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
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
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.
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
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.
As 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.
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
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
The 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
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
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
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.