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Jan. 22, 2015 — SRAM Red? No …SRAM Force? No …SRAM … wait, where are the cables? If you have taken a glimpse of the “select” bikes inside the Ag2r camp at the 2015 Tour Down Under, you likely had the same thoughts we did — that being, SRAM’s back at it, testing its long-awaited electronic group in the pro ranks. Some of the latest developments at SRAM can quickly be inferred from the photos by our shooter at the race, Yuzuru Sunada, as well as the so-called spy shots making the rounds on social media this week.
Fully wireless shifting has been a working project for over a year since it was last spotted at the 2014 Tour of California. It was being tested then, and WorldTour team Ag2r–La Mondiale is also testing it at the 2015 TDU. But during this go-around SRAM has done away with the wires we saw in California, which were likely fakes to confuse competitors. With SRAM Red already being the lightest production group on the market, it seems safe to say, without cables, SRAM’s electronic offering will likely be the lightest electronic group as well. We aren’t quite sure if the components communicate via ANT+ or Bluetooth. Despite a lot noise about Bluetooth coming to replace ANT+, both are quite similar standards, and both use very little power, low bandwidth, operate in the 2.4GHz range with a very similar physical radio connection.
This also brings up battery placement, longevity, and charging. Without wires, each component must have its own battery. Coin batteries in the hoods would be sufficient for the levers, but much more power is needed to shift. The batteries on the derailleurs are likely removable and can be both be charged remotely, perhaps on a a single wall charging unit. How this may affect battery life and weight is yet to be seen.
Now, if your eyes are as good as ours, you will have noticed the hoods and the front and rear derailleur. However, what you may not have picked up on is the shifting pattern.
Most shifting today, from traditional mechanisms to electronic, functions with the left mechanism operating the front derailleur and the right mechanism operating the rear derailleur. SRAM’s wireless group set does both, perhaps to get around the many patents Shimano and Campagnolo have registered to protect their own electronic drivetrains.
Click on the right shifting mechanism and the rear derailleur will shift into a larger cog; do the same with the left and it will shift back up into a lighter cog. However, click both shifting mechs at the same time and you operate the front derailleur, shifting into the small and big chainring.
It’s likely that the group will bring a whole new aerodynamic benefit. No more lousy cables, and if you travel with your bike, it might make packing a whole lot easier. Axel Dumont (pictured left) seems like he wishes he was on wireless, like the two teammates beside him.
— AG2R LA MONDIALE (@AG2RLAMONDIALEc) January 20, 2015
SRAM has yet to comment officially about the group and is sticking to the statements it made to peloton in August when we spotted it at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Michael Zellmann, SRAM’s road and PR manager, said then, “We are reserving comment until further notice. When we have info to share we will reach out to you directly. There is a lot of rumor and conjecture; we have confirmed none of it. Only thing I will share — it is being tested with professional riders.”
While the groups spotted on multiple Ag2r bikes have a very polished appearance, complete with graphics, our sources close to SRAM say not to expect a launch anytime this spring. As we learn more we will share it with you, as well as any developments on an upcoming electronic group from FSA.
Here you can see the shifting in action via an Ag2r mechanic:
If you want to see another angle, check out Samuel Dumoulin’s firsthand view of the group while climbing Checker Hill, featured in stage 1 at TDU: