FSA K-Force Light Crank Set

For as long as I’ve been a cyclist, I’ve been gearing obsessed. Because speed is a function of gearing and cadence, and I liked speed, each of those numbers was as important to me as the number of miles I rode, at least at first. My priorities have shifted since then, but I’m still obsessed with speed and the most efficient means to attain it, which means I’m still preoccupied with gearing.

My first serious road bike featured a triple with half-step gearing. For those unfamiliar with half-step gearing, this was a setup used in touring where a fairly widely spaced freewheel (say a 13-28) would be paired with a crank with 50/45/30 chainrings. Done right it resulted in a drivetrain with almost no redundant gearing and by making sequential shifts between the freewheel cogs and chainrings, riders could make smaller steps in gearing than if they used more traditional selections. It was perfect for nerd like me.

I haven’t ridden half-step gearing since I sold that bike; I can’t say I miss it. I’ve remained fascinated with gearing choice though and have tended to err on the side of lower gears for long climbs. I continued to use triples off and on; I had an FSA carbon fiber triple on one of my bikes as recently as 2007. To me, the beauty of using a triple was matching the widely spaced chainrings with a narrowly spaced cassette. Stateside, I’d run a 10-speed 12-23, while in Europe I’d run a 12-25. Sure there were issues with chainline, Q, shifting and weight, but there’s a price to be paid for a drivetrain that spanned from roughly 30 gear inches to 120.

FSA is to be credited with the invention (if we can call it that) of the compact crank. They also get credit for offering the first carbon fiber crank that was stiff enough to be ridden by racers. The combination of smaller chainrings and carbon fiber meant that cranks, which often weighed a full kilogram weigh less than 700g; some less than 600g. They were as stiff as many of the old-style aluminum cranks and the 50/34 chainring combination moved the chain down the cassette, no matter how strong a rider you were.

In truth, the compact has all but eliminated the need for a triple. It weighs less, offers greater stiffness, improved chainline, lower Q and better shifting than even the best triple. Plus, when paired with some of the more mountain-oriented cassettes such as the 11-26, you get nearly all the low end found with the old triples plus more high end.

Then there’s the fact that this K-Force Light crank set enjoys a stunning white finish with graphics you can read at 30 paces, rather than only 30 inches. My 175mm crankset weighed in at 613 grams, which is a bit more than advertised, but they are still lighter than many options on the market. Flex? I’ve ridden exactly one crankset in my life in which I could feel the crank arms twist when out of the saddle and the only reason I could detect that was because I was also riding a bike equipped with the Dura-Ace 7800 crank concurrently. There may be stiffer cranks out there than this, but I’ve found nothing to criticize here.

Pricing on these is all over the place thanks to the Interwebs. While it’s no good for bike shops, the fact that you can install these with only two tools means that purchasing them online can save you perhaps as much as $200.

I still run into a great many cyclists who look upon compact cranks with the same disdain they reserve for helmet mirrors and neon-yellow windbreakers. In some riders’ eyes, it’s just not PRO. My view evolved when Tyler Hamilton rode one through the 2003 Tour de France, launching an epic breakaway to Bayonne and climbing the cruelly steep Col de Bagargui in a 36×25. It occurred to me that if your average PRO can pull the peloton along at nearly 40 miles per hour in a 53×12, then maybe I didn’t need a high gear bigger than I could do an interval in.

Honestly, I can’t do an interval in a 50×12. By shrinking the chainrings a bit, I get more usable gears out of my cassette and in my experience, selecting equipment to suit your needs is always PRO.

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  1. michael

    Padraig said “Honestly, I can’t do an interval in a 50×12. By shrinking the chainrings a bit, I get more usable gears out of my cassette and in my experience, selecting equipment to suit your needs is always PRO.”

    hear hear! it’s about time someone steps up and says out loud what most every recreational cyclist knows, understands yet won’t admit or confront. Too many riders are slaves to profi fashion and the disdainful commentary of too many shop staff/bloggers.

