SRAM may have been late to the party when it came to their electronic groupset, but they made up for lost time by tearing up the rule book with the wireless Red eTap system.
It has been a long time coming, especially when you consider Shimano first launched Di2 in 2009 and Campagnolo got on board with EPS in 2011, but SRAM have finally entered the market with a simple and innovative system.
Launched at the start of 2016, SRAM have totally re-imagined the shifting logic with eTap, with both shifters having just a single paddle. Want to shift down a gear? A quick flick of the right shifter. Want to shift up a gear? A quick flick of the left shifter. Want to switch chainrings? Push both together (regardless of whether you’re moving on or off the big ring). Simple - and no chance of accidentally popping it in the big dog while you fight your way up a steep climb.
It’s unlike anything else on the market - and completely intuitive. Our experience with eTap to date has been wholly positive. Sure, you might have a couple of early mis-shifts when you switch to the system, but in reality it takes no time whatsoever to get used to eTap’s shifting and that’s testament as to how well thought out the groupset is.
With no need for other buttons or the gubbins associated with wires and cables, the shifters are sleek and ergonomically formed. They weigh in at just 260g, both running on CR2032 batteries which should last up to two years before you need to swap them (we can’t yet give a definitive review of that, of course).
The derailleurs, meanwhile, are powered by removable battery packs. They’re interchangeable, too - a get out of jail free pass if you’ve forgotten to charge the rear derailleur, as it means you can shift into your preferred chainring at the front, swap the packs, and ride home shifting however you like at the rear.
Running out of battery, however, should take some doing. SRAM reckon you can get 60 hours of riding out of both packs, though naturally the rear will run down quicker, and both have a sleep mode to power down when not been used for 30 seconds. An LED indicator (green for fully charged, red for part-charged and blinking red for ‘why haven’t you charged this sooner!?’) also helps you keep tabs on battery life. Charge time is just 45 minutes.
The entire system, of course, is wireless and SRAM have launched their own wireless protocol as a result, called Airea. By launching their own system (i.e. the system doesn’t communicate by ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi etc), SRAM have been able to design it to function exactly as they want and remove the possibility of interference. It also uses 128-bit encryption so there’s no chance of accidentally shifting a passer-by’s gears instead of your own.
The only wires you might come across are for the Blips - SRAM’s satellite shifters - which they have kept wired to keep down size (and the need for more batteries). They're sold separately but allow you to shift directly from the handlebar (or wherever you mount the blips) if you choose to buy them.
SRAM Red eTap
- Price: £1,278.00
The rest of the groupset (chainset, cassette, chain and brakes) is made up of parts from SRAM's existing Red setup, albeit with a makeover. However, what we’ve featured here in the RCUK 100 is the eTap upgrade kit which contains everything you need to make the switch to wireless: shifters, derailleurs, batteries and chargers.
The beauty of eTap lies in both its innovation and its simplicity. It brings something different to the electronic shifting party, but that’s only half the story. Change isn’t always good, but in this case the new Red eTap gruppo absolutely hits the spot.
SRAM weren’t just late to the party - they crashed the party.