SRAM Red We’re willing to wager that, since its introduction, SRAM Red components have won more UCI cyclocross races than any other group here in the States. Some will argue that those victories are simply because SRAM sponsors so many athletes, but the components have certainly proven themselves at the highest level of our sport. SRAM Red 2012 hit a few production delays and only now is the much-heralded group readily available for consumers. It’s pricey at over $2500 for a road version, but it’s also light—100g lighter than the original Red group, a few dozen grams leaner than Campagnolo Super Record’s lightest option, and over 300g less than Shimano’s Dura-Ace mechanical and electronic groups (although both Shimano and Campagnolo go to 11 speeds). Is the new SRAM Red worth the upgrade? We’ve been fortunate to spend a little time on the new SRAM Red group and to bring you one of the first cyclocross-centric reviews.
with the front DoubleTap shifter (with the exception of the first Rival DoubleTap that offered small ring trim). Yaw really works and easily brings SRAM’s front shifting to be on par with, or even surpassing, that of Shimano. Now it’s just a matter of shifter preference. Aided by a stiffer, stronger stainless steel cage (earlier SRAM Red units had titanium cages) and increased number of shift ramps on the PowerGlide rings, the front shifts are smooth and quick, and without the need for a trim, you shift it and you’re done—nothing else to think about no matter what gear you’re pedaling in the back. SRAM even includes a chain watcher to help keep your chain on in all conditions. The lever throw to push the chain into the big ring still requires a tad more effort than a Shimano system (only because you can’t use your whole hand on the lever as with Shimano), but it’s a quiet, smart, trim-less system that doesn’t require wires, batteries or chargers.
YEARNING FOR YAW
Speaking of quiet, SRAM really did prioritize creating a quiet ride. Its redesigned ultralight road cassette now features StealthRing elastomer pads that absorb some of the shock of the chain landing on a cog, creating a smooth, quiet shift. No longer do you have to announce your attack by the resonance of the chain slamming into the one-piece steel dome that makes up the biggest eight cogs. SRAM continued its push for a quiet ride through a redesign of the rear derailleur pulleys to further
The big story with SRAM’s 2012 Red Group is undoubtedly the new front derailleur. The redesigned gear changer is a marvelous piece of engineering, angling its cage in or out depending on the chain ring in use, effectively eliminating the need for shifter trim. We’ve long heard from both Shimano and SRAM that their newer front derailleurs and shifters can be set up so that trim is unnecessary, but so often that seemed only possible on the workstand, not during the bumpy, crud-filled, crosschained riding situations of cyclocross. That’s been our biggest beef
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
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Don’t Miss a Gear—Di2 (Continued from page 66) your front derailleur sounds extravagant, but if it also means not dropping your chain, having a quieter drivetrain, and not trying to soft-tap your shifter in thick gloves on bumpy terrain, you might be able justify the investment on a per-shift cost over the life of components.
MORE COMPLICATED + ELECTRONICS = LOW MAINTENANCE?
A bunch of wires, a battery, and several motors make Di2 sound like the occasional mechanic’s worst nightmare, making for a high-maintenance system. But beyond charging a battery and learning how to set up the system, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no cable stretch, no cables to lube or replace, and no complicated shifter ratchets or springs to get ruined by sand or mud. Your chain should last longer, since it shifts with assistance from the ramps and not an overzealous forceful hand. And that battery? Estimated to last 1500 shifts per charge, we expect you’ll have to charge your battery far less than the time you’d spend maintaining your shift cables on a mechanical system. The actual work of charging a battery? Just 15 seconds, to disconnect and plug it into your charger. For the time-crunched cyclocross racer or anyone with a phobia of allen keys, it’s a dream come true. Set it up once, and ride it for a very long time. In-ride adjustments require learning a simple combination of buttons, but it requires a bit more concentration than an inline cable adjuster or barrel adjuster on a rear derailleur.
NOT PERFECT, YET
Of course even a second-generation system can use some refinements, and my top complaint is the inability to shift multiple gears at once, in either direction. This almost seems like a programming error. It seems intuitive to expect the shift to repeat when a button is held down— not unlike a computer keyboard. The electronic stuff isn’t light either. The group weighs more than Ultegra mechanical, but a little less than 105—not exactly the weight you’d expect if you plunk down over $2k for a group or $1600 for just the essential Di2 components. Also, the Ultegra Di2 certainly won’t win any beauty contests. With larger motors than the Dura-Ace Di2 set, the Ultegra units look clunky and cheap. But the biggest downside has to be price. Riding through thick mud with 100+ other racers trying to get by, it’s a little scary to think about a crash, or some thick mud, ripping off a rear derailleur that runs more than $300.
