Electronic groupsets have garnered plenty of attention over the years. Largely dominated by Shimano, they offer reliable, crisp shifting without any cable friction. Tap and shift. Tap and shift. That was all well and good, but all the while, SRAM was busy re-inventing electronic shifting as not only electronic, but wireless and with an intuitive shifting pattern to boot. Let’s just say that shifting has never been the same since.
SRAM RED eTap Groupset Features:
- Wireless technology via secure AIREA™ network
- Formula 1-inspired paddle shifting design
- Small, removable battery packs securely attach to front/rear derailleurs (1000km between charges)
- Shifters use standard watch batteries for 1-2 years of use
- ErgoFit levers with ReachAdjust
- Compatible with SRAM 11-speed cassettes up to 28t (WiFli coming Dec 2016)
- Blips offer remote shifting for sprinting, climbing or triathlon
- ANT+ shifting profile for bike computer integration
- MSRP: $2750 (full kit) or $1660 (shifters/derailleurs)
Wireless is the new black
SRAM’s has single-handedly changed bike drivetrains in a big way over the past few years. From 1×11 and 1×12 for mountain bikes, 1×11 for road and cyclocross and now wireless SRAM RED eTap and eTap HydroHC. SRAM RED eTap didn’t take long to catch fire with it quickly taking top honors in publications and rider’s “most wanted” lists.
The amount of innovation employed with eTap is quite astounding really. First off, it is a wireless system, so you can kiss half your cables or wires goodbye. And, it re-thinks shifting patterns completely — taking a cue from paddle shifting that was first introduced in Formula 1 racing. Anyone who has driven a car with paddle shifting knows that one hand downshifts and the other hand upshifts. Well, that’s the core of eTap — the left paddle shifts into a lower gear and the right paddle shifts into a higher gear.
But, shifting the front derailleur requires a little something different — you hit both paddles simultaneously. Once to upshift, then again to downshift. It truly is simple. Not convinced? Let me lay it all out.
eTap setup and maintenance
While I didn’t actually set up the test kit aboard the Pinarello Dogma F8, it doesn’t take much thought to realize just how awesome setting up this grouppo is. Gone are the days of fishing shifter cables through downtubes and chainstays. And, in their place you have clean lines and less clutter. I hadn’t thought much about cable clutter until seeing it cut in half and boy is it beautiful.
With SRAM’s AIREA wireless technology, you have a secure network that, once paired, is for all intents and purposes, globally unique. Any concerns that your buddy will be able to shift your derailleurs are virtually unfounded. Yes, everything is theoretically hackable, but this technology is as sound as it gets by today’s standards.
Detailed setup procedures are available from many sources, but the following SRAM tech video gives you the word from the official source.
I’ll add that fine-tuning the rear derailleur is a cinch, but didn’t have to be done during my 500 miles of use. I just did it to understand how it works. Yes, it’s a few more steps than a simple barrel adjuster, but it’s straightforward and simple. Alternatively, you can use this install guide from Peloton Magazine as well.
For reference, my test bike was kitted out with a compact front crankset and 11-28t cassette. All 22 gears were useable and the full compact kit is perfect for hauling my butt up the many epic climbs here along the Wasatch Mountains.
How intuitive is eTap?
I know what you’re saying… “another shifting pattern.” As someone who rides SRAM and Shimano interchangeably all the time, switching to eTap’s shifting pattern is the most logical I’ve used. The extra-large paddles offer tons of real estate to tap, making the minimal effort needed to shift even more apparent. Having just come from Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, the shifting speed is really identical between the two, but SRAM RED eTap’s shifting pattern is much more enjoyable and reliable with thick gloves on.
It truly is refreshing to ride electronic groupsets since you don’t have to mechanically pull the cables through several feet of housing. Shifts are instant. You think, tap and it shifts. That mechanical servo tells you it is working and becomes a welcomed sound instead of mechanical grinding. Until now I hadn’t really considered my preferred SRAM DoubleTap shifters to be cumbersome, but it certainly feels that way compared to eTap. Shifting gears is simply a gas here.
In or out of the saddle, on climbs, flats or descents, shifting is consistent and smooth. And, while the front derailleur doesn’t have auto-trim (unlike Di2), it spins 100% rasp-free in all 22 gear combinations. And, something you can easily do with eTap is brake and shift at the same time. That’s not always possible or easy with other groupsets as their buttons can be quite small. The large size of the paddles is unique and makes shifting from the hoods or drops extremely easy — even with full-finger gloves on.
Something that’s also great about eTap is that one click always equals one shift. With mechanical, it can be difficult to move up just one cog on the cassette. I hope I’m not the only one that can’t reliably jump up just one cog with mechanical. I’m decent at it, but often I jump more than one cog, but with eTap, I’m a pro. Of course, if you want to dump gears, all you have to do is hold down the button and up or down it goes — so awesome.
The only downside I’ve experienced with eTap’s shifting pattern is if you are sitting up eating or drinking, you have to decide which shifter you may need to access (up or down). This is different from mechanical drivetrains as I always eat/drink with my left hand so I can shift up/down and brake with my right hand. Here, all I can do is upshift while eating/drinking with my left hand.
Lever feel is excellent and class-leading with great braking feel. Reach adjustments are easy and make these levers some of the most adaptable on the market. I also love the size of the hoods as they just fit nicely in-hand for miles and miles.
I didn’t wait for the batteries to die before charging them. It is a quick and easy process of popping the batteries off each derailleur and then charging them in the included USB charger. For reference, the LED’s on the derailleurs light green when there is a full charge. If they are red, you have 5-15 hours left and a blinking red means you need to charge your batteries (5 hours remaining).
SRAM equipped the Dogma with a pair of eTap Blips ($100), which are remote shifting buttons. They are wired to the shifters and allow shifting from the tops or, if you have a TT bike, on your aero bars. Shifting with Blips is just as quick and easy as the paddles. My test bike included eTap Blip Clamps ($15), which, I’m told, are essential. Blips aren’t necessary and I felt I could go without them, but they do add to the capability of the kit.
Since eTap is ANT+ compatible, the latest Garmin models (520 and 1000) and the Wahoo Elemnt will display the current gear and battery level to complete this next-level kit.
- Effortless shifting
- Instantly-intuitive shift pattern
- Elegance of cable reduction and easy setup
- Shifts are wicked-fast and accurate
- Rasp-free in all 22 gears
- Large paddles work well with gloves
- Don’t have to hide the battery somewhere in the frame
- Always get one gear per click in either direction
- Shifting while eating/drinking is limited
- Maxes out on 28t cassette (WiFli version will be available Dec 2016)
- Fewer miles per charge than Di2
The Bottom Line: SRAM RED eTap
After 4 months with eTap, I’m officially soured on every other groupset on the market — true story. Shifting is intuitive and effortless and the whole kit is simply astounding. Wireless is the new black and SRAM has a corner on the market.
Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com
SRAM has dropped the mic and hasn't looked back. Every other groupset (including their own) now feels antiquated. RED eTap is the new standard with its intuitive, reliable shifting and clean, wireless lines.
- Lever Feel