First Look: FSA Carbon Wheelsets

Aug 21, 2014
by Richard Cunningham  
FSA K Force Wheels 2015

FSA's professional-level K-Force wheel features bladed spokes and aluminum nipples. All of FSA's wheels are hand built.



FSA achieved success with its elite road bike wheel program, which spurred the Seattle-based parts maker to re-evaluate its role in the mountain bike arena. Pinkbike was recently invited to preview the first three off-road wheelsets to emerge from FSA in as many years. We use the term "off road" loosely, because FSA designed its new tubeless-ready rim profile to straddle three related, but completely different branches of cycling: cross-country mountain biking, cyclocross/gravel-riding, and road touring. Exactly how this may be possible stems from the largely ignored fact that the recent winners of the mountain bike wheel war, 29 and 27.5-inch, are exactly the same as the ancient 700c and 650b road bike dimensions - the direct descendants of the wooden-wheel pushbikes that Roman scouts used in the failed attempt to occupy the Scottish highlands.

FSA took advantage of overlapping rim sizes, and also of the rapidly growing disc-brake road bike trend, to design a tubeless-ready, 26-millimeter-width carbon rim that straddles the requirements of four distantly related customers. Surely, road touring, gravel racing, cyclocross and cross-country don’t rank highly on the to-do list of Pinkbike members, but history assures us, when a wheel maker achieves success in cross country, that it won't be long before it presses into all-mountain and gravity. That moment can't be too far away, considering that "Gravity" is the trademark of FSA's AM/DH range, so we offer this first-look piece to you as a window into the future.

FSA K Force Wheels 2015

Excellent construction, backed by the unparallelled experience gained from sponsoring ProTour road racing teams, suggests that FSA's wheel program will deliver the goods. That said, XC wheels are cute, but we would be far more interested in some 30-millimeter-width AM hoops.





The Rim

Even spoke tension is the flag that FSA flies when describing its "dramatically" asymmetrical rim profile. The relatively narrow rim measures 25-millimeters deep, 26-millimeters outside and 21-millimeters inside the flanges. The spoke holes are drilled four millimeters off the centerline, which helps to compensate for the disparity of spoke angles required to clear a front disc brake and to offset the rear wheel's hub flanges to make room for the cassette cogs. Reportedly, the offset boosts the non-drive-side spoke tension up to 80-percent of the drive-side spokes at the rear wheel and evens the tension at the front wheel. Inside the rim, a gently curved well and locking ridges are intended to facilitate tubeless tire installation.

FSA K Force Wheels 2015

The hub-axle's locking collar is threaded, so owners can fine tune the bearing preload to obtain a perfectly smooth spinning wheel.





The Hub

PRA (preload reduction assembly) hubs refer to the locking thread collar of FSA's hub-axle that allows owners to adjust the preload of the bearings to perfection. The hub's straight-pull flange design facilitates higher spoke tension and a longer life for the wheel. FSA's claim is that the higher tension and the degree of integrity that its offset rim brings to the table allows a lower spoke count, so the hubs have only 24 holes. FSA's hub has a six-bolt rotor flange and its freehub interface supports SRAM and Shimano cassettes and also SRAM HD drivers. Axles offered are conventional quick release, and 15 QR front or 142 by 12-millimeter rear axles. Two bearing options are featured: ceramic hybrids for FSA's top-line K-Force; and stainless steel for its SL-K and Afterburner models.





The Freehub Ratchet


No modern wheel maker dare enter the fray without a unique story about their freehub ratchet mechanism. FSA's "Quick Draw" freehub uses six pawls and a 27-tooth ratchet ring. The pawls are arranged in two sets of three, with one trio out of sync. The result is 54 points of engagement, which works out to a minimal, 6.6-degree engagement angle. Because three pawls are always locked into the ratchet ring at any given time, the freehub should hold up to a lot of torque and abuse.

FSA K Force Wheels 2015

A look through the middle of the K-Force front wheel reveals the offset spoke drilling of the carbon rim, and the hub's straight-pull spoke flanges.



