Just a year ago, SRAM revamped its RED groupset, adding a lighter, quieter and better-shifting experience than it’d ever had. But as the industry moved to 11-speed, and further on to electronic, SRAM bided its time, a step off the game. A year on, SRAM has taken at least one major step toward joining its competitors; SRAM has finally gone to 11. Speeds, that is.
Last weekend in Westlake Village Calif. northwest of Los Angeles, SRAM test-debuted its new RED 22 and Force 22 groupsets, their new 11-speed (x2=22) groupsets to the media.
On its face, the RED and Force groups look much like their 10-speed predecessors, apart from that extra cog in the back. And it does share a lot, most importantly the trimless Yaw front derailleur. Those eleven gears in back combined with a front derailleur that moves up and down the front ring on a curving axis (which maintains a straight chainline push and pull) makes for a drivetrain that SRAM says can be moved through in any crossed-up configuration without rubbing or rasping. That ability to run through any gear without trimming, and without experiencing rubbing is what SRAM calls “True 22.â€
SRAM showed a classic derailleur setup with all its limitations and said for SRAM with Yaw, those days are done. “We all see the manuals (that say) don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t go big-big or small-small,â€ said SRAM product manager Charles Becker. “With us, you can do that.â€
The new Red 22 (and Force 22) groupsets includes new 11-speed shifters/brake levers, crankset (BB30, GXP, PressFit30), Yaw front derailleur (with chain spotter), rear derailleur and cassette, as well as brake calipers and chain.
Cranksets within the group go down as low as 165mm in length. As it has with its 10-speed version, SRAM incorporates a Quarq power meter crankset into the equation, but the RED crankset now has hollow crankarms, and is available in lengths as short as 162.5mm.
To differentiate between 11-speed and 10-speed chains, the new chains (RED-22 for RED and PC-1170 for Force) will be silver, as opposed to black for 10-speed.
The new tighter cassette, front derailleur and rear derailleur tolerances makes squeezes in one more cog—the 16-tooth—adding smoother, less jarring transition between mid-range gears.
With the new groups comes a new set of claimed weight claims. SRAM says its top-shelf 242g RED 22 is the new benchmark in light weight against competitors Shimano and Campagnolo, at 1,747 grams.
The RED 22 mechanical road group will price at $2,618 complete, and will be available in shops in July.
FORCE 22 GOES 11 AS WELL—WITH YAW
With the new RED 22 group comes its younger brother, Force 22. While only slightly heavier, it brings in all the same key technologies as RED, specifically that added 16-took cog, Yaw front shifting technology and its massive-range long-cage option, WiFli. In fact, the only discernable difference will be the use of the PG-1170 cassette instead of the PowerDome RED cassette. For the price-conscious, this is going to be a huge draw.
Pricing for a complete mechanical Force 22 group will price at $1,358, and will be available in August.
BRINGING HYDRO TO THE ROAD
And with the new group comes new braking options beyond mechanical, cable-pull braking: hydraulic road brakes. Just a few years ago, Cervelo partnered with Magura to create the RT 7TT hydraulic road brake caliper and matching TT lever. It was a system on lockdown exclusive to Cervelo only, but was recently opened to the public domain. Magura also made the system available on using a huge junction box that mounts under the stem. Functional, yes, but also somewhat unattractive having a big black box mounted under the stem.
But it made road braking—for lack of a better word—fantastic. For anyone familiar with mountain biking on hydraulic brakes, it’s a totally different sensory experience than cable-actuated braking. The action feels “squishierâ€ with no drag, since you’re pushing hydraulic fluid through the hoses to actuate a compression and activate a caliper. Bringing that feel to road is exceptional. Less force is needed to engage the stoppers, and it’s a smooth, dragless experience.
SRAM now comes to the table with RED 22 road hydraulics. Suddenly roadies get that mountain bike-esque braking sensation—but absent the big junction box that Magura was saddled with.
Further, it provides consumers two choices: option for braking at the rim with the Hydro-R rim caliper, or at its traditional setup as a disc rotor-based braking system, on those bike brands and models (typically cyclo-cross, but with more road options from Cannondale and Specialized in queue) with built-in caliper mounts on the fork and stays.
We were quite excited to see the Hydro-R road rim caliper; while it looks very similar to a standard brake caliper, it has a hose that ports in quite near to the caliper’s centerline, and has a quick-release dial that allows easy opening of the caliper for install and removal of wheels.
Both setups are presented with a brake/shifter with the master cylinder housed vertically within the brake’s hood. SRAM said it considered locating the cylinder horizontally through the shifting mechanics, but it was nixed, largely because they didn’t want to mess with their shifting accuracy in an already tight area, and because a vertical cylinder would make for easier servicing for bleeding.
