With a RRP of £700 (but easily found in the sales online for around £550), the FSA Team Issue wheelset straddles the middle ground between your everyday do-it-all wheels on one side, and more exotic carbon creations on the other.
Though not one of the big names in wheel manufacturing, FSA's wheel range is deep and, combined with its spin-off company Vision, has all the bases covered from entry-level, right up to race-day carbon tubular.
In the case of the FSA Team Issue wheelset you'll find them sitting on the fence in terms of materials as the rim is a carbon-aluminium composite. The carbon is a structurally integral part of the rim, and not just a fairing. By wrapping the aluminium section in carbon, less material overall is required to achieve a specific stiffness, resulting in an lower rim weight than could be achieved using aluminium only.
A side benefit of this method of construction over a full carbon rim is that the braking surface is aluminium, which should in theory offer better braking performance. Carbon brake surfaces have improved significantly over the last few years, narrowing the performance gap, but the fact remains that there is still a gap.
Getting the facts and figures out of the way first, the Team Issue wheelset weighed in at 1439g without skewers, 39g more than advertised. This puts it at the lighter end of the aluminium wheel spectrum and not too far off what similar depth full carbon clinchers are coming in at these days. For reference, a Zipp 202 Firecrest weighs a claimed 1375g and will set you back considerably more.
You get 20 double butted, straight-pull aero spokes up front, and 24 out back, attaching the rim to a pair of slim, machined aluminium hubs. The self-locking nipples are external which should make trueing and general servicing much simpler. Speaking of servicing, the hubs are very easy to take apart, requiring two 5mm allen keys and a 2.5mm. Not that I've needed to do this however, as the hubs have performed flawlessly despite the UK weather's very best attempts at destroying them.
Out of the box, the wheels were evenly tensioned and true, and just as importantly, they've stayed that way for 3 months now. Machine built wheels often require a bedding in period of a couple of rides to even out spoke tension that results from bringing the spokes up to tension individually. These FSAs are apparently 'artisan hand built' which looks to have eliminated this problem.
As expected for a 1400g wheelset, these wheels absolutely transform the ride experience when used in place of wheels weighing 300+g more. Acceleration feels instant, the bike jumps out of corners and eggs you on for more. Compared to other wheels around this weight, the Team Issues aren't noticeably easier to accelerate as the rims themselves aren't especially light in relative terms.
That said, the wheels do climb well and exhibit very little in the way of side-to-side flex when getting out of the saddle to attack those last switchbacks.
The slim hubs are pretty standard in both appearance and bearing layout, but they spin well and have needed no maintenance at all for the duration of the test period. The freewheel is pleasantly quiet – loud enough to distinguish the clicking of each individual pawl, but not so much as to be obnoxious. Definitely closer to Shimano than Hope on the freewheel noise scale.
The Team Issue's do-it-all credentials are boosted by their uncanny smoothness over rough road surfaces. Whether due to the carbon content in the rim, or the double butted spokes, the wheels were noticeably more comfortable than the set of Shimano RS20s I was previously riding. This was especially noticeable at the end of long rides when I struggled to absorb surface imperfections with my body and had to rely on the bike itself.
Aerodynamically, the 25mm deep rims were never going to set any new land speed records but their gently tapering profile should give some advantage over traditional box-shaped rims. In crosswinds, the wheels performed adequately and were never a handful to keep pointing in the right direction.
Where the Team Issues should offer a real performance advantage over the increasingly popular full-carbon clincher, is its braking performance. Aluminium has a more consistent brake feel than carbon, especially in the wet, when brake modulation is especially critical.
Unfortunately, braking felt grabby and tended towards a pulsing sensation at high speeds despite the rims being perfectly true. A quick wipe down of the braking surface had no noticeable effect so I ended up swapping out my stock Shimano pads for some with a softer compound. This got rid of the high speed pulsing and toeing in the brakes seemed to quell grabbiness at lower speeds.
After considerable fettling, braking performance just about matched what I usually expect from aluminium wheels.
Not that the wheels were uncontrollable - indeed, I managed to survive plenty of 10+km long descents in the Pyrenees without issue - but I never felt 100% sure what was going to happen when I pulled the brakes at any given moment.
The Team Issues promise (and deliver) so much but are let down by a poor braking surface which requires much fettling to deliver consistent performance. At this price point, there are better options out there.
Do-it-all wheelset to transform your ride, but the braking surface lets them down.
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Make and model: FSA Team Issue wheelset
Size tested: 700c Shimano
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Team Issues are targeted at riders looking to upgrade to a top-end wheelset that will handle day-to-day duties as well as racing or sportives, without making the jump to a full carbon rim.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
DESCRIPTION & MATERIALS
* Extra light 25mm Carbon Alloy rim for clincher
* New extra light hubs for direct pull spokes
* Preload Reduction Assembly (PRA) hub axle system
* Sealed cartridge bearings (2 F+4 R) with 17mm axles
* Aero Light spokes
* Special ABS self locking nipples
* External nipples for easy maintenance
* Artisan hand built
* Includes Mercury aluminum QR and useful wheels protections
* Aluminum Cassette for Shimano 9-10 sp or Campagnolo 10-11sp.
Soon available Shimano 9-10-11sp cassette.
* Spokes: 20 radial front wheel; 24 rear wheel, 16 cross x3 drive side and 8 radial non drive side (2:1 RATIO)
* Rims – 3K Carbon fi nish
* Front & Rear hubs – Black anodized
* Spokes - Silver
* Color graphics
This score would be higher were it not for the brake track.
Acceleration and ride feel is great, but braking performance is a let down.
The wheels haven't required a single service in the 3 months or so that they've seen.
The Team Issue's are competitive on the weight front, challenging similar depth full-carbon clinchers costing significantly more.
Excellent and smooth ride quality.
Again, if braking were up to scratch, this category would be scored much higher.
Did you enjoy using the product? For the most part.
Would you consider buying the product? I'd consider other options first.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As above.
Age: 20 Height: 190cm Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.