Review: Living with SRAM Red eTap wireless shifting for a few months

sram red eTap long term review

By now, we’ve covered the full development story, technology and first impressions and weigh in of SRAM Red eTap. So, after all that, having a bike with it for long term review let me focus on the ride experience rather than retelling its full story.

The short of it is this: I wanted it when it came out, and I still want it. On all my road bikes. But I will happily wait for the hydro disc brake version. Why happily wait? Because eTap’s electronic competition from Shimano and Campagnolo are both very good, so for me personally, there’s no sense in switching until I can get a complete disc brake system. For those still happy with rim brakes, it’s probably only the brakes will be changing – the shifting bits aren’t likely (I’m guessing, anyway) to see much change for at least a year or more since SRAM put so much development time and money into this product. So, if you’re keen on making the leap to electronic, it’s probably time to go wireless…

sram red eTap long term review

Our review bike was here for a few months, and while I didn’t keep track of the miles, I rode it as much as I could. The Cannondale SuperSix was a fine test sled, and the bike was shipped with an alloy Zipp bar/stem and carbon Zipp seatpost, Zipp 202 carbon clinchers and a Quarq-equipped power meter SRAM Red 22 crankset. Check the bottom of this post for a bonus review of the wheels and power meter.

The bike came fully built, but I did pull off all eTap parts to weigh them when it first arrived. Reassembly was a breeze, as would be expected for a wireless system. During the entire review period, I never had to charge the batteries, which suggests heavy users could get by with a once-a-month charge schedule just for peace of mind. Not too bad.

sram red eTap long term review

The novelty of right goes harder, left goes easier, both shift the front wears off, but the appreciation of its simplicity does not. It just works so damn well and is so intuitive that it doesn’t matter if you’re coming from a mechanical SRAM group or any version of Shimano or Campy group, you’ll learn this in a minute and then it’s just second nature. Thank goodness they had so many competitive patents to work around or we might not have gotten this.

sram red eTap long term review

On the fly rear derailleur adjustments are super simple, too. Just hold the little button on the inside of the paddle while shifting it and it make micro adjustments. You could (at your own risk, of course) do it while riding if need be. The Blips are also fantastic, and if on my own bike I’d have moved them inboard just slightly, but the various wire lengths that link them to the shifters allow you to set it up however you want.

Assuming you just can’t wait for the eTap Hydro version we keep seeing in the wild (here, here and here), you could by the triathlon eTap group with the BlipBox and simply put some Blips on or under the hoods and make your own eTap hydro group with any hydraulic levers and brakes you want. We’re guessing TRP is already working on a hack for this to go with their Di2 version.

sram red eTap long term review

Rear shifting is crisp and quick enough. It’s also smooth through its multishift function, which runs it through multiple gears if you hold down the shift button. After one particularly rainy ride, I left the bike outside to dry and the wind blew it over, landing directly on the derailleur and pedal, after which it continued to shift perfectly. (Sorry SRAM, but that’s what the scratch is from. Next round’s on me.)

sram red eTap long term review

The front derailleur has no micro adjustments from the buttons, it’s set up during install using the same process as their mechanical front derailleurs. As in, take your time and get it right and you’re rewarded with strong, precise shifting that needs no trim adjustment. Unlike Shimano and Campy’s electronic shifting, the eTap Yaw FD does not make small movements as the chain moves across the cassette. I heard minimal chain contact on the FD’s cages at the extremes of cross chaining, mainly big-big, but I was so infrequently in that combo that it’s really a non-issue.

sram red eTap long term review

Battery placement is secure, even over gravel roads and bunny hops.

sram red eTap long term review

While I’ve mostly progressed to disc brakes on my road bikes, I can still appreciate a fine pair of mechanical rim brake calipers. I’ve never had a problem with SRAM’s rim brakes, and these were no exception. Their cammed design provides plenty of power and smooth operation.

sram red eTap long term review

After all of the testing SRAM did on this group, it’s no surprise it works as well as it does. Some early spy shots showed them riding it in freezing temps on a cyclocross bike, which can certainly challenge a battery’s output. I didn’t mimic those conditions, but I did end up in a heavy downpour on one ride that thoroughly soaked everything as I ticked off the wet, wet miles to get home. Those storm clouds in the pic above weren’t kidding, and the Instagram filter applied to that pic exaggerates nothing.

sram red eTap long term review

At the end of the ride, though, the insides of the battery were dry as a bone, and everything worked flawlessly throughout the storm and on subsequent rides. Heck, there wasn’t even any rust on the chain or cassette despite zero post-ride lubing or maintenance.

