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Video: FSA 'semi-wireless' electronic gear system spotted at Tour de France

Italian/Taiwanese component maker joins battery-powered shifting fray with novel twist

Component maker FSA revealed its long-awaited electronic shifting system at the Tour de France today.

FSA has been threatening to release a full groupset for years, and triathletes have been able to buy the FSA Vision Metron group for a while, but nobody's seen a complete road bike shifting system from the Italian/Taiwanese component maker — until now.

Last year an FSA spokesperson confirmed to road.cc that the company was working on an 11-speed electronic road groupset. The folks at Global Cycling Network shot this footage of it on Etixx-Quick Step rider Michał Kwiatkowski's Specialized Tarmac at the Tour.

Details are currently scarce. The system appears to have no wires connecting the shifters to the derailleurs, but there are wires between the derailleurs. That's different from SRAM's fully-wireless system. It may be that FSA's engineers have decided it's simpler to have to charge just one battery at a time to power the shifting, rather than two, or it's easier to have the rear mech communicate its position this way so that the front can trim itself to avoid chain rub.

The parts are clearly genuine prototypes, rather than being first-batch production with liability-avoiding stickers as some manufacturers have been known to do. That means there's no clue to when you'll be able to buy this system. 

We contacted FSA to ask for more details but didn't get much joy, predictably.

"We confirm the teams are testing some prototypes and the results are good," said FSA's Gloria Radaelli. "I’m sorry but at this stage, we can’t give any other details about our groupset."

Fair enough!

As well as Etixx-Quick Step, the teams testing the FSA groupset are Tinkoff-Saxo, Cofidis and Bora-Argon18.


The front derailleur features Flaschenblinkenlights, which hints that there's more going on than just a motor to move the cage


That's a cable, but there aren't any at the shifters. What's going on?

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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20 comments

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MattCartwright | 8 years ago
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Looks interesting, competition is always good, be interested to see what Shimano comes up with next for the revamp of DA. As I said last week to a ride buddy, I can't tell you why Di2 is better, it just is.

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ch | 8 years ago
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Won't be long before the Chrysler hackers figure out how to remotely cock up the system.

Still that wouldn't stop me from getting electronic shifting for my shorter distance speed-oriented bicycle. (For my long distance touring bike I reckon cables are probably more reliable). Those people I know with electronic shifting all say they never drop a chain, never flub the trimming, never miss a gear change. Apart from more confident riding, that also means a lot less trauma and stress for the drive-train, especially the chain.

I'm still on mechanical 10-speed now, but if/when I change to 11 I am seriously considering electronic shifting.

If I could suggest one more feature with the wireless setup, it would be to have ANT+ recording of the gears possible on Garmin, since its only a matter of software and would be interesting to geeks.

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huntswheelers | 8 years ago
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Most cyclists need no more than Sora .... #justsaying.... and to those who have never seen or even tried MicroShift.... be prepared to be surprised...
I love it though....all the jiggery pokery and the way some have to have the latest "shiny bits" even though they will never get anywhere near using it in any form of anger at pro racing speeds... swells my bank balance fitting it or fitting it/setting it up correctly... lol

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BALE® | 9 years ago
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When is Shimano Di2 going wireless - It can't be too far off, can it?

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Richard D | 9 years ago
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Electronic shifting frees up much-needed space in the shifters for hydraulic brakes.

Hydraulic disc brakes allow you to use carbon rims, and (perhaps more importantly) tubeless tyres are much less likely to be blown off a rim that has been heated by prolonged rim brakes.

So electronic shifting isn't the end of the road - it's a step towards allowing other fledgling technologies to come to the fore.

Oh, and I like my bling. If you're still using unindexed down tube shifters controlling a five-speed block, good for you. Me, I like progress every bit as much as I like my bling.

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mingmong | 9 years ago
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1upmanshipanddownmanshipallin1

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Simmo72 | 9 years ago
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Won't be long before Apple and Google get in on this. You'll be able to skip tracks with your shifters whilst you friend changes gear for you remotely on an app.

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DublinPort | 9 years ago
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Wireless transmission is a terrible idea. Less will go wrong with a copper cable; less again with a take a steel cable.

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Paul J replied to DublinPort | 9 years ago
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DublinPort wrote:

Wireless transmission is a terrible idea. Less will go wrong with a copper cable; less again with a take a steel cable.

Actually, there's probably more to go wrong with wired transmission - in terms of what is on the bicycle. Wires can break, connectors can corrode, water can get in. etc. None of that can happen with wireless.

