First things first, it’s being called the new 2012 SRAM Red, not 2013. Second, it’s simply the new Red, there are no new group names. We hear there was some internal debate on renaming it to ease confusion for OEM customers and distributors given that there is Red Black, Red LTD Tour Yellow, etc., but turns out, no. And the rumored hydraulic disc brakes? Yes, they’re coming. Officially. Just not until Fall. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s dive into details.
The overriding goal with the group’s redesign was to make it more aerodynamic, lighter weight and resolve some of the niggling issues that kept forum trolls busy. Issues like excessive noise from the cassette, weak front shifting on TT bikes, particularly with the first generation original Red front derailleur, and the lack of proper front derailleur trim.
All three could merit design changes on their own, but the new group tackled all major complaints head on. Then they looked where seemingly no one else was looking: aerodynamics. While Shimano and Campy were busy rolling out new electronic groups and apparently working on adding cogs, SRAM was quietly toiling away to make the lightest component group even lighter. Their stated goal was to refine the parts down to the bare minimum, removing any “glitz, smoke and mirrors” to make the best performing, most comfortable system on the market.
Here’s how they did it…
In addition to the noise and front shifting, particular attention was paid to the lever ergonomics and overall appearance. The official PR statement is:
For 2012, SRAM RED continues the tradition as the leader in light weight, flawless shifting, superior ergonomics, aerodynamics, and aesthetic styling. How did we improve on the world’s best mechanical gruppo? We started with everything we knew, and then we literally started over. Each component was engineered with the twin goals of eliminating the superfluous while focusing on an overall synergy that translates into unmatched performance. Elegant and simple, SRAM RED perfects the riding experience through genuine innovation.
Claimed weight for the system with BB30 cranks is a mere 1739g. Pretty good considering the front derailleur actually gained 16g. More impressive is that those running standard bottom brackets will see an even larger overall weight drop.
The new color is called Falcon Grey/Black. The group will offer a new power meter system from Quarq with a full integrated crankset option.
YAW FRONT DERAILLEUR
The piece getting the most pre-launch attention is the front derailleur, and for good reason. Chainrub is among the most annoying noises on a ride, and not being able to trim the FD to fix it makes your head want to explode. About a year ago, SRAM’s road PR manager Michael Zellman told us about an upgrade to Red that would allow for trim in the small ring. Then, on the eve of our embargo date ending, they pulled the plug on it. Now we know why.
The new YAW front derailleur uses rotating cage that maintains “a consistent angular relationship with the chain”. Essentially, by using uneven parallel arms that, combined with a heavily shaped cage, keeps the front derailleur cage in the same plane as the chain regardless of its position on the cassette. They claim it eliminates the need to trim. It’s a simple solution that wasn’t simple to achieve:
“This technology is the reason our original concept for fixing trim was canceled. It requires brilliant engineering. They had to dream. When you get something that rotates unnaturally, it takes real out of the box thinking. As the tail of the FD cage lifts up, it twists such that’s always generally pointing at the center of the cassette.”
To improve strength and stiffness to get better shifting, they moved away from the hardened titanium cage of the original. The YAW front derailleur gets a steel inner plate to push the chain outward and alloy on top to pull it down. This is the same as current Force and Rival FDs.
Given the rotational movement, initial setup is key. The top of the cage has guides to help you line it up with the chain. Lastly, it gets a super low profile spring and integrated chain spotter to protect your frame. The Chain Spotter installs independently of the front derailleur and adjusts with a clever little side facing bolt that’s hopefully accessible through the chainrings. It adds just 12g if you choose to use it, and a little piece of K-Edge’s soul dies every time you do.
Mark Santurbane, the lead designer on the front derailleur, says “What’s unique about the YAW derailleur is that when the cage moves outward, it doesn’t maintain parallelism with the chainrings. There’s a virtual pivot point that allows it to stay in line with the extreme ends of the cassette, and it allowed us to completely eliminate the trim in the shifter lever, too. It makes for a more fluid, quicker lever feel, too.
“Our goal was to do things that make sense to us and make our rides better. We wanted to make front shifts and never have to think about it again. It wasn’t just about creating no trim, it was also to improve up and down shifting. We started playing with the four-bar linkage, and that allowed us to keep a really narrow Q-Factor and come up with the new motion. It wasnt so much of an ‘aha’ moment. We knew what we wanted to achieve, so we messed around with a lot of different mechanisms to create a custom solution.”