After all that, my opinion stands unchanged. Or, if anything, improved. I must have this group on my road bike.

sram red eTap long term review

Accessorizing the eTap group was sister brand Quarq’s spider-mounted power meter. They delivered it with the Qalvin setup equipment, but I didn’t use that. Instead, I simply turned on the new Wahoo ELEMNT GPS cycling computer and accompanying iPhone app, told the ELEMNT to look for a power meter, selected the Quarq and it was all set. It literally took one minute and I was ready to ride. Compliments to both brands for making their stuff easy to use and interoperable. Quarq puts the battery on the outside with a simple screw cap for easy changes and etches the ANT+ ID onto the spider, making set up super easy. Instructions read: zero.

The power measurement showed up on the ELEMNT flawlessly until my last ride on the bike, when it showed no data on several occasions during the ride. Which was weird because the Quarq was providing the cadence data to the ELEMNT also, and that number popped back onto the screen relatively quickly, but the power number took anywhere from two to five minutes before reappearing. Unfortunately, I don’t know which device was to blame.

sram red eTap long term review

Before sending the bike, SRAM’s technical marketing rep gave us a choice of chainring and cassettes sizes and Zipp wheel options. I chose the shallow 202s since we have a few rolling hills and I prefer a snappy lightweight set of wheels. That, and I’ve got several other deeper wheels in on review so a change of pace was in order. At a claimed weight of 1,450g, they’re reasonably light and accelerate quickly. Zipp’s tires also performed well, but I did keep everything at a slightly higher than normal 95-100psi since they’re not tubeless ready. I’d rather have a bit firmer ride than risk pinch flat, but I’d really rather have tubeless. Someday, Zipp, someday…

sram red eTap long term review

In dry conditions, the braking with Zipp’s own Tangente Platinum Pro Evo pads was flawless. Impressive even. But on that rainy day? Holy crap, they scared the bejeezus outta me. To be fair, I’ve ridden plenty of carbon rim brake wheels in slightly misty or damp conditions and the braking has been fine. And in those situations, the Zipp’s were fine, too. But in a downpour? The braking simply disappeared in a frightening manner.

To continue being fair, I doubt this is a Zipp specific condition, I mention this more as a general warning for anyone that’s not been caught in a downpour while also riding carbon rim brake wheels: Give yourself about five times the expected braking distance. Fortunately, I was on backroads with minimal traffic, so I could experiment. Short braking efforts might as well have never happened. But, when dragging the brakes for a while, about 20 seconds of light but continuous pad-on-rim action would dry or heat the rim and pad enough to finally give them some traction, at which point braking power returned to about 70-80% of dry conditions. Which was actually pretty surprising. Let off and it got soaked and/or cooled again and things quickly went to pot, but for sustained descents in the wet, it’s worth keeping very light pressure on the brakes to keep them primed.

sram red eTap long term review

Some of Zipp’s prior generation hubs were recalled, but I had no problem with this latest version. They rolled smooth, felt tight and performed flawlessly. The engagement is reasonably quick, and they do offer a disc brake version with thru axle compatibility, too. At which point, you’d be less concerned with the braking talk above and more interested in their overall performance. To which I would say, they’re very good. I’ve ridden Zipp’s wheels at various SRAM road bike product launches over the years and never had an issue. Same goes for these. At 32mm deep, the 202’s aren’t taking full advantage of their Firecrest aerodynamics R&D, but they do hold their line in a corner and react quickly.

SRAM.com

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33 Comments
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matthew moseley
matthew moseley
6 years ago

how do you trailbrake with the front brake and downshift at the same time e.g. cyclocross hairpin.

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

Use blips configured for your needs; however, I’ll say this isn’t ideal as you’ll likely want both hands on the hoods and I’m not sure there is a good way to place a blips that is accessible from the hoods.

