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Eurobike 2016: FSA officially unveil K-Force WE ‘hybrid wireless’ electronic groupset

FSA look to challenge Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo with launch of K-Force WE groupset

It’s been a long time coming but FSA have finally pulled back the curtain on the K-Force WE electronic groupset. The electronic groupset has been five years in development but will now be available from March 2017.

You’ll likely be familiar with FSA as a component manufacturer. The Italian firm’s chainsets are regularly specced on off-the-shelf bikes alongside Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo components, but FSA have long wanted a complete groupset of their own, rather than crashing the party of the ‘big three’.

SRAM shook up the top-end groupset market this year with the launch of the Red eTap wireless gruppo and while K-Force WE has wireless elements (WE stands for Wireless Electronic), it’s best described as a semi-wireless gruppo (FSA actually call it ‘hybrid wireless’ when you look a little deeper), sitting somewhere between Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS (both fully wires), and SRAM eTap (wireless) in design.

FSA’s semi-wireless K-Force WE groupset has been five years in the making

The shifters communicate wirelessly and are individually powered by a coin cell battery, and while the derailleurs pick up the wireless signal put out by the shifters, the front and rear derailleurs are connected by a wire and powered by a shared, internal battery.

The internal battery, which is charged via the front mech, has a claimed battery life of between 4,000km and 6,000km, while FSA recommend the coin cell batteries which power the shifters are changed once a year, regardless of use.

While SRAM developed their own wireless protocol to let eTap’s shifters and derailleurs ‘talk’ to each other, FSA uses the tried-and-tested ANT+ protocol – just like your heart rate monitor, GPS computer or power meter probably will. FSA say they have developed their own network key and customised ANT+ protocol to boost security and rule out the possibility of interference (whether deliberate or otherwise…).

FSA say that by using ANT+, they’ve opened up the possibility of recording, sharing and using shift data with third party hardware like a Garmin computer, while you can also pair the groupset with an app to customise the operation of the groupset, such as multi-shift options, battery life, power consumption and so on – something FSA have really talked up as a key USP of K-Force WE.

The wireless shifters communicate with the derailleurs via ANT+

Customisation also extends to the shifter design. The carbon fibre levers are available in two lengths, with 6mm difference between the two, in order to find the perfect fit. Reach is also adjustable through three different positions, using a screw under the rubber hood.

The front and rear derailleurs are connected by a wire, which also feeds into an internal battery

The front derailleur is fairly chunky compared to its electronic rivals, but it’s where the main brands of the operation are housed, so there’s no external junction box, as is the case with Di2 and EPS. FSA have used a rack and pinion front derailleur design which is said to provide fast, precise and quiet shifts between chainrings (the standard options of 53-39t, 52-36t and 50-34t will be available). The front derailleur also has an auto-trim function, while LED lights indicate battery life. If you do run out of battery, the front derailleur will automatically shift into the small chainring (you can also use the app to see how many shifts you have left). The ‘Set’ button on the derailleur allows the user to index the gears.

The K-Force WE chainset has a four-arm construction

As for the rear derailleur, rather than using a traditional parallelogram design like most, K-Force WE is driven by a triple gearbox which, according to FSA, allows the derailleur to remain compact, with the sides of the cage remaining parallel, in order to improve the accuracy of shifts. The derailleur will be compatible with a 32t sprocket, with FSA launching the groupset with three cassette options: 11-25t, 11-28t and 11-32t.

The rear mech houses a gearbox with three cogs to power shifts

Moving on and the chainset is based on existing K-Force models (K-Force is FSA’s flagship range), though it has been updated with slightly thinner arms to reduce the Q-Factor – the distance between the outside of one crank arm to the outside of the other. FSA say this better matches a rider’s natural position and improves aerodynamics (marginal gains and all that). The chainset has a four-arm design, pioneered by Shimano with the launch of Dura-Ace 9000 a few years back, made from carbon fibre and paired with an aluminium BB386EVO axle.

Finally, the brakes have also been tweaked from an existing K-Force design, and while FSA haven’t revealed much about the design, they do claim that the WE design offers more power and is better suited to wide rims.

The brakes are based on FSA’s existing K-Force stoppers

That’s it for now. All that’s left to mention is that claimed weight for the entire K-Force WE groupset is 2,090g. Pricing is yet to be set but FSA are pitching this somewhere between Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Red eTap.

Website: Full Speed Ahead


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