SRAM Red Groupset Review

SRAM’s thorough upgrade of their chief Red series of components has made major changes to address the three main deficiencies of the earlier setup.

SRAM Red brakes in are more robust, the front shifts quicker (significantly quicker) and create less sound than before. There haven’t been any new triathlon shifters made or advanced to electronic shifting, yet.

Front Shifting

The enhancement of shifting from the primary Red set to the 2012 model is really incredible. SRAM’s experts revamped this primary feature of the component’s power, turning it from the weakest point to one of the best qualities.

A barely noticeable motion of the modified, slightly larger shifting lever shifts the chain from the lower gear to the highest one quickly and smoothly, with no grinding, slipping or mechanical sounds. The chain just goes. SRAM made huge modifications to the front derailleur and the chainrings to achieve a superb shifting experience.

The initial Red rear gear changer encompassed a titanium construction that would bend when shifting gears. Some pro road cyclists and triathletes sponsored by SRAM prefer the Force front derailleur for its tougher steel cage and faster shifting.

The Red derailleur is extremely lightweight yet remains very rigid. SRAM designed a combination cage using steel, aluminium and carbon, making it lightweight, firm, and aesthetically pleasing.

The derailleur cage adjacent to the frame has a steel wall. Using steel to construct this significant piece of the derailleur, even though it makes it heavier, assists in keeping its structure as it is driven against the chain as opposed to bending, which can reduce the speed of shifting.

The front of the cage is forged aluminium. This material reduces the weight of the part, enabling SRAM to form the piece into a delicate, specific curve and producing a gorgeous finish.

The inner black section of the derailleur’s tail is made from carbon composite, which is fastened and secured with adhesive to the steel part. Mark Santurbane, an engineer at SRAM, states that the connection is secure because the chain does not hug the carbon component tightly, therefore there is not a lot of force on the link.

Apart from modifying the structure of the cage, SRAM altered how the derailleur operates during a gear shift. When shifting from the small chainring to the large, most derailleur cages move to the side.

If you had noted the location of the walls before and after moving them, they would be parallel with each other.

This basic type of mechanism can effectively switch gears, but current systems that utilize this derailleur technology necessitate an intermediary front derailleur arrangement to prevent the chain from grinding against the chainring in any gear arrangement.

SRAM changed the way the front shifter works, allowing it to quickly shift between gears without needing to pass through the middle one.

The end of the derailleur should be facing the middle of the gear cluster, both in the highest and lowest gear. When the derailleur is switched to the smallest chainring, the back part of the cage does not come in as close to the bicycle as the front section.

The end result is that the cage is at an angle away from the bicycle. This remarkable mechanism keeps the chain from coming into contact with itself in any gear set-up.

We noticed a small degree of friction when the chain was engaged in the 39-11 gear combination, however, not even a slight sound was heard in any other situation, even when the cogs were placed in the large 53-23 combination.

The biggest advantage of having the ability to chain between gears without any repercussions is the drastic increase in speed, ease, and accuracy of shifting gears.

Switching up to the higher front gear on the 2011 Red set-up took a bit of coaxing, but the 2012 system changes faster than ever with incredible exactness. To change gears, only a slight tap on the shifter is necessary now that the middle trim position has been removed.

Switching to a front mech felt incredibly better than other mechanical sets, and surprisingly almost on par with the performance of a Shimano Di2 system. The chain was able to move between any set of gears and even when there was a heavy burden.

The chainrings were also changed so that they could provide this exceptional shifting performance. It took a lot of practice and mistakes before SRAM could figure out a design of ramps and pins that would enhance front shifting despite the patents that Shimano and Campagnolo had already accomplished.

The front derailleur is accompanied by a chain catcher that can be adjusted apart from the derailleur so that it stops the chain from slipping away from the chainrings and onto the frame.

Rear Shifting

The rear gear system on the 2012 Red kit functions similarly to the one on the 2011 Red group. SRAM kept their 1:1 cable pull-to-derailleur movement ratio. The click and firmness remain the same, but the buzz, clanking and echoing of last year’s Red set is no longer there.

The 2011 Red model is incredibly accurate in terms of shifting, but it has been noted to be quite loud because it utilizes a hollow cassette and also has a specific type of teeth design on the derailleur pulley. The cassette design with a hollow centre has been discontinued, but the majority of the cogs are still made as a single unit.

Every cog but the biggest one is fabricated from a solitary piece of steel and linked to one another. The biggest ring is aluminium. Small holes are made in the bigger sprockets to reduce the amount of weight, and rubber rings fit in between the cogs to make sure the chain attaches to the sprockets without making too much noise.

The purpose of SRAM’s “StealthRing” elastomers is to reduce the tension required to place a chain on the lower segment of a cassette by providing a surface that cushions it.

An indentation deeper than the other half of each groove is cut into the back area and the elastic material extends slightly into this separation. As the chain links go higher up the cassette and take on a larger portion of the weight, they are removed from the elastomer and come into contact with the metal tooth.

The lasting power of the rubber components is something to be considered, but based on SRAM’s initial rides and lab experiments, they seem to be durable, while not lasting as long as a cassette in certain situations.

Should they degrade or break, SRAM offers replacement rings. The system should continue to work if one break.

The other adjustment aimed at making the rear portion of the component assembly more silent was done to the derailleur gears. The pulleys that have been around for a while have teeth that are not sharp anymore, and as the chain runs onto them, they make a whining sound.

The area on each tooth that comes into contact with the chain has been decreased in size to make the connection smoother.