Anthony
Anthony
6 years ago

If I’m on the hoods, index finger and middle finger pull the brake lever, ring finger pushes the shift paddle. In the drops, middle finger brakes, index finger shifts.

Anthony
Anthony
6 years ago
Reply to  Anthony

I think it gets brought up by people who think they are point out a fatal flaw in the design, you cant brake and shift at the same time. When in reality you can brake and shift at the same time with the same hand even. Up shift, down shift, etap or double tap, the fingers work the same for me.

Necromancer
6 years ago

Why does this come up every time someone talks about etap? I have always heard to never use brakes in a turn, and if you have to, pull the rear brake. If you’re braking in tunrs, you’re not doing it right

Patrick
Patrick
6 years ago

Zipp 202 braking in the wet using the supplied grey pads can be hairy. I’ve found that to keep braking power reliable you need to touch the brakes to clear the water on the rims before they start biting, then it’s controllable. Black Prince pads are a lot better in the wet and they grab harder in the dry too.

But yeah the first 5s are sheer terror as nothing happens and you keep rolling. Hope they bring the Showstopper brake track to the 202s soon.

Champs
Champs
6 years ago
Reply to  Patrick

You know what would work really well as a braking surface instead of wet carbon rims?

bscon
bscon
6 years ago
Reply to  Champs

How about a rotating circular knife of doom?!?!?!

gino
gino
6 years ago
Reply to  bscon

LOL Best comment of the day! And I love disc brakes…

Ryan
Ryan
5 years ago
Reply to  bscon

Yeah, just ask all those one legged mountainbikers. They’ll tell ya all about how they lost their legs to rotors, right? MTBer’s have an irrational fear of cars. Roadies have an irrational fear of getting their legs chopped off by a disc rotor. Some things defy logic.

ed
ed
6 years ago

Can’t wait to put his system on my zip 2001. Made for each other across the decades.

Marcassin
Marcassin
6 years ago

Agree to disagree,

Wireless apart, tell me what’s so good about the etap? There is no auto-trim on the front mech and the shifting lag on the rear mech is horrendous. How many etap have we sold after our customers tried a di2, eps and etap’s bike? None. Would I buy a etap groupset for myself? No way, not in its actual form at least.

Derek
Derek
6 years ago
Reply to  Marcassin

You don’t need auto-trim because of the Yaw mechanism. The mechanical FD also doesn’t have trim.

Burton
Burton
6 years ago

Thanks for the good review, Tyler. ETap is groundbreaking stuff and will turn Di2 into a joke, like an 8-track tape. Mechanical shifting will always be around, and will have the dignity of vinyl records. I’ve learned the hard way, however, to wait for the technology to trickle down.

Marcassin
Marcassin
6 years ago

We have already replaced few etap groupset for di2/eps. Lmao at the etap turning di2 into a joke.

DF
DF
6 years ago
Reply to  Marcassin

Yeah right. No one wants di2 anymore — why do you think it’s on sale everywhere?

Cyclista
Cyclista
6 years ago
Reply to  DF

It’s on sale because the new Di2 stuff will be shown at the Tour and dropped by the end of the year. Details were leaked months ago so all the 9070 is just about outdated (by retail standards) and everyone (including bike manufacturers) are trying to dump it.

Al
Al
6 years ago

Am I the only one that feels like the rear shifting is just sooooo slow? I was looking forward for this group but now that I’ve ridden it a few times, I’m sure I’ll never have it on any of my bike until they changed that. My advice: Try it before you order!

Pit
Pit
6 years ago

This again turns into people arguing for what they own, based on emotion. Let’s put it this way – do you think Shimano will stick with wires?

sad
sad
6 years ago

Im surprised etape doesnt do autotrim and front mech movements, which are things electronic is good for.
it seems like at the end of the day it has slightly nicer shifting, shifting mechanism and no cables. i sort of expected more advantages (which will probably come and could be software updates… but will they? I can see eTap2 coming where you’ve to upgrade hardware to get something that could be a software upgrade…)

mateo
mateo
6 years ago
Reply to  sad

I know it doesn’t trim, but I’ve heard it overshifts slightly when shifting to the big ring and then settles back into its normal position. Can anyone confirm?

