At north of £2,000, the Fulcrum Speed 40T wheelset is one of the most expensive we've tested at road.cc, and at 1,213g, one of the lightest too. There is so much more to it than that, though, and why I think the price is – arguably – justified.
With a 40mm rim depth, the 40T is designed as an all-round race wheel to tackle anything from slapping out the pace on the flats, to sprinting for the line or climbing an Alpine pass, and it excels pretty much at each. Well, okay, I can't verify the Alpine pass bit, but they're pretty good on my local climbs.
The stiffness is pretty amazing from the full carbon fibre rim, and even full-beans, out-of-the-saddle sprinting won't see the rim flex to touch the brake front or rear. It's very impressive for a rim so light.
This stiffness comes into play again on the descents, with the Fulcrums feeling solid beneath you, along with the 3Diamant braking surface giving consistent braking performance even when it is wet. Fulcrum machines the braking surface with a diamond tipped cutter to skim off the finish layer of resin, allowing the carbon fibres themselves to make up part of the brake track. It also means that the braking surface is running true, so the pads have a uniform surface to apply pressure to.
The stopping performance near rivals that of an alloy rim, with none of the grabiness associated with carbon braking surfaces as the heat builds. It's always consistent and, as I've said, even pretty impressive in the wet, with none of that 'am I going to slow down or not?' kind of uncertainty.
The wheels come with Fulcrum pads which work well and are just as good as the Swiss Stop Yellow pads I also tried (and, as far as I can tell, only a little better than stock Shimano pads).
As far as the rim design itself goes, Fulcrum has followed the current trend and gone wide, 24.2mm in fact, for which it recommends using tyres ranging from 25mm to 32mm wide. I used some 27mm Zipp tubulars which suited the wheel perfectly in terms of a smooth transition between tyre and rim.
The hubs are both carbon fibre bodied to reduce weight, with aluminium flanges. That at the rear is oversized and laced with 21 straight-pull stainless steel aero spokes in a radial pattern on the non-drive side, two-cross on the drive side. Up front it's a radial setup for the 18 spokes. Both front and rear wheels use alloy nipples.
On flat roads the 40Ts just spin and spin, thanks in part to how unbelievably smooth the ceramic bearings are. There is lots of conflicting evidence out there about whether ceramics are worth the financial outlay, but give these wheels a spin in mid-air and I challenge you to sit there watching it until it stops revolving. I bet you'd get bored first.
And if things are a little lumpy or rolling, the light weight of the 40Ts means you only need to give the pedals a little nudge to accelerate over the crest.
The only criticism I have is that they catch a sidewind quite regularly – more often than some wheels of a deeper persuasion, I've found – but they are easily brought back under control when it does happen.
The build quality is another high point, and makes the Fulcrums feel like a wheelset that can take some abuse. I rode them in a much more reckless way than I'd ever do if they were my own £2,200 wheels and they stood up to it with ease. I crashed through a couple of potholes, rode through heavy rain and flew through rough sections of broken, back lane tarmac without the slightest let up, and everything remained as true and tight as when I took them out of the box.
The beauty of the 40Ts is that they don't feel like a set of super-light, expensive wheels. They aren't skittish at speed and don't rattle and buzz when you hit a rough surface. They are quiet and just feel solid like a good alloy wheel.
There is also a clincher version, the 40C, which adds nearly 200g for the hooked rim but obviously does away with the faff of using tubulars.
Overall, it's a stunning set of wheels, but then there's that tricky value-for-money ratio, and no doubt we'll all have our own opinions.
My twopence worth is that if I laid out £2,199.99 on a set of wheels then this is exactly what I'd expect in return. A stiff, lightweight, well-built pair that make riding your bike an absolute joy no matter what event you're doing.
They're noticeable on every revolution, not just in terms of performance but by just how planted and stable they feel. And you won't have to cringe either every time you hit a pothole.
Solidly built, lightweight all-rounders that'll enhance any bike's ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fulcrum Speed 40T Carbon Tubular
Size tested: 40mm deep, 24.5mm wide
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: "Created to give maximum results when racing: for this reason every single detail of these road bike wheels has been studied to make the difference.
"Lightness, smoothness, ease of handling: Speed 40T sets new limits. Ready to perform just as you to sprint towards your goal: the finish line!"
With their impressive lack of weight, the 40Ts are unbelievably responsive and very stiff to boot.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
TYRE TYPE Tubular
TYRE SIZE 28"
RIM MATERIAL Carbon
RIM MATERIAL DETAILS Full carbon, 3K - carbon fiber finishing
RIM HEIGHT CATEGORY Medium
RIM HEIGHT Front and rear 40 mm
RIM WIDTH 24,2 mm
TYRE WIDTH (SUGGESTED) From 25 mm to 32 mm
BRAKING SYSTEM Caliper
BRAKING SURFACE/BRAKING OPTIONS 3K carbon fiber braking surface. 3Diamant treatment on braking surface
FRONT AXLE COMPATIBILITY QR
REAR AXLE COMPATIBILITY QR
FRONT WHEEL SPOKES 18 (9 left + 9 right)
REAR WHEEL SPOKES 21, Two to one (9 left + 9 right)
SPOKES MATERIAL Stainless steel, double butted
SPOKES PROFILE TECHNOLOGY Aero, straight pull
FRONT HUB Carbon, Aluminum flanges
REAR HUB Carbon, Aluminum oversize flange
BEARINGS CULT ceramic bearings. Adjustable Cup & Cones bearing system
OTHERS Plasma treated HG freewheel. Aluminum Axle
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Absolutely no issues with anything.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
No issues with gluing the tubs on.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The skewers held firm and the brake pads offered stopping power parallel to that of Swiss Stop Yellow.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a fast set of wheels, solid enough to be used daily.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The high level of build quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
They could catch a side wind at times.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? It depends if my legs could justify the price...
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Fulcrum Speed 40T wheels are brilliant, but then they'd need to be to justify that price tag – and to be honest they pretty much do. Carbon wheelsets this light tend to feel a little fragile and often skittish but these are as solid and easy to ride as any alloy wheel I've ever ridden.
With an impressive braking surface and excellent build quality, they are really what I'd expect a high end wheelset to resemble.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.