It’s scheduled for release in spring, it is affordable and it is going to make life a whole lot easier on the hills; SRAM’s latest groupset not only replaces Rival as the company’s entry-level offering but, with the first 11-32 road cassette and accompanying components, incorporates thinking on gearing that may render the triple chainset obsolete on the road.
Apex is the name chosen for the new group, which is constructed using forged or cast aluminium parts rather than carbon composites in order to reduce costs. The brake lever, for example, is in forged aluminium while the gear lever is cast in the same metal. A gloss jet-black finish as seen on Rival gives Apex a clean, sleek look.
Technical solutions already featured on SRAM’s existing road groups find their way into Apex: DoubleTap® shifting, Exact Actuation™ and Zero Loss™ are all present and correct along with Reach Adjust levers. In practice these mean that both up and down gear shifts are made with the one lever, that cable pull is consistent across the range to improve precision, that shifting is near instantaneous and that both brake and gear levers can be adjusted to suit hand size.
What’s new about Apex is the wide-range cassette, which is the basis for what SRAM calls “WiFli” technology and which provides a bottom gear ratio lower than a typical 30:28 triple lowest ratio. Initially conceived to assist Alberto Contador on a particularly arduous mountain time trial during the 2008 Giro d’Italia, the oversized cassette borrows heavily from SRAM’s XX “2×10” mtb technology. The PG-1050 cassette, which has an alumninium spider for the larger sprockets, will be offered in four sprocket combinations: 11-23, 11-26, 11-28 and 11-32t. The last of them will need the Mid-Cage rear mech, while the other three will work with the Short-Cage mech also included in the Apex lineup.
Used in conjunction with the Apex compact double crankset, the 11-32 cassette is said by SRAM to offer a comparable gear range but with a weight saving of over 270g when compared to an equivalent triple chainset group, which means Shimano’s older 5603 version of 105. If so, then it will also usefully undercut the weight of the new 5703 system.
Besides saving weight, SRAM says that WiFli offers faster shifting across equivalent ratios, a wider overall gear range and a narrower pedal tread or Q factor. The necessarily wider gaps between gears have not been found to be a significant factor when riding.
Other intriguing features of Apex include brake calipers long enough to accommodate 28mm tyres, flat bar brake and shift levers and interchangeability with RED, Force and Rival components. The 11/32 sprocket option will also be offered on the PG1070 cassette.
The complete Apex groupset comprises shifter, rear mech, front mech, brake calipers, cassette, chain, GXP external bearing bottom bracket and chainset. This comes in both compact 50/34 and standard 53/39 options and uses forged 6061 T6 aluminium alloy for the crank arms and hard-anodised 7075 T6 aluminium for the PowerGlide™ chainrings, which are identical to those of Rival.
Price is expected to be around the $800 mark when Apex arrives.