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Expensive 'Do-Dads' for Your Bike

It is May, which means the Giro d'Italia is in full swing. While watching the Tour Down Under and the Spring Classics for new bike tech is usually more fun, the Giro is where teams bust out the fancy do-dads to ensure they are Tour de France-ready.


The most significant tech to emerge from this year's Giro is the revolutionary Sram Red AXS group. For those unfamiliar with bike parts (or simply leading a normal life), a group (groupset/groupo) comprises the shifters, derailleurs, crank, cassette, chain, and brakes. Sram Red, along with Shimano Dura-Ace and Campagnola Super Record, are the top three high-end groupsets available today. 


It's a heartbreaker that Campagnola is not represented in the UCI Pro Tour for the first time in the modern age.

Image courtesy of Sram


What makes the new Sram Red special? Honestly, not as much as it used to. Red, Dura-Ace, and Record are all unique groups with little quirks and nuances. Red is the youngest of all the high-end road groups, having been born this century. 


Originally, Red wasn't even Sram's original top-level group. Force was. Red came out a season after Force and has been Sram's premier road group since its introduction. Red (and Force) were very unique when they first came out. Sam based their road groupsets on mountain bike tech that Sram had used for several years. Red had high spring tensions and longer throws (the distance one must move the shifter to shift a gear) than any other road group. This made Red feel very different from the light action of Shiimano and the variable throws of Campagnola.


The other massive departure from the norm of Red was the 1:1 shifter ratio. Red had to be less precisely tuned to function correctly than Shimano or Campagnola. Arguably, the most unique aspect of Red was the single lever shifting. Shimano and Campagnola used dual shifting levers, making Sram feel very different. 


After the original Red, the standard updates were made to the next few generations: updated graphics, shaving a few grams here and there, and tweaking ergonomics. The next significant innovation from Red came with the first electronic group in the lineage.


Unlike Shimano and Campagnola, which had wired electronic groups, Sram Red was the first wireless electronic group. This was a huge deal because, at the time, wiring bikes was a nightmare. Bikes at the time were designed for cable, not wires. Red did away with all the in-frame wires and made for a nice, clean group. 


The next few Red updates followed the old formula of focusing on graphics, weight, and ergonomics. However, there was one very special and not highly touted update that I personally love: the clutch derailleur. Red was the first high-end road group to offer a clutch derailleur, which allows a person to run their bike 1x.


I have been 1x on the road for nearly a decade now. This is also the generation that had more crank options for wider chain lines and extended-range cassettes. Poor Team Aqua Blue Sport. They were the first Pro Tour team to have to use 1x on the road, and it did not go very well. 


The newest generation of Red does the typical updates but with a couple of things that have caught my attention. First, this group is sold with a computer. You can only buy the newest Red group with a Hammerhead Karoo computer. I am not big on computers when riding, and especially when racing. I am not keen on being required to use a computer to use Red. 


I am fine with an app to set up and update my shifting, but needing a computer to ride is a bit extreme. The other thing that caught my eye was the jockey wheel. It looks very similar to the Majic wheel from Sram's XX Eagle Mountain group, which I think is super cool. However, the jockey wheel on the new Red only looks like the Majic wheel. It is not Majic**.


My opinion on the latest generation of Red: I would ride it, it's alright. If I had to buy a new high-end road group, I would 100% get Campagnola Super Record. It's just prettier.

Image courtesy of Campagnola


*The shifters and derailleurs were not connected by a wire, but the shifters had to be connected by wire to a module to talk to the derailleurs.


**A Majic wheel is the jockey pulley/wheel (lower pulley)of the rear derailleur that spins on a bearing. However, the teeth can move independently of the wheel if something gets stuck in it. This improves shifting under tension.

 

Coach Adam Sczech is an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and VFS Master Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners, and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, as well as numerous Olympic and Sprint races.

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