FSA unveils K-Force WE 12-speed road groupset
Italian component manufacturer FSA has announced a new 12-speed update to their semi-wireless K-Force WE road groupset. While one could be forgiven for thinking the WE groupset, first launched four years ago, was all but dead, FSA has apparently been busy updating the hydraulic disc brake road groupset over the past few years. last two years.
The group first received an update two years ago with a switch to hydraulic disc brakes and a purported improvement in reliability. Today FSA unveiled a new upgrade, adding an extra sprocket, introducing a new cassette option and further refining communication protocols for improved reliability.
Like its predecessor, the new groupset is semi-wireless, with both shifters communicating wirelessly and both derailleurs directly connected to the internal rechargeable battery. Previously, both shifters communicated with the front derailleur, which in turn sent shift commands from the rear derailleur via the battery to the rear derailleur. FSA has updated the communication protocol in the new groupset so that the two shifters can communicate directly with the two derailleurs, to improve response time and reliability.
Additionally, FSA has kept the “shift levers to front derailleur and wired signal to rear derailleur” setup as a fail-safe, should the new wireless signal run into trouble on the road.
In addition to the ANT+ signal used in the previous generation K-Force WE, FSA has added Bluetooth 4.0 in the new 12-speed shifters and derailleurs to further improve reliability and reduce signal interference. The controllers are powered by a single CR2032 button cell on each side.
The new 12-speed rear derailleur is now able to understand and memorize its exact position on the cassette, thanks to additional sensors included in the derailleur body.
With the WE 11-speed group, the rear derailleur could only calculate its position in the upper and lower cogs, but with the new derailleur’s additional sensors, the 12-speed system is able to calculate and memorize its position in each cog . This upgrade is sort of a backup-to-backup backup, ensuring that the rear derailleur understands where it is in relation to the cassette should the system still experience a loss of signal, thus avoiding the need for a reset complete.
While FSA has rightly emphasized reliability improvements with the new K-Force WE groupset, it has kept visible updates to a minimum. The addition of an extra sprocket is, unsurprisingly, the most notable update to the 12-speed group. FSA developed a new chain, cassette and chainrings to accommodate the inclusion of the extra sprocket. While FSA had already moved to 12-speed with their MTB components, they developed an entirely new, lighter chain for the 12-speed road.
In addition to this new chain, FSA offers three new 12-speed cassette options in the form of an 11-25, 11-28 and 11-32 12-speed block. The final production version will feature a cast and heat-treated one-piece cassette with Ti cogs and a carbon cage. Identically, the new cassettes are 13% lighter than the comparable 11-speed variant, and the new 11-32 block weighs 195 grams.
Up front, FSA will offer direct mount 54/40T, 50/34T, 46/30T chainring combinations mounted on the K-Force Team Edition crankset with a BB386Evo axle. Thanks to hollow 3K carbon fiber cranks and 100% CNC AL7075 chainrings, the crankset weighs just 544 grams with a 54/40 chainring combination.
FSA’s claimed weight for a complete groupset is 2390g, which puts it roughly in the range of Shimano’s Ultegra Di2, depending on the exact specs.
The new groupset looks nearly identical to the current 11-speed offering, with FSA maintaining nearly identical aesthetics and contact points throughout the new groupset. The shape of the lever, covers and shifter rocker switches remain unchanged, in fact the removal of the silver brake lever stripe is the only change to the aesthetics of the sieve.
It’s “like you were” for the derailleurs, too, with the brake calipers being the only component treated with a design update for improved aerodynamics and integration with modern frames.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the K-Force WE 11-speed groupset was some kind of mirage in a desert of component availability. In the four years since its inception, I have never seen a band in the wild. So naturally, one of my first questions for FSA was about availability. While the Italian brand couldn’t provide a concrete date, they were confident the new groupset would be available from spring 2023. Unfortunately, FSA wasn’t specific on pricing either, only suggesting that would be ‘Shimano Ultegra Di2 Compliant’.
Additionally, FSA suggests continuing to offer K-Force WE 11-speed groupsets and components until at least the end of 2023.
FSA’s decision to include a 12th sprocket is hardly surprising and with the big three manufacturers now moving to 12 speeds throughout their performance road range, it was a necessity once FSA decided to update its group offer. The brand’s focus on reliability and communications, rather than a complete design overhaul, also suggests it’s focused in the right area.
FSA told us that it has no plans to compete with the big group manufacturers, but instead focuses on providing “another option” for consumers and a complete package for its OEM partners. It is this OEM partnership lens that is perhaps the most interesting and perhaps even the best chance of spotting the WE 12-speed younger sibling in the wild.
FSA was always likely to face an uphill battle to break into the groupset market, and its first 11-speed iteration with limited availability and some performance issues did little to inspire the market. But a 12-speed, semi-wireless and reliable groupset at the Ultegra Di2 weight and price points could prove attractive to FSA’s already huge list of OEM partners. Especially if said group is supplied by the same partner who already supplies the bars, stems, seatposts, wheels, headsets, etc.
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