FSA Cockpit: Energy T Handlebar, OS 115 Stem and K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost
By Jon Sharp
The cockpit of your bicycle--your handlebars, stem and seat/seatpost--are often overlooked. When buying a bicycle, OEMs often save money
by spec'ing lower-priced (and often lower-quality) items for the cockpit. If your bike falls into that category, then I have this question to ask you:
Do you really want to trust your main contact with the bicycle to sub-standard parts? Here reviewed is a full cockpit (minus the saddle) by FSA.
Though carbon fiber does play a role in the parts tested, for once it isn't the starring role. First off, we'll look at the Energy T handlebar (if you
watch carefully, I'll divulge the secret of the mysterious "T" in the name). After that, we'll examine, with much scrutiny, attaching that handlebar to
our bike with an OS 115 stem. Finally, we'll wrap it up with our token carbon bit: the K-Force Light SB25 seatpost eye-candy.
Energy T Handlebar
OS 115 Stem
K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost
Energy T Handlebar
It is curious that if you pay a visit to most bike stores you will find many different handlebars to choose from. Actually, that part isn't curious.
This part, however, is: very rarely will you find a handlebar with a traditional bend. Curious? No? Well, how about this: After searching through
many a local store--including a national mega-store (which will remain unnamed), I found exactly zero bars with a traditional bend. Okay, none
of that is curious. The really curious part is why so many riders in the pro peloton choose handlebars with a traditional bend. Whew, I'm glad I was
able to finally justify that first sentence.
The FSA Energy T handlebar is
one such bar, that is, a bar with a traditional bend. Which is exactly where that heretofore secret letter "T"
comes from. In fact, this particular bar can be seen under the grip of some of the fastest riders in the world. If people who get paid to ride pick
this bar, why wouldn't I want it? I do want it, in fact.
The Energy T is not only a
traditional bend, but is a more traditional aluminum in construction. Perhaps not so traditional is the quad-butted, tapered and shot-peened
construction. Though, perhaps boring compared with its sexy competitor, carbon fiber, the Energy T comes in at a very svelte 215 grams--lighter
than many carbon fiber handlebars.
Installation was, of course, simple--doubly so since aluminum doesn't require quite the care that carbon fiber demands. There is a
double-width groove for routing cables. The test bike these bars were mounted to was stocked with Shimano components, however, so I couldn't
test how well both the brake and shift cables from say, SRAM or Campagnolo would fit in the groove.
In addition to being light and durable, the FSA Energy T handlebar is plenty stiff. Though I have experienced drop bars I could easily flex while
riding down the road, this wasn't such a bar. As for the traditional bend, I like it. For me, and my small hands, it meant a better reach to the brake
levers--a nice feature to have when bombing down a twisty mountain road. The other thing I liked about the traditional bend was the extra long and
flat lower section of the bar. I find it very comfortable to stay at the end of the bar for extended periods--something I can't do on the stunted lower
section of most "ergonomic" bars. I also found that that straight section combined with the stiffness of the bar, made sprinting from the lower portion
quite comfortable--except for the aching in my legs.
One place I didn't like to spend lots of time was in the bend of the drops. In this case, an ergonomic bar has the edge. Though useful for shortening
the reach, it also means a constant curve where your hand doesn't want to bend. If you like to spend lots of time right there in the drops behind the
brake levers, you might be better off with FSA's Energy bar (minus the "T") which has their standard ergonomic bend. After a few months on the
traditional bend, however, I wouldn't go back.
OS 115 Stem
With the infusion of carbon, there is one part that seems to elude the carbon enthusiasts--not that it doesn't come in carbon, but that, generally speaking, it's better in aluminum. Which part is this? The stem. (Actually, there are probably other parts that are better left to aluminum, but that would ruin my opening to have to admit it. Moving on...) Though there are a few carbon fiber stems out on the market. They are generally heavier than their aluminum counterparts.
FSA's aluminum OS 115 stem is a great example of why aluminum is a better material (for now, at least) from which to manufacture stems. It weighs in at a 138 grams. For those out there who can't bear to be without carbon, however, it does use a carbon fiber face-plate to secure the handlebar. The body of the stem is cold-forged and machined. The bolts are titanium. The OS 115 comes in seven lengths and three angles. It uses a 31.8mm handlebar clamp and has a 35mm steerer clamp stack height.
From my first look at it, I immediately noticed many small details where FSA milled away all excess material. Once on the bike, however, I realized that they didn't sacrifice strength. This is a stiff stem--one on which you can feel confident standing up, leaning forward, and sprinting your guts out--which is the usual outcome when I sprint. Ew.
Though beautiful and light, FSA's OS 115 stem showed its worth by standing up with nary a flinch to months of hard riding. I loved how solid the front end of my bike felt with this sturdy stem holding things together. Having that carbon face-plate doesn't hurt, either. After all, what good is showing up to that club ride if you can't show off all the carbon bits on your bike?
K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost
Lest you think I'm on an anti-carbon
fiber tirade, let me introduce you to the K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost. (The SB25 stands for 25 mm of set-back--another mystery solved!) Many
carbon seatposts are no more than a carbon shaft bonded to an aluminum head. While this design is functional and cost-effective, I like the all-carbon
construction of the K-Force Light. I've actually had bonded seatposts start to separate at the aluminum-carbon junction. Another feature I find to be a
must-have in a post is a two-bolt, infinite-adjust head. FSA came through on both of these requests with the K-Force Light.
The problem with designing a two-bolt seatpost that has a 25 mm setback is where to put the bolts. FSA solved this issue by putting one bolt up
through a long hole just behind of the main shaft. Though this allows them to have a two-bolt clamp, it also makes adjustment more difficult. You see,
that hole is about 2 inches long. Some ultra-compact multi-tools would never make it past that hole. However, like most infinite-adjust seatposts, once
it is set in the right spot, you'll never have to worry about it again.
Such was the case with my testing. Though I griped and moaned while setting it up, I've since forgotten all about it--basking in the comfort, stiffness,
and quality of a very fine seatpost. You see, being all carbon (except for the bolts and top portion of the clamping mechanism), it does a fine job of damping
vibrations. And, at 200 grams for the 350 mm version, it is quite light. The K-Force Light SB25 comes in 27.2, 30.9 and 31.6 mm sizes. If 25 mm is too much
offset for your tastes, FSA also makes a 0 mm setback option.
Though they make many other components, FSA does a particularly fine job with their cockpit. With the Energy T handlebar, the OS 115 stem and the K-Force Light seatpost I was able to dial in the correct fit on my test bike, and stay comfortable for hours. Perhaps a carbon handlebar would have damped more road buzz, but, thankfully, I have a nice all-carbon fork for that. For my short hands, I especially was fond of the traditional bend in the bar. Also, you can't beat the price-weight ratio of the Energy T. The OS 115 stem is stiff, light, and sexy (thanks to that carbon face-plate). Though the seatpost took some cursing to get set up, it's beautiful and comfortable. Over the testing period, I had zero problems with any of these components. Also, by installing them on my bike, I shaved close to 100 grams off the total weight of my bike (I replaced both a carbon seatpost and a carbon handlebar). If you need to upgrade one of the components that make up the cockpit of your ride, look to FSA. Retail prices are as follows, in USD: 140 for the K-Force Light seatpost, 110 for the OS-115 stem and 70 for the Energy-T handlebar.
Jon Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com. He is often known to overuse the term "traditional"--often including it inside quotation marks. Read his blog.
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