do credit to itself on any road you tackle together.
Performance? It's aerodynamic, stable and fast. Climbs? It stays light and reactive when accelerating.
Downhills? It's decisive and easy to handle.
Racing? It's simple - just try it!"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
It's a full carbon fibre rim, laced to some extremely durable, light weight sealed bearing disc brake specific hubs. The hubs have a wide range of axle fitting options.
Fulcrum distributor i-ride says: "The Racing Quattro Carbon comes in a disc brake format and thanks to its multiple adapters it is compatible with any style fork or axle. Available in either AFS or 6-bolt hub standard, the Racing Quattro Carbon Disc is a well-rounded versatile and race-ready wheelset, perfect for upgrading your ride no matter what standard you choose."
Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
I'd trust these wheels completely in any riding situation.
Rate the wheel for performance:
The wheels add instant speed and agility to your bike. They're stiff enough to trust in high load situations, especially those slow speed, high lateral load moments you sometimes have in cyclo-cross when lining up a downhill.
Rate the wheel for durability:
Durability is a long game. So far these are still looking and riding like they're brand new, despite having been treated mean and shown plenty of mud. Other Fulcrum wheels I've had have exceeded our expectations for durability in terms of bearings, freehubs, carbon damage and overall wear.
Rate the wheel for weight
Rate the wheel for value:
A beautifully made carbon wheelset with all the fitting optons these have for £1200 is a decent deal, though I'd have liked valve extenders and wheels bags included.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Everything totally true even after rallying them hard, taking flights of steps and the odd jump...
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Just right. Not too easy, not a struggle.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The pop-on end caps allow fast adjustment for any wheels or frames you need to fit them to.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It was perfect. Exceeding expectatons. Which were high.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Their versatility is the biggest win. From road racing to TT, to gravel or cross or even XC (29er) mountain biking, you can use these to add speed to a fleet of different bikes.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Nothing. The valve holders got lost and are a stupid design. Not a deal breaker though.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Very much so.
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I reckon the wheels' ability to work across a wide range of bikes and bike styles more than mitigates their price. Versatility goes a long way in my book. That they're also very light, fast and comfortable to ride is just gravy.
Age: 43 Height: 5ft 9in Weight: ?
I usually ride: My seven titanium My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, sportives, mountain biking, a bit of everything
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