Could the Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite be the best bang-for-buck wheelset in the world right now? In terms of raw performance, dependability and affordability it is certainly very, very hard to beat.
To keep this review concise, we will look at just why the Racing Zero Nite have garnered such a reputation, examining the factors that make this product unique, and how it ticks all the right boxes.
1. Price Point - Not many wheelsets on the marketplace can come close to Racing Zero Nite's value proposition (A$1299 inc). The only real competitors are the Campagnolo Shamal Mille (from Fulcrum's sister company, which is literally the same wheelset with different rear spoke pattern) or the otherwise excellent Shimano C24 Dura-Ace R9100.
Many will argue that you could perhaps build a custom wheelset at a similar price. But then again... could you? Could you build something as stupidly stiff with varying front and rear rim depths, and also have the black-on-black aesthetic of the "Nite" finish? Would the hubs come with ceramic bearings? Could you simply waltz down to your custom wheel builder, pick it up on the spot, mount it on your bike and go for a ride that afternoon?
Sure, it is possible to build a custom wheelset that is better than the Racing Zero Nite, custom tuned to your weight and riding style, but we'd highly doubt it can be done within the same price range. And don't forget the countless hours spent researching, planning, buying separate components and finally getting it laced up. In terms of plain old convenience - the Fulcrums have it in the bag.
2. Stiffness - I have never ridden a stiffer feeling wheelset. Most carbon wheels have some inherent flex which is fairly normal, and its great for compliance (ie: comfort, soaking up road chatter and vibrations). Overall stiffness probably does not effect performance too much, but it does produce a slightly different ride quality.
Whilst carbon wheels tend to feel like they need to "spool up" before propelling you down the road, the Racing Zero Nite's are very different - they are instantly on. They are almost brutal in the way that it picks up pace, suiting riders that are looking for that immediacy. Again, probably not huge differences in terms of actual performance once you are cranking down the power, but that initial "instant-power-on" feeling is very addictive...and satisfying. On the flipside, all this stiffness can take a toll on smaller riders (<65kg). If you are a bigger or more aggressive rider, then you probably won't even notice!
3. Braking Performance - From a rim-brake only perspective, nothing comes close to braking on a set of alloy rims, especially in the wet. Well, until now. PEO-treated surfaces like Fulcrum's "Nite" or Campy's "Mille" produces even better braking than on plain aluminium brake tracks. Metal surface rims always trumps carbon in this regard. Modulation is also vastly more consistent vs carbon rims. In fact it's so good, it really made me question the need for carbon rims in the first place. If you're in the market for an all-rounder, training, commuting, weekend bunchie, do-it-all wheelset, the Nite's will really make you think twice about going carbon.
4. Reliability - We love fiddling with our bikes. We like to change our setup often and we like to test new things but sometimes, we just like stuff that you bolt onto your bike and never have to think about again. Having a reliable set of wheels affords the mental (and sometimes monetary) capacity to tinker with other aspects of our bikes. The Racing Zero Nite's are definitely set and forget. Fulcrum (Campy) hubs are also amongst the best in the business. The Ultra Smooth Bearings (USB) bearings last for ages with minimal maintenance required vs other hubs. The spokes are solid and in my time with the wheelset, have not gone out of true. Not even once. And aesthetically speaking, the PEO-treated black braking surface is holding up perfectly, without discolouration, despite plenty of wet weather rides.
Note: Other sources reported the black treatment can wear off prematurely, but this seems to have only affected early stock from original batch. The newer C17 revision with black spoke nipples, does not seem to have this issue. We only carry stock of this version.
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