    My everyday gearing is 50/36 with an 11-25 slapped on the back. There is just about nothing I cannot confront with that set-up. If I were to travel somewhere where I would find long, sustained climbs that average double/digit percentages I would swap the cassette for a 12-28. Otherwise I am golden.

    I sometimes run a 52 big ring if taking part in a master’s race, but other than that I am as happy as the proverbial pig in shit with my 50/36!

  2. Rich

    I have settled into a 50/34 and 11/26 as my go to setup for 99% of ride situations. These days most people don’t criticize; they want to know my secret. 50×11 is plenty of power for me and most non- and wannabe-PROs

  3. todd k

    I have had the black version of these on my cross bike for the past three years. Aside from slowly turning silver the crank and crank arms have performed without issue. Did have to replace some bent chain rings last year, but given the types of swampy, grassy muck that we ride through up here, I can’t say that is uncommon or or a manufacturer specific problem.

    I only run compact on my road bikes. I tend to spin rather than mash. I have a 53 hanging on the wall, but I just don’t have a cycling or racing style that begs me to install it. About the only time I go into the 50×11 is on steep longish downhills, which is a rare occurrence in 95% of the riding I encounter. Heck, I think the folks I ride with would be surprised just how long I actually spend on the 34 chainring!

  4. Matt

    I’m picking you may not get many comments on compact cranksets Padraig, and if so these may be the reasons why:

    1. The spider of a compact double crank looks cramped and is therefore aesthetically similar to a triple.

    2. They can give off the impression that the compact rider wants to be seen rolling the big ring (i.e. roadies don’t want to ‘overtly’ be perceived as posers within the clan.)

    3. We are masochists for the most part and therefore have a genuine love of the 53 chainring. By the same token we are not above taking it easy in the 39.

    4. Roadies are generally pretty fit individuals and rarely need smaller than a 39×25. For instance, I’ve rolled 39×53 – in the 80s a 42×52 – on rolling terrain from 0 to 18 percent gradients for years on 11-25 cassettes with no issues.

    5. A 34 chainring renders almost all of the cassette too small for general riding unless of course you are climbing a decent hill.

    6. The massive take up of 2×10 gearing within mountain biking recently indicates to me that serious cyclists don’t want/need granny gears 95% of the time.

    – In summary, you’re right in saying that the compact does have a genuine place for heavy mountain cycling, touring, cyclocross, and recreational cyclists. For road cyclists, particularly those of us who define ourselves as ‘roadies’, I reckon the compact is unnecessary.

  5. adam

    While its true you can install the cranks with one wrench and the bottom bracket with a splined outboard BB tool, you’ll also need to install your pedals, and you’ll need fresh grease, and you’ll likely need to adjust the position of the front derailleur, and the limit stops, and then of course the cable tension…

    Not to mention you might need a different kind of wrench to get the old cranks off the bike in the first place, or if the BB doesn’t go in nice you’ll need to chase the threads with a hefty tap, or if its a new build you’ll need to face AND chase…

    Don’t forget your LBS!

  6. Matt

    Horses for courses boys. Some of you seem to like your compacts which is fair enough, but 5×5 interval sessions that end with 1 or 2 minutes in the 53×12/11 are definitely not unheard of, and what about the excellent right of passage that is messing around with your mates on a Sunday pub ride and seeing who can climb a 1300foot hill in the 53×12/11?

  7. naisan

    Unless Matt’s last name is Goss, I have to disagree.

    Misinformed cyclists demonstrate the need to rationalize irrational choices to satisfy their internal needs (fashion, machismo. . .); one of the most common choices is the traditional 130BCD setup.

    I’m not a hater, it’s just that there are very *very* few people that have that kind of juice, and for the other 99% of cyclists, they should stop the delusions and get gearing that allows them to ride without hurting their knees or causing accelerated muscle fatigue.

    Matt’s done a great job of talking through some of the major points they make, but to keep things simple, look at the speed ranges for a 53-39×11-25 @ 90 RPM (big ring 31-15mph, and little ring 23 to 11 mph). Now assuming that you only have max 6% grades where you ride, that means producing around 290 watts @ 150lbs to hold your 90rmp while climbing. In my book that’s a pretty strong rider. Hey – forget my book, it’s even rated as a pretty strong rider in most coaches’ books and books on power training.

    Around here it’s pretty hilly riding, and we are usually going up or down 6-10% grades, with the occasional 18-20% grade popping up every hour of riding or so. It’s rarely flat.

    For a 10% grade 11mph means about 440 watts, and if you can sustain that and weigh in around 150, you would be able to string out the Tour de France field on a climb like Chris Anker Sorensen did in last year’s edition.

    Matt says he rides up to 18% grades with his 39×25, and I’m going be make a generous assumption that he holds 60rpm and weighs only 150lbs, and conclude that he can produce the 470+ watts to pull that off for more than a minute or two, then he might look into holding Cancellara’s wheel on the next classic.

    So let’s be clear: if you’re as strong as a cat 3 racer or better, and hold a 4.2 Watt/kg power number or better all year round, then by all means ride that 53-39 (According to Coggan that kind of ftp makes you a Cat II level racer). Likewise if you never ride grades of over 4% for longer than a few minutes at a time, by all means those big rings might just suit your area.

    If you’re not that hot, and climb hills that have any slope at all, then give your knees some relief and get proper gearing, because they can’t hear your boasting and posing, and will soon call your bluff.

    For the record I ride a 50-36X12-25.

  8. Champs

    If you’re sick of fiddling with trim, compact with a wider cassette is a reasonable alternative to the triple with a tight cassette. I’d probably consider switching to Campy before completely giving up.

    And sure, 53×12 is mostly a waste with doubles, but 39×13 is a practical gear, and you’re pushing it with small ring/small cog as much as you are running big/big.

  9. Hans

    There is nothing remotely new about the 110 bcd. Ritchey was selling a road crank that took these rings in the 1990s, which I’d routinely recommend to customers considering a switch to triples. A 48-12 has the exact same gear development as a 52-13, I’d point out. Paired with a tight mountain cassette (up to 28t works with all Shimano road derailleurs) you’d have a very decent set-up. Now moved to a place with surroundings that are generally flat, however, I find the 130 bcd to be reasonable, and forays into the alps can be cost-effectively dealt with by switching to a custom cassette, something like a 13-27.

  10. sophrosune

    When I lived in NYC, I used a 52×39 (with a 12×25 cassette in the back) and since I never made a point of seeking out mountains this set up was fine for riding Central Park and Nyack rides. But when I moved here to Spain and tried climbing my first Category 1 climb, I found this just did not cut it. I got myself a triple chain ring set up (50x40x30) and while it works perfectly now, it did not always perform that well. I have since gone to a 50×34 and while I find myself riding in the big chain ring more than before, I have to say that I have found myself in the granny gear of the 12-27 cassette more than once. Nonetheless I am intrigued by those who are using 36-tooth small ring on their compact set up.

  11. Hans

    And on the topic of half-step gearing, expect a renaissance when Ultegra-level Di2 gets released. Someone will offer a sequential shifter, like the brain rigged for that Di2 mountain bike (http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/fairwheel-bikes-creates-stunning-sequential-shifting-di2-equipped-hardtail). With all the brainwork required to run a half-step setup relegated to a computer, a smooth shifting, widely-geared but evenly-spaced drivetrain will be possible for any old Fred without gear duplication, and with significantly fewer cogs in the back. A quick calculation suggests that a 50×45 front paired with a 7 speed 11-30 cassette in the back would mimic a good general gear range, and if done with modern 10 speed cogs and spacers, could probably be fit onto a dishless (stronger+lighter) rear wheel, ala Jones’s 6 speed MTB cassette (http://jonesbikes.com/blog/?p=1231).

  12. Matt

    I’d much sooner go a 52t than a 50t and avoid having to buy a compact crankset.

    For (most) road races if you’re running a 10s 12-25 block and 53×39 chainrings, you’ve got a top end of 116 inches and a 50+ inch serviceable (i.e. workable chain line) range in the big ring; in the small ring a 38 inch serviceable range and a low end of 41 inches. Why mess with that especially when a 50t compact chainring loses 7-8 inches of top end…

    Similarly, for training and road bike commuting, a 39t can get a lot of use and in the 25t cog you’re only 3.3 inches worse off than a 36×25…

    Compacts seem like snake oil to me, although my mate with a super record compact set-up who doesn’t race it would probably beg to differ!

  13. Wayne Sulak

    Gearing is a very personal choice. The best gearing is effected by available power, cadence, terrain, and purpose of the ride. I believe more choices are better.

  14. grolby

    Come on, guys. The difference between a standard and compact crank isn’t really about the big ring. There’s a 6% difference between a 53 and a 50 tooth chainring. That’s not a whole lot; the gap between an 11 and 12 tooth cog is a good 9%. Put it in a 53×12 or a 50×11 and churn away at 100 RPM, and you’ll be doing around 35 mph in either one (a bit over with 50×11, a bit under with 53×12). That makes the difference fairly academic for most of us, unless we’re descending giant mountains and want to spin out as late as possible. The whole point of a compact crank is that you don’t really lose much high-end. When you’re closing a gap in the paceline or peloton at 35 mph, you probably aren’t thinking too much about what your max gear is. It’s true that I could go to a 50 without losing anything; I’ve used the 53×12 going downhill, and I think I’ve sprinted in the 14 a couple of times. Those three teeth aren’t making me any faster. But.

    It’s all about that 34 tooth inner ring. And that’s my problem for the kind of riding I do on my road bike: 34 really is too small. Not because I’m a Macho Man, but because it doesn’t overlap enough for the high end. There aren’t any hills big enough around here that I need gearing that low, especially if I’m racing; 39×25 is fine. If I wanted to sit up and gently cruise, sure, but one of the nice things about the 39 ring is that it’s still pretty useable on a false flat or when the climb flattens out for a while. I think a 34 would see me shifting the front more often, and I don’t really want to do that. A 36 would be better, but still pushing it a bit.

    But if I went off to do a tour in Europe, or moved to the frontal range in Colorado, you can bet I would have at least one bike with a compact.

    1. Author

      Thanks to everyone who has participated in the conversation in a constructive manner.

      I’ll add one small note: Last summer when I was in the Alps and riding the SRAM Red/Apex drivetrain, I almost never used the 50×11. I shifted into that gear three times and of those three times, twice I shifted back out of it immediately because turns came too frequently to really get the speed up. I did most of my pedaling coming out of the switchbacks, and they called for a 50×13 or 50×15. For those of you who live near the Front Range or the Angeles National Forest, I can see the outright need for a 50×11 or maybe higher, but generally, once my speed is north of 45 mph, I’m in a full tuck and not trying to pedal.

  15. Chris

    I’m always amazed by guys who say they need – and make good use of – a 53×11. Eddy Merckx won the Tour 5 times and he never ran anything bigger than a 52×13 and rode a bike weighing 24 pounds. Merckx averaged 38kmh when he won the Tour in 1971. That year the Tour covered 3,608km and he had 129 other riders to draft off of at the start, 94 at the finish. In 2010 Contador won the Tour with an average speed of 39.58kmh over a course of 3,641km and had 196 other riders to draft off of at the start, 170 at the end. Contador had a bike which weighed 10 pounds less than Merckx’s, was stiffer (which people claim is better), more aerodynamic, and had bigger gears. He also had access to a power meter, heart rate monitor, a bigger peloton to pull him along, energy bars/drinks/gels, lighter wicking fabrics instead of wool, clipless pedals and carbon soled shoes. Also the Tour is a much bigger and more competitive event with more money at stake and riders who train all year for just that one race unlike in Merckx’s a when guys raced the whole season. This means Contador and company should be going substantially faster than the wool and steel crowd. Yet despite all these advancements his average speed was only 1.5kmh faster than Merckx??? How is that possible? According to the experts ever new advancement is supposed to make a bike/rider an extra X% faster – we see it ads from Zipp, Cervelo, etc. all the time and from the experts at the bike magazines. Something clearly isn’t adding up. All of these advancements have occurred in the past 25 years and yet average racing speeds haven’t increased nearly as much as the theoretical claims should allow for.

    So please tell us Matt and all you other 53×11 posers: if you’re pushing that big 53×11 why are you slower than Eddy and how come we don’t see you winning pro races??

  16. Matt

    Chris, it’s not about being a poser inasmuch as it’s about what gearing your competition is racing. And you can’t really compare one generation with another because you’ll never add up all the potential contingencies. If he were at his peak now I’d wager Merckx would be running 53×39 11-23 like everyone else. I’m not a pro, but in the domestic and international racing I’ve participated in, the 53×12 and 39×25 have both had active duty within a single tour.

    A compact 50×36 11-25 set-up (eg campy 11s) gives you a handy top and very low low end for a road bike, but ultimately these are both extremes. Grolby summed it up in outlining that the 39 is a very handy chainring for racing bikes and that in relation to useable ratios a 36t chainring is “pushing is a bit”. Perhaps with 10/11s cassettes it’s now a good time to ditch the 53 for a 51/52×38/39, but don’t you think 50×34/36 would have most racers chopping the front mech up and down endlessly? If you happen to be commuting, cruising or climbing the local equivalent of the Angliru, you of course have a case for a compact, but otherwise it’s a little less clear.

  17. Chris

    I’ve spent my fair share of time wrenching for racers including pros. At the elite level guys can push the big gears, no doubt there. However those racers amount to less than 1% of all the racers out there and an infinitesimally small number of all the riders out there. For your average Cat 3-5 a 53×11 isn’t needed based on the speeds they’re riding at and yet when you look at their bikes they’re using the same gears as Boonen and company. Seems like quite a bit of hubris to think you’re going to need and make use of the same gears as Hincapie, Boonen, etc. Granted, today 10 and 11 cogs in back is the norm so maybe you can afford to have that 11t cog that you’re only going to use for one small part of the race. Eddy and the wool wearing crew of yore only had 5 cogs to chose from and couldn’t afford to have one of them be a gear they’d only use for a few minutes in a multi-hour race.

    At a bigger level I’m increasingly skeptical about the “advancements” in technology over the last 25-30 years. A typical pro racing bike now costs in excess of $10k and even at local crits I see guys riding $5-6k bikes and Zipp wheels. Magazines routinely describe $4000 bikes as entry level and $700 wheels as bargains. I know that makes me sound like a grumpy old man and to be fair when I started riding people were calling Greg LeMond the next Tom Ritchey and Tom Ritchey was better known for racing bikes than making them. However, as I pointed out in my first post all these technological advancements haven’t resulted in the sort of gains their makers claim. According to the companies producing this stuff and the magazines reviewing it we should be seeing more than a 1.5kmh increase in average speeds.

    I’d also take issue with the notion that FSA invented the compact crank. Compact cranks were the norm for many years (anyone old enough to remember the TA Pro Vis??) and many companies made 110 bcd road cranks back in the day. What FSA does get credit for is reintroducing the idea and making it more socially acceptable beyond the touring/randonneuring crowd. For non-racers there’s no need for a 53t and it’s nice to see product managers finally start to recognize this when they spec their bikes.

  18. The_D


    Someone with a fancy degree and a bit of initiative could probably gin up a compelling graph on the availability of additional gears, avg speeds, the closeness of ratios, and the number of gears actually used by the avg. Cat 3-5.

    I suspect people like me are able to stay with a faster peloton for having a number of close gears from which to “rev match” those whose wheels we are sucking. Sucks to to admit, but it’s not young, talented racers, it’s the “I’d do anything to not get dropped” folks like me who really drive the mid-high end market. {Ooooh, speed – shhh throw some money at it and maybe it’s come close enough to pet!}

    In other words, the fast people are about the same as they’ve always been, but more people can stay in their draft now. Thanks, technology! You are my bestest friend.

  19. Dan O

    i switched over to a 50×34 compact crank about two years ago, combined with a 11-25 cassette. Big gear masher I’m not, but I found the compact crank changed my riding style. I stay in big ring most of the time, only using the 34 for climbing. Being old school, I cringed at first with using the 50 and 25, however – it all shifts and works just fine. Thanks to Shimano equipment, all Ultegra level for me.

    In a sense, right or wrong, the compact has converted my bike into a 1×10 set up, with a 34 bail out gear. I’d be curious to try a 50×36 set up next.

  20. Matt

    Dan: Cheers for the practical insight mate. What you are saying about your set-up essentially being 1×10 – due to most of the small chainring ratios being too small for flat roads – should be a primary consideration for a compact drivechain shopper (especially so with that 34 up front!) Pleased it more or less works well for you though, and I’d be interested to hear what useable flat road gears you get in a 36t with the 11-25 cassette.

  21. Lachlan

    Just as saying 53×11 is for pro’s not amateurs, my experience is that its the same for high rpms that pros can sustain. I can’t sustain a Lance-style rpm through a race because I dont train as rigorously and specifically. Neither do most amateur racers from what I see (disclaimer- this is totally based on observation not any data on amateur rpms vs pros!!).

    My guess is that we are ok with similar gears to pros and we tend to (unwisely for sure) turn a slightly bigger gear. We can do that without the pro’s problem of muscle fatigue as our races are shorter and most often one-day.

    I also always found the 53×12 was or 53×11 was more for just keeping up when you’re in an agressive pack on varied terrain… esp heading even slightly downhill with a tailwind and with people attacking…. rarely used to keep your self off the front, but used often down hill or in the above mentioned race / agressive training ride situations.

  22. Robot

    When I lived in the flats I rode a 53-39 or a 50×17 fixed gear. Now I live on top of a hill. I was able to ride the 53-39, but at some point I felt I was flogging myself just to flog myself, so I went compact.

    Hey, how about those FSA cranks? This thing turned into a Group Ride, which is cool, I guess.

  23. naisan

    I personally found that a 34 up front was too large a gap from the 50, requiring too much shifting in the rear to keep things progressing naturally. For instance if I was running out of gears in the small ring, jumping to the big required 4 cogs change in the rear, and when going the other way, 3 cogs, which is annoying.

    More importantly, it was just too small to use it as anything other than a bailout gear. I’d end up only getting into the 34 when going up a 5+% grade.

    A 36 works very well for me – yesterday’s ride I made it a point to keep track of speeds and what gears I use: up to about 20mph I stay in the small ring without going fully crossed over. That means that up to a 2-3% grade I’m comfortable in the small ring, then cross over to the big when I get to 0-1% grades and downhills, and/or tailwinds.

    Highly recommend the 50/36 setup over the 34, but this is “horses for courses” and YMMV.

    At first I was tempted to get a 52/36, but haven’t ever found the need.

  24. Mikael Palm

    Hey all. Thanks for this great insight about compact cranks. last monday i ordered a FSA K-force compact crank. Im upgrading my Sram force 2010. After reading this I think it will suit my riding style better. I’ll try to let you know what i think of it. The only issu i have now is that i ordered a 175mm, i used to have 172.5mm crank. But i know that is a totally different discussion. some say that I wont feel the difference.

