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The Fulcrum Rapid Red Carbon wheelset sits in the company's gravel range, but the wheels are versatile enough to be used anywhere wider tyres are wanted thanks to a girthy rim width, loads of stiffness and a light weight. The attention to detail is impressive, and you are getting a lot of wheel for the money.
If your gravel riding requires an injection of speed or you just want some bling looking carbon fibre wheels then I'd definitely recommend the Fulcrum Rapid Reds. They bring all of the lightweight performance of the company's road range (of which I've ridden many), but in a tougher build for the challenges of some off-road shenanigans.
At 1,570g on the road.cc scales (around 80g higher than Fulcrum's claimed weight) they are light enough that acceleration feels quick, and they certainly don't feel lacking when it comes to climbing.
It's easy to push the boundaries of durability to improve weight by cutting down on the amount of material used in certain parts of the build or dropping the spoke count, for instance. But in my opinion the ride feel from the Rapid Reds shows that Fulcrum has got the balance right. They feel solid, giving you confidence when pushing hard over broken or rough terrain, and there are no feelings of 'buzziness' that you get on some cheaper wheels where a lot of surface vibration gets through.
A lot of my testing route is on military transit routes made up of large aggregate sections. The majority is a hardpacked surface compressed by tanks and lorries passing over it, but there are many potholes, which can be hidden from view because of the colour of the surface until you are right on top of them.
It's a given that I am going to hit at least one on my loop, and they can be wheel wreckers. The Rapid Reds took everything in their stride, and even when I heard that horrible sound of rock against rim the Fulcrums showed no damage or any issue with trueness.
The adjustable cup and come bearing system meant the wheels ran super smoothly throughout testing, and I didn't need to touch them once over eight weeks of testing that saw plenty of dust, grit and mud.
The internal rim width is 25mm (30.6mm externally) which is ideal for tyres ranging from 38mm to 60mm according to Fulcrum.
I used them with both a set of Panaracer GravelKing EXT TLC tyres in a 38mm size, and some 45mm Schwalbe G-One Bite Evolution TLEs. Both fitted easily and inflated securely, popping on the bead with just a high-powered track pump. Whether that is thanks to Fulcrum's C-Lux Finish, which it says gives a mirror-like finish to ease tyre fitment, it's hard to say.
The Rapid Red's full carbon fibre rim is 2-Way Fit, which means the rim isn't drilled right through to the side that mates to the tyre. This enables you to fit either clincher tyres and inner tubes or tubeless tyres without the need for rim tape.
The only downside to this is if the nipples need replacing – they would need to be run around the inside of the rim using a magnet rather than just dropping them in. At least Fulcrum has left the nipples exposed, though, so if the rims go out of true they can be tweaked easily.
To aid stiffness and reliability the rim is also drilled asymmetrically, offsetting the spoke holes to reduce dishing. Dishing is the angle of the spokes between the hub and the rim, and the deeper that the cassette gets, the less angled the spokes have to run on the rear drive side. The same happens to a lesser extent on the front wheel with regards to the disc brake. By moving the spokes holes the angle can be increased.
Aerodynamics isn't anywhere near as crucial on a gravel wheel as it is on a road version so it's good to see that Fulcrum has kept the Rapid Reds shallow at 30mm, which helps keep the weight down.
The spoke count is 24 for both the front and rear, and that is pretty typical for gravel wheels focusing on performance. If you are looking at something for bikepacking and carrying big loads you'll probably want something with 28/32 spokes, which will have a higher weight limit than the Rapid Red's 120kg (which includes bike, rider and kit).
When it comes to compatibility, the aluminium hubs take 12mm axles out of the box and are available with HG11 (Shimano/SRAM), HDR (SRAM) and N3W (Campagnolo) freehubs.
The overall handbuilt quality is very good, and they are well finished. I'd say it's an impressive build for the £1,399.99 rrp.
Zipp's new 101 XPLR wheelset (reviewed recently on off.road.cc) has a similar raised central section to the rim, and is also aimed at gravel riding. With rim tape and valves fitted they are 1,710g in weight, and a fair bit pricier, too, at £1,746.
There are some direct-to-consumer options available for quite a chunk of money less, though, such as Scribe's Carbon Gravel Wide++ wheelset, also tested on off.road.cc.
Matt on the whole was impressed (after he packed the hub with grease to quieten down the freehub buzz) and you can see why at just £870 for a set of wheels that weighs 1,360g.
Overall, I really like the Fulcrums. The ride quality is excellent, and I can't fault the build quality either. From a large brand that has to go through the distributor route, they are a decent price too.
High-quality gravel wheelset in terms of both the ride feel and durability, with plenty of stiffness to boot
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fulcrum Rapid Red Carbon Wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 30mm deep
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 Rapid Red family of wheels now boasts a set of wheels dedicated to those who want to discover new terrains and new trails, with a touch of extra speed.
We have applied the technological knowhow from our top of the range wheels to develop the reactive, light and reliable Fulcrum Rapid Red Carbon, for gravel (and for whatever gravel means to you).
Lightness and reactivity are guaranteed by the S-Shape asymmetrical profile carbon rim. This technology improves the balance between the tension of the spokes.
The optimised balance ensures long term performance levels. Moreover the unique shape of the rim profile increases stiffness by 2.5% compared to a traditional U-shaped profile."
The Rapid Reds are a lightweight gravel wheelset with the ability to take plenty of abuse.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
TYRE TYPE: 2-Way Fit Ready (for clincher and tubeless ready)
TYRE SIZE: 700c
DISCIPLINE: B-ROAD (Gravel)
RIM MATERIAL: Full carbon
RIM MATERIAL DETAILS: Full carbon, "UD" - carbon fiber finishing
PROFILE HEIGHT: Low
RIM HEIGHT: Front and rear: 30 mm, asymmetric
RIM WIDTH: 30,6 mm
INNER RIM WIDTH(CHANNEL): 25 mm
TYRE WIDTH: From 38 to 60 mm
BRAKING SYSTEM: Disc brake
FRONT AXLE COMPATIBILITY: HH12-100
REAR AXLE COMPATIBILITY: HH12-142
FRONT WHEEL SPOKES: 24
REAR WHEEL SPOKES: 24
SPOKES: MATERIAL Stainless steel - double butted
SPOKES: PROFILE Rounded, straight pull
FRONT HUB: Aluminum flanges
REAR HUB: Aluminum flanges
BEARINGS: Adjustable Cup & Cones bearing system
OTHERS: Lasered hubs
WEIGHT LIMIT: 120 kg (comprising cyclist, bike, equipment and luggage)
FWB OPTIONS: HG11, XDr, N3W
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels stayed true throughout testing.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Various size tyres fitted easily to the rims.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
All of the extras that came with the wheels are of a good quality.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A fast-rolling, durable wheelset that can take on the abuse from the gravel tracks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Great ride quality from what is a stiff wheelset.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Having to position the nipples via magnets could be more of a faff than normal for the home mechanic.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are well priced against a similar build from Zipp, although direct-to-consumer brands like Scribe offer some tough competition.
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
There are cheaper options available from direct-to-market suppliers, but the Fulcrums deliver all of the attributes needed for a quality gravel wheelset at a sensible price. The ride quality is a highlight. Overall, they're very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!