Sometimes it’s better to be last than first – and when it comes to electronic road groups, SRAM may have trailed Shimano and Campagnolo by years in getting one to market but in doing so, produced the cleanest execution to date with a truly novel actuation method. Cyclingnews readers have spoken: the SRAM Red eTap electronic road transmission is the best new product of 2015.
Red eTap’s biggest trick is its fully wireless design, which uses proprietary encrypted signals to transfer information between the levers and derailleurs instead of physical cables. The multiple transmitters, receivers, and batteries add a bit of weight relative to the mechanical version but it’s a modest figure when everything is accounted for: just 77g in total.
It could easily be argued that the system more than makes up for that in terms of overall performance and convenience, though. Unlike standard SRAM transmission where the left- and right-hand levers exclusively operate the front and rear derailleurs, respectively, eTap switches to a sequential layout whereby you press the right lever to move to a harder gear, and the left one to switch to an easier one. To switch chainrings, you depress both levers simultaneously.
SRAM says this method of operation is more intuitive than the traditional layout, and the compact electronic hardware yields noticeably sleeker levers with improved ergonomics. Red eTap truly moves the needle and it’s a worthy recipient of this year’s crown – and perhaps most importantly, it’s just plain cool.
Slotting into the silver medal position is the striking new Trek Madone, an outrageous rethink of the company’s storied nameplate from a traditional light-and-stiff road racer to an ultra-aero machine that shatters expectations for what that type of bike should be. With a wind tunnel-crafted shape, sleek integrated proprietary rim brakes, and a deftly sculpted one-piece carbon fiber aero cockpit, it’s already been proven to be one of the most aerodynamically efficient road bikes on the road.
However, Trek has also managed to stealthily incorporate into the frame its excellent IsoSpeed ‘decoupler’ – a mechanical pivot situated at the seat cluster – which makes the Madone not only fast but remarkably comfortable and composed, too, for an aero machine that truly doesn’t make any compromises in terms of ride quality.
Rounding out the podium is last year’s winner, the Shimano XTR Di2 electronic group. XTR Di2 is the first electronic transmission specifically built for mountain bikes and its performance mimics that of Shimano’s road-going Di2 groups. Shifts are robotically precise and consistent, and the robust components are virtually impervious to weather. Inexpensive it most certainly is not but if you have to have the latest and greatest, this is it.
Results – Best Product of the Year
|1||SRAM Red eTap electronic road transmission||30||%|
|3||Shimano XTR Di2 electronic MTB transmission||17|
|4||Specialized Venge ViAS||10|
|5||Canyon Aeroad CF SLX||7|
|6||FSA electronic road transmission||3|
|7||Rotor Uno hydraulic group||3|
|8||Lezyne Super GPS computer||2|
|9||Effetto Mariposa Carogna tubular tire mounting tape||2|
|10||UVEX VarioTronic sunglasses||2|