Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Feb. 18, 2015 — With the latest iteration of Rival, the remaking of SRAM’s road line is almost complete. All but Apex shift 11-speed cassettes, have hydraulic braking options and share the key technologies that make Red 22 so good. New Rival follows hot on the heels of Shimano taking entry level 105 to 11-speeds, another group that claimed to have inherited technology from Dura Ace and Ultegra 11 speed.
Unfortunately, in the case of 11speed 105 the technology seemed to dribble down and the shifting is a numb and mushy imposter compared to the exceptional feel of Ultegra and Dura Ace. Would SRAM Rival suffer the same fate?
With essentially identical internals to RED and Force with only materials, alloy instead of carbon, steel instead of Ti, and some minor form differences, Rival is not simply close to RED and Force, its shift feel is identical. It is as crisp, quick and accurate as RED 22. Other than weight and some bling factor, Rival gives up nothing. It’s not trickle-down technology; it’s drench-down technology.
Rival doesn’t suffer when it comes to braking options either – riders can choose mechanical rim, hydraulic rim or hydraulic disc – and both rim options are engineered for 28mm tires and wide rims. We hate to sound like a broken record but the hydraulic braking feel is again essentially identical to Red and Force – massive power with lots of modulation, but slightly less direct than Shimano’s hydro disc offerings. The continuity of matching hydro calipers is a nice touch too. Unlike Shimano, which shares hydro disc calipers across groups, Rival gets its very own.
There are plenty of other similarities too, from lever and hood ergonomics right down to the YAW front derailleur’s new chain spotter. So what are the differences? Mainly weight and money, more of the former and less of the latter. Overall a Rival group braking with 160m discs will register almost 700grams on the scale more than RED 22, but save you $1400 in the process. SRAM acknowledges that the rider looking at Rival is a bit different then the rider lusting after RED and the main functional difference is gearing. There will probably be a lot more WiFLi Rival groups on the road than RED WiFLi groups and 53/39 chain rings are not offered with Rival, 52/36 is a big as it gets.
Rival lacks the refined shapes and lustrous finish of RED to, so the choice is an aesthetic and image one. Are you confident enough in your ability to show up on the group ride without the status that comes with a top-tier group like RED? Because your fingers won’t know the difference when they shift and brake, Rival is that good.
Price: $1200 Weight: 2694grams – Hydraulic Disc, WiFLi, BB30.