I am a simple person. By that I mean that I am often easily impressed. Dangle a set of car keys in my face–or anything shiny really–and I’m likely to laugh and clap my hands. I’m that way with bike components as well. Show me some sweet anodized aluminum or crabon fribé (© BikeSnobNYC) and I’m likely to go “Ooh!” and buy whatever it is.
That’s one reason why I was so happy to be selected from the Singletracks stable of reviewers to test out the Fulcrum Red Metal 29 XRP wheels: they look frickin’ cool.
The other reason I wanted to grab the Red Metals is I have previously owned two sets of Fulcrum road wheels and been really pleased with them. In fact, one of those wheelsets went sailing off the roof of my car two years ago when my bike became dislodged from my roof rack. The bike tumbled daintily down the freeway at 70mph, destroying the saddle and scuffing everything up, but the wheels survived undamaged. They didn’t even need to be trued. I rode them for hundreds of miles after that.
When the Red Metal XRPs arrived, I headed straight down to my LBS to have them mounted. I did this rather than doing it myself for three reasons. First, I don’t know where my cassette tool is. Second, I am likely to break something, and third, I am horribly lazy.
Once they were mounted up, I felt a burning desire to try them out. I couldn’t wait! It was still the middle of the work week, though, and most of my rides happen on the weekend. So, as a compromise, I pressed my mountain bike into city bike duty.
My bike felt amazing, but of course I couldn’t judge just by pedaling down to the grocery store. I had to get these sweet pups out on the trail.
Then, the weather attacked. Once the rains passed, my riding buddy Bob and I tried out a new trail thinking it should be dry enough to ride. What we didn’t know is the trail in question did not drain very well. The bike rolled great, but it still wasn’t satisfying because the trail was basically a swamp. I don’t mind getting myself or my bike dirty, but I don’t like putting ruts in singletrack, so it wasn’t our most fun ride.
After that, I was out of town for a week visiting Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks, so my bike and the fancy Fulcrum wheels went unridden. It’s a rough life, folks, but at least I finally got to see Old Faithful. It’s truly amazing to see the ground barf like a freshman.
Back in town, I emailed and tweeted and used the FacingBook to find some buddies who were planning to ride. We headed out for a lap around Georgia International Horse Park, site of the 1996 Olympic mountain biking events. Finally, I got a chance to really enjoy the wheels. I got my friend Chris to take a photo of me as I am often seen on the trails, with Fulcrum Red Metal XRP wheels fitted to my bike.
Okay, that’s a lie. If I’m off my bike, I’m much more likely to be pushing it up a hill than falling off it. My XC racing day (1) is over. Now I’m in this to enjoy riding outdoors. I’m not trying to breathe so hard I shoot my own dang lungs out of my body.
Probably the coolest feature of these wheels is the hubs. They are anodized aluminum on the outside and crabon fribé in the center. That’s like a cyclist’s dream sandwich. “But wait, Jim,” you’re probably saying, “a dream sandwich would also include titanium!” Don’t worry your fuzzy little head about it, my sweeties. Fulcrum knows this quite well.
My extremely helpful and patient Fulcrum rep told me when he sent the wheels that they’d be a tad heavier than normal because my bike is set up for a 15mm through axle front and 12mm x 142mm through axle rear. The Red Metals come with a titanium freewheel body meant for a traditional skewer. He described the Red Metals as “more XC race ready.” My XC racing day (1) long gone, I didn’t understand what that meant, so I phoned my sister’s husband, Chuck Lewis, a veteran mountain rider and mechanic at The Bicycle Link in Hoover, AL.
Chuck explained that most pure race XC bikes haven’t made the switch to thru axles yet, even though there are some benefits, because of the lighter weight offered by a traditional skewer setup. Well, that explains it!
Personally, I’ve never been a gram counter. As I told the Fulcrum rep, I’m more of an ounce counter, as in 12oz at a time. He didn’t seem amused by that joke. Still, at a claimed 1635g, the Red Metal wheels are pretty dang light, especially for a 29er set.
Another cool development is what Fulcrum calls “MoMag,” short for “Mounting Magnet.” If I understand the technology correctly, the XRP wheels don’t have holes drilled for each spoke in the outer surface of the rim, the part that faces the tire. Instead, there is a single hole drilled for the valve stem. To lace up the wheel, you drop spoke nipples into the valve stem hole and use a magnet to guide them around to their proper spot. The resulting rim is stronger, and stronger is better because this is America, dang it.
All in all, if I were in the market for some race day wheels that I could use all the time, I would certainly take a long look at this set. They’re $1,599 MSRP, so figure a few bucks shy of that for an actual street price. As I say, I’m a Fulcrum fan already having owned some of their road wheels, so I’d happily own their mountain wheels as well.
Many thanks to Fulcrum for loaning us the Red Metal 29 XRP wheels for review.