Chicago based component manufacturer SRAM has unveiled their new 2013 Red component group to the media with consumer deliveries slated for first half of 2012. The group features refinements of existing technologies such as cable driven shifting with 10 gears in the rear. This isn’t the battery powered shifting some anticipated in the wake of Shimano’s Di2 but 2013 Red suggests a new high water mark for mechanical 10-speed drivetrains with a host of refinements and substantial weight reduction. Redesigned brakes also set the group apart from previous versions.
The new SRAM Red crankset is Exogram hollow molded carbon fiber with more substantial arms and spider along with updated, machined chainrings. The crank is a five spider design similar to Campagnolo with one of the chainring mounting bolts concealed behind the crankarm. The combination of this new carbon crank and thick, solid machined “X-Glide” chainrings suggest better stiffness, a shortcoming of previous SRAM Red cranksets. Compact cranks will be available with 110mm bolt circle diameter for lower gearing.
Two major bottom bracket formats are supported with separate models of the new 2013 SRAM Red crank: BB30 and GXP threaded. The red anodized, ceramic bearing equipped GXP bottom bracket has improved “Gutter Seal” protection for better weather proofing and smoother rotation.
SRAM’s acquisition of Quarq crank based power meters enables a version of 2013 SRAM Red with a Quarq power meter built in. The new Quarq/SRAM Red combination crank is less bulky than previous versions and has a more designed-in appearance. SRAM technical reps showed us a simple process for pairing the Quarq with an ANT+ power measurement computer such as Garmin and a method of calibration using a weight suspended from the crank arm.
The 2013 SRAM Red ErgoDynamics, Double Tap shifter/brake lever uses a redesigned body with smaller circumference for better ergonomics. The hoods are checkered for enhanced grip, a boon for riders wearing heavy gloves such as winter cyclocross racers. The shifter paddles are slightly larger and the brake lever itself is longer. An advantage of previous SRAM Double Tap shifters is their adjustable reach – you could adjust the brake lever and shifter paddle closer to the drop handlebars for smaller hands. This feature continues with more accessible adjustment on the 2013 version. The lever still angles outward from the bars enhancing leverage. The band clamp used to mount the levers to your handlebars is redesigned for easier use on ergo-bend and newer diameter bars.
Mechanical brakes on the new SRAM Red return to a single pivot design for weight savings and lower frontal area to reduce drag. Hydraulic road brakes for both hub and rim are slated for late 2012/13. The triangular double arms from previous SRAM Red are gone from the new mechanical SRAM Red calipers. Older single pivot designs were difficult to keep centered but 2013 SRAM Red uses independent left and right adjustment for easy brake centering. The brakes also feature AeroLink and ForceMultiplier Links to provide increased pressure of the pads as they approach the rim. This design suits wider rims such as Zipp Firecrest (Zipp is another SRAM brand). These brakes feel great, with easier actuation than previous SRAM Red and great stopping power.
The brake pads supplied are SwissStop FlashPro in the black compound (dry conditions) designed for alloy rims. A green SwissStop GHP2 version is available aftermarket for wet weather braking on alloy rims. Another yellow compound is sold separately for carbon fiber rims and Zipp told us their Platinum Pro brake pad fits the new SRAM Red caliper and provides excellent wet weather stopping performance on carbon rims. The SwissStop pads have deeper groves for improved braking in each of the compounds.
Improved front shifting on 2013 SRAM Red brings this mechanical group on par with the front shifting of Shimano’s mechanical Dura-Ace with its hollow-forged cranks but still not as automated as Di2 series front shifting. The improvements don’t rely on a single upgrade but several improvements in crank, chainring and most significantly the new front derailleur. The 2013 SRAM Red “Yaw” front derailleur cage changes angle to match the angle of the chain as it shifts. This eliminates chain rub in crossover gears. One swipe of the lever delivers precise front shifting with no trim adjustment regardless of what cog you’re using in the back. We rode the bike in both crossover gears. It worked. No chain rub.
SRAM also changed the front derailleur cage to use steel, aluminum and carbon fiber to maintain the stiffness and leverage of the cage while keeping it lightweight. Index marks laser-etched into the top and inside of the cage facilitate quick set-up in the work stand. Low profile springs make the derailleur less bulky meaning it will mount to a wider range of frame designs without interference. Derailleur limit adjustment screws are located on top of the derailleur.
Another interesting feature is the anti-chain drop device built into the derailleur. This “chain checker” deflects the chain onto the small chain ring as it drops down from the large ring during downshifts. It’s likely this will only be needed during desperate shifts from large ring to small on bad pavement when pedalling our of the saddle, a worse case but reality in spring classic and cyclocross races. The armature, called a “Chain Spotter” by SRAM is adjustable and can be removed.
The rear derailleur on 2013 SRAM Red continues the SRAM theme of “Exact Actuation” or a 1:1 pull ratio. The derailleur moves the same amount as the shift lever. This enables great compatibility and the direct feel of SRAM components. For riders who don’t like the disconnected feel of electronic shifting Exact Actuation is the answer.
The derailleur is trimmed in lightweight materials like carbon fiber cage plates and alloy bolts. Even the jockey wheels are skeletonized to shave a few grams. The limit screws are accessible on the front of the derailleur body and labelled “L” and “H” for quick adjustment. They turn with a hex wrench or flat blade screwdriver. The barrel adjuster is massive and spring deployed for easy adjustment.
As components have become more refined their appearance, especially up close, has become more attractive. The new 2013 SRAM Red XG 1090 cogset may be coolest looking bike component ever. Eight of the ten cogs are machined from solid steel. This means no play between the cogs and absolutely precise spacing along with longer wear. An added benefit is weight savings. Because steel is stiffer and stronger less needs to be used to build the main portion of the cogset reducing overall weight significantly.
New StealthRing elastomer bumpers have been installed between the cog positions to damp the bounce of the chain as it settles onto one cog from another. This reduces shift noise and maintains power transfer during shifts as well as reducing running noise. The largest cog is aluminum alloy to further reduce weight.
SRAM deserves note for maintaining their design theme of light weight, compatibility and good mechanical feel. This sets them apart from Shimano’s Di2 and Campagnolo’s new EPS electronic groups. If you don’t like the trend of battery driven component groups SRAM becomes a more attractive alternative with the new SRAM Red for the 2013 model year.