One Ride Review: FSA WE electronic shifting first impressions

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

Teased and spied for sooooo long, the FSA WE electronic group will finally see pro peloton action this year under Cofidis, Direct Energie and Jelly Belly. And possibly you – it goes on sale this spring. A firm on-sale date isn’t set yet, nor is pricing, but FSA has told us it’s coming soon. And they let us ride it.

The video above provides an overview of my first ride on the group, but now that I’ve had some time to digest the experience, there’s a bit more insight accompanying the photos below…

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

Overall, I’m impressed with WE after one ride. The shifting is smooth in the rear, if a little loud when shifted under power. But under normal “just cruising along” riding, it’s as quiet as any other group. Considering FSA hasn’t been in the cassette and complete drivetrain business for as long as SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo, this is laudable. My bet is it’ll only get better.

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

The speed of shifts was something I’d like to see increased. The reaction between pressing the button and it shifting was nearly instant, but the speed of the shift and the speed at which you can immediately execute a second shift was just a hair slow. This can be adjusted through the app, so we’ll need to fiddle with it once we get a full group in for review to make a final call. FSA’s tech rep said you can adjust the speed to under a second (I’ve requested a firm number and will update the post as necessary), which sounds pretty quick. The trick, of course, is that the chain has to be able to settle on the cassette, so it can’t be too quick.

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

The front shifts were powerful enough to move it between chainrings even when standing on a climb or during a light sprint. The trim feature seems to need to complete itself before you’re able to shift it back to the other ring. In reality, that’s not something you’re likely to care about on the road, it just means you can’t throw it back and forth between the rings super quick in the work stand.

On top of the front derailleur are two different lights. One blinks a set of colors to indicate shifter battery level (each shifter gets its own coin cell battery), and another light blinks a different color pattern to indicate system battery level for the seatpost battery that powers the derailleurs.

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

The only combination that had any chain rub was being completely cross chained from big chainring-to-big cog. Other than that, the auto trim feature worked flawlessly. These were the same pre-production demo units they had at Interbike, so they’ve seen plenty of use, and they’re still working great.

While the battery is hidden inside the frame and runs one wire to each of the derailleurs (so, two wires total…I misspoke in the video), the brains of the unit are in the front derailleur. Which means, for now, you need to run the complete system. FSA’s Mike Lawless explains:

“As of right now since the brain in the FD communicates the shift to the RD you’d need to have both. Not 1x compatible but that option is something we’re definitely exploring in the near future. All efforts are going into a spring release of this version, and more variations will follow.”

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

Shifts are performed by pressing the top or bottom half of a rocker switch on the side of the brake lever. The springs are very light, possibly a little too light. I tend to ride with my two top fingers resting alongside the brake lever and, occasionally, they’d trigger a shift when I hit a bump. It didn’t happen often, but it could certainly happen at an inopportune time if you’re manhandling the bike during a sprint or changing positions to start a climb. And it might make it a tough choice for gravel or cyclocross as is.

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

My hunch is a firmer spring behind the buttons could resolve much of this, or simply recessing the rocker switch slightly behind the outside edge of the brake lever. The upside is that it’s super easy to trigger a shift, you barely need to touch it. And the function as it comes out of the box was very intuitive for me…up goes bigger, down goes smaller. Only if I tried to overthink it did I get bogged up. But the beauty of the system is that you can change the button function through their app to set it up however you want.

FSA WE electronic shifting group from full speed ahead first ride review

Ergonomics were spot on for me. Braking was easy from my normal hand position atop the hoods.

The WE group has been in development for a long time, and it shows. Now that it’s at a point where they can get pro mileage and race usage out of it, it’s sure to see year over year iterations for a bit, but it’s starting from a good place.

 

For the full tech story and tons more detail, check our launch coverage here.

FullSpeedAhead.com

Comments

19 thoughts on “One Ride Review: FSA WE electronic shifting first impressions

  1. Thought the video was funny – like the amateur vibe to it. Were you holding a selfie stick while riding? Your mom wouldn’t like that.

  2. I get it; it’s nice to have competition but this just seems poorly executed and cheap. Additionally what are the problems with di2 or eTap? Unless this is a really cheap OEM way to get electric shifting on $1500-2000 bikes I’d rather stick with the boys from Japan (at least they know how to make a water resistant freehub)

    1. FSA products being poorly executed and cheap? No… Never.

      And you just hit it on the head. Let’s see; FSA, check. OEM, check. Cheap, check.

      Don’t expect any serious roadie to buy it over Di2 or eTap, but expect to see it on plenty of bikes OEM for a good price. They’ll try to launch it as some sort of premium group, but OEM is where this’ll likely end up.

  3. Hopefully it works well. My experience with two FSA cranksets left me much to desire. I don’t know what their manufacturing process is, but their Al chainrings seem softer than others.

    1. I’m guessing you had one fall off mid ride like me… then support didn’t even give two ss’s and blame was on the customer?

      Sold all my FSA branded parts after that and refuse to buy anything FSA now.

    2. Same here with FSA cranksets, and a crankset seems like it should be pretty hard to eff up. I wince every time I see an overall decent quality bike specced with one of their cranks instead of a Deore/Tiagra. I’ll take a down specced Shimano any day of the week over a FSA.

      1. Forgot to add, I do have a 2 bolt seatpost of theirs that has held up fine, so they can make decent stuff, but the fact remains that their chainrings have a very spotty record in terms of both “out of the box” shifting and durability, so expecting them to deliver an entire drivetrain is…ifffy.

  4. More in the game, better for us. We have so many bike manufacturers wish we had even more in gear market. I see only benefits to this, more innovation, more progress, better prices, more options. Noone has made with the first, the super group! I read for the etap. Ok is brilliant, but is only 1year old, how it will be perform in 2-3 years from now. Except if you have the money to buy every year a new. Time will tell,

  5. Reading between the lines of the very diplomaticly worded review, seems that this system isn’t ready to seriously compete with Di2 or Red eTap.

  6. Yup, it’s not exactly an aesthetically attractive group, and I too had terminal issues with an FSA crank (pedal insert came out). I’m not sure why FSA apparently has so many QA or product function issues, but you’d think a company would want to iron those kinds of things out. Given that, I can’t see a cyclist wanting to risk his or her dosh on this group, when he or she could pick up an Ultegra Di2 group for as little as $1200.

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