It's been five years coming, but FSA's new WE groupset includes wireless signalling between the shifters and the mechs as well as rim and hydraulic brake options.
FSA K Force WE, the new part-wireless groupset from component company FSA, has been released in its entirety after more than five years of development and prototyping.
The new groupset was shown for the first time in its final production guise at Eurobike in 2016, and the long awaited groupset is, as expected, of a semi-wireless nature.
What this means is the shifters are working as separate entities and wirelessly linked via ANT+ to the wired derailleurs. This enables FSA to create a reliable, closed circuit between the derailleurs and internal battery whilst combining with the practical and aesthetically pleasing nature of a wireless groupset a la SRAM eTap.
Simply named WE (Wireless Electron) and resplendent with understated carbon and gold graphics, FSA has also stuck to an 11 speed design.
With 11 new patents, FSA’s designers claim “smooth and quiet shifting thanks to extensive research and development” – unsurprising after such a long development process.
These are available in two different lever blade lengths to cater for the majority of hand sizes (the smaller size also has a closer reach). The carbon lever also features distinctively knurled, rocker actuated shift buttons.
The lever arrangement harnesses ANT+, providing compatibility with outside devices such as Garmin headunits and a proprietary network key and customised communication protocol to ensure reliability and lack of outside interference.
This wireless arrangement also makes for a much simpler and cleaner cockpit setup. Standard coin cells provide power for up to two years.
The front mech is where the electronic ‘brain’ of the operation is located; it’s here that function and minor adjustments are controlled, along with charging of the internal battery.
LEDs used to indicate battery life and function are present along with the manual power button to enable shutting off of the system if so required.
Movement is provided by a rack and pinion setup and includes an auto trim function. A smattering of titanium and stainless steel keep the quality and functionality high. A 16 tooth capacity ensures compact chainset users are covered.
The WE rear derailleur features a wired connection to the front derailleur and has a chunky carbon fibre construction. It has a capacity to work with 32 tooth cassettes. FSA will be supplying three variants of its own cassettes: 11-25, 11-28 and 11-32.
FSA has gone down the route of a wired power source for both derailleurs, the internal battery having a claimed life of between 4,000 and 6,000 km, as well as being housed within the seat tube.
It has also developed an entirely new chainset for use with the WE groupset. Hollow forged carbon crank arms are mated to a forged aluminium BB386EVO axle. The chainrings feature a new pin layout designed to improve shifting with electronic groupsets.
Watch: Buyer’s guide to groupsets
WE will be available in both rim and disc brake options. The dual pivot rim brake calipers are a new design for this year, featuring a new linkage design to boost the clamping power. FSA has also specifically designed the geometry to handle the new influx of wider rim profiles. Claimed weight is 299g for a pair, complete with titanium hardware. The hydraulic disc brake version has a differently shaped shifter profile whilst the caliper features a flat-mount design and 140mm rotors.
Customisation is a by-word with the new WE groupset with FSA developing an app to work alongside it, enabling user refinement and shifting personalisation to become a simple process. Other data such as battery usage and shifting patterns can also be analysed for future improvements.
FSA is also working on both time trial and single ring versions for later release.
WE is scheduled for public availability from May 2017. Prices are TBA but due to the materials and technology are expected to be similar to Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM eTap. Weight for the rim brake version is just over the 2kg point.