The Builds

FSA wheel are hand built in their Taiwan factory. Like all of its high-end components, FSA offers its new wheel at three price points: the 1414-gram pro-level K-Force, followed by the 1450-gram SL-K wheelsets both feature its new carbon rim, while the 1590-gram Afterburner model uses an aluminum version of the same rim profile. All the wheels use a 24-spoke, cross two lacing pattern and all are shipped with either a Stan's or an FSA tubeless kit. The wheels are tensioned up to 120 kilograms, which is reportedly 20 to 40 kg higher than average. K-Force wheels are built up with bladed stainless steel spokes and aluminum nipples, while the other models use butted stainless spokes and brass nipples. FSA says that its wheels are not weight limited and they come with a one-year warranty and a crash replacement policy. Presently, FSA will handle all warranty and repairs from its Mukilteo, Washington, facility, but they plan on adding service centers at prominent distributor locations. FSA offers all models in 29 and 27.5-inch sizes, and prices range from $2049 to $649 USD.

Full Speed Ahead

FSA K Force Wheels 2015



64 Comments

  • 90 3
 I only care about if it makes an obnoxiously loud free hub clicking noise
  • 67 1
 21mm wide! What are these? Wheels for ants?!
  • 4 1
 ^^^Best comment EVER!!!^^^
  • 5 1
 They need to be at least three times this size! for my fatbike that is...
  • 63 1
 I fear the day when i kill one of my 26" rims. It's going to be like wanting to buy a dodo or a saber-toothed cat...
  • 13 15
 These look wheely good !
  • 4 0
 That, along with tyre availability and choice is the sole reason my new bike is 650b. I didn't buy the new bike for the "performance", but the convenience and selection, else I'd have happily swapped out my frame and/or fork only...
  • 32 4
 fantastic, another thing I cannot afford
  • 2 2
 This made me chuckle. My thoughts exactly.
  • 26 1
 Full Spending Ahead....
  • 2 0
 Superstar Problem solved
  • 11 0
 "XC wheels are cute"

Man you said it bro. Flanges, nipples, asymmetry. This chicks got it all.
  • 9 1
 Enve has scared me away from carbon wheels altogether. EVERY pinkbike review hat has something to do with enve wheels, they explode. And if a thousand dollar rim explodes, what good are these?
  • 13 1
 Man up brah, made in China 26" carbon hoops are bomber!! Enve lable is for $ hype suckers.
  • 9 0
 Yeah light bicycle .. $500 for a set of complete wheels and your done
  • 2 1
 My point was though if enve's are crap......
  • 4 0
 I'm on my second set of light-bicycle rims and love them. Sold the first set with the old bike so I had to get a new set and the newer ones are pretty much a lighter copy of the Roval Control 29 carbons.
  • 3 0
 Well... maybe ill try them on my next Lace Up...
  • 4 0
 Yep. 3 years on light-bicycle rims and the wheels don't even need truing yet.
  • 2 3
 I have broken 4 light bicycle rims. Then I had to pay 50$ to ship them back and pay to have them rebuilt. Then they wouldn't honor their warranty! That company is huge pile of shit that also sent me two rims out of tolerances. So my spokes wouldn't fit. I could have afforded enve wheels for all the time and money wasted on a crap Chinese knock off. All pink bikers don't buy them. Buy once buy it right. Buy from companies that will stand by their product. Seriously just a friendly consumer warning.

And yes I know lots of other parts are made in China that are fine.
  • 2 0
 They aren't knock-offs and they're actually more reliable than enve rims. While your experience sucked, it is not the norm. People can feel comfortable buying LB rims and rest assured that they're less likely to break than enve rims.
  • 1 1
 Please have some moral and dont buy chinese carbon stuff made by underpayed with no health protection children and pregnant mothers.
  • 3 0
 With the exception of my first mountain bike being a Kona, all of my mtb's have been Turner's, made in the US, sporting Fox suspension, assembled/produced in the US. I gladly support US businesses, but I will NOT overpay by a significant amount. An $850 premium for a "Made in the USA" sticker is ridiculous for a rim. Absolutely absurd. You hear a lot of stories about Enve's breaking, but there are a lot of them out there. The premium is for the US production and warrantee, but they still charge you for a crash replacement. Absolutely absurd. I will support Enve's competitors until they force Enve to bring down their insane prices.

