It may have been a while coming – and ended up as one of the worst kept secrets in cycling – but SRAM have finally officially revealed their wireless groupset: Red eTap.
The system is happily pretty simple: the right hand shifter downshifts the rear derailleur, the left shifter upshifts the rear derailleur and both together shift the front (either up or down depending on what chainring you’re currently in). The bonus of this is that it leave the shifters extremely small and sleek, without the need for other buttons and, as SRAM point out, should make it rather hard to accidentally shift at the front. There are also function buttons so you can make micro-adjustments to the derailleurs’ alignment as you ride, if you feel they’re not running quite correctly.
Both shifters run using CR2032 batteries, which SRAM claim should have around a two-year battery life depending, of course, on how frequently you shift. At the derailleurs, the batteries come in the form of rechargeable battery packs that are interchangeable between the two, meaning that if you run out of juice in the rear mid-ride, you can shift into your preferred ring at the front, swap the packs, and shift the rear until your heart’s content to get you home. Weight for the shifters is 260g per pair.
Another smart function is both derailleurs have a sleep mode, meaning that if you haven’t shifted it for 30secs it’ll power down to save battery. In addition, all the components come with an LED indicator for battery life, with green being fully charged, red being partially charged and blinking red meaning you have around 5% battery left.
Fully charged, each derailleur should give around 1,000km or 60hrs of riding although, once again, the rear will almost certainly run out before the front given rear shifting is far more common. You’ll also be able to buy separate battery packs to take with you. Weight-wise, the front derailleur comes in at 187g, while the rear is 239g. The battery packs also come with a dedicated charger, and a 45-minute charge time.
For satellite shifting or time trialling, SRAM have the Blips, dedicated satellite shifters that are the only thing breaking the wireless credo of the group. SRAM kept the Blips wired to ensure they stayed small and sleek, as making them wireless would have not only increased the number of wireless shifters in the system to four, but also would have required more batteries, thus increasing size.
Each shifter has ports for two blips, so you can have a satellite on the bars and tops each side should you wish. They also top the scales at an impressive 6g each, so come with barely any weight penalty. For aero setups, SRAM have added the Blipbox, a control centre to tie them together.
Another innovation from SRAM conceived entirely for this groupset is Airea – their own wireless system. Airea means this isn’t an ANT+, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi groupset (although the rear derailleur does have ANT+ capability so it can talk to head units), it’s SRAM’s own baby, designed to function exactly how they want it to.
Red eTap also uses 128-bit encryption, rolling codes and strict pairing protocols to make sure your shifters and derailleurs will only pair with each other, not anybody else’s kit. In testing, SRAM employed what they call the ‘peloton test’ setting up the equivalent of two Tour de France pelotons-worth of shifters all working at the same time and found no ill effects to the system.
Also in the works is a collaboration between SRAM and Garmin to allow Garmin head units to display gear indication and battery information. In theory this will widen to other units over time, but currently only the link with Garmin is in development.
Red eTap comes as two shifters and two derailleurs, the remainder of the groupset is current SRAM red components: cassette, crankset, chain and brakes. You won’t, however, be able to get a Wi-Fli option as the rear derailleur isn’t available in that format, although the front is compatible with all current common crankset chainring ratios. Similarly, it’s only currently compatible with mechanical rim brakes, and there aren’t any plans at this time to bring a hydraulic rim or disc brake version to market.
Availability is spring 2016 and the UK pricing on the components is:
Front derailleur: £265
Rear derailleur: £420
Blips: £115 (for a set of 4)
You can also buy the full groupset, including bottom bracket, brakes, crankset, chain, cassette and all for £2,039 or the ‘aero’ groupset including two Blips and the Blipbox for £2,140. Total claimed weight for the road wireless version is 1,992g. Check out the SRAM site for more information.