Fulcrum wheelsets have increasingly made their way into the mainstream with more and more bikes including them on stock models. There's a very good reason for this. Seemingly created by the folks at Campagnolo for the Shimano/SRAM user that wants the ledgendary buttery smooth spin found in Campy wheels, these wheels go several steps further and addresss all the little details.
The Racing Zero wheels sit atop the offering from Fulcrum's aluminum range. They are offered in two rim colors, black and red, with both utilizing the very recognizable red anodized bladed aluminum spokes. The color is absolutely gorgeous and really catches the eye. Fulcrum wheels are available with Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM compatible freehub bodies.
For starters, weight is among the lightest for a set of aluminum clinchers at a claimed weight of 1425 grams. This is achieved by a "triple milling process" which shaves away material that is not important for structural integrity. The tire bed is also solid aluminum and no rim-tape is necessary. The spoke pattern used is dubbed "two-to-one" such that the rear wheel is laced with twice as many drive side spokes on the rear wheel to improve power transfer. Perhaps the most thoughtful detail addressed is wheel balance. If you freely spin your wheels, inevitably the wheel will stop with valve resting at the bottom. The Racing Zeros just spin and spin and spin thanks to what Fulcrum call "Dynamic Balance." Instead of milling out the material between the spokes opposite the valve, this section is skipped in order to give the wheel better balance. This might not be a feature that you will notice out on the road, but it certainly helps keep the wheels rolling with less effort. The hubs are also made with aluminum, are oversized, and use traditional bearings.
Now for the ride...I was extrememly impressed with how smooth, stiff, yet seemingly comfortable these wheels rolled. Their low rotational weight helped them spin up with ease and I was zooming along after only a couple of pedal strokes from a complete stop. The ride was smooth and precise. Power transfer was evident and I noticed no flex in the wheels under heavy load. This included riding overgeared, climbing, and sprinting. One thing that I was impressed with was the lack of effect crosswinds had on me. I'm used to fighting the crosswinds with the large bladed spokes on wheels like Mavic Ksyriums, but this wasn't such a problem with the Racing Zeros. I'm not sure if it is a benefit of the wheel balance since both models use similarly bladed spokes, but it was noticable. The wheelset is extremely stiff and responsive. I had read some reviews that suggested a harsh ride as a result. It was a major reservation I had being a lightweight rider and having a lot of harsh chip-sealed country roads around. But, I was totally pleased by their compliance. The Racing Zeros are stiff, but not harsh. I have Michelin Pro3 Race tires on them, so the soft casing could be partially contributing to the smooth ride.
Overall, I have to say these are the best aluminum clincher wheels I've ever ridden. They offer all the qualities I desire in a wheelset: stiff, responsive, yet compliant ride quality. It doesn't hurt that they are conservatively exotic and scream bling without being over the top. The price is higher than a set of Mavic Ksyrium SL Premium wheels, but if you want better performance, servicability, and long-term durability, you won't mind spending a little extra. Besides, the wheels come with wheelbags, skewers, and tools for spoke replacement. The one con that I can think of would be spoke replacement. In the event of a broken spoke, you'll likely have to order the spokes, and they're not cheap. The most likely direct competitor of the Racing Zeros is the Mavic Ksyrium SL Premium. There are many similarities between the two models, but if you're looking for something a little different with an edge on design and performance, look for the Fulcrum Racing Zeros.