Just before the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under kicked off, we spotted the AG2R team testing prototype SRAM wireless bits on a training ride. Now, it looks like up to four of the team bikes are running the system in competition, too, and we’ve snagged quite a few more detail (albeit phone cam quality) pics, including a look at what’s (not) under the bar tape!
Video and tons more photos below…
The video shows the bike being tuned and having its limit screws set, hence the dropped chains. Note how quickly and smoothly the shifts between chainrings are!
We speculated on the battery charging, but now we’re all but certain the batteries will simply be removed to charge, likely in some sort of docking station. Comparing the images above and below of front and rear mechs, the batteries appear identical, suggesting they’re interchangeable.
Our guess is that top hatch is simply the release/locking lever for the battery.
Up front, the large box we’ve seen attached to the stem on early prototypes is gone, as are any hint of wires. That lack of visible wires suggests each shifter has it’s own battery, too. And that there’s no junction box or other central command center that needs to be installed, hidden or otherwise clutter up your bike.
One of our non-SRAM contacts (who wished to remain anonymous) that’s had their hands on it said it has a 50m range, meaning it could easily be controlled by a team car or other remote device. Not that it would, but it could. That range also suggests it could be communicating on something like a WiFi network, since 50m is about the max range of a good router, which could mean wireless updates and tuning. That’s pure speculation, and perhaps it’ll just require a wireless transmitter plugged into your computer or just something plugged into a single component of the system to update the entire group.
Another view we hadn’t seen before is the back and underside of the rear derailleur. Where Shimano and Campagnolo have placed the motor off the back and running the mechanical bits between the parallelograms, these SRAM units use a different tack.
Note the large box behind the P-knuckle, between it and the pulley cage.
We’re guessing that’s the motor since there’s not much going on at the back.
The fact that the system is being put into use in a major UCI tour, and reportedly on up to four of the AG2R team bikes at a time, suggests it’s getting close to final. Jayson said the SRAM tech rep on site at the TDU wasn’t saying anything other than that it was a prototype, but I spoke to another SRAM rep closer to our office that said they’re spending as much time as they need to make sure that it’s absolutely flawless when it launches. He suggested that there wasn’t much point in being the last party to the electronic shifting game unless they could make something that’s better than the others. Makes sense, and makes us all that much more excited to try it if/when it finally comes available!