After prototypes of the FSA electronic road group surfaced at the Tour de France for the second year running, FSA announced this week that "WE" will be launching at the Eurobike tradeshow at the end of August. FSA has been working on a road groupset for years — announcing back in 2008 its intention for an 11-speed group by 2010. While FSA is staying mum beyond the "WE is ready" teaser, it appears as if 2017 could be the year FSA's road drivetrain group finally sees production.
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While FSA is not talking about this electronic group, we can glean some information by looking at the parts, and by what an Bora-Argon 18 mechanic said at the 2016 Tour. For starters, it's a wireless group in terms of shifting, a la SRAM eTap. But there are wires running to the derailleurs from a battery.
The shifters have a two-way rocker switch on each lever, more similar to Shimano's current Di2 wired lever than SRAM's one-button eTap model. As with most systems, the right lever controls the rear derailleur while the left lever controls the front.
Interestingly, the levers will come in two sizes to accommodate different-sized hands, with the smaller version featuring a closer reach to the bar, according to Bora-Argon 18 mechanic Risto Usin.
FSA already has a range of road cranksets, brakes and chains as well as a full time trial transmission under its Vision brand.
Rumor has it that FSA’s earlier attempts at creating a cabled shifting system had to be shelved due to patent restraints from Shimano and SRAM. And now of course both of those companies have electronic groups well underway.
FSA acknowledges that the group is in development, but has declined to comment on it. "As everyone knows, we have been working on it for a long time, but at this stage we can't give any information about our groupset," FSA's Gloria Radaelli told BikeRadar.
The exact operation of the levers is unclear. Will FSA go for a simple one-press-per-cog or perhaps offer longer presses or button combinations for more advanced shifts? Will the front derailleur have auto trimming like Shimano's Di2 system? Will satellite shifters or the ability to program buttons exist? We don't yet know.
While we’re not sure what transmission protocol FSA has in mind, interaction with head units from the likes of Garmin – to show gear selection and battery life – would be welcome. This could be done on ANT+, but Bluetooth should not be ruled out. SRAM created its own wireless protocol to avoid interference.
Shifting speed is also an unknown. SRAM's eTap is slower than Shimano's wired Di2 at the initial shift, but is just as quick for subsequent shifts once you are moving across the cassette. This initial lag - just a tiny fraction of a second - could be due to the wireless nature.
BikeRadar will be sending a full contingent to the Eurobike tradeshow in Friedrichshafen, Germany later this month, so stay tuned for more details on FSA's forthcoming group plus a smorgasbord of other new tech.