The New SRAM Red was announced almost a year ago, and since then we’ve put plenty of miles on it on test bikes and on our own complete group.
The technical aspects and updates have been covered when the product was announced, so this two-part review focuses on actual weights, installation and ride review. Long story short, SRAM listened to riders and fixed pretty much everything anyone could complain about. The New SRAM Red is quieter, shifts smoother and the front derailleur works much better. Oh, and it’s anywhere from 57 to 83 grams lighter depending on bottom bracket choice.
UPDATED 1/16/13 – Correct front derailleur cable routing clarified and photo’d.
It all sounded great on paper, but now that we’ve ridden it extensively, let’s see how the claims held up…
ACTUAL COMPONENT WEIGHTS
We tested a standard 52/39 Exogram crankset with GXP spindle in 175mm length. Driveside with rings and spindle is 464g and non-drive side with self-extracting bolt is 137g. Combined weight is 601g. Expect to drop about 50g with a BB30 spindle.
Cassette comes in at 150g for the 11-26 and the chain is 258g with all 114 links.
Shifter levers came in at 159g (rear shifter) and 157g (front shifter) with shift cables pre-installed.
Rear derailleur is 146g, front is 76g and the included chain catcher adds 7g with mounting bolt.
Brakes are 128g (front) and 126g (rear).
The GXP bottom bracket with ceramic bearings is 103g.
All parts weighed in within a few grams of claimed weights, although most ended up a few grams heavier than claimed. Complete group as shown here totals 1,911 grams. Of course, you’ll need to add some housing and brake cables.
If you’ve installed any road group, just about all of Red’s latest group will go together as expected. The key difference is the front derailleur. Their new YAW front derailleur has very specific guidelines for installation, and our PR rep at SRAM made sure to stress the importance of proper set up if we wanted it to work right.
With this group, the FD and chain are the last parts you want to install. Starting with the shifter levers, SRAM’s made setup easy and offers plenty of customization. Clockwise from top, shift cable routing can go to the inside or outside of the handlebar with cable housing channels for both. The shift lever has reach adjust, moving it inboard or outboard. The brake lever also has reach adjust, letting you set it closer to the handlebar. Even with my larger hands, I dialed it in quite a bit from the stock setting. Both of these adjustments should be made before you start setting up the derailleurs and brakes.
Once you’ve got things dialed, SRAM’s grip cover notches in on the top/front to stay in place. We like that the hood covers all the mechanical parts. Contrast this to Shimano’s brifters where the underside is mostly exposed to the elements.
Important note: Be sure to add inline barrel adjusters in the shift cable housing if your frame doesn’t have them on the cable stops. It’s particularly helpful for fine tuning the YAW FD.
Next, install the bottom bracket and cranks. We received the GXP crankset but needed to install it on a BB30 frame. Fortunately, Wheels Manufacturing’s BB adapter kit came in just in time. It comes with a variety of spacer widths and simple instructions showing what parts to use. I had to try a few different widths and combos to get it just right, and the wave washers let you get it snug with overtightening things. SRAM also makes BB30 and PFBB30 adapters that go into the frame then use a standard GXP bottom bracket rather than just spacing down from larger bearings.
Next, install and set up the brakes and rear derailleur as usual.
Now, on to the complicated part. The first steps are to loosely mount the FD on the frame, snugging the bolt enough to hold it in place but loose enough that you can adjust the height and angle. Alignment guides are printed on the cage (noted above with red lines, click to enlarge). First, you set the height so the largest chainring tooth is within the line (photo on right), then you adjust the angle so the lines on the top of the cage so they align with the large chainring. Once those are mostly parallel, you start moving the limit screws to bring it inline with the ring. Because the YAW front derailleur moves in a slight arc rather than perfectly perpendicular to the rings, moving the cage inward with the screw may change the alignment. It may take a bit of time to get it lined up properly, going back and forth between limit screw and angle adjustments.
Once all the lines are in place, double check the height alignment and tighten it down and you’re about 1/3 of the way done.