The brake maintains the same manual ergonomics as its cable-pulling predecessors, but has the hydraulics master cylinder located in the brake hood, a sizable difference from the size of the standard cable pull variety.
The RED 22 hydraulic brakes/shifters with rim hydraulic calipers will price complete at $968. The RED 22 disc rotor brake version will price complete at $1,122.
Zipp is supporting the launch with the debut of the 303 disc brake wheelset with its 45mm deep rim and full Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo compatibility.
The RED rotors are sold separately at $72, with the lower-level HS-1 lever price unavailable at press time.
For those wondering about cross-compatibility between 11-speed and 10-speed, there are none; considering the changes in chain width, chainring thicknesses, shifter throws, only Red 22 and Force 22 can exchange parts. However, no parts will be cross-compatible with existing 10-speed platforms.
That said, 10-speed SRAMers aren’t totally out in the dark. SRAM will be supporting you guys with the new S-700 10-speed hydraulic brake lever and rim caliper setup ($572/set including hydraulic brake/shift levers, hoses and calipers) and S-700 10-speed hydraulic brake lever/disc rotor brake caliper setup ($796/set). The disc brakeset (lever, caliper, hose and 160mm HS1 rotor) will weigh 493 grams per wheel, while the rim brakeset (lever, caliper and 60mm of housing) will weigh 422 grams per wheel. The rim caliper will have the same 28c clearance capability. Both hydro setups will work with all SRAM road group levels (RED, Force, Rival and Apex).
All hydraulic offerings will be available in July.
AND OF TRI?
Of course, this left the tri editors with one question? Where’s the tri brake levers? What of splitters that would allow for a tri brake lever. Certainly, triathlon bikes, with their cable-hiding designs and hard angles makes tri a perfect launching pad.
Well, for SRAM, not yet. As they have done in the past with their tri offerings, they don’t present it within the initial presentation. Maybe we’ll have to wait to see if there’s anything come October in Kona.
In the meantime, we’ll be curious if anyone tries to mate a set of Magura RT 7TT brake levers to a set of SRAM’s rim brake calipers. SRAM was coy in saying “We’re always working on things,â€ and confirmed that indeed, hydraulic shifting on tri/TT bikes is something they’re working on, citing compatibility issues with one- or two-post braking systems, brake placement (under bottom brackets) and clearance.
The possibilities of a rotor braking system on tri bikes are intriguing, as are the aero possibilities of the new rim caliper (without a brace arm in the wind, the caliper tucks nicely inline with a frame’s leading- and trailing-edge lines). But to this point, as for addressing the tri market, Magura still has the edge. Our best application to this point is running the rim brake on aero road bikes (Cervelo S series, Felt AR series, etc.) to really clean up the frontal and trailing aero profile.
“We couldn’t help we could help service the single-bold calipers,â€ said SRAM hydraulics manager Paul Kantor of the hydraulic road rim caliper setup. “It’s such a tech that a hydraulic rim brake is a great way for road riders to start living with hydraulics and its low friction, low drag forces. As frames became more complicated, it was on TT/triathlon bikes, its something we’ve become quite fond of applying the technology to—but it’s something we’re still working on.â€
The experience wasn’t unlike the debut a year ago of the revamp of SRAM’s 10-speed RED group. That is to say, it worked exceptionally.
If SRAM wanted the editors to truly feel the benefit of 11-speed, they picked the right place; Sending scribes out to ride over hill and dale on the Rock Store climb, along Mulholland Drive (the same circuit utilized by ProTour teams in past iterations of the Tour of California), we were constantly moving through gobs of gears. Same lever throw, same audible, solid move through the range. Still, it moves just one gear per shift (no “deeperâ€ multi-gear shifts), etc., but everything was crisp and
I thought I’d notice the size of the new RED hydraulic brake lever/shifter, but it wasn’t until the end of the ride that I asked another editor the same question: “Do you notice the master cylinder at all?â€ His answer—as was mine—was “no.â€ While it looks unwieldy from the side, once on the bike, it largely goes unnoticed. If you can get your head around the visuals, you’re in for a braking treat.
Shifting was what we found when we tested 10-speed a year ago: no rub. There was a lot of mindless, thoughtless shifting going on when Johnson and some of the more aggressive/fit editors charged over hills and motored ensuing descents. Being bereft of fitness, I was grasping for gears, and was happy to find a place of happy cadence—even if that meant I glanced down and only then noticed I was crossed up in a 53×28. (Yeah, I was that guy—sue me.) But even out of saddle, trying to bring it to rasp, it quietly hummed along, politely ignoring my ardently ridiculous gear choices.
For more on the new groups, visit sram.com.