If you’re worried about not being able to afford a replacement derailleur, we feel your pain, and it’s likely that Di2 is not for you. But if you can afford it, and like gears and being able to use all of them all the time, Di2 is worth a try. Of course, like with all types of technology, by the time you make your purchase, it’s already obsolete, and we know Dura-Ace 11-speed Di2 is just around the corner, although at a much higher price. Ultegra 10-speed Di2 will be here for several years, and that’s a long time to enjoy near-perfect shifting. –A.Y. 2012 Ultegra 6770 Di2/CX70 Group MSRP: $2178 complete group with CX70 crankset and brakes, $1600 Ultegra Di2 (6770) components only More info: bike.shimano.com
Don’t Miss a Gear—SRAM Red (Continued from page 67) dampen sound. While you may appreciate these two features on (especially road-based) training rides, you might forget all about them while the cowbell-ringing crowd is cheering your way to victory in a cyclocross race. It’s a lot more cyclocross-friendly now, too, as the cogs have cutouts that should help prevent it from getting packed with mud like the old Red Dome cassette. The DoubleTap levers have also been redesigned, and the changes are subtle with more-textured hoods, flatter transitions to the bar and more pronounced knobs on top. The extra texture is certainly something a ’crosser will appreciate, and it’s especially nice on sweaty or slimy days. Tired of little things or rings? Thankfully, SRAM is also expanding gearing options by making a WiFli rear derailleur capable of handling wide-range cassettes like 11-32t. Arguably the most visually noticeable change from the older components is the new SRAM Red Exogram hollow carbon crank and spider that’s said to be SRAM’s stiffest yet. Even the chain rings have been redesigned with more ramps, plus one bolt position that threads directly into the crankarm. However, our early cyclocross kit from SRAM didn’t come with the new Exogram crankset, instead featuring a Red-badged carbon crankset with an external aluminum spider and PowerGlide 36/46 rings that looks remarkably similar to the company’s S900 crankset. It’s the same Continue to page 73
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Don’t Miss a Gear—SRAM Red (Continued from page 69) crankset the SRAM-sponsored riders will be racing early this season. SRAM is making a 110 BCD compact Red crankset and is working on compatible cyclocross rings, and companies like WickWerks are already targeting that crankset with new cyclocross rings, so there definitely will be cyclocross options with the newer crank shortly. cross disc specific forks with the ’Cross Disc model. –C.L. Enve ’Cross Disc Carbon Fork MSRP: $554 USD Weight: 463 grams, 350 mm 1.125”- 1.50 “ tapered carbon steerer tube Specs: 47 mm offset, 395 mm axel to crown distance, post mount More info: enve.com
CARBON CYCLES EXOTIC RIGID 700C TREKKING FORK:
Carbon Cycles eXotic rigid 700c trekking fork looks beefy but don’t let its size fool you. Weighing in at 720g on our scale (uncut), this fork isn’t a featherweight, but it will surprise you how light it feels on your bike. Carbon fiber stanchions are mated to an aluminum crown and to the dropouts with mounts for cantilevers or disc brakes. We set up ours with cantilevers, but the versatility is definitely a plus. There are threaded holes for fender hardware as well as one on the center of the crown that will accept a fork-mounted brake cable stop. While marketed as a 700c trekking fork, this will accommodate a 29 x 1.75 tire with room to spare. On test rides, the fork absorbed vibration nicely and even on some really rough singletrack, the ride felt less jarring than usual. It may not feel as twitchy as a race fork but that may not be a bad thing. What the eXotic trekking fork does have is plenty of plush stable handling. The 42mm rake gives it slightly more trail than most forks but not so much as to make it too sluggish to dive into tight corners. With its versatile design and great riding characteristics, this fork is definitely one to consider. –K.W. ⌂
While Shimano and Campagnolo are embracing electronics and an extra gear, SRAM is still the lightweight champ—at a decent value, too, (compared to the next-lightest Campagnolo Super Record at nearly twice the price). Spend the coin to upgrade to Red from a workhorse group like Shimano 105, and you can save close to two pounds. You’ll immediately notice that change whether it’s when picking your bike up for a run-up, or just sprinting out of corners. We expect Red-level hydraulic disc brakes in the near future; thus the SRAM Red system will receive plenty more changes. But if you’re looking for lightweight components with topnotch front shifting and a quiet ride, the 2012 SRAM Red components might be the right upgrade for you. –A.Y. 2012 SRAM Red Group MSRP: $2575 (including road rings & brakes), $2443 estimated with Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilevers instead of Red brakes. More info: sram.com
Carbon Cycles eXotic Rigid fork MSRP: $204 Weight: 720g Specs: 42mm offset, 410mm axle to crown, IS Mount More info: carboncycles.cc
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