We took a pretty in-depth look a couple of weeks back at FSA’s new partly wireless road K-Force WE groupset when it was introduced in the lead up to Eurobike. Using wireless communication from each combined shift/brake lever to the systems brain, a pair of wires then transmit power and shift signals to the derailleurs, both attached to the seatpost battery. But while some had seen FSA as late to come to the electronic shifting party, they are progressing rather quickly and also had one very finished looking prototype group on hand of a disc brake WE groupset. We took it for a spin, took a closer look, and got as many details as we could…
What you first notice when looking at the two different levers side-by-side (hydraulic disc brake – left; mechanical rim brake – right) is the shape of the hood. The disc brake lever body has a distinct hump in it that is visually striking. Having ridden it, it is almost unnoticeable. It sits just behind the bulk of the thumb when slid all the way forward on the hoods and when sitting back more on the transition from bar to hood it was just in front of the hand. Undoubtedly some people might find it to be a nuisance, but it posed no issue to us in our short time on the bike.
The hydraulic disc brake hood is also bulkier at the tip, while being shorter in height overall. Width wise, it was a slight bit wider, but again with a reasonable range that made it disappear in the palm of our hands rather quickly. While the likes of Shimano apparently went to great lengths to develop all of their 4 variations on their most recently introduced Dura-Ace lever bodies so they would have the same profile and feel in the hand, it is clear that the same exercise wasn’t a driving factor at FSA for the K-Force WE group.
We also noted that the disc brake levers had the shifter rocker switch both further from the tip of the lever blade, and seemingly closer to the body. The switch itself was the same size, shape and configuration as on the rim brake bikes, but clearly it was not positioned in exactly the same location. We didn’t get an answer whether this was to accommodate the thicker lever body/hood that were needed to house the hydraulics inside, or whether these were perhaps the compact levers that we had been told about? In any case, the only nit we really have to pick with WE so far is that it is another control layout that our hands need to learn (we’re probably up to maybe 8 distinct road groups now?) Even on these two different lever bodies it felt like the controls were in slightly different places, and we’ll have to spend some time on WE to get used to them.
FSA told us that it wasn’t that difficult for them to develop a hydraulic brake set, as they had already just recently worked on the light K-Force calipers and levers for their mountain bike groups. While these flat mount calipers don’t bear a strong resemblance to those brakes, there were apparently a lot of technologies shares, especially under the hoods.
The calipers are a two-piece, two piston design and are flat mount only. The use inline hoses that should work smoothly with most internally routed road and cross frames. The brakes use the same top-loading pad layout out as their mountain brakes. They also share the same two-piece K-Force rotors, with their forged aluminum carrier and riveted-on stainless braking surface.
The rest of the group remains unchanged from what we’ve already seen. The front derailleur with its system brain remains, as does the internal battery and rear derailleur which are connected serially. The crankset, cassette, and chain will also be shared by both rim and disc brake groupsets.
We’ve since had an FSA representative tell us that consumer availability for this new disc brake group is likely to be the same (or very close to it) as the rim brake groupset. FSA had previously quoted May 2017 for the actual time when regular customer will be able to get their hands on K-Force WE, and that was mostly confirmed when we were told this week that both groups would be ready for sales in the first month of summer 2017.
As we said before, pricing hasn’t been set, and it most likely won’t be officially until the first month or so of next year. FSA is targeting SRAM & Shimano’s top-tier electronic road groupsets, and they expect to be selling at that same price level. Our impression of that statement is that K-Force WE will try to be very close to Dura-Ace Di2 and Red eTap pricing, while offering a small discount in price to try to lure away buyers.