UPDATE: A few readers noted the incorrect cable routing at the FD clamp (shown at left, above). The cable should run over the small tab underneath the cable bolt, which provides the correct leverage over the FD. Our test unit didn’t come with retail packaging or instructions, and we missed this during our initial install. The correct routing is shown on the right. Once corrected, shifting was slightly lighter at the lever, but it shifted properly both ways. If your group seems to be a bit hard to push onto the large ring, double check this first.
For the rest, rather than type it all out, SRAM’s video (at bottom of post) does a good, if too quick, job of explaining the process. I’ve put a few additional notes below the video. It’s helpful to watch it all the way through a couple times before starting, then keep the cursor over the pause button.
Take the time to install it properly and you’re rewarded with virtually zero chain rub. We only had the slightest bit of chain/FD cage contact in the small/small combination (right), not something that’s used much during normal riding.
The overall lack of chain rub is largely due to the YAW movement of the front derailleur, which changes the angle of the cage depending on which chainring you’re in. In the small ring (left), the cage is canted outward, sticking out further at the bottom, which follows the chain’s path as it moves down the cassette. In the big ring, it’s virtually straight inline with the chain.
Cage shaping prevents chain rub at the extremes of cross chaining. In the big/big combo, there’s no chain rub whatsoever thanks to an indented section at the top of the inside cage plate.
In the small/big combo -something we all use climbing- there’s also no chain rub. While many of us were hoping for an improved trim operation, SRAM knew we didn’t want a faster horse, we wanted to not have to think about trim in the first place.
So, regarding set up, is it really that important to follow the instructions? YES! We’ve ridden a bike that was rushed through installation (not by us) and definitely not set up properly. Front shifting was sub-optimal and the chain rubbed the cage in too many gear combos. Can you adjust it after the fact? Yes, and probably to a point where it would work very well, but SRAM warns that once the set screws are moved from their factory placement, the alignment guides on the derailleur can no longer be used during setup.
The rest of the installation is pretty straightforward. SRAM recommends putting the chain on the big chainring and big cog (without looping it through the derailleur) then adding two full links. It’s the same for both road and mountain bike drivetrains with the exception of XX1. In this case, it worked out that we had two inner links and one outer, which worked out fine. Better to err on the side of too long. You want to end up with two inner links on the chain’s ends, then install their quick link to complete the circuit AFTER looping it through the derailleurs.
The result is proper range of rear derailleur cage movement at both extremes. Once it’s all shifting properly, just bolt on the included chain catcher and pull it toward the chain while tweaking the side mounted adjustment screw until it’s a hair off the chain when in the small ring (see photo at top of post).
This is SRAM’s full install video and runs through it step by step. I noticed one error; when adjusting the front derailleur’s high limit screw while holding the shifter all the way in, it’ll say “then turn it counterclockwise until the outer cage is within 1mm from the chain.” I believe they mean clockwise because you need to bring the cage in toward the chain.
Here are a few other tips and tricks:
- Have a friend handy. Bribe them with cold beverages if necessary, but it’ll make some parts of this much, much easier.
- Rear derailleur installation is pretty straightforward, and the cable routing is vastly improved over the first generation Red.
- Make sure the guidelines on the FD (front derailleur) line up with the big chainring as prescribed in the video. Double check the alignment as you tighten the bolt attaching the FD to the bike, as it’s likely to shift a bit. I ended up loosening and retightening it four or five times before it settled in the right spot. It may take a bit of overcompensation if the derailleur tends to rotate inward or outward as you tighten it into place.
- Holding the front shifter all the way in while setting the high limit screw on the FD is a pain if you’re working solo, but it’s a key step in making sure there’s no retraction when you let go of the upshift. The video shows what I mean.
- If you anticipate ever moving the group to another bike, before you adjust anything, take pictures of the front derailleur from various angles showing the limit screw heights and slot position. This should help you put them back pretty darn close to the factory settings and let you get it set up well on a new bike.
Look for Part 2 with riding impressions and performance evaluation soon.