SRAM’s Red components took the road cycling world by storm when it was unveiled a couple years ago: The first sub 2000 gram group; the first group with standard ceramic bearings in bottom bracket and derailleur pulleys and the ultimate expression of SRAM’s DoubleTap shift feature.
Kyle summed up his thoughts about SRAM Red rather succinctly:
“Ever since I’ve owned a road bike, it’s been Campy and nothing but Campy. Why? Because it was the best – or so I thought until this season. I’ll admit, I’ve “made the leap” BIG TIME. The best way to describe my experience with Red is “beautiful simplicity”. Not overly complex in design, very tight springs, and a pop that instills confidence with every shift. As a sprinter, my favorite feature is the ability to grip the paddle and shift in full flight – no hesitation, no loss of speed, and no worry about dumping your cassette. It is, bar none, the best performing, maintenance-free group I’ve ever used.”
Laflamme was so moved by the SRAM items that he wrote a veritable essay:
When word was passed down late last year that new team rigs would be fit with SRAM Red I was intensely ambivalent. That is, I had heard Red described by recreational weekend warriors and devoted racing friends alike with superlatives and eyes glinting in mischievous disbelief. Like many of them, I was coming off of a high level of fidelity to Shimano’s Dura-Ace. My partiality was born of season after season of light weight, precise, reliable, (and most importantly for me) easily serviceable road group. Despite hearing time after time that Red was far and away the better road group I was still incredulous. Here are some of my initial impressions after a few weeks of use:
When comparing products such as Dura-Ace and Red the subtleties are where the important differences lie. One of my concerns was that having the downshifting area reduced from the entirety of the Shimano lever to the comparatively small Red DoubleTap lever, I would misshift frequently when riding cross eyed either up a climb or in the drops and be forced to modify my hand position to compensate.
Thankfully, this seemingly insignificant phobia turned out to be just that, insignificant. After a ride or two and subsequent adjusting and micro adjusting, the Red hoods allowed for comfortable hand position and easy up-shifting while both in the drops and on the hoods. I attribute this primarily to the shape and length of the hoods which feel even more nature to my Shimano conditioned hands than the DA.
However, I would like to see decreased throw to actuate the up-shift. In a strict ease-of-up-shift competition SRAM Red loses to Shimano Dura-Ace (though not by much). But this is compensated for by a superior up-shift (and we all now going harder is more virtuous than going easier. It’s nice to have a component manufacture shadow that sentiment).
It has always been my contention that a racer should know his equipment backwards and forwards. Because of this I typically do all, or most of my installation and repair work and have a higher than normal appreciation for little subtle pieces of engineering. On this front Red did not disappoint. Two things that caused me to nod in silent approval were 1- the rear derailleur cable routing INTO the derailleur itself (the cable routes towards the back allowing to achieve higher tension while installing a cable than with the DA) 2- easily accessible tension adjusters on the brake calipers.
Installation was seamless once I discovered that shift cables route from the INSIDE of the hood (never build up a new bike in a dark room 4-5 beers deep). In respect to ease of installation I found the SRAM Red group to be even easier than installing Shimano Dura-Ace. At first blush SRAM Red appears to be every bit as easy to service as well, should the need arise.
Ultimately, I’m going to have to give the SRAM Red group an enthusiastic nod of approval. All of my misgivings proved to be ill-founded (save the cable holding, which is a dying dream either way) and when considering weight and dollar bills, SRAM wins out easily over Dura-Ace.