Italian bicycle component kings FSA have launched their first group-set. Not any ordinary one though, it’s wireless and electronic. Hence it’s name WE.
Since seeing a preview of it at the BikeShow in Birmingham late last year FSA have been dragging their heels a little and the press launch was only two weeks ago. So I don’t know how that now positions it in the market place against it’s now well established competition, Di2 and Etap, or when a muggle like you and me will be able to get their hands on it.
So I was quite surprised to see it on a bike at Bespoked. Here it is on a custom painted Argon18.
The Argon is a pretty bike and very well finished, not my choice of colour but can’t fault the work.
The WE groupset is semi wireless, the shifters use ant+ technology (powered by plip batteries) to signal to the front mechanism as that has the brain for both front and rear derailleurs in it. It’s also connected to the battery hidden in the seat tube that powers them both. So there are still some wires, but a frame prepared for electronic groupsets will hide these easily.
Operating WE is user friendly by all accounts, difference to other electronic groups is that apparently you have to power it on and off each ride. No standby like others, this is probably to preserve battery life. Not really a hardship is it? Shifters felt pretty ergonomic and shifting switches are of a rocker type, light but with a satisfying click.
What I found interesting about the WE though was the way the mechs work. As far as I am aware neither of them have a return spring in them, meaning positioning is purely motor controlled. This opens up a whole world of adaptability, with a phone based app that can program them. Does this mean it can be modified for any speed of cassette? Could you use this on a vintage five speed with a change of jockey wheels? Can You use it on campag spaced cassettes?
It all looks pretty cool too, nice carbon and titanium elements and classy decals. I’d run one. Apparently rim brakes and disc are both going to be available, plus shifters will be available in two hand sizes. Neat.
All in all it looks like it will be a great piece of kit with some nice touches. But the big problem I can see here is it’s launch date, I think it’s a year too late. People who are already into the electronic groupset vibe will already have one, who’s going to rush out and change for something that’s not overly different? Also the price, the WE is circa £2k, you can buy an Etap setup for £1.2k online. There’s a set of carbon wheels in the difference.
I hope it goes well for FSA! What do you think?