Full Speed Ahead aims for 11 by '10

Tech feature: New products from FSA, October 11, 2008

Earlier this year Full Speed Ahead staff confirmed that its 11-speed road groupset will become a reality in late 2009.

According to FSA’s Maurizio Bellini, only 200 sets will be made to start with, and they will go to FSA’s sponsored teams Barloworld and AG2R. The company is keeping its cards very close to its chest when it comes to further details of the group. Plastic prototypes of the system’s shifters were made about a year ago, and the initial product development thrust has been entirely aimed at a pro-level road racing application.

FSA’s strength in the triathlon market with its aero bars makes that an obvious arena too, but Bellini says FSA has no plans for a mountain bike group. All the development has been done on the road, which has been FSA’s largest market.

An additional choice over the current options from Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM is an exciting development, but when will customers be able to exercise that choice? Bellini was reluctant to commit, but admitted when pressed that FSA was hoping for a release during the first six months of 2010.

Carbon wheels and ceramic headsets headline FSA 2009

Two major development FSA has in store for 2009 are ceramic bearing headsets and new K-Force carbon fibre road racing wheels.

The K-Force wheels boast Italian-made, 50mm deep carbon fibre tubular rims and weigh a claimed 1370g (± 20g) without quick-release skewers. The package includes FSA’s new 94g/pair K-Force carbon-handled skewers, a component that will undoubtedly appeal to old-school quick-release weenies like your humble scribe.

The new wheels use ceramic bearings front and rear (two in the front hub, four in the back) and the front hub sheds grams with a carbon fibre centre section. The rear hub is all-aluminium. Straight-pull Sapim spokes join hubs and rims; 20 up front and 24 in the rear. There will be Campagnolo and Shimano/SRAM compatible versons and a pair will set you back around US$2,900.

FSA’s Orbit Ceramic headsets are a welcome development for anyone who frequently trashes headsets. Headsets die from corrosion (which ceramic bearings naturally resist because they‘re not made from steel) and from a phenomenon called false brinelling. This occurs when a bike is ridden for a long time in straight line, and is a common cause of ‘indexed steering’ in road bikes. The bearing balls effectively become welded to the surfaces, then tear a tiny pit when they’re moved. Repetition leads to a distinct detent stop in the bearing.

Ceramic bearings should solve both these problems, and FSA has five models of headset to fit the various styles of integrated and external headsets in common use. The range includes Campagnolo and Cane Creek style sets, plus The Pig DH Pro Ceramic with a forged chromoly lower cup to stand up to downhill and freeride mountain bike use.

And there’s more

As you’d expect from a company that’s building up to making a complete groupset, there was a lot more new from FSA. We’re willing to bet that the groupset will carry the K-Force tag, because existing and new K-Force components have a unified colour scheme in black red and white that has ‘groupset style’ written all over it.

The selection includes a new K-Force brake with forged 6061 aluminium arms, thrust bearings at the main pivots, carbon brake pad holders and titanium bolts.

There’s a new version of the K-Force seatpost with 32mm rearward offset, replacing the previous 37mm model.Weight-conscious mountain bikers will welcome the new K-Force Light chainsets. As we’ve mentioned previously, FSA is deeply committed to the BB30 bottom bracket standard and has introduced a whole raft of BB30 chainsets for 2009, but it also has two new top-end mountain bike chainsets.

The K-Force Light Mega Exo Triple has hollow arms, a one-piece right-hand crank arm and spider and ceramic bearings at a claimed weight of 745g. The 2 x 9 version, as used on Trek’s new Top Fuel full suspension race bike, is claimed to tip the scales at just 694g. The BB-30 triple version is lighter still at 674g.

Also in the mountain bike doman, FSA has two new handlebars: the K-Force Flat and K-Force Low Riser. At a claimed 141g in 600mm width, the flat bar will appeal to cross-country racers. For trail riders and endurance racers, the Low Riser comes in 630mm wide, 25mm rise and 660mm wide, 18mm rise versions.

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