The rear of the bike has gotten significantly less noisy, although we are not able to point out precisely what alteration led to the change. Cruising in a group of motorbikes constructed with 2011 Red was loud and disruptive; however, the cluster of bikes we tested out exhibited complete silence.


The handlebar positioning on a triathlon bike made with 2012 Red components will remain the same. The 500TT classic shifter will remain compatible with the new kit. SRAM’s R2C rear shifter works well with the new group, however, the front shifter has more shift positions than are necessary.

Both the back and the front of it can be used with the new things, however, only the back has been improved to work with it. SRAM has not divulged any intentions to significantly modify the triathlon shifters, yet there is a variant of R2C that has been specially crafted for 2012 Red being produced.

The road shift hood went through several small changes. The circumference of the shifter’s body is reduced, making it simpler to fully get a hand around the part. The protuberance located at the front of the shifter is larger and protrudes more significantly from the shifter’s body.

The gap between the peak of a street bike’s handlebar and the furthest back part of the gear lever cover is now gone. The previously existing problem area has been eliminated with the incorporation of a more gradual change in the new design.

The shifter paddle is a bit bigger, but there isn’t a major difference. The brake lever’s curvature was also tweaked.

The smooth brake hood was changed out for a version with a rougher surface. We discovered the previous version to be more than adequate in terms of adhesion and this rendition performs the task capably.

Drivetrain: On a Diet

An innovative construction process is used in the OG-1090 ‘PowerDome’ cassette rather than other materials, to make the product lighter in weight.

The only parts of the fresh cassette that are not made out of steel are the lockring and the backing plate. Rather than arranging it in the conventional way of plate upon the plate, the PowerDome cassette is basically just a hole that has been carved inside out with its outer side having teeth created courtesy of a special CNC milling machine.

A robust aluminium backing plate seals the structure, allowing the power to be passed through to the freehub body. The weight of our 11-26T sample was an impressive 169g, whereas the Force edition was 232g.

SRAM employs the same OpenGlide tooth pattern on the latest cassette they offer and shifting felt as good as we thought it would be: top-notch, yet not completely as silky as Shimano.

It is hypothesized that because of the PowerDome concept, the cassette should be able to have more rigidity, yet our limited physical exertion as cyclists would not enable us to distinguish the difference.

Certain individuals have shown apprehension about the concept of transmitting the twisting force through a 3mm thick aluminium plate. We were pleased to discover that not one scuff mark occurred on the gentle aluminium freehub bodies, even though this was not the result most people predicted.

Weight watchers will be pleased to learn that with the specialized construction of the cassette, there are more splines on the freehub body than necessary, allowing them to arbitrarily trim away at them to their satisfaction. We would never even think of suggesting such behaviour.

It hasn’t been announced yet if SRAM will start utilizing the PowerDome concept with mountain bike cassettes, but it appears like a logical option to us, even though it may have less of an advantage regarding the quantity of space it would offer.

It would seem that dirt and mud getting jammed in the narrow gaps between the cogs might be an issue, but it’s possible that having deeper grooves between the cogs or employing a design with more open shells might solve the problem. It will be up to the inventors of SRAM to come up with a solution.

The new Red crankset has the framework of Force with a slimmer shape, a one-way finish, and strong ceramic ball bearings in the GXP base bracket.

The newest circumferential support utilizes a structure comparable to the robust Dura-Ace to enhance rigidity and shifting performance.

Red is available in a conventional size and a condensed size; the arm lengths can be anywhere between 165mm and 180mm. The weight of the 172.5mm crankset decreases to 639g once the bottom bracket has been removed.

Brakes: Adjustability Wins

At last, we recognize the little-known hero, the brake calliper. The newest model of Red is more aggressively designed than Force, yet it is only slightly less weighted at 260g per set, which is just a minor 13g decrease.

More densely sealed upper parts of the arms provide additional support, so SRAM has been able to integrate the Red brakes with proper spring force and correct positioning controls.

The brake pads which are made of aluminium are machined out and, more importantly, the bolts which secure them are relocated to the sides instead of the top so that they can be easily taken care of.

We would be telling a falsehood if we remarked that we can feel a contrast in our hands when driving with the fresh brakes; we were perfectly delighted with the capabilities of Force, and these are certainly just as competent.

Nevertheless, the changes made these much less of a burden than before, hence we can see the 13g weight decrease as a nice plus.

Side notes

Red is definitely a better option than Force; it is more comfortable, functions better and is significantly lighter at 150 grams. This product stands out among the rest in terms of its effectiveness, and several people have a fondness for its daring look.

Red has been widely accepted by professionals and is now being used on the bicycles of groups such as Saunier Duval-Scott, Astana, Agritubel, Bissell, and Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast.

The sizable hitch is that SRAM Red has a considerable markup when compared to Shimano Dura-Ace (£756) while being roughly equal to Campagnolo Record (£1397), with an MSRP of US$2142/£1399.

For weight weenies, 1953g is of great appeal as it is 200g less than Dura-Ace and 75g less than Record. In comparison to other SRAM groupsets, Red is around 50 per cent pricier than Force, and far more expensive than Rival, being over twice the cost.

Every single one of the elements that are Red in colour is completely able to interact with both Force and Rival. If you are currently using Force or Rival levers, you might consider just upgrading to DoubleTap levers, as the most significant reward comes with this change.

If the money from your tax refund is causing an urge to spend it, I won’t try to stop you from doing so.


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