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Inside: FSA's drivetrain and wheel factories

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Once all is said and done, parts are shipped off to OEM customers and aftermarket distributors

Once all is said and done, parts are shipped off to OEM customers and aftermarket distributors (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Needless to say, this massive block of steel is awfully heavy

Needless to say, this massive block of steel is awfully heavy (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA wouldn't say what these carbon fibre bits were but they look to us like sections of a rim bed. Don't fret about the worker using a hammer to knock off the excess resin. This is tough stuff, and the worker really isn't hitting the parts very hard at all

FSA wouldn't say what these carbon fibre bits were but they look to us like sections of a rim bed. Don't fret about the worker using a hammer to knock off the excess resin. This is tough stuff, and the worker really isn't hitting the parts very hard at all (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA also makes aero-profile carbon fibre seatposts in this factory

FSA also makes aero-profile carbon fibre seatposts in this factory (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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This is how the rims look straight out of the mould, with very little excess resin. In fact, FSA mandates that its rims require no surface finishing whatsoever after the curing process

This is how the rims look straight out of the mould, with very little excess resin. In fact, FSA mandates that its rims require no surface finishing whatsoever after the curing process (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Fresh out of the mould and with the excess resin flash knocked off, these rims are starting to look close to ready

Fresh out of the mould and with the excess resin flash knocked off, these rims are starting to look close to ready (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Those steel rim moulds are heavy, too. FSA uses this motorized cart to shuttle the molds back and forth from oven to table

Those steel rim moulds are heavy, too. FSA uses this motorized cart to shuttle the molds back and forth from oven to table (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Moulds are apparently tough to crack open after they come out of the oven

Moulds are apparently tough to crack open after they come out of the oven (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA uses a bladder moulded construction method for its carbon fibre rims. Here's where the line is hooked up

FSA uses a bladder moulded construction method for its carbon fibre rims. Here's where the line is hooked up (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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With the mould fully assembled, it's off to the oven

With the mould fully assembled, it's off to the oven (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Almost there

Almost there (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Putting on the final touches before the top is lifted into place

Putting on the final touches before the top is lifted into place (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Pieces of carbon fibre are laid out on shelves, waiting to be assembled into rim moulds

Pieces of carbon fibre are laid out on shelves, waiting to be assembled into rim moulds (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Workers carefully load up a clamshell rim mould. This room is controlled for both temperature and humidity. In fact, we weren't even allowed inside and had to shoot images through the glass windows

Workers carefully load up a clamshell rim mould. This room is controlled for both temperature and humidity. In fact, we weren't even allowed inside and had to shoot images through the glass windows (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Even the modest daily production of sixty rims requires a lot of separate moulds - and moulds are expensive

Even the modest daily production of sixty rims requires a lot of separate moulds - and moulds are expensive (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA uses this machine to drill the spoke holes

FSA uses this machine to drill the spoke holes (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Save for loading up the rim itself, the spoke hole drilling process is fully automated - and quite mesmerizing to watch

Save for loading up the rim itself, the spoke hole drilling process is fully automated - and quite mesmerizing to watch (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Ever wonder why it's often better to buy parts from a bigger manufacturer? It's certainly reassuring that certain brands conduct proper testing

Ever wonder why it's often better to buy parts from a bigger manufacturer? It's certainly reassuring that certain brands conduct proper testing (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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This setup is used to test wheels under vertical loading conditions

This setup is used to test wheels under vertical loading conditions (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Among FSA's battery of in-house lab tests is this motorized chamber, which is filled with a special abrasive slurry to help measure drivetrain wear

Among FSA's battery of in-house lab tests is this motorized chamber, which is filled with a special abrasive slurry to help measure drivetrain wear (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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At current exchange rates, this price tag indicates that FSA's X-Ray machine cost the company about US$160,000

At current exchange rates, this price tag indicates that FSA's X-Ray machine cost the company about US$160,000 (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA says that every hollow forged aluminium and hollow carbon fibre crankarm is tested using this X-Ray machine. It's one of the only non-destructive ways to inspect the interior of the structure

FSA says that every hollow forged aluminium and hollow carbon fibre crankarm is tested using this X-Ray machine. It's one of the only non-destructive ways to inspect the interior of the structure (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Much of the prototyping lab is separated from the rest of the facility as it's probably best that as few people know about this stuff as possible

Much of the prototyping lab is separated from the rest of the facility as it's probably best that as few people know about this stuff as possible (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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This test setup is used to carefully inspect chain rings

This test setup is used to carefully inspect chain rings (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA uses a variety of fabrication techniques to create prototypes, including 3D printing

FSA uses a variety of fabrication techniques to create prototypes, including 3D printing (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Company co-owner Douglas Chiang likes to remind employees how much especially expensive pieces of equipment cost to buy. It's a subtle reminder that the stuff isn't free, and should be properly cared for

Company co-owner Douglas Chiang likes to remind employees how much especially expensive pieces of equipment cost to buy. It's a subtle reminder that the stuff isn't free, and should be properly cared for (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA takes the finish of its carbon rims very seriously. Spoke and valve holes are inspected one by one, and hand filed as necessary

FSA takes the finish of its carbon rims very seriously. Spoke and valve holes are inspected one by one, and hand filed as necessary (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Valve holes are drilled on a separate jig

Valve holes are drilled on a separate jig (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA cleans the rims and associated bits in an ultrasonic tank to ensure a solid bond

FSA cleans the rims and associated bits in an ultrasonic tank to ensure a solid bond (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Surface finish on the rims is indeed impressive

Surface finish on the rims is indeed impressive (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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No, carbon fibre components aren't simply spit out of a mould like so many pieces of candy. This is a huge reason why better examples are still very expensive to buy and produce

