FSA components and SRAM and Zipp wheels

There was so much new equipment introduced at Sea Otter that it will take a few columns here to do it justice.

There was so much new equipment introduced at Sea Otter that it will take a few columns here to do it justice.

The new FSA SL-K compact BB30 road crank
The new FSA SL-K compact BB30 road crank

Full Speed Ahead (FSA), a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Tien Hsin (TH) Industries, has become, even without a derailleur system but with cranks, brakes, stems, handlebars, seatposts and headsets, a component supplier only a small notch below Campagnolo, SRAM, and Shimano in public perception. Yet its rise has been meteoric, eclipsing long-established crank makers like Stronglight and TA.

FSA as a brand first appeared a little over 10 years ago and founded its Seattle and Milan offices in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In 2003, it became the first company to sponsor a ProTour road team with cranks other than Shimano and Campagnolo (Stronglight and others sponsored top teams before the ProTour existed). Capturing the pinnacles of cycling, Carlos Sastre won the Tour on FSA cranks in 2008, Gunn-Rita Dahle won the Olympic mountain bike cross country gold medal on FSA components in Athens in 2004, and Fabian Cancellara did the same in the time trial in 2008 in Beijing.

FSA was the first major brand to introduce carbon cranks as well as compact road chainrings with a 110mm bolt circle diameter (BCD). Now the company pushes the price of carbon components down further with the introduction of its Team Issue line. Mostly carbon-wrapped components, they give the look, feel, and additional stiffness of carbon.

FSA’s Vision aero components and Metropolis city-bike components have also seen major overhauls.

As testament to its commitment to BB30, FSA now offers a BB30 reamer that fits on Park bottom bracket threading tool handles. The tolerances on BB30 are fine; if the bottom bracket shell’s bearing seats are undersized by even a few thousandths of an inch or are not bored concentrically, the bottom bracket can bind and wear rapidly.

And for the first time, FSA introduces headsets in a multitude of colors. I imagine a certain Portland-based headset maker noticed this shot across the bow.

SRAM’s new road wheels show its continued incorporation of Zipp technology as it leverages that acquisition into the SRAM brand as well as the Zipp brand. My own photos of the wheels were terrible, so I’m including links.

Calling it a “semi-toroidal” rim shape with a 30mm depth, the top-of-the-line $1,000 S30 AL Race and the S30 AL Sprint have parallel brake tracks. The S27 AL Comp has a conventional V-shaped rim and weighs 1620 grams, compared to 1430 and 1495 grams for the S30 Race and Sprint, respectively. The hubs disassemble by hand without tools, and you back off 60 degrees with the screw-on end cap after contacting the bearing in order to ensure proper bearing adjustment once the quick release skewer is tightened down.

Making a foray into aluminum clinchers and claiming to be the first wheel on the market with a fully toroidal rim shape, the 30mm-deep Zipp 101 has a non-parallel brake track (it tips in toward the top). It weights 1500 grams and sells for $1300 with Zipp model 88/188 hubs with over-sized 17mm aluminum axles and Swiss bearings. The wheel is designed to work best aerodynamically with a 21-23mm tire width.

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.