There's another new entry in the electronic shifting sweepstakes - this time, a wireless group from FSA: the K-Force WE, which I assume stands for "wireless electronic." It is the company's first full road component group.
Nowadays, the challenge of introducing a new drivetrain component group isn't in designing a system that shifts quickly and precisely (that's been pretty well nailed since about 1986), but rather, in how to come up with a new design without infringing somebody else's patents. With a front and rear derailleur to operate, and a pair of control levers on the handlebars, how many different ways are there, in practicality, to activate the shifts? I guess FSA managed to come up with something that works enough like Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM to be familiar to users, but different enough to avoid patent infringement. That in itself is probably the single most noteworthy achievement of the group.
In order to centrally manage power usage, the entire system utilizes a single 7.4 Li-ion battery that is supposed to be installed inside the seat post. There are light-up indicators on the front derailleur unit to display how much juice is left, or one can check with the smartphone app. The company claims a range of 5000km for the main battery. The shift levers have their own separate batteries - one coin-type battery each, which FSA says should be replaced about once per year regardless of miles.
Having yet another electronic component group makes it more and more likely that that days of traditional cable-operated systems are numbered. How long before battery-free bikes are relegated only to the bottom rungs of any company's lineup? A few years? A decade?
I guess the best thing about a traditional battery-free system is that they'll work reliably for years and years, which is great for retrogrouches like us. I mean - once you reach a certain level of "obsolescence" you become unaffected by obsolescence. Inoculated resistance, in other words. When cyclists stop feeling compelled to keep chasing the latest and greatest - constantly upgrading for miniscule "improvements" and planned obsolescence, we reach a point where we just ride the bike in peace. It's almost like obtaining a state of cycling zen.