Q&A with Kris Wehage, Research and Development Team Leader in the U.S. Office for FSA

Mar 24, 2010
by Tyler Maine  
By Adrienne Schofhauser

In the bike world, freestyle riders and racers get the limelight, but evolution in bike components wouldn’t happen without the dialed skills of the industry’s designers and engineers. For more than five years, Kristopher Wehage’s creative mind has conjured up innovative designs for brands like e.thirteen and Full Speed Ahead (FSA). Wehage recently took over as Research and Development Team Leader for FSA’s U.S. office.

Behind the scenes, he’s your typical quiet engineer with an image often overshadowed by the pros his company sponsors. But the guy speaks several languages, has lived in Austria, Germany, and now Seattle, and can ride circles around most. Here’s some insight into the designer who just might be behind the light weight components you'll be riding next summer.

How did you get your start in cycling?
When I was 14, a few friends and I heard about mountain biking and decided to give it a try. We took our beat-up Huffies to a local trail and had a blast. After that I was hooked: I saved up my lawn mowing money to buy my first real mountain bike. I started working in bike shops at 15, and I tried to absorb every bit of knowledge I could about cycling.

What kind of riding do you typically do?
In the past I’ve dabbled in trials, bmx street riding, cross country racing and dual slalom. These days, I do mostly all-mountain style riding. I also try to push myself to do a few epic rides a year.


Any recent ones?
My most recent epic trip was a circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe. A few friends and I rode about 100 miles off-road in two days. We rode our mountain bikes on some pretty technical trails, carrying our food and camping gear in our backpacks. The year before that I finished the Cascade Cream Puff, a 100-mile mountain bike race with 18,000 feet of climbing.

How does it feel to know people are riding bike parts that you designed?
I was shocked to open a cycling mail-order catalog a few years ago and see the first road brakeset I designed for FSA right there next to Campagnolo and Shimano. I’m glad people are excited about the things I’ve designed. It feels great to contribute in some small way to cycling culture.



Give us a peak into the design process.
The first step in a design is to brainstorm ideas and set goals for the project. At the beginning of the design phase, it’s good to get feedback from team riders, co-workers, and friends to determine what people are looking for. Once I have a good feel for the design criteria, I’ll brainstorm some ideas (usually together with Ron and Evan, the other two designers in the U.S. office). I’ll then make a few pencil sketches to illustrate those ideas.

In the second phase of the design, I’ll take those initial concepts and draw them in 3D on the computer. I’ll do calculations to make sure the product meets the weight, performance and/or safety targets we set out.
Once I’m confident in the 3D drawings, we create a bill of materials and 2D engineering drawings with tolerances and suggestions on how to manufacture the parts for our manufacturing engineers. As most of our prototypes are made in Taiwan, usually I’ll go to Taiwan to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

I then work with the factory to ensure that it goes through rider and machine testing. If the product passes testing, it goes in to production. If it does not pass testing, I either go back to the drawing board to refine the design or work with the manufacturing engineers to determine if a part is not made to spec.

Is there a certain industry or field of work (ie. auto racing, sailing, ect.) that you take a significant amount of inspiration from?
I am fascinated by consumer product design, furniture, and architecture, and probably would have become an industrial designer or architect had I not studied engineering. Lately, I've also been reading quite a bit about robotics and general science. I'm also interested in the field of "biomimicry"--the idea of imitating biological systems to solve problems.

Which design(s) are you most proud of?
I really like the Gravity Light crankset I designed together with our industrial designer, Inigo Gisbert. I also am proud of the FSA road caliper brake sets and the LG1+ and SRS+ chain guides I drew up for Dave Weagle while working at e.thirteen. I’ve also got some other interesting products in the works that have not hit the market yet.




Is there any theme to emerging technology?
From a design perspective, consumers are demanding a bicycle that looks cohesive and seamless more now than ever. This means the frame’s headtube should naturally blend into the stem and the handlebars; the downtube should blend nicely into the bottom bracket area and transition smoothly to the cranks, etc. Molded carbon fiber and hydroformed aluminum have allowed frames and components to be more ergonomic and visually appealing. Ideally the colors and graphics should coordinate well.

Related to the theme of integration, I believe we’ll also be seeing more electronics and sensors integrated in to bicycles and components in the coming years. As more manufactures offer features such as electronic shifting, power measurement and GPS for bicycles, prices will come down and the technology will become more accessible.

Is it hard to leave the creative thinking at the office?
Every day I’m surrounded by design – for example: the furniture I sit on, my toothbrush, my car, etc. I’ve been interested in architecture and design from a young age, so it’s difficult for me not to think about how I interact with designed objects (cycling related or otherwise). Sometimes an idea for a project I’m working on comes to me while I’m out riding, hanging out with friends, or in the middle of the night.