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ianrobo | 9 years ago
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god that rear mech is ugly

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brooksby | 9 years ago
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Can someone please tell me what the point of an electronic shifting system is? I mean, an old fashioned non-electronic one can be fiddled with at the side of the road, fixed if necessary. What are the advantages of an electronic one that you might want to have all that additional complex electronic jiggery pokery on your bike?

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vonhelmet replied to brooksby | 9 years ago
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brooksby wrote:

Can someone please tell me what the point of an electronic shifting system is? I mean, an old fashioned non-electronic one can be fiddled with at the side of the road, fixed if necessary. What are the advantages of an electronic one that you might want to have all that additional complex electronic jiggery pokery on your bike?

Much more precise shifting, micro level trimming at the front as you switch gears at the back, programmable shifts so you can set it to dump you in the small ring at the front and shift two up at the back if you hold the button for a particular length of time, multiple shift points e.g. Rodriguez has shift buttons on the tops as well as at the actual levers, etc. I don't think it's anything earth shattering for most of us on the ground, but I'm sure it makes a difference to the pros.

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dwhhodgson replied to vonhelmet | 8 years ago
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Not sure because of the battery, but I think there's a weight saving with thinner cables and housing, and the shifters are very simple compared with all that fancy kit inside the levers. At a guess they will eventually be cheaper to produce. I'm not sure how the wireless will work. Nice idea but what happens if someone decides to jam the signal in a race thus costing that vital second as you shift down to tackle a hill?

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Simmo72 replied to brooksby | 9 years ago
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brooksby wrote:

Can someone please tell me what the point of an electronic shifting system is?

It fuels the 'igottagetmesomeexpensivebling' market and makes companies lots of money by making perfectly adequate systems redundant by introducing more complicated and expensive versions which you don't really need. It then costs you an extra £800 when you have a minor knock and find you have knackered the sensitive electronics on your mech and shifters.

Oh, something about smoother shifting as well but I would rather not have to plug my bike in for a charge.

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scrapper replied to brooksby | 9 years ago
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I'm riding Ultegra 6700 at the moment , and have been for 18 months or so now...so in my view, the advantages are :-
Accuracy...the shifts are sweet, quick and accurate and have remained just so since the day i built it up...I can change while sprinting, climbing hard, or make quiet surprise shifts to drop out an attack, the front shifts are especially robust and satisfying. I don't miss the need to trim my front mech to avoid chain rub at all
Maintenance...effectively nothing ! no cable lubing, replacement or stretch to accomodate, im just keeping the mechs clean and lubed

Setup... Setting up the gear shift from new was an absolute dream (i built the bike up myself), and i've had to do it just once more as a result of a crash that knocked the rear mech.10 minutes later and it was back working as sweet as new, despite some obvious impact damage to the rear mech

I would never go back to mechanical by choice, the electronic shifting system makes for a much more enjoyable ride. Ive never had any battery issues, and all I do is pop my di2 battery on an overnight charge once every couple of months.

The biggest downside at the moment is the cost, but with the predicted introduction of Shimano 105 electric, that should become less of a barrier, and its only time before it trickles down further.

From a manufacturing point of view, mechanical STI shifters are vastly more complex and costly (dozens of parts) than what essentially is just a simple switch in my Di2 shifters...The mechs themselves aren't far different from standard mechs with a small actuator bolted on.
I wouldn't be at all surprised in the near future to find that electronic gears end up matching the current price point of mechanical, or even being more cost effective when the point where the initial technological investment has been recouped and mass production on a larger scale can drive down part by part costs. In five years, I'd expect the majority of £1000+ bikes (or less) coming with electronic gears rather than mechanical.

If your into riding hundreds of miles away from home, for long periods, then fair enough, im sure you can justify mechanical shifters from a dependability point of view and ability to repair in field....but I (like most riders) probably gets out for a few hours a ride, and I'm never more than a phone call from home

Im sold, Im not going back..and I'm certainly not some affluent early adopter that follows the latest "must haves"

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crikey | 9 years ago
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Wrong place for that comment, are you on drugs?  3

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feeling it | 9 years ago
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Ah balls, posted in the wrong place!

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kev-s | 9 years ago
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Being FSA it will be prob be cheaper than Shimano and will prob be oem on quite a few bikes

The shifters will be wireless, they cant be internally wired as far as i can make out as if they ran inside the bars they would then have to also go through the stem which then leads to the steerer tube where they would have nowhere else to go

It looks like the front mech works as the brain of the system allowing you to go into a settings mode to make adjustments much like the junction box on di2

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Bob's Bikes | 9 years ago
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Not going to hold my breath whilst waiting for this to come into production, but the idea of the two derailleurs "talking" to each other and only one battery makes sense, wonder how competively it will be priced?

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olic | 9 years ago
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Includes a remote control for the DS...

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