13 Jul 2021


2003 Tour de France featured a revolutionary concept change inside the road bike crankset.
During that year, Full Speed Ahead was the technical partner of Team CSC, and FSA vice president and global marketing manager Claudio Marra showed the at-the-time team manager Bjarne Riis a special carbon crankset with an innovative 52x36 gear ratio produced by FSA: the “compact” crankset. The first idea of a chainset with a lower gear ratio belonged to a big player in bike market like Fausto Pinarello, who thought it would allow riders to make it to the finish with less effort after their hard pulls on the big climbs. 


Until then cyclists used a 53x39 combination, but something important was about to happen during that TDF. Team CSC’s leader Tyler Hamilton crashed and fractured his collarbone in the final kilometre of the Tour's first stage, the Paris prologue, and many people felt that his race was over: - no way a rider with a broken collarbone could tackle the big climbs that were to come - someone thought.
Despite everything, Hamilton continued racing and felt better as each stage progressed until the riders were ready to face the first big climbs of the Tour, including the legendary Alpe d’Huez. With the high mountains lingering, a flashback occurred to the detail-oriented manager Bjarne Riis.



No one before than believed in the “compact” gear ratio benefits, but now Riis was sure that the lower gears would help Hamilton stay seated on the climbs and avoid pushing on his injured shoulder. Thus, Bjarne phoned to Claudio Marra, who drove all night long with the first Compact crankset ever produced reaching the team in France. A few minutes before the start of the first mountain stage, team mechanics installed on Hamilton’s bike the new 515gram FSA Carbon Pro Elite crank, the “game-changer”, allowing him to run a 36 tooth inner chainring with a 52 tooth outer. 

FSA Compact cranksets

FSA Carbon Pro Elite crank

The rest is history. During the 16th stage from Pau to Bayonne, Tyler Hamilton took out an incredible stage win and from that moment many and many cyclists were willing to sacrifice the exceptionally big gears to have sufficient gearing to tackle the climbs. 90% of riders now choose the 52x36 combo or the bestselling 50x34 version. One of the biggest revolutions in bike market components was about to start and FSA was leading the way…

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FSA Cranksets

  • Tyler Hamilton in action with the first FSA Compact crankset
  • Carlos Sastre in action at TDF
  • FSA Compact cranksets