This article first appeared on BikeRadar.com
SRAM recently released yet another teaser on its upcoming revamped Red flagship group– this time an intentionally dark photo of the complete group, but said photo might not have been dark enough to adequately hide the new group’s details.
While most seem to be fixating on the overall aesthetics, there are a number of technical details revealed that look to bring some significant performance improvements along with the sleeker and more menacing appearance.
Big improvements in front shifting
The current SRAM Red has been a solid group overall, but front shifting performance has never been its forte. The next-generation version clearly pays a lot of attention to this shortcoming, however, with thoroughly revamped crankarms, chainrings, and front derailleur design.
Many SRAM-sponsored riders we profiled over the past few seasons have opted for the company's steel-caged front derailleur and TT-specific outer chainring in an effort to reduce flex, which the new version appears to do right out of the gate. The outer chainring is chamfered in between the 130mm BCD mounting points but is otherwise left solid. We're guessing there are also weight-saving reliefs on the backside but by leaving this outer 'skin' intact, we expect this new outer ring to be more resistant to flex when shifting under load for smoother changes.
Also helping matters is the new spider configuration, which features a hidden fifth arm similar to what Campagnolo has done on its upper-end groups for ages. While likely saving some weight, the big advantage here is, again, stiffness, as the mounting point is now bolstered by the arm itself. Similarly, the adjacent spider arms take a shorter and more direct path to the arm instead of simply radiating out from the bottom bracket axle, and all of the spider arms are generally stubbier and better supported at their bases.
Finally, the outer ring is stamped with SRAM's 'X-Glide' label, which suggests some sort of updated gating patterns for upshifts and downshifts. This is somewhat confusing, though, as that same technology is used on the company's XX group but is reliant on a fixed three-to-two chainring tooth ratio to get things lined up properly while the new Red retains the standard 53/39T ratios.
It's also unclear at this point what material SRAM will use for the front derailleur cage but the pivot arrangement is very telling. Normally, front derailleur pivot pins are arranged to be nominally parallel to each other but the ones on the new Red are notably angled from each other. BikeRadar's industry moles hinted to us earlier that the new derailleur would automatically adjust its yaw angle with chainring position and it appears this is how SRAM will accomplish that—not surprising considering they already do this with rear derailleurs.
Regardless, the end result should hopefully be another piece of the improved front shifting puzzle, as the gaps between the chain side plates and front derailleur cage are refined. We theorize this will keep the outer cage parallel with the chain in the outer-outer combination and the inner cage parallel in the inner-inner position, thus also likely eliminating chain rub and the need for trim.
SRAM already had rear shifting precision pretty much down pat so we don't anticipate many changes here and indeed, a closer reveals the same 'Exact Actuation' moniker applied to the alloy mounting bolt along with that telltale leverage arm just behind the cable anchor bolt. Also carrying over are ceramic bearing pulleys, a carbon fiber cage, and titanium hardware. Otherwise, it looks like mostly cosmetic changes here, which is fine by us.
We've already covered the rear cassette in detail so we won't repeat ourselves here. Just one addition, however: the new cluster will wear the XG-1090 part number.
DoubleTap lever evolution, not revolution
Our earlier reporting of the new levers sporting a Campagnolo-like inward protrusion looks to have been based on an earlier prototype as the DoubleTap levers in the teaser photo are clearly more of an evolution of the current version rather than a huge departure from the status quo.
Overall, the shape looks to be mostly retained though by our eyes, it looks like the brake levers are perhaps just a few millimeters longer to better accommodate current preferences in positioning. There also appears to be some ribbing on the upper hood surface, presumably to reduce hand slippage.
Current features like independently adjustable shift paddle and brake lever reach are expected to carry over, too.
Braking the mold
SRAM's latest teaser doesn't give much away on the brakes though luckily, our earlier industry sources and the company's own video release already confirmed that the new Red will use a cam-actuated, single-pivot layout instead of the current conventional dual-pivot configuration.
The new image does reveal, however, SwissStop GXP II pads with the company's newest block shape for supposedly improved wet weather stopping.
Also – and it's tough to tell for sure – it looks like SRAM has incorporated the quick-release mechanism into the barrel adjuster assembly, similar to what The Hive did with its Revl calipers.
We don't have any information yet on changes to the chain, if any, nor other bits like the included cables and housing though we do expect SRAM to continue their collaboration with Gore.
In the meantime, the launch date is still set for late January so unless we can extract more information in the meantime, we'll have to wait until then for the full reveal.
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