Spotted racing at the first stage of the Saitama Criterium earlier this week in Japan, Team Katusha Alpecin were riding some unique prototype drivetrain. Blacked out with electrical tape, there were no visible logos on what looks to be a next generation SRAM Red eTap groupset, but we can clearly count those 12 cogs on the rear cassette, see the spread printed on the back, and much more in photographs exclusive to Bikerumor…

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed wireless road groupset prototypes

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype
courtesy of cyclowired.jp, all photos by Makoto AYANO

A big shout out here to Makoto Ayano, the Editor in Chief of Japanese cycling news site CycloWired.jp. Based in the greater Tokyo area not far from Saitama City, he was there covering the crit this week – one of several ASO organized show races to parade Tour de France winners & World Champions around the globe. We went right to the source and have an exclusive and unprecedented look at what appears to be a next generation SRAM 12-speed road groupset being raced in the wild. This bike itself is the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX of German pro rider Nils Politt.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed wireless rear derailleur prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

Just to be up front & clear, SRAM has not officially revealed any details about an overhaul of their Red or eTap road groups – with RED eTap a bit more than three years old now. I don’t have any insider information beyond these photos, so pretty much everything that follows here is speculation. But with that said, we can infer a lot of the details. And in many cases, just read what is directly printed on the components that were raced publicly at a criterium specifically meant to show off the top riders in the world.

Let’s start off with a new SRAM RED eTap rear derailleur, the heart of a new groupset. The derailleur doesn’t look like a huge departure from the previous generation besides updated graphics and maybe a larger housing around the cage’s pivot connecting to the derailleur body that could hide some extra tensioning. Unlike the sneak peeks we’ve seen of the mountain bike version of Eagle eTap in the works, derailleur geometry looks mostly unchanged, and there is no visible clutch mechanism or controls for one.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

The same replaceable eTap battery looks to carry over, behind a small protective fin. The derailleur cage does get revised, more angular shaping, and it appears that the lower pulley has more teeth than we are used to from SRAM road. Otherwise the graphics on these prototypes look rather finished, possibly even pre-production with a bit of black electrical tape to hide some official RED 12 or maybe RED 24 logos?

2019 SRAM Red 12-speed XDR cassette prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

Count ’em out, there are twelve cogs on that cassette. So it looks like SRAM is joining Campagnolo with a 12-speed road drivetrain. We also see a road specific, silver 12 speed PowerLink quick link in the chain.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototypeAs is the case with the current Red PowerDome cassettes, this one looks to use a single aluminum alloy large cog with all of the smaller cogs machined from a single block of steel. (See them pinned together in the next image, below.) We also see those same StealthRing elastomer rubber bands that fit between each cog to keep running noise to a minimum.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

From the back we get more confirmation of 12-speed and the gearing of the cassette, a 10-28T spread. That small cog suggests that the cassette sits on a road XDR driver instead of a typical cassette. That’s also supported by the Zipp &&D/177D hubs used on these 404 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc brake wheels which we’ve already reported as XDR driver-ready.

2019 SRAM Red 12-speed directional road bike chain prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

A close look at the new drivetrain also reveals a directional 12-speed chain with hollow pins that forms almost a flat, straight line on the outside vs. the typical dog bone link shaping. That looks like the same shaping you find on the mountain bike Eagle 12-speed PowerLinks, but here applied to the entire chain.

SRAM Red eTap 12-speed wireless front derailleur prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototypeThe prototype Red eTap wireless front derailleur also gets reshaping. A new outer linkage placement appears to move forward relative to the braze-on mounting point, while the overall shift & battery layout of the derailleur body seems to be longer than before. Cage shaping is slightly updated along the outer plate, possibly to work with smaller outer chainrings.

SRAM Red eTap HRD 12-speed wireless shift-brake lever prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

The Red eTap HRD Shift-Brake Control levers look mostly unchanged versus the current hydraulic levers. These prototypes do get a revised pattern on the shift paddle that looks to provide a bit of tactile grip feedback for your fingers.

Quarq x SRAM Red direct mount power meter crankset prototype

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototypeThe crankset is a big departure from the current SRAM Red power meter solution. The carbon arms are slimmed down a bit.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototypeThe Quarq power meter electronics get tucked into a new pod extending back from the crank arm (in something that looks a lot like Rotor’s latest 2INPower cranks). And there is a DUB bottom bracket.

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

And of course that mostly spiderless design means direct mount chainrings. SRAM has machined this double chainring setup from a single piece of aluminum and given it an unusual 50/37 gear combination. Together with the 10-28T cassette that provides a 1.32 to 5 gear ratio range, effectively the same as a fast, flat, or TT 55/39 combo with an 11-30 cassette.

SRAM Red eTap 2×12 wireless road bike groupset development

2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed 2x12 wireless road bike groupset prototype

SRAM hasn’t released any official details on a 12-speed road groupset in the works. But like pretty much everyone in the industry, SRAM does not confirm what products are in development before they are ready for release. Of note, most Katusha riders at the crit were still racing on current Red components, so this is clearly in the earlier pro testing phase still. But with relatively well-finished components, it is clear that SRAM has a new wireless eTap groupset in the pipeline, and it looks like a sure thing now that it will be 12-speed.

