Component manufacturer Full Speed Ahead has confirmed plans to join the drivetrain market with full road and mountain-bike groups. There were plenty of rumors as far back as last year’s Taipei Cycle Show. We even reported a few, but as the industry entered last year’s fall trade show season the buzz had quieted.
“We just don’t want too much attention because the worst mistake we could make would be to come out too early,” said Ric Hjertberg, FSA’s new technology manager.
Although the tricky parts of the drivetrain — the shifters and the derailleurs — have not surfaced, FSA will introduce three chains at the 2007 Taipei Cycle Show, which starts March 22 in Taiwan. FSA will offer two 10-speed chains, one for Campagnolo and one for Shimano, along with one universal nine-speed chain. FSA has never produced chains before.
The new chains come hot on the tails of a slew of new product introductions from FSA. This winter FSA started on its K-Force Light cranks ($700). The new cranks are hollow molded from carbon fiber without any sort of metal or foam core. FSA has versions for road and mountain bikes. You can read more about the new cranks in the current issue of VeloNews (March 26).
Besides cranks, FSA revamped the K-Force carbon handlebar for this spring. The carbon handlebar shaves roughly 35 grams from the current K-Force bars. It comes with two bends: an ergonomic bend and an anatomic round bend, the latter of which is a great combination of ergonomics and comfortable reach. The new $250 bar will also safely accept clip on aero’ bars.
Complete groups, however, will not be seen until at least Taipei Cycle 2008.
“We’re doing ergonomics now,” said Hjertberg of the shifters. “All the mechanisms are pretty set. The prototypes work really great, we like it, and the shapes are really great. But there’s ergonomics, then there’s more testing and then there is setting up production. These [production] lines don’t exist, it’s like it was for [SRAM] Force, I suppose. It’s a big job. Setting up production will likely take half a year, I’m sure.”
While FSA says that its mountain group is further along than the road components, Hjertberg said that the company will likely lead with the road group playing off its current popularity with road enthusiasts.
With SRAM’s Force and Rival road groups introduction just a year ago, and now FSA on the cusp with its own, the competition within the component manufacturing industry is as healthy as it has ever been. With the possibility of a fourth viable component option on the market there will be one clear winner — the consumer.
“At this level everyone is rooting for each other,” said Hjertberg. “It’s surprising how much SRAM is rooting for us and we’re rooting for them; Shimano, too. I think the health of the whole market is going to be based on diversity as well. It’s like a league. A team wants to dominate, you want to win your league, but you don’t want a weak league. That’s the worst thing, to have a title without a run for your money.”
FSA’s rivals confirmed Hjertberg’s hunch.
“This kind of competition is completely welcomed,” said Devin Walton, Shimano’s media representative. “It’s an arena where we’re comfortable. When we started making derailleur type components we were the guys that people thought belonged in the toy store. It’s been a long haul to get where we’re at but we’re definitely accustomed to competition and innovation and working to create stuff that’s relevant to consumers, so everybody wins.”