With an already comprehensive list of components, FSA continue to develop further specialist offerings. Slotting in between their Energy and K-Force ranges, the SL-K CycloCross cantilever brakes enter an increasingly competitive market.
The black anodised forged alloy arms have purposeful angular faces, with the only colour choice being between red-and-white or plain white graphics. An integrated barrel adjuster is neat, and allows for tool-free straddle wire adjustment – helpful when pads wear.
Brake pad adjustment and alignment borrows the mountain bike single Allen bolt and conical washer arrangement, and pads are replaceable in road or mountain bike style, meaning a simple change for carbon-specific pads. Stainless steel springs are neatly hidden behind the arms and rest against a grub Allen bolt for individual tension adjustment.
At 279g for all four arms, bolts, hangers, pads and straddle cables, the SL-Ks are very competitive. Fitting is straightforward, although it does require 5, 4, 3, 2.5 and 2mm Allen keys. Although a simple fixing method, adjusting each brake pad for alignment and toe-in with the single bolt requires three hands. A simpler method may be to set each one before engaging the spring, unless you have the dexterity of a surgeon.
Instead of using the common thicker braided straddle wire with its string-like malleability, FSA supply what seems to be a section of gear cable. Threading the straddle wire through the hanger is fiddly, and can lead to a kink in the wire, which doesn’t seem to have affected performance but is hard to straighten. However, the hanger clamp bolt and clever straddle wire lock are very satisfying.
Brake feel matches the best we’ve tested, with good modulation and a positive return, and once bedded in, there’s enough power for ’cross use, although the rear could be better. Excess play in the brass bushings isn’t noticeable in use, and heel and mud clearance are good, the arms being marginally shorter than the competition. The SL-Ks would make a stylish addition to any ’cross bike, and could equally suit light touring.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.