Great day on the bike or great day designing bike bits in the office?
I'm addicted to seeing new places and riding new terrain on my bike. But there is also no substitute for the feeling of satisfaction when everything comes together for a design I am working on. A good balance of both activities is important to me, and each one allows me to appreciate the other more.


What’s it like working for FSA?
We have a very diverse culture at FSA. I’d say in general that our Italian headquarters is a little more road-centric, the U.S. office is a little more focused on mountain biking and the Taiwan office brings a culture of manufacturing. But each of the employees in the three offices bring their unique background, culture, personality and experiences to the table. It can be a little crazy sometimes, but it’s always exciting and challenging.

What bikes do you ride?
I primarily ride my Ibis Mojo SL and a custom steel randonee bike I designed and put together with Oscar Camarena at Simple Bicycle Co. I’ve also got a Rock Lobster single speed, rigid mountain bike, a Kink bmx bike, and a Rossin fixie.

Are you abs super toned from the balance ball you sit on at work, instead of an office chair?
No, maybe I’m doing something wrong? Probably eating too many burritos.

Anything else we should know about you?
My favorite color is green.



Posted In:
Interviews Fsa



25 Comments

  • 6 1
 it's pretty ironic for FSA to call their crankset Gravity Lite, while it weighs as much as Truvativ Hussefelt costing half price of it... Still E.13 does the best stuff out there
  • 1 1
 I think they mean that they're lighter than the other Gravity crank offerings.
  • 1 0
 Alright then! Let's just take Marzocchi Super monster change the springs to Titanium and call it Monster Light Smile (just as they did in 2006 with their 66rc Eta light weighing like 20 grams less than rc2x an vf...)
  • 9 2
 Seraph, when are YOUR cranks coming out, Id like to try them. Smile
  • 1 1
 lol, he was owned
  • 1 1
 Oh ho! You sure did get me! I have been gotten! You sure are a funny girl!
  • 3 0
 What are you guys smoking? The gravity lite cranks are great, lightweight (close to xt's) and cheap. I came off a set of diabolus cranks to these and yes they do flex more but not enough to hinder my performance. Plus, these cranks have waayyy less friction than RF atlas bearings and they look fresh.
  • 1 3
 I'm not talking about the Gravity Lite cranks at all. I'm mostly talking about their road bike and XC cranks.
  • 5 2
 the article is talking about gravity lites but, why don't you take your now irrelevent argument to a roadie forum?
  • 2 0
 No, this article is about a guy who works for FSA. My comments are quite relevant.
  • 2 2
 mooove bitch get out the way
  • 9 8
 This guy seems cool, too bad he's hooked up with one of the most notoriously crappy companies in the cycling industry. I can't begin to tell how many FSA cranks I've had to warranty over the years, and how many FSA has claimed were perfectly fine, despite the fact that they happened to "Fail Straight Away" while a customer was riding them.
  • 10 1
 don t be so negative maybe he may change them to be a leading brand!!! dunno what the future holds Smile
  • 6 8
 I'm not talking about the future, I'm talking about the present. FSA is possibly the worst crank manufacturer on the market right now. Like I said, it's too bad that Kris works with them because they have a very bad track record when it comes to cranks. The work he did for e.13 was top notch though.
  • 3 2
 ive been running the FSA gravity crankset on my bike for over a year and to be honest they are the one component ive never though of changing over, solid as fuck and pretty much fit and forget. maybe i was just lucky with the ones i got
  • 2 2
 I have been running FSA cranks for a long time and never had an issue. They have always been first class people to deal with. Currently running the gravity lights.
  • 1 3
 For reference, I'm not talking about the mountain cranks, I'm referring mostly to the road cranks they offer. They're notoriously problematic.
  • 4 1
 You just can't help yourself eh? Seraughable... You just have to try to drop your insider knowledge on the world of pinkbike. Thankgod you're here looking at fo the kiddies
  • 1 1
 I'm merely commenting on an article on a site that allows — and encourages — comments to be written by its users.
  • 2 0
 Ya'll got me all paranoid about the FSA nastyboys on my P2. They seem pretty damn solid though...
  • 1 0
 Wouldn't worry about your nastyboys as they are just profile clones. I have no experience with any of their other cranks.

Nice article by the way. Cool to hear some "behind the scenes" stuff.
  • 1 0
 Yea I have a set of profiles on standby incase they do decide to go Big Grin
  • 1 1
 Cheers WAKIdesigns. I wouldn't mind an explanation..
  • 1 0
 I sooo wanna do his job!
  • 1 0
 he's got my dream job

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