SRAM are launching new Red and Force groupsets, each of them 11 speed and with hydraulic rim and disc brake options. The announcement follows months of speculation about the next direction of the US brand. We had the chance to get all the details at the launch in California last week.
So, to begin with let’s separate the news down into three parts…
• SRAM Red 22
• SRAM Force 22
• SRAM’s hydraulic road brakes
SRAM Red 22
Okay, so the biggest news relating to the drivetrain is that SRAM are moving their top two road groupsets, Red and Force, up to 11 speed. They’re actually not referring to these as 11-speed groupsets, they’re calling them both True 22.
Why True 22? With a double chainset and an 11-speed cassette you clearly get 22 different gearing options (although there will be some overlap), and SRAM say you can run the chain in the large chainring and the largest sprocket, and in the small chainring and the smallest sprocket. They’re not specifically encouraging cross-chaining but it can be done, so you do get 22 different front/rear combinations.
SRAM are also continuing the Yaw Technology they introduced on their last-generation Red groupset meaning that you don’t need to trim the front mech when moving across the cassette to avoid any chainrub.
It’s worth pointing out early on that the SRAM 22 components – the shifters, the mechs, the chainset and the cassette – are not compatible with 10-speed components, although the Red and Force 22 components can be used interchangeably.
The shift levers for standard mechanical brakes (we’ll cover the levers for hydraulic brakes later) are the same weight as previously, according to SRAM’s own figures – that’s 280g – and they continue to use SRAM’s own Double Tap system where shifting in both directions is controlled by a paddle that sits behind the brake lever.
The body is the same shape as before with a fairly high nose and textured lever hoods. The big change here is clearly the shift to 11 speed.
The rear mech looks similar to before although it the functionality has been redesigned to work with an 11-speed system – sorry, with a True 22 system. Again, it is the same weight as the current incarnation at 145g and all of the technology from before has been carried over including the AeroGlide Pulleys that are designed to dampen sound, and the ceramic pulley bearings.
If you want to run a super-wide ranging cassette – SRAM’s WiFLi offers 11-32 tooth sprockets – you can go for the longer WiFLi rear mech. This is obviously a little heavier than the standard version at 166g (that’s SRAM’s official figure).
The front mech looks very similar to before but it has actually been modified to work as part of the True 22 system. You get the same clamp/braze-on adaptor as on existing Red, depending on the mount system your bike uses. The weight is 69g without the chain spotter, 10g more with it – that’s just a whisker lighter than last year’s 10-speed version.
As we mentioned above, the front mech uses SRAM’s existing Yaw Technology, meaning that the cage rotates slightly when you move it across so that it stays inline with the chain. This eliminates the need to trim (adjust) the front mech position when you move the chain across the cassette.
SRAM point out that this front mech isn’t compatible with a 10-speed system.
All of the key features of the existing SRAM Red chainset continue into the new model, including the Exogram cranks with hollow carbon arms and spider.
The chainsets are available with various different chainring combinations: 53/39-tooth, 50/34, 46/36 and 52/36. They come in GXP, PressFit, PF30, BB30 options.
The bottom bracket is not included. A SRAM Red one with ceramic bearings is priced at £189.99.
Quarq Power Meter
SRAM have been increasingly interested in pushing their Power Meter lately. They own Quarq, a crank-based system that uses ANT+ to send the information to a head unit, so you can display your figures on a Garmin Edge computer, for example.
The Power Meter uses Exogram cranks like SRAM’s standard Red chainsets and changing the battery is a simple tool-free job.
The Power Meter comes in all Red 22 chainring options (see above) and is available for GXP, PressFit, PF30, BB30 and BBright bottom brackets. You can get crank arms as short as 162.5mm.
The cable-operated brakes (more on the hydraulic brakes below) have not been redesigned, using the same distinctive AeroLink arms as previously to provide impressive power. There’s enough clearance in there for use with wider wheels (Zipp Firecrest rims, for example, with 28c tyres).
Clearly, the biggest difference when it comes to the cassette is that SRAM have added an extra sprocket, taking the total to 11.
This means the addition of a 16-tooth sprocket – except in the case of the wide-ranging WiFLi cassette. If you’re interested in those sprocket sizes in full, these are they…
11-25: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 (151g)
11-26: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26 (154g)
11-28: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28 (161g)
WiFLi: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28, 32 (we don’t have a weight for this one)
The width of the freehub body is the same as Shimano are using for their 11-speed systems. You can’t fit a SRAM 11-speed cassette on to a 10-speed hub.
The chain is SRAM 22-specific with narrower sideplates than before. This means it is 8g lighter than SRAM’s existing Red chain, the PC-1091R – 242g for 114g, according to SRAM.
It’s still a hollow pin construction although those pins are shorter than before. Silver PowerLock links allow you to join the chain without any tools. If you do use a chaintool, a 10-speed model will do the job.
SRAM Force 22
SRAM’s second tier road groupset, Force, gets changed massively, stepping up to 11 speed and taking on the key technical innovations from last year’s Red. Let’s go through the components individually…
In terms of ergonomics, the Force levers are the same as last year’s Red but with 11-speed compatibility.
Shifting is via the DoubleTap system that SRAM use across their road range and you get independent reach adjustment on the levers. They weigh 307g (SRAM’s own figure).
The rear derailleur comes in two versions: a short cage one and medium length one that’s compatible with WiFLi (wide-ranging) cassettes. At 178g for the short version, the weight is the same as that of the current Force rear mech.
