If you’re choosing between Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 and SRAM Red
eTap electronic groupsets, lucky you! Here’s how the two different
Shimano first introduced Dura-Ace Di2 in 2009 and then added an
electronic version of its next-level-down Ultegra groupset in 2011. A new
version of Dura-Ace Di2 – R9150 – has recently been launched.
launched Red eTap in 2015. The single biggest difference from Di2 is
that Red eTap shifting is wireless. Di2 runs from a single battery that’s
usually hidden inside the seat post with cables running to the various
components. Red eTap has separate batteries in each of the shifters and
derailleurs. Shift signals are transmitted and received in accordance with
SRAM’s proprietary wireless protocol known as Airea.
Other electronic groupsets are available for road bikes. Campagnolo
offers electronic versions of its Super Record, Record and Chorus
groupsets and FSA
launched its K-Force WE semi-wireless electronic groupset (where the
derailleurs are linked by a cable but communication with the shifters is
wireless) in 2018.
It looks very likely that there'll
be a new, 12-speed Red eTap groupset in 2019. If you're considering
eTap now, we'd advise at least waiting until SRAM reveals more about the
new system. For example, we don't currently know whether there will be an
upgrade path from the current 11-speed components. We expect to find out
that, and much more, when SRAM formally launches 12-speed eTap in January
Here’s how Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 and SRAM Red eTap compare in key
If you’re building up a frame from scratch, nothing is simpler than
fitting SRAM Red eTap. You bolt the various parts in place, you pair them
up – and that’s it. You’re talking about 15 minutes. Genuinely.
Di2 is more complicated in that you need to run the wires internally –
which may or may not be straightforward, depending on your frame – and you
usually need to fit the battery internally too.
You need a Junction A unit to connect the shifters to the rest of the
system. With 9150 Di2 this fits either into the frame or into the end of
the handlebar. If you go for the handlebar version you need a hole in the
handlebar itself by which the wire can exit.
You also need a Di2 wireless unit to allow the system to communicate via
ANT private protocol with head units (such as a Garmin Edge bike computer)
and your smartphone, tablet or PC.
We’re not saying that fitting R9150 Di2 to a bike is especially
complicated, but it isn’t as simple as fitting eTap.
It’s worth pointing out that this is a one-time job. Unlike with
mechanical shifting, you’ll probably never need to replace the cables. And
if you’re buying a built up bike you don’t need to worry about the initial
With Red eTap you perform shifts via a paddle that sits behind the brake
lever. You push the paddle on the right shifter inward to move the chain
to a smaller sprocket. You push the paddle on the left shifter inward to
move the chain to a larger sprocket. You can hold each paddle in those
shift positions to perform multiple shifts – if you want to go from the
bottom of the cassette up to the top, say, you just push the left paddle
and hold it there. You push both paddles together to shift from one
chainring to the other.
When he reviewed SRAM Red eTap Dave Arthur said, "The feel of the shift
levers is a highlight... There is no [possibility of pressing the wrong
button] with eTap. No accidentally shifting into the wrong gear, because
the paddle only has one task, and your brain doesn't forget which is
which. This improved feel of the groupset is, for me at least, far
superior to Di2. It makes eTap a joy to use."
You can’t customise the function of SRAM eTap. The brand reckons this
would add an unnecessary level of complexity to the system.
"On the whole, the shifting is very quick and crisp," said Dave Arthur.
"Most of the time, trying to distinguish whether eTap is slower to shift
than mechanical Red or Dura-Ace Di2 is impossible. It's as fast as you
need, with no lag or delay when requesting another gear, whether you're
cruising or in a chain gang.
"Shifting works well under load, whether working up the cassette when
sprinting out of the saddle, or changing down from the big ring when
climbing out of the saddle."
In contrast to eTap, Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 is highly customisable.
By default, the left-hand shifter controls the front derailleur and the
right-hand shifter controls the rear derailleur. Each has two buttons
located behind the brake lever, one for upshifts and the other for
downshifts, and another button hidden under the hood cover.
You can use Shimano’s new E-Tube Project software on a PC, iPad or
smartphone to set any of these six buttons to upshift or downshift either
of the two derailleurs. Each of these buttons can have two different
functions, one when you press it and the other when you press and hold it.
You can set Di2 buttons to change the display on a Garmin Edge bike
computer. Shimano invites third party manufacturers to come up with other
uses for the buttons, which send commands via a private ANT+ protocol, so
functionality could be increased in future.
The R9150 Di2 buttons have a more pronounced click to them than previous
versions. This means that you always know whether or not you've pressed a
button, although our experience is that you can occasionally hit the wrong
one when riding in big winter gloves because they're positioned so close
In terms of shifting performance, it's hard to fault Dura-Ace R9150 Di2.
It's fast and super reliable via both the front and rear derailleurs and
in either direction.
Shimano’s Synchro Shift
Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 offers Synchro Shift which is a feature new to
road cycling. The new Junction A unit (below) allows you to switch between
shift modes: manual, semi-Synchro Shift or full Synchro Shift.
Manual is straightforward: one button moves the rear derailleur one way,
another button moves it the other way, and it’s similar set up for the
If you go to full Synchro Shift, you simply press a button for a lower
gear and the Di2 system will move you to the next lowest gear available
even if that means shifting chainrings. One push of a button and the
system could move you from the large chainring to the small chainring, and
from a large sprocket to a smaller sprocket.
