It’s not electronic, it’s not 11 speed and hydraulic brakes, while certainly more than a rumor, are not part of the initial launch. And you know what? After one ride, we couldn’t care less. What new RED is, is very, very good. While true to SRAM’s roots as the upstart, aggressive, slightly edgy and ultra-light road guys, this iteration of RED is wholly new. It is not an update, it is a new group. A new group that happens to be a almost a half-pound lighter than previous RED and over a pound lighter than Dura Ace Di2. A pound.
Initial thoughts? Quiet. RED has gone from the noisiest group in the peloton to quite possibly the quietest. The chain hits the next cog with same crisp engagement, then the noise simply stops, giving the wind, your breathing, the sound of your tires on the road, precedence. Beautiful.
Second thought? The front derailleur is no longer the group’s Achilles heel. Trim-less, front shifts to the big ring feel automatic, dare we say, electric. Swing the lever and get on with pedaling. And overlap? It is non-existent. Shifts from big ring to little ring are vastly improved, achievable under more power than previously. As good as they are, they are still not a match for electronic, the spring simply can’t create the torque a worm-drive can.
Beyond this, the ergonomics are fantastic, but they are an evolutionary improvement. Red was already the leader here. The new brakes are certainly good, but one ride over unknown terrain is not the best test for either of these categories. Stay tuned for a full ride test for that. What’s impressive is how good the initial brake feel is after you look at them. They are a very small package.
Of course there is much more going on with the group, many more words worth than we can spend here. Here are the highlights, the important bullet points, component by component. Check below as well for video of the new front derailleur and its YAW technology in action. Still Double Tap, the blade is now considerably longer. The brake pivot is high and the shape contoured for great single finger power from the hoods and drops. The new graphic treatment is vintage SRAM and very handsome. They are still reach adjustable from an easily accessed Allen. The hoods have an exterior texture for all you glove-less riders, a taller peak and an optimized bar-to-hood transition. The overall circumference has been reduced to allow better finger wrap. When was the last time someone said a front derailleur was the highlight of a group? It is here. A gorgeous piece of minimalist engineering, its cage does not swing parallel to the chain rings. This is where the YAW comes in. The rear of the cage transcribes a slight arc as it shifts, angling the rear away from the chain and eliminating chain rub with no trim setting. The cage is aluminum and steel with a little bit of carbon at the tail creating stiffness exactly where it's needed and saving weight where it is not. The front derailleur also comes with an integrated chain-catcher. SRAM says 99.9 percent of their pro teams use them, so they included it. It can be fixed, or removed, independent of the derailleur's set up.
Check out our video of new RED shifting here
. Full of simple, but elegant, solutions the RED rear derailleur has real world improvements. Changing the way the rear shifted was essentially unnecessary, it was already fast and crisp thanks to Exact Actuation. They focused on making it lighter and easier to live with. The fixing bolt doesn't interfere with the outer cage, the B-knuckle, the piece that the fixing bolt lives in, is longer to make running a 28T cog a bit easier and make pulling your wheel out for a change faster. The barrel adjuster uses a soft touch rubberized material that is ergonomic and easy to turn, as opposed to just about every other derailleur. All of these are very good things when most riders are their own mechanic. The pulley material is also new to help quiet the drivetrain but they still spin on ceramic. The new cassette is the true reason new RED is so quiet. Instead of the Powerdome with its acoustic issues, the new cassette has the middle eight cogs machined in one piece, Powerdome X, out of tool grade steel, while the small cog and big cog are separate. The big cog is heavily machined, saving weight and preventing sound from building up. The big news here is elastomer rings, or Stealth Rings, that sit between the cogs. As the chain engages the cog it hits the elastomer to quiet the impact and as the chain reacts to pedaling force they slide up the specially machined teeth and off the elastomer. No energy wasted and a longer life for your Stealth Rings. They will not last as long as your cogs, however, and will need to be replaced aftermarket. Life span was not quoted. Another big piece piece of news was the addition of a Quarq in-line RED power meter. While not on every RED bike, it will be available as part of a RED group. This new meter has the ability to measure power of individual pedal strokes, a first for any crank based power meter. Of course it is ANT+ and utilizes features from the standard RED crank. The fifth arm of the spider is hidden in the crank and that crank is the lightest and stiffest SRAM has ever made. While the standard crank is indeed lighter than previous RED, they could have made it much lighter. To improve the front shifting they have designed much thicker and stiffer chain rings than previously. The brakes. Not hydraulic, but still very impressive. Out of a tiny package SRAM manages to produce enormous stopping power with something called an Aero Link. The cable binder is attached to a small arm that then links to the caliper. This multiplies the force exerted on the cable, ramping up your stopping power and modulation. The frontal area has been greatly reduced making them perfect for new TT rigs, although specific aero savings were not quoted. Another soft touch barrel adjuster is used here and can be oriented in a low drag configuration.
All in all, we are excited about 10 speed mechanical again. SRAM has proven the mechanical well is indeed much deeper than most have imagined. The group will be available aftermarket this March and appearing on OEM bikes soon. An important note for all the aftermarket buyers - the shifters, front derailleur and crankset are not backwards compatible with other SRAM groups, even old RED. Yaw technology is subtle in practice, but takes a number of unique features to accomplish.
Look for a long term review in the pages of peloton and more coverage online soon.
Weight: 1739 Grams
MSPR: $2575 w/ standard cranks