We’ll keep our eyes and ears open, but expect to see more of this mystery groupset in the pro peloton next season.

SRAM.com/SRAM/Road

43 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure I get the need for a 12 speed road group. I honestly saw 11 speed as useful for some of the different gearing situations but I’m just not seeing it on 12 speed.

    • I’m not sure I get the need for a 13 speed road group. I honestly saw 12 speed as useful for some of the different gearing situations but I’m just not seeing it on 13 speed.

    • I’m looking at it as an 11sp 11-28 cassette, with an extra 10t cog on the end – which I’m a fan of. Especially ff they can do this without doing weird stuff to the hub or making the spacing between the cogs very thin or lowering the lifespan of the chain (or other components). So then, why not?

    • I remember saying the same thing about 10….however, I have been on 12 for a few months and can can tell you that with certainty my Record12 has one more gear than my Record 11…and I am no faster than when I was on 9……sigh…..but, in the saddle the shorter inches gear to gear makes transitions smooth (such as 16-16-17 as opposed to 15-17-19) and it just adds the 32 on the back side.

  2. Other sights did keep claiming there was a clutch in that derailleur, but I couldn’t see it. Elsewhere, there have been sightings of cross bikes in Boulder with a new 1x etap and a clutched rear derailleur. Perhaps that is the same as the new eagle etap derailleur.

  3. Call me a wimp, but I don’t need a 10-tooth cog. Some more middle-range gears, yeah, but who is pushing a 53×10 recreationally?

    • 53×11 is roughly 48×10. For most riders, it’ll make sense to shrink the front to a 48×32 or similar to keep the high end and improve the low.

      • Actually, that makes the gears harder. If you make the chainrings smaller, then you must use a smaller cog for a given ground speed. Smaller cogs = more frictional resistance. The 10T may be nice for soft pedaling down a mountain, but it’s going to have noticeably more drag loss than the same ratio on a 12T cog.

        Also, the ratio gaps between gears grow as they get smaller because 1 tooth = a greater percentage of a small circle’s circumference.

      • Sure. What do you ride a Dahon? Or do you have a friend drive you to the top of a mountain pass and then ride downhill for 35 miles. I find it very difficult to believe someone could actually utilize 55×10. Other than for saying, I’ve got a 55×10 on my bike. Even a 55×11 or 12 is pretty delusional for a non-pro.

    • The thing with the 10t cog is you can change to a smaller 48t front ring on a road bike, this means you still get a good spread of low range gears at the the rear without sacrificing top speed. I use one by 48 x 10-42 on the road and 42 x 10-42 on the gravel/trails. For road racing I’m after a 10-36 so that 48 x 10 gives me the equivalent of 53 x 11 and 48 x 36 gives me the equivalent of 39 x 28.

  4. Where are the wires? I really like the look of how Shimano runs the wires on their groups. I’m surprised by the lack of innovation here. You have the technology, so why not run a bunch of wires to a separate battery pack with a junction box at the stem and a bunch more wires?

  5. Cogs smaller than 16t have gradually higher friction levels, enough to notice and matter.
    If a company really wants to shake things up, they need to make a multispeed system with a smaller pitch chain, maybe 3/8″, 10mm (which Shimano did for track a long time ago) or thereabouts. Then you could get physically smaller gears without the friction increase, finer increments, etc. It’s not without serious engineering hurdles…

    • There is much greater stresses on a chain with smaller cogs. The chains can start to snap , we saw this in bmx when there was a move to 9t and even 8t rear cogs. Then the half link chain was produced that seemed to solve some of the issues with getting a chain around the small circumference of the cog, then the half link chains had stretching issues and weighed a load so it was just a big waste of time going that small . 10t seems to be the lowest you can go.

  6. It is not just the frictional losses that increase as cogs get smaller than 16 (they do), but also the forces or loads in the chain and on the gear teeth increase. That increased load reduces life and increases the friction, reducing efficiency. All the effort to reduce aero drag, but no thought to just using bigger front and rear gears to reduce drivetrain loss. I need all the help I can get.

  7. If the 12 speed road shifters don’t work with the 12 speed etap mtb derailleur that is also coming out, that will be extremely disappointing and a huge loss to Shimano’s capabilities to mix road and off road.

  8. If 12, then 1x. I think/hope this prototype is just a mere stepping stone to a real next level development for roadies. and gravelers.

  9. With all this constant change I have forgotten how many cogs a few of my bikes had. I counted them on a bike the other day out of curiosity. Way to go bike industry! Just what we need. More product shoved down our throats making no one else but yourself money!

  10. I’m surprised they’ve bothered to go one cog smaller given all the talk of larger cogs being more efficient. Doesn’t seem to make much sense… Plus XDR freehubs… SMH

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