No, carbon fibre components aren't simply spit out of a mould like so many pieces of candy. This is a huge reason why better examples are still very expensive to buy and produce (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Carbon rims are produced entirely by hand inside FSA's dedicated carbon factory. It's an incredibly labor intensive process and the company only turns out sixty individual rims daily

Carbon rims are produced entirely by hand inside FSA's dedicated carbon factory. It's an incredibly labor intensive process and the company only turns out sixty individual rims daily (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA doesn't just machine aluminium here; the company also prides itself on its ability to machine carbon fibre, too

FSA doesn't just machine aluminium here; the company also prides itself on its ability to machine carbon fibre, too (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Parts are often loaded in clusters to speed up the machining cycle

Parts are often loaded in clusters to speed up the machining cycle (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Every machine bears the photo of its operator. It fosters a sense of ownership and also makes the process somehow seem more human

Every machine bears the photo of its operator. It fosters a sense of ownership and also makes the process somehow seem more human (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The early stages of one of FSA's new MegaTooth chain rings

The early stages of one of FSA's new MegaTooth chain rings (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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While much of FSA's products are CNC machined, there's still some manual work required

While much of FSA's products are CNC machined, there's still some manual work required (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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These inner chain rings still have several steps to go before they're ready for sale

These inner chain rings still have several steps to go before they're ready for sale (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Before and after

Before and after (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The building is chock-full of CNC machines and lathes. We lost count of how many were on the factory floor - and keep in mind that this is but one row, in one section of the building

The building is chock-full of CNC machines and lathes. We lost count of how many were on the factory floor - and keep in mind that this is but one row, in one section of the building (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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These rough blanks are turned into highly complex chain rings

These rough blanks are turned into highly complex chain rings (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA goes through a tremendous quantity of aluminium

FSA goes through a tremendous quantity of aluminium (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Ha! As if...

Ha! As if... (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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A pair of guardian lions graces the main entrance for good luck - and FSA certainly seems to be doing well

A pair of guardian lions graces the main entrance for good luck - and FSA certainly seems to be doing well (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Feng shui is still a big deal in Asia, and the front of the factory is decorated with the obligatory water feature

Feng shui is still a big deal in Asia, and the front of the factory is decorated with the obligatory water feature (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Campagnolo-compatible freehub bodies in progress

Campagnolo-compatible freehub bodies in progress (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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These bits are destined to be headset top covers

These bits are destined to be headset top covers (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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All of the machining work has been completed on these cold forged aluminium crankarms so they're now off for polishing and anodizing - processes that FSA farms out to a third party

All of the machining work has been completed on these cold forged aluminium crankarms so they're now off for polishing and anodizing - processes that FSA farms out to a third party (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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While some parts are laser etched, others are printed

While some parts are laser etched, others are printed (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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After the parts are printed, they're sent through here for curing

After the parts are printed, they're sent through here for curing (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Chain rings are installed on a small assembly line

Chain rings are installed on a small assembly line (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Certain pieces are pretreated with thread retaining compound

Certain pieces are pretreated with thread retaining compound (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Stacks of finished products are boxed up and ready for shipment

Stacks of finished products are boxed up and ready for shipment (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Ever wonder why your FSA components have bar codes on them? The factory uses them to track production

Ever wonder why your FSA components have bar codes on them? The factory uses them to track production (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Target production goals for the day are displayed in bright LED signs

Target production goals for the day are displayed in bright LED signs (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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These 30mm spindles will soon be pressed into crankarms

These 30mm spindles will soon be pressed into crankarms (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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FSA wouldn't let us photograph the machine it uses to automatically laser etch headset top caps but the company is able to produce them significantly cheaper than its competitors

FSA wouldn't let us photograph the machine it uses to automatically laser etch headset top caps but the company is able to produce them significantly cheaper than its competitors (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Laser etching produces a small amount of aluminium dust, which is not only harmful to the workers but is also highly combustible. Vacuums suck away the dust, keeping everyone safe and sound

Laser etching produces a small amount of aluminium dust, which is not only harmful to the workers but is also highly combustible. Vacuums suck away the dust, keeping everyone safe and sound (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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This room houses all of FSA's graphics samples

This room houses all of FSA's graphics samples (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Crates of parts are constantly on their way in or out of the facility

Crates of parts are constantly on their way in or out of the facility (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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TH Industries is the parent company of component maker FSA - and we took a tour of its main Taiwanese factory to see how its parts are made

TH Industries is the parent company of component maker FSA - and we took a tour of its main Taiwanese factory to see how its parts are made (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

FSA had a relatively modest start in the late 1990s with just two categories of products: headsets and bottom brackets. Today, the Taiwanese company offers a huge range of gear, including cranksets, handlebars, stems, seat posts, complete wheelsets, shifters, derailleurs and all manner of smaller accessories.

As with much of the modern bicycle industry, FSA's manufacturing hub is centered in Taichung, about two hours southwest of Taipei on the western coast of the island. Here, FSA operates four buildings where crankarms are forged, chainrings are machined, wheels are built, and carbon fibre is laid up by hand.

So what exactly was involved in making your crankset? Dive in to find out

Prototyping and testing is also headquartered here – highlighted by a rarely seen X-ray imager the company uses to check all of its hollow-forged aluminium and hollow carbon fibre crankarms.

We took a tour through the company's primary machining facility where it manufactures the bulk of its drivetrain components, and its nearby composites factory where FSA produces all of its carbon fibre rims and then builds them up into wheelsets completely by hand from start to finish.

It's incredibly labor intensive to make parts out of carbon fibre

Why is stuff so expensive, you ask? Once you see everything that goes into making some of this gear, perhaps the question you should really be asking is why some of it doesn't actually cost more.