Do you remember when SRAM introduced their new Red group? Me neither. I used the Googles to see if I could find the date of said introduction. The first link was for when they introduced the original group. The second link was for a page that showed some sort of hydraulic brake and power meter combo that was Red related. Ah, finally third result was for the actual release of the Red group. And that link was for a UK website.
I don’t recall the media release of the group but I vividly recall the day when the SRAM rep brought in the new group to show it off.
He walked into our service area where four technicians were working. He was carrying that cliche top secret brief case. With all the enthusiasm you would expect from someone who works to sell this stuff, he announced he had the new Red group to show us.
And then there was a long, awkward silence, not one of us cared.
The sales rep broke the silence as he pulled the pieces out of his case and began his presentation. I finally took a look at the derailleurs because I felt bad for the guy and they had made some changes to their front derailleur. Which he admitted that SRAM admitted that the original one, just didn’t work. The new one has some weird set up requirements so I queried him about the process.
Mr. Gurr’s comment, “Where do you put the battery?”
The point is that SRAM needs to do something pretty spectacular to stay in the game. Both Campagnolo and Shimano have electric 11 speed groups available. Shimano has two levels and is on their second generation of electric shifting Dura Ace. Am I excited about this stuff? Absolutely. As the new Dura Ace began to filter onto the interwebs I made an effort to find it, keep up on it and was genuinely interested about what was to come. I was not disappointed.
I used the Googles to search for the Shimano launch as well. Only one link out of the first page was for something beside the recent intro and that was for Sheldon Brown’s history of the group.
Let’s take a look at their flagship group.
Weight, yup it’s lighter and stronger according to SRAM. Would you expect anything else? The cranks are updated, or at least they look different. The rep explained how they had updated their chain pins and shifting ramps to improve performance. They changed the cassette by adding some sort of rubber band between the cogs to keep it quiet. The brakes were updated to be aero and are said to work, couldn’t tell you if that is true. But the biggest change was the front derailleur.
As I mentioned above, this was the one part I actively engaged in conversation during the presentation. Any tech worth his bath salts, can tell you how horrible the front derailleur from the original group functioned. It was a common held solution that it was an upgrade to put a Force derailleur on your Red group, because it would at least shift. You’ve all seen some of my photos of SRAM bikes rocking a Shimano front derailleur. Also, the sales rep apologized for this and informed us that SRAM had solved the problem by listening to technicians.
So what’s new? Well, they’ve taken the front derailleur and made the cage rotate as it flows through its travel. This is why they call it the Yaw cage. They’ve also included some laser engraved lines on the cage to help technicians set it up right. Geez thanks. There are three oddities about this new system I would like to point out.
First, the derailleur comes with a chain catcher incorporated into the clamp. I get the idea of these devices, but other than on triples have never had the need for one. SBC has been shipping their carbon bikes with a similar device for a year or so now, I’ve never installed one and my bikes don’t come back with damaged paint around the cranks where the chain has fallen off. This leads me to believe that maybe the Yaw cage doesn’t work as well as they claim. If a derailleur shifts properly, there should be no need for such a device.
Second, the sales rep was adamant that SRAM had listened to techs everywhere and addressed their concerns. Then they went and engraved lines on their cage to make sure that the derailleur was set up right. This implies to me that SRAM did not listen to techs everywhere but rather blamed techs everywhere for their poor performance. Of course, the original derailleur would have worked had it been set up properly so we added lines to the new one so you lackies can get it right.
Third, according to the sales rep, the front derailleur inner cage should be set up so that the chain rubs on the plate when in the easiest gear. Conventionally, the cage is set up as close as possible to the chain without rubbing to ensure that the chain does not fall off when coming off the big chain ring. And you don’t want it to rub because rubbing sucks. Again the sales rep informed us that when riding the chain would not rub because of the flex inherent in the cranks. This brings up two new inconsistencies. A) I thought your BB30 system was the stiffest thing ever known to man and it didn’t flex. B) Pedaling forces cause the cranks to flex in both directions. Meaning that when the rider is applying force to the right crank the chain probably won’t rub, but when applying force to the left crank the chainring will flex toward the cage and make the rubbing worst. (Luckily for SRAM, this was an ill-informed sales rep and does not coincide with what appears in their tech manuals)
Will all of this be of nothing and the whole thing will shift flawlessly? Only time will tell. Based on my past experience, I would avoid the group. What it does tell us is that SRAM is way off the back when it comes to their road groups. The lack of enthusiasm in my shop for the release seems to be echoed by the media and general public. SRAM needs to step up their game big time if they hope to maintain the market share they currently hold.
Most importantly, remember, Thou shalt not SRAM thy neighbor.