/rant
  • 2 1
 I think the early LB hoops had some issues, but I've got the latest 26 hookless with the DH coating (rear only). After 4 months of serious abuse and a few massive cased gaps they are still perfectly true, and no more frigging dents either adios Mavic!! Running them tubeless with Maxxis DHF 2.5 EXO insanely light and very fast rolling.
  • 6 0
 My light bicycle rims have survived EWS in Scotland several UKGE rounds and plenty more im 90kg and have no finesse, the extra width -35mm gives more grip in corners and the loss in rotational weight is easier on my legs at the end of a long ride.

So FSA (and enve) want 4x the price, I'm struggling to see any reason
  • 1 0
 Did you get the extra carbon layup DH version ?.

I'm 82 Kg and can't decide if I need it ( would prefer to keep them lighter if i can get away with it...).
  • 1 0
 I dont think so mine came in at the 410g each which I think is the regular version and seem fine so far
  • 1 0
 Cool !, good to hear.
  • 2 0
 I had the dh version. I weigh 220lbs packed up maybe more. I'm on i9 aluminum and they are indestructible. Light bicycle are not worth the savings.
  • 4 0
 Pretty reasonable price as far as carbon rims go. no 26" though, so looks like I need a new bike before I can upgrade to Carbonz
  • 11 0
 Light Bikes already make 26" carbon rims. They are 33mm wide x 30mm deep and they are only $170 each for the rim.

www.light-bicycle.com/New-26er-33mm-wide-enduro-MTB-all-mountain-downhill-carbon-rim-tubeless-compatible.html#.U_aMCMu9KSM
  • 3 3
 Those looks pretty good, but they seem a bit too wide for xc racing
  • 3 0
 I'll be putting light bike carbon rims on my Ibis this winter, good price, good quality
  • 4 0
 I'm the guy in the black kit over the logo on their home page with the old S-Works stumpy fsr. They can take serious abuse and are super stiff.
  • 5 1
 Am I missing something? A 27-tooth ratchet and 2 sets of pawls should equal 54 points of engagement not 56…? 6.6 degree engagement is right though
  • 8 0
 NERD ! !
  • 1 0
 I am a Nerd as well, noticed the same thing....
  • 1 0
 ...because those two points make all the difference... Smile
  • 1 0
 The NERD (Nerd Engineers: Reading Division) office of Pinkbike Detectives strikes again! I figured that the designers who built the wheels would have their math in order. NOT!
  • 2 0
 I think it's disgusting that manufacturers are still trying to charge 2k for a set of bloody wheels. Who the hell do they think they are. Carbon doesn't cost that much to produce any more out is now a mainstream product. Superstar do an amazing set of carbon wheels for £699 that have been independently tested.
  • 7 3
 Too much money for little gain. No reason carbon wheelset should be over a grand - on midrange hubs.
  • 2 0
 Agreed.
  • 10 2
 review bazooka this shit, it's the only acceptable format from now on. thx
  • 4 1
 get some bannanas all over this shit
  • 1 0
 Sorry greensmoke, meant to + prop Ya. Kielbasa digits!
  • 4 1
 The industry is totally milking the price ceiling that Enve set on carbon rims.
  • 5 1
 I stopped reading after 'cyclocross'...
  • 1 0
 Did someone accidentally add bead hooks to that rim? No one surely would buy a carbon rim with bead hooks... if there's one place you're going to screw your carbon rim... thats it.
  • 5 2
 How did they take the picture of the hub on the bike...
  • 24 0
 with a camera
  • 1 0
 Good question actually... They might taken a couple of spokes off Or they took he picture with a small camera
  • 1 0
 Look at the angle, it looks like the wheel should be in the way
  • 1 0
 maybe with a phone and one of those attachment lenses?
  • 2 0
 Cool pics is one of the features of low spoke count wheels.
  • 1 0
 or maybe they just put the camera against the rim and clicked ?
  • 1 1
 Its asymmetrical, the rim will be off to the right somewhere Wink
  • 5 1
 another red hub. lame
  • 3 0
 My FSA wheels were like limp noodles...I like al dente
  • 4 1
 You are supposed to ride them, not make love to them.
  • 2 0
 Romans tried to take on the picts on 650b bikes? Never heard that one before.
  • 1 0
 I like the ASYM rim design, surprised more companies don't do that. Stay away from Light-Bicycle rims unless you ride mellow. Broken 6 of them.
  • 1 0
 That preload adjuster reminds me of the Fulcrum's
  • 1 0
 Ypou lost me at straight pull.

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