Dewey Thiessen
Dewey Thiessen
5 years ago
Reply to  mateo

Yes, it does over shift slightly when shifting to the big ring if your high on the cassette and under shifts slightly when shifting to the small ring in you’re low on the cassette to keep the chain from falling to the inside. In both cases, it then settles to it’s “home” position.

don
don
6 years ago

I own a shop. I really like DI2, but there is no person out there going back to wires… In fact I’m finding early adopters of DI with connector issues, battery life issues asking when they can get Etap…

Etap works fantastic and is wicked simple and the single button concept is so far superior to the Shimano ergonomics it is not funny. Throw in blips where you want them…contest over. As a mechanic, two junction boxes, cheesey battery mounts, wiring that looks like something from the 1920’s…only good if you wear blue sunglasses.

My only problem is I still can’t get enough Etap, one of my distributors gets it and it’s a race to react to the stock reminder email, put it in your cart and hit enter. The last two times I reacted instantly to the alert and still didn’t get in.

The blue team will play ostrich again just as they did with 1x. By that time a big bunch of marketshare will shift once again.

Like the author I can’t wait to get the hydro version for cx season. Completely stoked, hopefully they build enough for demand.

don

Bikemark
Bikemark
6 years ago
Reply to  don

Lucky you. I have yet to see Etap on a bike. Where have I seen it? In the display case and on the shelf of my LBS. You might have some luck sourcing at other shops.

joerider
joerider
5 years ago
Reply to  Bikemark

Motobecane.com has eTap road bikes in titanium and carbon

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

I’d say wireless is the future, especially as battery tech improves but I don’t think eTAP makes Di2 or EPS obsolete at this time. They currently all have their pros and cons, most of which have nothing to do with being wireless or not, and almost of them are subjective.
I do find it strange sram didn’t come out and target better or equal shifting to DA Di2, even at the expense of battery life.

Me? I’m not a huge fan of Shimano hoods/shifting. So its EPS/eTAP based on those alone should I go e.

Marcassin
Marcassin
6 years ago
Reply to  JBikes

Why do you think wireless is the future? Is it because of an Apple trend where wires rhyme with outdated technology? Shimano calls its di2 technology fly-by-wire. Do you think the aerospace industry will get rid of the wires and go wireless anytime soon?

The main problem with etap in its actual form is the fact that they made compromise for the sake of the battery’s life. Why? Because it will drain the battery much faster than a fly-by-wire drivetrain IF it was performing in the same way. To be short you don’t have auto trim, you have no crash-recovery mode and it’s slower to shift.

Shimano made a statement recently about the fact a wireless drivetrain has yet to outperform a fly-by-wire. They tried and are still trying, but wireless for the sake of wireless? The di2 tech is one the most reliable thing I’ve seen in a long time.

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago
Reply to  Marcassin

You raise some good points, but the aerospace industry? Really? You don’t see the difference in consequence of control failure/communication between a airplane and a bikes gears?

Wireless is the future for electronic shifters. You are kidding yourself if you think current battery tech will be the same in 10, 15, 20 years. You said it yourself, the limits are battery only, and at some point “longer battery life” isn’t needed and function will reach what wired system do.

Birdman
Birdman
6 years ago

@ all eTap owners: What would the cx tire clearance be with the front derailleur? My EPS group really limits my tire size, so I have the same concerns here. Thanks!

Greg
Greg
6 years ago

I’ve had Etap for a few months now and my only complaint that I didn’t think of before I bought the group is that eating on the bike is slightly more difficult now.

If you are eating with your left hand then you can’t easily shift to an easier gear.

I’m considering running a blip across my bars for this reason alone.

Kernel Flickitov
Kernel Flickitov
6 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Not quite sure that your inability to switch hands while eating is a compliant. Sounds like you need more practice.

Greg
Greg
6 years ago

(deleted)

David
David
6 years ago

Anyone know if any of the majors are working on a hands-free voice activated shifting system? Each time I stretch for a difficult shift (when climbing or sprinting) I’m thinking how convenient and simple a voice command would be. With wireless, all components are in place except for a voice receptor and it could easily be an option with software updates.