Wheel design is a trade off of weight, stiffness and durability, among other things. The £259.99 Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels deliver an accurate ride thanks to their stiffness and can take a beating without flinching.
You notice two things when you’re riding the Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels. On the upside, they're very stiff. Pushing them through corners, into large tree roots, over jumps and over the odd curb reveals they resist undue flexing.
On a 29er this stiffness is appreciated. Any flex in a wheel is more easily noticed with wheels of this size.
Carving into banked corners at speed really demonstrates their resistance to flex. They track accurately with virtually no squirrel or squirm when nearing the limits. All that makes them a great wheelset for the all-mountain rider.
However, they’re not light and wheel weight is weight you really notice when riding. So it was no surprise, when I slotted the wheels into my Santa Cruz Tallboy and headed to London's now defunct Beastway, that on a course featuring dozens of corners, dead turns and sharp climbs, they blunted the acceleration.
With about ten percent more rim and longer spokes, 29in wheels are unavoidably heavier than 26ers. At 1915g Fulcrum's Red Power 29 XL wheels sound heavy if you compare them to the 1740g 26-inch equivalent or to the high-zoot 29er wheels that seem to be all you ever see reviewed in certain carbon-obsessed publications.
For the price however, the Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels are right on the money. For example, they're 105g lighter than Mavic's Crossride 29 wheels yet cost £150 less. For under £300, the Fulcrums are bang on.
Racers will be put off by the high weight, but a trail rider on a budget will revel in a functionally brilliant wheelset. I've been racing and hammering these wheels and while I first found them a little on the heavy side, over time they've proved themselves as a solid and durable trail wheelset.
You’ll want something lighter for regular racing (Fulcrum’s 1750g Red metal 29 XL wheels, for example) but the Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels are perfect for hammering trails where their robustness pays dividends.
The rear wheel gets 28 spokes in a two cross pattern. The front wheel uses Fulcrum's ‘Two-to-One’ lacing pattern and has 8radial spokes on the non-disc side, and 16 two-cross spokes on the disc side. This design helps the wheel resist the forces generated by the fork and disc brake that try and pull the wheel to one side.
The spokes are aero shaped with a variable section, and slot into the oversized hubs with sealed bearings. The nipples use a self-locking system at the rim which maintains tension over time. It seems to work; over the course of the test period they didn't require any truing.
Rims are milled between the spokes to shed a gram or two, and are 19mm wide and 25.3mm high. They look very smart with a nice anodised finishing and fetching decals. Both front and rear hubs can easily be converted to quick release or bolt-through. Fulcrum includes adaptors that allow the front wheel to take either 9mm quick-release or 15mm bolt-through, and the rear hub can be switched between Syntace X-12 or 135/142mm. It's simple and future-proofs the wheels.
The rim isn't tubeless ready – it comes fitted with a regular rim strip – so if you want to go tubeless you're going to have to use a Stan’s tubeless kit or similar. There are whispers of a new UST rim from Fulcrum for next year.
For the money they're a fine pair of wheels and have proved durable in the long-term.
On the weighty side
Rim isn't tubeless-ready
UK importer: i-ride
Info from the source: Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels