The biggest component story at Interbike, at least so far—is the long-awaited release of FSA’s electronic group, K-Force WE. FSA has been threatening to release a full component group since before Shimano’s release of its Di2 hydraulic disc group. We’ve seen a front derailleur, a rear derailleur, a brake, plenty of cranks, wheels—in short, everything but integrated control levers.
It’s like saying you’ve built a car, just not the engine.
But now they’ve done it. They call it a wired wireless group (or was it wireless wired?), which is to say that they levers communicate with the derailleurs wirelessly, while the two derailleurs are wired to a single, common battery mounted in the seatpost. It’s a pretty genius idea; by using a single battery, you forego the chance of one battery dying midway through a ride, and by placing a large battery in the seatpost, you give riders a much longer battery life than can be clipped to the back of a derailleur. Battery life is alleged to measure in thousands of miles.
The levers communicate with the derailleurs via ANT+ protocol.
I got to ride the group today on a bike mounted to a trainer. Given how hot it was, I was okay pedaling under a tent in the shade.
The integrated control levers come in two different lengths and can be adjusted for reach. In terms of ergonomics, the levers feel like a hybrid between Campagnolo Ergo and SRAM Red eTap. It’s a very comfortable design and should feel especially comfortable for riders with smaller hands. The combination of the availability to replace the standard brake lever with a shorter lever, reach adjust and the slightly smaller lever body may make this group highly desirable among women riders.
The shift paddles are arranged over/under. The upper button on the shifters handles shifts to larger cogs/chainring. The lower button executes shifts to smaller cogs/chainring. This mirrored function is logically consistent with our experience with most current control levers. If you’re accustomed to STI, Ergo or Di2, they all function in the same way.
When shifting, you feel a very light click once you have sufficiently depressed one of the paddles. Out on the road, in the heat of a hard group ride or race, the feedback is faint enough that you might miss it. The paddles require a fairly firm pressure to execute a shift, but you can hold the paddle down to shift through the entire range of the cassette, either in up- or downshifts.
FSA has introduced an entire collection of parts to complement the drivetrain. The K-Force WE crankset could have been a Shimano product, based on its design style and four-arm spider; it’s available in 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34 configurations, and six lengths: 165, 170, 172.5, 175, 177.5 and 180mm. The new K-Force brakeset is a dual-pivot design with a design optimized to maintain power on new, wider rims. FSA has even introduced their own chain and cassette. The cassette comes in three configurations: 11-23, 11-25 and 11-28.