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We’re going to long-term test SRAM’s hydraulic disc brake groupset this winter

SRAM launched its brand new RED 22 groupset this year, with 11-speed and a hydraulic rim and disc brake option. We've just received the disc brake groupset for a long-term test and before we get it bolted onto a frame, here's a quick look at it while it's still shiny. 

Disc brakes on road bikes has been the key talking point this year, and the huge Eurobike show a few months ago the stands were awash with disc-equipped road bikes. With Shimano and SRAM both now offering hydraulic disc brakes in 2014, and Campagnolo confirming their intentions to deliver a disc groupset in a few years time, it’s clear the trade is interested in this new technology. Paul Lew has an interesting take on disc brakes and the UCI’s acceptance of them, while the man from TRP believes disc brakes will take over. 

But in the real world it seems road bikes with disc brakes is dividing opinion. And quite ferociously in some quarters. As with most new technologies, there are always as many early adopters as there are cynics. Personally, I've been keeping an open mind. I want to wait until I've spent some serious time on road disc brakes. 

Which is the plan with this groupset. I'm going to fit it to a road frame and test it over the winter months, and see how it performs. Dave recently jetted out to Sicily to test Shimano’s new hydro discs and came back quite impressed.  A far cry from those sun-baked roads, the dirt, grime and rain of a typical British winter will serve as a demanding test for the brakes. 

Will they transform my riding? How much difference will they make in less-than-ideal conditions? Will my fingers get sliced off in a crash? I aim to try and answer some of these questions and more over the coming months. I’ll be reporting back at regular intervals with my findings. If I still have my fingers.

I have reasonably high expectations for them. Mat was at the SRAM Red 22 launch back in April, and said this in his first ride report: “The HRD brakes provide an exceptional amount of power, allowing you to brake considerably harder and later than with mechanical rim brakes without any fear of losing control. They really do make a significant difference to the way that you can ride.”

That last sentence is the most interesting observation, and one that I’ll be assessing in this long-term test. For now, here’s a first look at the groupset, just removed from the packaging and hence very shiny. It won’t stay that way for long that is for sure. Not on my local roads. 

About the SRAM Red 22 groupset

SRAM launched its new Red 22 groupset earlier this year, Mat was on the launch. The groupset is SRAM’s first 11-speed groupset, as well as offering three braking choices; hydraulic discs, hydraulic rim brakes and regular callipers. Choice is what SRAM is offering with the new flagship groupset.

While there’s many improvements to the new groupset (you can read about them all here) it’s the new brakes that are the key talking point. Most notably is the taller brake lever body to house the master cylinder.

Yes, it’s a bit of a shock compared to previous Red levers and anything from Shimano and Campagnolo. In the hand though and looking ahead, it feels much the same as regular Red though. How it fares in testing is something I’ll be keeping an eye on. The DoubleTap mechanism is maintained and you get reach adjustment here, as you do with the mechanical model.

SRAM offers 140 and 160mm rotors, they recommend the later for the road (smaller for ‘cross) and that is what we have. The callipers use a 19mm piston at the front and an 18mm piston at the rear.

We put all the main parts on the roadcc scales:

Hydro Shifter & Brake: 810g/pair
Rear Derailleur: 142
Front Derailleur: 75
Crankset (BB30 53/39): 561
X-Glide 1190 Cassette: 162
Chain: 247
AVID HSX Rotor 160mm x2: 200
BB 30 bottom bracket: 88
Total: 2,297g

Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Disc wheels

Wheel choice is another concern with going down the disc brake route, but there’s clear evidence that wheel manufacturers are being quick to adapt current designs, or offer completely new wheelsets, that are compatible with disc brakes. SRAM has been very generous with us and supplied a set of Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Disc wheels for us to use with the groupset.

They’re based on the regular ZIpp 303, the rim profile even looks identical, with the patented dimpled surface. They just don’t have the sanded brake track of the regular wheels.

The front hub has 100mm spacing and the rear 135mm - which is rapidly becoming the ‘standard’ for road disc bikes. The hubs have 6-bolt disc mounts and inside the new 11-speed rear hub are larger diameter Swiss sourced stainless steel bearings with a custom cartridge in the rear hub shell to increase durability.

Spoke count is 24 front and rear with a 3-cross lacing pattern used on the rear wheel, and 2-cross used on the front wheel.

More at www.sram.com

Now, I just need to sort a suitable frame and fork to put the groupset on. I have something in mind, but do you have any suggestions?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.