This article first appeared on BikeRadar.
BikeRadar Verdict: "A worthy drivetrain rival performance wise, but could so with more refinement"
- Highs: Punchy, fast and accurate shifts
- Lows: Lacks refinement and slow to trim
- Buy if: You like the idea of a wireless group but want the longer reserve battery life you get from wired electronic groups
K-Force WE (short for wireless electronic) aims to take the best elements of Shimano’s Di2 and SRAM’s eTap groupsets and combine them to create a serious rival.
- Road bike groupsets: everything you need to know
- Shimano reviews and buying advice
- SRAM reviews and buying advice
First, I should point out that this isn’t a wireless groupset in the strictest sense; both the front and rear mechs are hooked up to the system’s battery. That’s where the wiring ends, though, as the shifters use an ANT+ signal to send your shifts to the groupset’s ‘brain’ in the front mech — one of the elements it borrows from SRAM eTap.
What it borrows from Shimano Di2 is the big-capacity battery. Brimming it takes just two hours and a full charge is said to be good for over 4,000km. I managed to go five and a half months before a top-up became necessary.
K-Force WE needs to be switched on via a button at the front mech before you can shift
The same can’t be said for the CR2025 battery in the right shifter, though. That had to be replaced during the test period, although I’ve no idea how many miles it logged as the bike had been used for demos before it reached me. FSA says you can normally expect about two years from the shifter batteries.
Switches that sit behind the brake levers control the shifting. They’re textured to make finding and operating them easy, even in thick gloves, but they look chunky and the groupset’s overall appearance lacks the refinement of its rivals.
When the shifters have power, shifting is impressively rapid and accurate, especially the rear mech, which self trims. The front mech is similarly precise and also self trims, although there’s some delay if you shift across three or more sprockets at once and create a chainline that rubs.
Gears aren’t the only consideration. Brakes are just as vital and the K-Force WE’s stiff, dual-pivot calipers offer ample stopping power and feel, and will accommodate 28mm tyres.
The K-Force WE calipers will clear 28mm rubber
Unlike Di2, which is always on, and eTap, which is activated by motion sensors, K-Force WE needs to be switched on before you can shift. You do this via the front mech and, while I appreciate the power saving this allows, it’s all too easy to begin a ride and find you can’t change gear. It also goes into standby mode during cafe stops.
At 2,090g K-Force WE tips the scales within range of eTap (1,970g) and Di2 9070 (2,040g) and falls between them in terms of price.
Overall it’s a worthy contender with impressive performance, but the biggest concern is the current lack of user servicing information. An app is on the way, which should let you customise the shifting, but until then you’ve got no choice but to take it to a service centre if something needs fixing, which could prove expensive and inconvenient.
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