Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels review - light, fast and very good in crosswinds

The Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels are a subtly good pair of wheels that are evidently well made and ride excellently. Just be ready to part with a significant figure to get hold of them

Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

These wheels are subtly good, they perform well without ever being showy or loud. They feel very lightweight while riding and coped well in crosswinds too, despite being deeper than their predecessors. The Fulcrum Speed 42s cost a fair bit but the quality that comes with the cost is obvious.

Reasons to buy
  • +


  • +

    Stiff and sturdy

  • +

    Subtle appearance

  • +

    Tubeless ready

  • +

    High build quality

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Joins in the carbon lay up perhaps less tidy than other wheelsets, as fibres became more noticeable over time

  • -


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According to Fulcrum, the Speed 42 wheels are ‘an evolution without compromises: the new rims – higher, wider, lighter and more aerodynamic – the new hubs and the new spokes come together in a perfect wheel system.’ Now I’m not sure anything is perfect, but once I’d waded through this marketing talk I was inclined to agree that they are, at least, very good.

Out of the box the wheels feel very light and this is clear once they’re in the bike and rolling along. The wheels have a subtle look, meaning they’d suit pretty much any bike, and look all the better when clad in tan wall tires. 

While they are hard to fault, the subtlety arguably continued from the appearance to the performance as it was also hard to really get enthused about them. They’re good, very good in fact, but without any headline or jump-out features to really capture the imagination – or, perhaps, to justify their price tag.

However, they'll still be some of the best road bike wheels available on the market currently, so certainly worth a look for anyone looking to upgrade.

Fulcrum Speed 42: Construction

Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels

(Image credit: Future)

The low weight of the Fulcrum Speed 42s is obvious from the moment the wheels are extracted from their box: they are featherlight.

This was confirmed by some hanging scales, with the front coming in at 650g and the rear weighing 770g (with rim tape, but without cassette, disc rotors, tires or tubes).

Once fully assembled and in the bike, the low weight remained obvious – when lifting the bike out of the workstand and even more so when riding the bike uphill.

Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels

(Image credit: Future)

The rims are constructed with resins and fibers ‘made to Fulcrum specifications’. This reportedly means that Fulcrum has used a new composite mix of FF100 high modulus unidirectional fibers for the Speed 42.

As for aerodynamics, without access to a wind tunnel I can only speculate on this feature too. The Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels certainly feel fast and efficient, but they were at a slight disadvantage in my early estimations as I’d swapped from the Prime Doyenne 56 Carbon Disc wheels. I reviewed these recently: although they’re at the lower end of the carbon quality and cost scale to the Fulcrums, they cut through the wind thanks to their greater depth.

I had to avoid comparing the two wheelsets too closely and so reviewed the Fulcrums in fair isolation: I found them to be fast in their own right.

The Speed 42 wheels cope very well in crosswinds, never catching a gust or making me feel like I’m being wobbled off line in a corner.

Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels

(Image credit: Future)

The hubs are made from aluminium with a ‘USB ceramic, adjacent cup and cone bearing system’. Self-locking aluminium nipples attach to aero, straight pull spokes – made from double-butted steel. All this information is taken from Fulcrum’s website, regurgitated rather than observed. What I did observe, to my satisfaction, was the lack of noise from the rear hub when freewheeling.

There was a time when a clicky freehub indicated high quality. Now every rear wheel seems to do it and some do so with an irritating lack of consistency as the wheel goes round. I’ll let the quality of the Fulcrums show in their riding performance, no need to be followed around by an angry wasp.

Fulcrum Speed 42: The ride

Close up of the Fulcrum Speed 42 rim

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

The rims are tubeless ready, however I used the Hutchinson Challenger 28mm clincher tires which I reviewed a few weeks back. This is the tire width promoted by Fulcrum for use with these wheels, as ‘the new wider rims, paired with 28mm tires, provide a level of performance without compromises, with optimum aerodynamic penetration, rolling resistance and comfort’ – apparently.

It’s true that the wheels are comfortable and quick, plus the rims are stiff and don’t give much away whenever I attempted to sprint up short, sharp inclines, out of the saddle with my weight over the front of the bike.

Cannondale SuperSix with Fulcrum wheels against field gate

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

During the review period I also decided to do a mini-bikepacking trip, made possible by a Tailfin rack being compatible with my Cannondale SuperSix (thanks to a universal adaptor thru-axle supplied by Tailfin). This meant I could use my ‘best’ bike, with the Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels in situ, for a two-day ride with an overnight stay in the middle – pub-hotel, not camping.

The Tailfin top rack bag was very full as I took my running stuff to do a parkrun on the morning of day two. I also attached a full bar bag to the front of the bike. Even with all that luggage – and me aboard – I don’t think I was quite at the wheel system’s upper weight limit of 120kg (I hope not, anyway – I did have a pretty big dinner at the end of day one).

Even under that load, the wheel-tire-tube set-up rolled along just as well and coped fine with tarmac rides of 100km and 80km across the two days.

Fulcrum Speed 42: Value and conclusion

Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels together out of bike

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

The Fulcrum Speed 42s are undoubtedly a very high quality, well made pair of wheels. They feel featherlight when lifted by hand and also, most importantly, when in the bike and rolling along. Despite improved aerodynamics thanks to deeper rims, the wheels cope very well in crosswinds.

While they are a very good set of wheels, they will set you back a fair wedge of cash: $2,692.00 / £1,999.99 (HG11) – as reviewed; $2,703.00 / £1,999.99 (XDR) ; $2,698.00 / £1,999.99 (N3W).

Other brands have wheels of a similar price, so these aren’t particularly outlandishly pricy, but similar wheels can also be found cheaper. What’s more, price comparisons only carry you so far: the value of the money is still the same and it’s still a lot.

For slightly more money, at $2,800 / £2,500, you could look to the Roval Rapide CLX II, which carry deeper rims and so will possibly be more aerodynamic but with a minor (and likely negligible) weight penalty of about 100g.

At $959.99 / £899.99, you could save a whole lot of money by going with the Prime Primavera 44 road wheels

Essentially, there are cheaper options out there and most wheels nowadays are at least 'alright' if not 'pretty good'. But if you can afford the asking price on the Fulcrum Speed 42 wheels, you won't be disappointed.

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Jack Elton-Walters hails from the Isle of Wight, and would be quick to tell anyone that it's his favourite place to ride. He has covered a varied range of topics for Cycling Weekly, producing articles focusing on tech, professional racing and cycling culture. He moved on to work for Cyclist Magazine in 2017 where he stayed for four years until going freelance. He now returns to Cycling Weekly from time-to-time to cover racing, review cycling gear and write longer features for print and online.