FSA Upgrades on New Bike Day
The Foundry Firetower, with our selected FSA part upgrades, is designed to be a performance hardtail in an era where XC race bikes and all-mountain cruisers are at polarizing ends of the rider spectrum — both in mentality and appearance. But what does performance mean when referring to a stiff rear end? Knowing the Firetower it suited for the rider that races for fun every now and then, but more often hugs the corners of local singletrack, performance means adaptability without discomfort. This is what we hope for out of this bike.
However, you may have noticed that you’d be damned to find a stock bike in your budget that has ‘everything’ you want on it. But hey, it’s just business.
For the money, the Firetower is a pleasant bike that offers a respectable build, front to back. And whether you chalk-it-up to personalization or upgrades, our new bike day was also a new component day. FSA new component day to be precise. Full Speed Ahead (FSA) has been designing performance mountain bike components for years, and is supported by both elite XC athletes as well as all-mountain legends.
Here are the upgrades we chose for our hardtail build:
If you’re going to spend money on parts, start with the wheelset. Given the simplicity and adaptability of the Foundry Firetower, we chose the FSA Afterburner wider wheels: 31mm and nearly square. At 1720g they are plenty light for our do-it-all hardtail, and look flawless. They really add a stout appearance; you won’t forget that you’re rolling on fatties. And paired with Conti 2.4 rubber… mhmm, that’s good.
But we didn’t spend hard-earned cash on wheels just to look good. The Afterburners are bombproof by design, which means you will be less likely find yourself stranded on the trail when things go wrong. Because they will. We chose the Afterburner for their years of stellar performance and reliability; for their very smooth, steel-bearing operated hubs that provide a refined scroll when in use. You can feel the difference of increased speed, reduced rolling resistance, and overall strength of this wheel set when compared to most stock options — a premium upgrade and a mid-level price. After speaking with FSA, we also learned that the PRA collar (preload reduction assembly) makes for easy preload adjustment on the bearings. It’s subtle features such as this that can save time and frustration on assembly/disassembly. Out of the box, we noticed that these hubs engaged very quickly no matter how much dirt and water we threw at them.
Another helpful feature, the rim offers enough of a lip to seat most tires the first time around. Working with Conti tires is no easy task, yet they popped into place without struggle and have remained there ever since. However, the rim tape can be tricky as it doesn’t stick in a flush manner. Don’t forget to complete two full wraps around the rim to cover the spoked properly.
The drop stem, with its low stack height and negative rise provides a compact cockpit and unique riding style. Since I sway more towards endurance rides with plenty of incline, it offers favorable riding positions. Much of this is made possible by the wide Afterburner bars as well. They are stiff and plenty light for every day use. The 740mm width provides more control than I can recall for my past hardtail — I won’t be going back to anything shorter. Oh yes, the 0 degree sweep allows you to beardown when the legs call out for help.
For any bike, be it road, mountain or commuter, there’s always a few upgrades to consider: wheels and cockpit parts. After all, rolling on two wheels is the root of ‘cycling,’ and dialing in the cockpit increases comfort levels across the board — a good fit is critical to how much fun one can have while in the saddle. So the way we see it, these initial upgrades from FSA have resulted in a bike that is faster due to a stiffer wheel and smoother hub, as well as a better fitting bike with personalized stem, bar and post. Although we are confident they will last, we will update you here if anything changes along the way.