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SRAM Red22

SRAM moved to keep up with Shimano and Campagnolo in the 11 speed stakes releasing their RED22 groupset some time back. While an electronic version is still up to 12 months away, the latest changes bring some significant benefit over their previous models.

The RED22’s main point of difference is the benefits its revised front derailleur provides. The ‘Yaw’ cage of the front derailleur moves laterally but also rotates to follow the variation in chain line angle as you switch between small and big rings. Following the chain in this way eliminates the chain rasping on the cage that’s often found when using a big/big ratio. It allows you to actually employ the full range of cogs on your cassette no matter which chainring you’re in. Whereas their competition state you shouldn’t cross chain, SRAM are happy to advocate this with their new system. SRAM claims this system works without fail in all but the most extreme cases eg a very small frame with short chainstays may see some chain rubbing on the cage.

Given this ability to access all gear options SRAM make the point that their design is the only true 22 speed system hence the 22 in the name, rather than 11.

I rode the RED22 on the Lynskey bike test (see page 114) and was impressed. The drivetrain is quiet and smooth, and it is possible to run any gear combination with impunity, driving the most extreme chain angles—no matter how much it goes against the grain. I imagine that reticence would fade over time and you’d become accustomed to simply choosing the gear that works best for your situation; cross-chaining will become a thing of the past. 

RED’s shift levers have had a slight makeover, losing some weight and the body now showing a reduced diameter to improve grip and provide better control for those with smaller hands. SRAM have tweaked the size of the gear lever to improve shifting from the drops. They have also developed a way to adjust the reach of brake and gear levers independently of each other. 

The Red22 cable-actuated brake callipers have had a little work also, some marginal reduction of the frontal area, shaping of the barrel adjuster and cable pinch bolts that will deliver some (negligible) aerodynamic return. The callipers have also been widened, notably to cope with SRAM stable mate Zipp’s Firecrest 27.4mm wide rims. 

Stiffness was the order of the day for the RED22 crankset revamp. The new model chainrings are thicker and have redesigned shifting pins and ramps, which have been optimised for shifting with the new Yaw front derailleur. Despite the increased stiffness the cranks have been made lighter, down to 557g from 655g. 

The XG-1190 cassette has been CNC machined from high grade tool steel and incorporates some ingenious thinking to deliver improvements over the previous model.

Minute vibrations in the previous cassette would develop, producing a resonance that spread through the entire wheel, and when mated to a set of deep carbon rims the noise would be magnified significantly. Incorporating an elastomeric ring between cogs now cushions the chain’s impact with the cassette and dampens any resonating vibration; they have silenced the beast!

SRAM have reworked the whole cassette with new tooth profiles and reduced weight despite adding the 16 tooth cog to their 11-23, and making it their lightest weight, stiffest cluster yet. 

Changes to the RED22 rear derailleur include upgraded pulley bearings, quieter jockey wheels thanks to some neat dental work, and better clearance for 28 tooth cogs. There’s also a long cage version, the WiFLi, to cope with the large 32 tooth sprocket that is now available.

Of course new cranks, new cassettes, and extra cogs require new chain design. This integrates seamlessly with the other new components and delivers a gearing solution befitting the top of the range offering from SRAM. To secure the chain SRAM have introduced a new connector – the Powerlock; they claim it’s the easiest joining link in the world. 

SRAM Hydraulic Brakes 

Immediately after the 2013 Tour de France, SRAM released new hydraulic braking systems in both rim and disc variants. That’s two powerful new options to complement their conventional cable actuated range—they now have three braking systems for road bikes. Still you only need one pair of brakes, and we discussed the small changes to the existing cable driven unit earlier. So here’s some discussion about their new hydraulic options.

SRAM have had hydraulic brakes for years in their MTB range so they have experience in the field. Clearly the shape of road bars is different so redesigning was more than a simple tweak. However when the first images of the new levers emerged there was some pointing and giggling about the size and shape of the hoods. I don’t find them offensive at all, larger sure, but offering plenty of control for rough descents on the hoods, and generally a good fit for larger hands. 

Some may ask ‘why does the road need hydraulic brakes? Cable operated rim brakes are capable of locking a wheel at any point as it stands. There is plenty of stopping power on hand already’. 

The advantages of hydraulic brakes are many but probably the biggest improvement in braking performance will come from not the increased power, but the increased control through better modulation of the braking response.

The distance you need to squeeze the hydro brake lever remains similar to a cable brake, and yes stopping power is greater. So braking from the hoods is done with easy confidence. But it’s the smoothness and control of the hydro stoppers that means you can brake later and harder without losing control and skidding. This could easily translate for example, into considerable advantage in a tight crit race where there’s a lot of braking into tight corners and you could pick up valuable time in each. Paired with a wider tyre, the benefits could be increased again giving better traction for not only later, harder braking, but also faster cornering. 

Disc Brakes

The idea of disc brakes on road bikes gets some people offside. Perhaps they see it as a concession to a cycling fraternity outside their own, an imposition from scruffy mountain bike upstarts. Factions and tradition aside, the benefits surely outweigh the drawbacks. 

 

Disc brakes are not susceptible to the inconsistent performance of rim brakes brought about by rain and mud. They offer true all weather performance.

Disc brakes allow the use of lighter rims. Removing weight from the rim of a wheel, even if that weight is added back to the hubs will result in some level of performance gain.

Many riders who would like to see the benefits of a lighter full carbon rim are put off because the carbon brake track means poorer braking performance; using discs means they can change to a lighter higher performance carbon rim and see braking performance gains.

Where riders do choose to use a full carbon rim with rim brakes, there is the much publicised problem of heat retention and rim failure, or tyre blowout to contend with. Even though discs can be affected by overheating too, they provide much better stopping potential than carbon rim brakes.

It’s not only about the discs and rims though. Cables can suffer from drag when the outer cable is routed through too tight a turn, causing the wire inner to bind. They also can be affected by water and debris ingress where breaks in the outer housing are exposed to the elements. Hydraulic systems on the other hand are not affected by tight routing and are fully sealed eliminating drag issues. 

Some of the drawbacks of disc brakes include the need for specific frame and fork design – older frames can’t use discs unless they are modified to attach the caliper mounts. 

At 449g per end for lever, hose, caliper and disc, or just 387g per end for the rim braking option, weight is comparable to cable brake units which tip the scales at 440g per end (lever and caliper only).

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There's plenty of adjustment in this saddle clamp.

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