Thursday, February 2, 2012

New SRAM Red, does it taste better?

After spending 2011, flicking away on SRAM's top shelf Red build kit, there's a new version launching this season. You can grab the!

This isn't the first mention of the parts giant, making severe changes to their top level kit. Blurbs on the Twitterverse cropped up from the likes of @ryantrebon, pro cx racer and my 6'5" idol. (Hey, us tall folks need someone to look up to...or look at, depending on your height.)

Photos and a video of a newly shaped brifter silhouette, brakes, crankset got many salivating.

Having ridden Shimano on the road since '88, a handful of years on Campagnolo, and what I can describe as my most product year on the bike from a training and racing perspective in 2011, my Red build kit ran flawlessly. Now some of that might be due to having a top notch mechanic (ahem!). Because of this, there weren't many tools put to the build group over the course of the 2011 season.

Having been on Campagnolo Chorus before moving to Red, I was already used to a slightly noisy drivetrain and a more communicative shifting system. When I say noisy, I'm referring to the slight buzz that resonates from the idler pulleys on Campy's rear derailleur while pedaling down the road. Communicative, in the sense that when you shift the rear using the PowerDome cassette, there's no mistaking your high gear selection. Personally, I like that. Some cyclists...meh, not so much. Terms like clunky have been tossed around to describe this characteristic. I'm guessing these are Shimano users who have become accustom to the shifting traits of Shimano and need to remember that SRAM is SRAM and Shimano is Shimano; so stop wishing SRAM is Shimano and make a decision based on open-mindedness, not long term complacency.

The features of the upcoming Red kit seem to have addressed concerns of operating noise as well as the firmer shifting tension at the crank by using a Yaw design for the front derailleur. Maybe it's my long leverage fingers but shifting at the crank has had zero issues. The ergo controls have been very comfortable and the ability to 'ham fist' shifting during cx racing was an eye opener last year.

Clicking off shifts, bouncing across grassy fields and single track on Sundays, last fall during the MARBRA Super8 Series, reminded me of why I like SRAM on my mountain bike. No mis-shifts, no skipping or chain dumping on the front (no I didn't run a chain watcher during cx races), just flat out, gear banging like Jenson Button in his McLaren.

From Bianchi 1885/ SRAM Red

On the road, my first experience of contesting a sprint finish at the local Wednesday Worlds was an eye opener. Honestly I was a bit gun shy the first time I needed to reach for another gear while in the drops, at top speed. I flicked the wrist, cringed slightly for what may happen, then, snick! Right into the next gear with no hesitation or self destruction-over the handlebars- FAIL. Confident inspiring. Love it.

The GXP bottom bracket has been terrific. The way the crank shaft engages against the non-driveside bearing in order to unload the driveside bearing has allowed me to run the same bottom bracket all year, through training, road racing and a season of cyclocross. I did develop a clicking sound at the 2 o'clock position of the crank, after my first cross race. This was remedied by removing the crank and the bottom bracket dust shields, cleaning the seals of the bb and installing everything with a fresh skim of Park Took grease. Noise gone!

I'm excited to try the new group. Will it make me dislike the generation of Red I'm on currently? Not sure. I can see the ergonomics being my favorite improvements due to my bear paw size hands. The newly designed front derailleur has sparked my interest too.

2012 is looking to be another exciting year for us bike geeks.
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