SRAM is adding disc brake compatibility to its top-level Red eTap wireless electronic shift groupset for the first time, calling the new system SRAM Red eTap HRD.
It’s a move that’s going to surprise absolutely no one with even half an eye on the road bike scene. Adding disc brakes to the mix has been inevitable since SRAM first announced eTap a year ago. The shifter hood shape has been modified from that of SRAM’s existing hydraulic road brakes and we’ve had the chance to use it out on a ride.
SRAM’s Paul Kantor told us that the brand sees mixing wireless electronic shifting with cable operated rim brakes as a strange mix of old and new technology analogous to sticking a dial on a mobile phone or using a typewriter to operate a computer screen!
“Utilising SRAM’s new HydroHC brake platform, SRAM Red eTap HRD combines the unconditional braking performance and control of hydraulic disc brakes with the adjustability of conventional rim brakes,” says SRAM. That’s the sales talk.
In many ways, SRAM Red eTap HRD is simply a mashup of existing technology, but the hoods are a smaller diameter than those of SRAM’s previous hydro shifters. A new master cylinder design has allowed SRAM to push the hood further forward than before so the front end isn’t as tall. We got on well with the previous shape – it provides a good additional grip point – but many people didn’t like the appearance. Let’s be honest, a lot of people thought it looked ugly. The hood is still a little taller than that of a conventional shifter, but it’s not wildly different.
The levers come with Contact Point Adjustment which allows you to dictate the point where the brake engages.
“With Contact Point Adjustment you can pick the position you want your fingers to be in when your brakes are engaged,” says SRAM. “It’s a quick and easy way to customise the feel of your brakes without having to move the pads. It’s also a way to balance both brake levers to feel exactly the same.”
Adjusting the contact point is a simple job with a 5mm hex key. It doesn’t alter the distance of the pads to the disc, it’s a lever adjustment.
You also get reach adjustment that allows you to dial the levers in closer to the handlebar. Again, it’s a simple hex key job.
SRAM has switched to a one-piece monoblock design for the new HydroHC brake calliper which makes it a little lighter and neater than previous designs.
“Class-leading heat-management technologies—heat shield, insulated aluminium pistons, and a wider pad pocket—help HydroHC improve on HydroR’s already impressive heat management capabilities,” according to SRAM.
The bleed port is now at the bottom and SRAM reckons you can go from dry brakes to bled fully in 90 seconds.
SRAM is sticking with recommending 160mm rotors front and rear for road use, and 140mm for cyclocross.
The SRAM Red eTap derailleurs remain unaltered.
SRAM says that a Red eTap HRD kit (derailleurs, batteries, shift-brake controls, callipers, rotors) weighs 960g, which is 285g heavier than a cable-operated rim brake version.
That little lot is priced £1,707.
I used SRAM Red eTap HRD fitted to a Pinarello Dogma F8 on a two hour ride in Germany yesterday (it’s Eurobike week when the whole bike industry ups sticks and heads to Friedrichshafen and its environs; the other bike pictured here is a Focus). It works exactly how you’d expect. It’s eTap wireless shifting. It’s SRAM’s hydraulic disc brakes. But rather than having those experiences on two different bikes, you can now have them on the same bike. That’s it in a nutshell. No surprises.
The one thing you will notice if you’re used to previous generation SRAM hydro road brakes is the shape of the shifters. I actually liked the height of the hoods before because they gave you the easy option of a pursuit position with your forearms parallel to the ground, although I’d have to say that I found the looks… challenging.
The hoods are now more rounded than before, less prominent and more like – dare we say it – Shimano’s design. The need to accommodate the master cylinder means that the shifters are still bulkier than a non-hydro brake design, but not massively so. They’re chunky, but not all that chunky. Personally, I don’t find the looks at all offensive.
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 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.