    Any how keep ridin’

  25. lqdedison

    I’d thought that Campagnolo had originally come up with the idea for the compact crank? I could be miss informed though…and I still would give credit to FSA for really pushing the compact crank to the masses.

    Out of all the so called “innovations” that have come to the sport in the last few years I think compact cranks are one of the better ideas. When I set my dirty tires aside a few years ago for a racing bike and shaved legs had it not been for FSA I’d probably have given up the skinny tires. I lived in a hilly part of the midwest and I simply wasn’t strong enough to roll a 53/39. I switched to a FSA Gossamer, which at the time was the only available compact crank and I think it really saved my interest in road cycling. I wasn’t really going to escape my hilly surroundings but with proper gearing I was certainly going to enjoy it a lot more. With the 50/34 I actually became a pretty strong climber and an avid road cyclist. I have since moved to flatter lands and have switched back to a normal 53/39 yet I still keep a bike in the stable with a compact crank for days spent in the hills.

    Sometimes companies get products out there that can really make an impact on the sport and that’s something I like to see. FSA has grown a lot in the last couple of years and I think some of that is due to useful products that can really help people enjoy the sport a lot more. Let’s not forget to mention that they’ve got a hot graphics package on a lot of products as well.

    Nice review.

    1. Author

      Lqdedison: Thanks for the kind words and your response. FSA does get the nod on the compact, but it’s not unreasonable to attribute yet another fine idea to Campy. They introduced the Racing T (T as in triple) back in the mid-90s and I recall riding that on a Litespeed-made Eddy Merckx—with a steel fork. That bike was flippin’ magic. Ti ride, Merckx handling. The triple was geared 52/42/32 and mated to a 12-21 cassette (8-sp.) and while I was horrified at first (I wasn’t yet a believer in triples on anything other than touring bikes, oh, and mountain bikes) I took it up a long and fairly steep climb, steep enough that the 42×21 was too much for me. I soon found myself in the 32 and perfecting my cadence with shifts between the 15, 16 and 17 cogs. That one ride made me re-think what you could do with a triple.

      History will also show, (a bit of fuel for those of you who think anything other than 53/39 is a sin) that Campy made the Racing T for Miguel Indurain to ride at the Tour de France. He did ride it a while, but he never raced it.

  26. Chris


    FSA doesn’t get the nod on compact. A lot of people were making compact cranks long before FSA even existed. Ever seen a TA Pro Vis? Compact gearing AND lighter than Campy Super Record or DA or FSA. FSA simply took an old idea and made it new again. Sort of like all the time trial bikes now sporting center pull brakes that are little more than updated Mafacs. Chances are any “new” innovation you see in was probably first tried by some cheese eating surrender monkey back in the ’50s. Examples include integrated headsets, pressed in cartridge bearing bottom brackets, integrated seat masts, etc., etc. All of these were first done decades ago.

    1. Author

      Chris: It’s true that TA has made chainrings of every possible size, giving people more choices than any other component manufacturer on the planet. However, they don’t get the nod for two reasons. First, they didn’t stake out territory. FSA took a stand and said, “We think this combination will give most riders a better range of gears.” TA offered similar stuff, but they also offered plenty of triples with combinations like 50/40/30. FSA made it an agenda item and TA simply did not. Also, because they only recently began to pin and ramp their chainrings, TA has been off most folks radar; they haven’t recovered the market share they used to enjoy before the days of pinned and ramped chainrings. TA simply doesn’t know the difference between an average idea and a good idea. That’s why FSA gets the nod. Until FSA made a compact crank, they simply weren’t being spec’d on production bikes, and that, really, is the litmus test.

      As to those old Mafac center-pull brakes, geometry, as they say, is everything. I wouldn’t put Mafac on anything I own because I consider brakes a critical element in control. The change in geometry has made the new center-pulls much more powerful, so while they look the same, they aren’t the same.

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