The front derailleur uses the Yaw Technology (see above) that SRAM introduced in last year’s Red groupset, although it has been modified to work with an 11-speed system. The mech is compatible with both clamp (31.8mm and 34.9mm) and braze-on designs and comes with the chain spotter to stop you overshifting inwards and damaging your frame.
The weight is considerably lighter than last year’s Force front mech at just 79g.
The new Force chainset is essentially a modified version of last year’s Red design. It’s available in 53/39, 50/34, 46/36, and 52/36-tooth options and in GXP, BB30, PressFit and PressFit 30 standards.
SRAM give a weight of 808g for the GXP version and 741g for the BB30 option.
The Force dual-pivot brakes have been developed over a number of years, coming with cold-forged arms and a SRAM/SwissStop pad compound.
The 11-speed cassettes come in the same tooth combinations as the Red ones (see above). They’re all 19g heavier than last year’s 10-speed cassettes because of the addition of the 16T sprocket.
SRAM have narrowed the profile of the chain for the switch to 11 speed, bringing the weight down to 256g for 114 links (it was 8g heavier before)
As has been speculated widely over recent months, the other big news is that SRAM are introducing hydraulic braking as an option with these new groupsets – both disc brakes and rim brakes. They’re also offering these braking options to users of 10-speed systems.
First up, why have SRAM decided to introduce hydraulic systems for the road? The three key characteristics they were keen to emphasise when they launched the new products to the press last week were power, control and modulation. SRAM say they can provide more braking force with less hand effort using a hydraulic system.
SRAM have loads of experience in hydraulic braking through their Avid brand but they’ve not just picked up their mountain bike technology and adapted it for the road market, they’ve redesigned things completely with road-specific calipers and piston ratios.
The Hydraulic Road Rim (HRR) brakes can be fitted to standard road frames and forks in the place of normal mechanical brakes without the need for any special mount points. You can use them with normal road wheels too.
The Hydraulic Road Disc (HRD) brakes require a disc-specific frame and fork and hubs that will take the rotor. The HRD system provides more braking power than the HRR system, and it’s far less affected by wet weather. Plus, with the brakes working on a steel rotor rather than on the carbon or aluminium rim, no heat is transferred to the tyre or the tube.
Master cylinder and shifter
The master cylinder for SRAM’s hydraulic brake is integrated within the shifter meaning that the nose (the rise at the front of the body) is about 1cm taller than on the mechanical shifters.
Visually, that might take some getting used to but, nose aside, the shifter is the same shape as the mechanical version – the ergonomics are identical so swapping between them is perfectly straightforward. The DoubleTap mechanism is maintained and you get reach adjustment here, as you do with the mechanical model.
Hydraulic Road Disc (HRD) brake
£429.99 each (shifter and brake caliper, front or rear)
The HRD brakes are more powerful than the rim version (see below) for any given hand pressure at the lever, and the discs are far less affected by wet conditions than brakes that operate on the rim. They use a 19mm piston at the front and an 18mm piston at the rear.
SRAM will sell the rotors separately. They recommend a 140mm rotor for off road and 160mm for the higher speeds you’re likely to hit on the Tarmac.
The weight is 449g per wheel. That figure includes the lever, caliper, hose, and 160mm HSX rotor).
SRAM’s own HS1 rotors are sold separately at £34.99 while HSX heat shedding rotors, including titanium rotor bolts, are £59.99.
Hydraulic Road Rim (HRR) brake
£389.99 each (shifter and brake caliper, front or rear)
The rim brakes use standard fitments to your frame and fork so you can retrofit them to existing road bikes. They have enough clearance for 28c tyres and they’ll work with the new wave of wider rims like 27.4mm-wide Zipp Firecrests.
You get a quick release lever for moving the pads further apart to get the wheel in and out, as you do with a mechanical brake caliper, and that dial on the top allows you to fine-tune the position of the pads. It’s the equivalent of a barrel adjuster on a cable-operated system.
The HRR caliper uses forged aluminium arms and a SwissStop pad compound, and it’s designed to look vaguely like the standard calliper. The weight is 387g per wheel – that’s for the lever, the caliper and 600mm of housing.
S-Series HRD and HRR 10-speed brakes
Both the disc brakes and the rim brakes are available for 10-speed systems so you could, for example, take last year’s SRAM Red mechanical brakes and levers off your bike and fit hydraulic rim brakes and the compatible levers, leaving the mechs, cassette and chain in place.
With aluminium shift and brake levers, the S-700 HRD system (£294.99 each, front or rear) weighs 493g per wheel and the S-700 HRR system (£232.99 each, front or rear) is 422g per wheel, so they’re each a little heavier than their 11-speed equivalent.
The new SRAM Red components, including the hydraulic brakes, should be available from July. The S-Series 10-speed hydraulic brakes will be available at the same time.
The new SRAM Force components will be shipped about a month later.
The only exceptions to this are the WiFLi options. They will be in the shops a little later with the Red wide-ranging cassette following later again, probably in the winter (if you want to, you could get a Force WiFLi cassette before that to be going on with).
SRAM sponsored pro teams will be running the new Red components some time this summer, although switching from 10 speed to 11 speed will require work so it won’t be in time for the Giro d’Italia. SRAM will be keen for the teams to use the hydraulic brakes although that’ll be the rim version rather than the disc version on the road because UCI regulations don’t permit discs (they are legal in cyclocross now).
For more info on the thoughts behind SRAM's new hydraulic brakes, go to our interview with Product Manager Paul Kantor.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.