Now the bad news: It’s not compatible with the current gen (original) Red levers. Because of the modified pivots and links, SRAM had to change the cable pull. Those looking to upgrade in sections will at least need to get the new levers along with the front derailleur. It’s optimized to work with the new X-Glide chainrings.
AEROGLIDE REAR DERAILLEUR
The new Red rear derailleur promises quieter, smoother action. And it’s lighter, thanks to a hollow titanium cable anchor bolt, leaner inside carbon cage arm and basic shape refinements. It also gets an updated spring-fixed barrel adjuster to make quick tweaks easy, and it’s more aero.
One of the complaints with the old system was noise, particularly from the back end, and it’s not all from the cassette. To address this, SRAM developed new, heavily shaped AeroGlide pulleys that claim to damp sound. They come stock with ceramic bearings.
Thanks to an extended B-knuckle (the part between the cable barrel adjuster and the mounting bolt), it’ll better clear 28T road cassettes. While the front derailleur won’t be compatible with Exact Actuation, the rear derailleur is, which means you can swap in longer cage XX / XO derailleurs and cassettes.
Lastly, anyone that’s installed a Red rear derailleur knows it’s all to easy to run the cable incorrectly from the entry point to the anchor bolt, resulting in a very frustrating 10 minutes of not being able to figure out why in God’s name it’s not shifting correctly. Thankfully, SRAM has revised the cable run around a leverage arm that should not only eliminate misguided installation attempts but actually make it much easier to hold and secure the cable.
“We touched every detail, and part of improving the overall experience was making it easier to get on quickly and correctly,” said Santurbane. “The new lever arm that routes the cable on the rear derailleur also helps reduce shifter pressure required to move the chain up and down the gears.”
This is the one upgrade we could have told you was coming three years ago. After the success (and extremely light weight) of the design on SRAM’s mountain bike groups, it’s only natural the road going version got machined out, too. Weight savings 20g less than the original, which may not sound like much at first, but that includes StealthRing elastomers between each cog.
The middle eight cogs are machined from a solid piece of heat treated, high grade tool steel, resulting in a piece they say is lighter even than a titanium cassette while offering better durability. The largest cog is aluminum and has a machined backplate to both reduce weight and improve stiffness. Interestingly, the cutouts between cogs are only between the 7th, 8th and 9th cogs.
Why not more cutouts?
“Our engineers got to a point where they had to balance strength with weight savings,” said Zellman. “It also adds cost and complexity and time to manufacture. As it is, it takes 70 minutes to manufacturer each cassette.”
Size ranges aren’t listed yet, but we expect them to mimic the 11-23 up to 11-28 range currently available.
Beyond the hardcore chiseling, the X-DOME cassette gets StealthRing elastomer inserts to quiet the ride by damping noise and vibration. Along with enhanced tooth profiles, SRAM says the new combination of AeroGlide rear derailleur and Powerdome-X cassette is very quiet and very smooth.
What about StealthRing wear and replacement?
“They last a long time. We’ve been doing testing and they’ve never failed, but they are a replaceable part. And you can use the cassette without them. For a normal rider, you’ll wear out your cassette and chain first,” Zellman said.
“The real noise reduction comes from the cassette. The cut outs on the back plate mean less resonance, and the elastomers really damp it.”
The new ExoGram cranksets are a true hollow core design, eliminating the foam core of yore to drop more weight while retaining arm stiffness. It’s hollow all the way to the spider with a metal insert at the pedal threads. It’s also bigger, but uses less material. The result is an astonishingly lightweight crankset that comes in at just 557g for BB30 and 609g for GXP. Granted, these weights are for a 172.5mm length and without BB, but they are with full size standard 53×39 rings.
To do this, they used a patented process that they aren’t really revealing, but imagine something that’s able to to expand then be removed through a very small hole and you get the idea.
“We think they’re likely the stiffest cranks available, they’re definitely the stiffest we’ve ever made,” claims Zellman. “We don’t have an exact percentage of how much stiffer than the prior generation. Yet.”
One of the weight savings tricks for the BB30 crankset is that they’ve co-molded the spindle into the non-drive crank arm, which reduces total material use.
