Fulcrum Red Zone Carbon MTB Wheelset Review



Words & Photos by Nic Hall

Fulcrum has long been on the wheel building scene but has typically stuck to the XC and race categories. Lately they have been putting out wheels that bend the definition of downcountry, for a price considerably under the performance of their wheels. They sent us a set of their new Red Zone Carbon wheels, which sit at the top of their Red Zone lineup as their flagship offering. Being one of the longest winters we have experienced in years, we were forced to ride the wheels on everything from the flattest of XC circuits to the local DH test tracks around Bend, OR. We have to say we were impressed overall and may be keeping a set on our test bikes in the future, read on for the details.


Fulcrum designed their Red Zone Carbon wheelset to be light enough for XC and marathon use at just 1445g, yet tough enough to find their way onto more aggressive “downcounty” bikes. Made of high modulus carbon that comes out of the mold with a satin finish thanks to their Direct Inmold Matte Finish tech, Fulcrum designed the carbon to have a high level of vertical compliance while maintaining lateral stiffness for precision on the trail. With 28 double butted spokes in the rear and 24 up front, Fulcrum has the XC market targeted. But with an external 33mm width and 28mm internal and the asymmetric spoke placement for strength, the lines become blurred.

A step up from the aluminum Red Zone wheels, the carbon offering has fully sealed bearing and a cup and cone system that can be micro adjusted to change preload and reduce drag on the bearing system. Any time we can get a set of nicer bearings that will withstand the abuse of both wet trails and power washers, we will make that jump. Fulcrum has also designed an 18.6mm offset spoke mount to help balance spoke tension and keep the wheel in true longer. The Red Zone line comes tubeless ready out of the box and includes very nice stems and tire levers in the box.

Fit and finish is in line with the price tag – $1,477 as tested. The matte/glossy carbon looks understated and high end. The spoke tension and true on the wheels was perfect out of the box and the axle tension needed zero adjustment.

Fulcrum Red Zone Carbon MTB Wheelset Review


I can’t deny how much fun it is to get on a short travel down country bike and rip flowing trails, and that is exactly what I did with the Red Zone Carbon wheelset during my first month with them. They are an outstanding everyday downcountry wheel that could even pull double duty on your wide gravel rig. While ultra-light, I was impressed on the strength when I did come up short on a few natural doubles this spring. The lateral stiffness is just enough to keep the bike tracking, but the vertical compliance is an arm saver on long rides, especially notable on short travel rigs.

The cone adjustment system was useful to keep the bearing preload just right… I adjusted it once after the initial break-in after about 100 miles and didn’t feel the need to touch it again after. This gave the wheels a very consistent feeling and decreased rolling resistance while keeping zero play in the bearing system. At the same time, I tested all the spokes for tension, which were all within 5% of each other, and the wheels needed zero work on the truing stand following the botched landings.

Fulcrum Red Zone Carbon MTB Wheelset Review

Once the high country melted out, I was able to get the wheels up to our normal test tracks which include 3-5ft drops, rock sections, and high-speed berms – on the very upper limit, if not above what the Red Zone Carbon wheels were designed for. The Red Zone Carbon felt stable through all these features. By no means do they have the lateral tracking of a dedicated DH high profile carbon wheel, but for everyday use, they were compliant enough to not get unsettled but strong enough to inspire confidence. Through this abuse, they’ve continued to hold up well, which was a very nice surprise.

One great thing about running a lightweight set of low-profile carbon wheels is the ultra-short spin up time thanks to the low rotational weight. Combined with a set of lightweight and fast rolling tires, these wheels really shine as a prime example of the “downcountry +” market we are seeing more of, which re-defines what the typical XC gear is capable of.

The Wolf’s Last Word

For the price, the Red Zone Carbon is going to be hard to beat on a down country or trail bike. They are light, durable, and easy to true if you ever find yourself needing to. The only reservation we have is the 125kg/275lbs weight limit, which will keep some from being able to try how good this wheel is. If you are looking for a high-end wheelset that can pull duty on your down country, gravel, or trail bike, we suggest trying the Fulcrum Red Zone Carbon.

Price: €1,477 as tested (MS12 Driver)
Weight: 1,445 grams (set)
Website: Fulcrumwheels.com

We Dig

High End Build

We Don’t

Weight limit


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