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FSA SL-K brakes



Lightweight callipers that provide powerful stopping in both wet and dry conditions

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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We've got on really well with these FSA SL-K dual pivot brakes over the past couple of months, finding them to offer an excellent level of power in dry and - especially - wet conditions.

SL-K is FSA's second-top range. Like Shimano have their Dura-Ace kit at the top followed by Ultegra, and SRAM have Red followed by Force, FSA have K-Force up top and then their SL-K kit. As far as the brakesets go, the SL-K design is essentially the same as the K-Force although it uses stainless steel hardware (main pivot bolts and cable attachment) and alloy pad holders whereas the K-Force comes with titanium hardware and carbon pad holders. You're talking about a weight difference of 20g per brake absolute max. The 302g weight for both callipers (148g front, 154g rear) compares to Shimano's claimed weights of 293g for Dura-Ace and 330g for Ultegra.

These are as straightforward to fit as any calliper brakes. Swapping them on takes minutes and it's a painless Allen key job; nothing complicated there at all. A barrel adjuster on top of the inner arm allows you to alter the cable tension easily enough and you can alter the height of the pads between 40 and 50mm. The ratcheted quick release lever gives enough clearance for even chunky tyres and the dual-compound pads are interchangeable with Shimano's.

Okay, so that's all the background stuff. Out on the road, where it really counts, we were impressed. These brakes are really powerful. In the dry, they have a real bite to them when you apply the pressure but it's on wet roads that they really prove their worth. We took two bikes out in the rain, one fitted with the SL-K brakes, one fitted with Shimano Ultegras. Don't get us wrong, the Ultegras were good; we really rate them. But the SL-Ks had noticeably more punch. We found that they were less affected by the weather and enjoyed the confidence that gave us going downhill and into turns.

Any negatives? Nothing major. The gap in the inner arm and the groove in the outer arm are both magnets for mud. Rather than dirty water rolling off, it stays in those recesses. But that's not a major criticism. It takes two seconds to clean them. Apart from that, all good. I like them a lot.

In terms of price, the SL-Ks aren't cheap, but they fall between Shimano's Ultegras (£119.99) and Dura-Ace (£259.99), and for the performance and all-round quality, we'd say that was fair enough.


Lightweight callipers that provide powerful stopping in both wet and dry conditions test report

Make and model: FSA SL-K brakes

Size tested: One

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?

FSA say, "The SL-K brakeset share the same stiff caliper design as K-Force, but with stainless steel hardware and alloy pad holders," K-Force being their top-end range.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

FSA list these features:

Unique I-Beam structure

Ratchet quick release lever

Lightweight, compact dual pivot design, equipped with thrust


Stainless main pivot bolts

Stainless cable attachment hardware

Adjustable spring tension

Orbital pad adjustment

Stainless hardware

New brake pad compound

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 74kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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Mat Brett | 13 years ago

We tested both with the pads supplied by the manufacturers.

finbar | 13 years ago

Really puzzled as to why anybody would buy these - they bring nothing to the table. If you want to save weight, SRAM are lighter, and Dura Ace are more powerful (and almost as cheap if you shop around. And lighter for that matter!).

Iwein Dekoninck | 13 years ago

Did you have Koolstop brake pads on the Ultegras too when you tested? Just wondering how much the difference in stopping power was down to the pads, and how much was down to the callipers.

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