Further increasing stiffness a new full carbon spider design with a hidden bolt pattern and the new X-Glide chainrings. In the diagram above, you can see the fifth chainring bolt attaches directly into the arm, reducing independent arms to four, which improves stiffness while also lowering weight. The rings are thicker, machined from 5mm 7075-T6 aluminum plates, with improved ramps and pins for quick, precise shifting, particularly under power. These are optimized to work with the new YAW front derailleur. They’ll be available in GXP, PressFit, BB30 and PressFit30 in a wider range of lengths. Look for at least 170, 172.5, 175 and 177.5 at launch with some new, shorter lengths on tap.
Thankfully, they use current 110 compact and 130 standard BCD’s, no new standards. Both chainrings mount using a single set of bolts.
QUARQ POWER METER EXOGRAM CRANKSET
SRAM took full advantage of the group redesign and fully incorporated a Quarq power meter into the crankset, their first integrated cooperative effort since acquiring the brand in 2011. The only visible part is the (tool-free, user replaceable!) battery cover, everything else is hidden inside the crankarm and spider for a seamless look. The design also protects the electronics from the elements and debris or wrecks. Using new stress flow technology, SRAM says accuracy is improved to +/- 1.5%. The design measures power independently of the chainrings, meaning you can easily swap rings, including TT chainrings, without affecting the calibration or performance. It uses PowerBalance and ANT+, and the ANT+ ID number is clearly marked on the crankset to ease setup. A small LED indicates battery and power, and the system uses a common CR3032 button battery.
PowerBalance is their new feature that measures left and right leg power measurements. Here’s how:
“What it does is compare the first half of the pedal stroke, which is dominated by the right leg, and the second half, which is dominated by the left leg,” said Jim Meyer, Quarq founder and technical director. “If you were doing one-legged drills, you’d see a 50/50 split evenly. But when you’re pedaling normally, it’ll give you a very good idea of true side-to-side power.
“It won’t be able to detect if you’re driving with your right or lifting with your left, but you’ll be able to see the differences between each side. Basically it shows the useful part of side-to-side power balance, particularly for injury recovery. We’re testing now with pro athletes to better learn how they’ll use the additional information.”
This is their first complete power meter redesign for Quarq since they launched in 2006, and it’s built around the new Red group exclusively. The new OmniCal technology is what allows the power measurement to be independent of chainring selection. Particularly with solid disc TT rings, chainrings can have a different physical effect on the cranks. Stiffness matters more than chainring diameter according to Meyer. They used FEA analysis to determine how to work around that. It’s a strain gauge based technology, with 10 gauges buried under an aluminum cover near the base of the spider. And it’s compatible with any ANT+ power meter as long as you’ve got updated firmware. In the future, they’re looking to move it to other brands of cranksets, but it’s currently not backwards compatible with existing Quarq power meters.
UPDATE: ExoGram Power cranksets will be $1995 for GXP and $2045 for BB30. Standard 53/39 GXP will be available in April, other sizes and BB30 models will follow in May.
While we thought we’d hear more about aerodynamics across the entire group, it’s the brakes that are getting the most attention in that department. The new AeroLink brakes use a small leverage arm to increase braking power without adding weight or too much complexity. Using a simple multi-link mechanism, the cable pulls a small arm that, through the link, magnifies the travel of the caliper arms to improve power and modulation.
Remarkably, even with the added linkages, the entire package is both smaller and lighter than the previous model.
To improve aerodynamics, virtually every point was considered. The biggest improvement simply comes from the narrower frontal profile, of course. But every little piece was tweaked, from a directional barrel adjuster and slim release lever to low profile cable pinch bolt and recessed spring tension adjuster screws.
SwissStop Flash Pro pads are included, and the brakes open up to a max of 31mm, letting you run them on the current crop of wider road wheels and clear fatter tires, up to 28mm.
ERGODYNAMICS HOODS – DOUBLE TAP SHIFT / BRAKE LEVERS
The DoubleTap shift/brake levers get a number of refinements, mainly to do with ergonomics and comfort. They retain the carbon fiber levers and titanium construction, but get new ErgoDynamics hoods with easily accessible independent reach adjust for both brake and shift levers.
- Narrower hood with new ErgoGrip texture and redesigned finger wrap shape. Not only should this be more comfy, but it’ll offer a more streamlined transition to the bar, particularly when running thin bar tape.
- Reach Adjustment is now, um, more reachable and easier to adjust, using a small allen wrench to change the angle of the shift lever.
