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Frostbike: New gear from FSA and DT Swiss

A look at some new gear from DT Swiss and FSA at the Frostbike show

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BLOOMINGTON, MN (VN) — Quality Bicycle Products, or QBP, is a wholesaler of bike parts, accessories and apparel to more than 5,000 independent shops across the country. That means what QBP carries, your local bike shop likely carries. Each winter they host Frostbike, a dealer-only tradeshow, at their headquarters in Minnesota. VeloNews stopped by to see what will be gracing shop floors this year.

FSA K-Force Light stem
The K-Force Light stem is all new for 2011. The look is sleeker and more refined, aesthetics are obviously a priority, and all alloy and steel components are gone from the stem body itself. The remaining hardware is titanium to save weight. Like many carbon stems, the weight itself isn’t actually that impressive, at a claimed 149g for 110mm, but the K-Force is quite a looker, and would fit in nicely with the more swoopy carbon frames available these days.

Frostbike: FSA K-Force Light stem
The swoopy FSA K-Force Light stem

Rear-facing faceplate bolts are a nice touch in terms of aesthetics, but will be a bit annoying during assembly.

Interestingly, FSA has chosen to build the new K-Force Light with a 1 ¼” steerer clamp. It seems they’re trying to jump out ahead of the trend towards larger steerers by doing so. A shim is included to drop the clamp down to regular 1 1/8”.

The stem will sell for $299.

FSA K-Force Light Nano-K bar
The Nano-K is FSA’s foray into nano-tube carbon, a material that is already being used with success by companies like Easton. The nano-tube construction allows for a decrease in weight along with an increase in strength —proven by the Nano-K’s feathery 185g weight for a 40cm center-to-center width.

Brake lever and stem clamp areas are textured for a secure setup, though we still recommend using a carbon assembly paste to further increase friction and decrease the necessary clamp forces.

I’m not personally a big fan of compact bars in general, just as a matter of fit preference, but the bend shape itself (ignoring the short drop) on the Nano-K bars is great. The bars allow for a nice flat hood transition for comfort in the hoods, as is the trend these days. Better yet is the increasing radius “classic” bend for the drops, which puts your hands at a great angle for comfort and brake/shift lever accessibility. The drops also flare out 2 degrees for added wrist clearance.

The K-Force Light Nano-K bars are available in 40, 42, and 44cm widths with 125mm of drop and 80mm reach. The bars will cost $350.

FSA Metron TT shifters

Frostbike: FSA Metron TT shifters
FSA's Metron TT shifters look more like brake levers. The big lever takes up cable, while the whole head is pressed back to release it.

FSA’s upcoming Metron component group was introduced at Interbike this year and will be available around June. The most intriguing piece of the group, and the only bit FSA brought to Frostbike this year, is the Metron TT shifters.

The idea is similar to SRAM and Zipp’s return-to-center shifter options, where instead of putting what is essentially an indexed down tube shifter on the aerobars, the TT shifters function like a regular shifter: move the shift lever to shift, and it then returns back to where it started.

Metron is a bit different though, as it looks like no other TT shifter available today. Instead of a single lever that is pushed up or down, the Metron uses a TT-brake-style lever to pull in cable, downshifting the rear derailleur or upshifting the front. To release cable, the entire head of the shifter is pushed backwards with the thumb with an easy click. The idea, according to FSA, is to eliminate all arm and wrist movement, making shifting the exclusive duty of your fingers.

I’m not sure I see any real benefit in that, but the system is slick nonetheless. Shifting on the demo setup was crisp with a light action at the shifter. The big lever for pulling in cable is a great idea. The shifters are worth checking out when they hit shops later this year. The shifters will sell for $210 and are designed to work with Metron rear derailleur or Shimano 7800, with 7900 compatibility on the way soon

DT Swiss quick releases
The big story here is a change from plastic lever bodies to aluminum ones, and the internalization of the little push button that allows the levers to ratchet. We love when plastic goes away anywhere on a bike, and for this application in particular it’s a welcome change. One of our testers recently broke a plastic DT quick release clean off during a wheel test — hopefully that will no longer be a problem.

Redesigning the push button to lay flush with the rest of the lever further improves these levers. A crash or even a bit of rough transport could knock the buttons off the old version, rendering the levers extremely difficult to remove. Cheers to DT for a thoughtful redesign.