- Larger ErgoBlade shift lever for easier shifting from the drops, but upper arms is thinner for more finger clearance on the hoods. It’s also a bit longer, which gives you more leverage and contributes to a lighter overall feel.
- Zero Actuation feature remains, meaning they start moving cable as soon as you start moving the lever.
- New clamp/mount for easier adjustment and fit, particularly on carbon and ergo handlebars.
All told, these changes play into the “Performance Advantage” theme SRAM’s touting. After all, a comfortable rider is a faster rider. The ErgoGrip’s narrower profile lets you more easily get your fingers around the hoods and put more fingers under them. That, combined with the more pronounced knob on the end, gives you a better grip, particularly for out-of-the-saddle sprints. It’s also great for riders with smaller hands.
Will it remain narrower when they introduce the hydraulic version? “No comment.”
While the weight stays the same, the new PC 1091R chain gets revised chamfer outer plate profiles and a new inner plate finish and chrome hardened hollow pins. The result claims to be improved durability (less chain stretch) and quieter operation. It’s still omni-directional, though, not directional like with Shimano’s newer chains.
WEIGHTS & PRICING
Without resorting to trading performance (stiffness) or durability (carbon cogs) for weight, we’re reaching the limits of how light major components can get. SRAM did manage to drop the New Red group’s weight down, but we’re imagining future improvements are going to continue to lean toward performance gains (continual refinement of aerodynamics, stiffness, ergonomics) and functionality (say what you will, but 11-speeds and electronic shifting will eventually come to SRAM, too, if we were betting folk). Enough with the speculation, here are the facts:
|Front Der. (braze-on)
|ExoGram GXP Crankset (Std)
|ExoGram BB30 Crankset (Std)
|DoubleTap Shift Levers
|PG 1091 Chain (unchanged)
|Powermeter GXP Crankset
|* crankset weights include BB, separate weights lists within post
|BB30 GROUP WEIGHT
|GXP GROUP WEIGHT
|* group weights are claimed & exclude cables
SRAM says all items will be available March 1 or thereabouts. The chain and bottom brackets, unchanged, are available now…which means the new stuff will work with current gen (see chart below). They’ve been showing it to OEM partners for at least 6 months, many for up to a year, so look for it to start coming on 2013 bikes or even mid-year rolling model changes very early this year.
Just to recap, here’s what will work retroactively and what you’ll need to upgrade. It’s also perhaps why some folks were hoping for a new group name.
Look for AG2R La Mondiale, Astana Pro Team, Liquigas-Cannondale, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team and Team Saxo Bank to be riding the new parts this season.
They’ve also already put out this tech video about derailleur installation.
Given the speculation about disc brakes coming with the new group, it’s easy to forget about the fairly amazing advances already mentioned. But, once the cat’s out of the bag, whether true or not, the rumors need to be addressed:
WHAT ABOUT HYDRAULIC OR DISK BRAKES?
Yes, they’re coming, but not until Fall 2012. That’s as specific as they’d get with a date. Here’s the official statement:
It’s been rumored that SRAM is developing RED level road hydraulic brakes. We want to confirm this and let you know that we are currently working on a hydraulic disc brake and a hydraulic rim brake. Information on pricing will come at a later date and no photos are currently available. Key features:
• Hydraulic disc brake: RED level / Drop bar DoubleTap lever actuated / All new master cylinder and caliper / 140-160mm discs
• Hydraulic rim brake: RED level / Drop bar DoubleTap lever actuated / tire clearance up to 28C / Firecrest rim compatible
Why not launch with a disc option?
“The focus here is on the Red group, and that’s what we want to focus on for now,” Zellman said. “Hydraulics is a big discussion, you might see something at Sea Otter.”
WHY NOT ELECTRONIC OR 11 SPEEDS?
Our internal sources indicated this group has been in development long before 11-speeds starting making the rumor rounds. Those same sources suggest anyone would be a fool to dismiss such progress. Read into that what you will.
As for electronic, SRAM’s made a pretty significant “No Batteries Required” marketing statement. Whether that eventually looks shortsighted or not, here’s Zellman’s official statement on both matters:
We’re pretty excited to get some hands on time with the New SRAM Red. It addresses all of the concerns folks had with the original, gets lighter and more aero and even claims to improve comfort. So far, we’re not seeing anything we don’t like. SRAM says test units should be available for us to play with before they hit the market, so look for some actual weights and more as soon as we get them in.