If you were using the small chainring and one of the small sprockets and
pressed the button to move to a higher gear, the system might move you
automatically to the large chainring and a larger sprocket.
Synchro Shift is fully customisable. You can go into Shimano’s
user-friendly E-Tube app and decide what will happen when you press up or
down from any chainring/sprocket combination.
Why would you want to use Synchro Shift on the road? It has really been
introduced for time trial and triathlon where you can have just one bar
end shifter on the left aero bar and another on the right. However, if you
want to use it on a standard road bike, it is an option.
There is currently no warning beep to let you know when the front
derailleur is going to move the chain from one chainring to the other,
which would allow you to adjust the amount of pressure you’re putting on
the pedals accordingly, although Garmin will bring in this feature via its
Edge bike computers, and any other computer brand that cares to can do the
The semi-Synchro Shift option might be of more interest to road bike
users. With semi Synchro Shift, when you move the front derailleur the
rear derailleur will automatically move the chain a certain number of
sprockets at the same time.
Say you’re moving from the small chainring to the large chainring. In
normal circumstances this would increase the size of the gear by a
considerable margin, right? With semi-Synchro Shift enabled, the system
will move the chain up the cassette to reduce that margin and keep your
cadence more consistent.
Moving from the large chainring to the small chainring would usually
reduce the size of the gear by a large chunk so Di2 will automatically
move the chain down the cassette to reduce the jump.
If you’re an experienced bike rider you probably do this yourself a lot
of the time without even thinking about it.
Mapping the gears – deciding the specifics of how Synchro Shift and semi
Synchro Shift work – is simple via Shimano’s E-Tube software which you can
run on a PC, iPad or a smartphone.
You can add Shimano’s sprint shifters (SW-R610) and climbing shifters
(SW-R9150, above)) to allow you to change gear more easily from the top of
your handlebar or from the drops.
Similarly, SRAM offers Red eTap Blips (above) which are satellite
buttons. A Blip links to a shifter via a cable – the only cable in the
eTap system. Pressing a Blip connected to the right shifter moves the rear
mech outboard; pressing a Blip connected to the left shifter moves the
rear mech inboard, and pressing a Blip connected to the left shifter at
the same time as pressing a Blip connected to the right shifter moves the
chain from one chainring to the other.
You can position Blips on the tops of your handlebar for use when you’re
climbing or on the drops for shifting when you sprint. They can go either
underneath your handlebar tape or out in the open.
Each SRAM eTap component has its own battery. The derailleurs’
rechargeable batteries offer power for over 1,000km (625 miles) of typical
riding while the widely available CR2032 button cell batteries in the
shifters need changing on average about once every two years, according to
You can check the charge of different components at any time. LED lights
indicate the current level of charge.
If you ignore these LEDs and allow the rear mech battery to run out, you
can swap the front mech battery on to the rear, foregoing front shifting
for the journey home.
If you run out of both, you can manually put the chain onto the gear you
want and ride home singlespeed.
Recharging a derailleur battery is simply a case of unclipping it and
putting it on the USB-powered charger for 45 minutes.
When the shifters’ CR2012 batteries run low you simply swap new ones into
the ports in the hoods.
The Shimano BT-DN110 Di2 internal mounted battery can last between
1,000km and 2,000km between charges, depending on conditions and the
amount of shifting you do.
The battery is usually fitted inside the seatpost although it can be
accommodated elsewhere within the frame. You can check how much charge
remains via lights on the Junction A unit.
If the battery runs low the front derailleur will stop working first. If
you run out of juice entirely you can position the chain on a sprocket of
your choice and ride home in a single gear.
Shimano Dura-Ace chainsets are available in five different variations:
50-34T (a 50-tooth outer chainring and a 34-tooth inner chainring),
52-36T, 53-39T, 54-42T and 55-42T with seven crank arm lengths from 165 to
The RD-R9150 rear derailleur (only one cage length is available) will
take cassettes with a minimum sprocket size of 11 teeth and a maximum
sprocket size of 30 teeth.
SRAM Red chainsets are available in 46-36T, 50-34T, 52-36T and 53-39T
versions and in six crank arm lengths from 165mm to 177.5mm.
Unlike the Dura-Ace rear derailleur, the Red eTap one comes in short cage
and medium cage versions. The short cage will take sprockets with a
maximum size of 28 teeth while the medium one will work with sprockets up
to 32 teeth, so you can get very low gears with eTap as long as you buy
the correct rear derailleur.
Both Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Red eTap groupsets are available with
hydraulic disc braking.
The Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 dual control levers and hydraulic disc brakes
are the first that Shimano has included within the Dura-Ace groupset.
Previously, you could get Dura-Ace compatible disc brakes but they weren’t
actually part of the group.
The R9170 dual control levers are almost the same shape as the R9100s
(for mechanical shifting and cable operated rim brakes) and the R9150s
(for Di2 shifting and cable-operated rim brakes). There’s no bulbous front
end like you get on some earlier Shimano designs, the hydraulic reservoir
being positioned in the centre of the lever body. The only real difference
is that the R9170 design is a bit more of a handful where the hydraulic
hose exits at the upper inner edge.
As well as offering reach adjustment, the R9170 levers have free stroke
adjustment allowing you to tune the amount the lever moves before the pads
touch the rotor.
The R9170 brakes, available in flat mount only, work beautifully whatever
the conditions. You know the brakes are going to bite exactly when you
want them to so there’s no need to give the levers a squeeze a second or
two in advance just to be on the safe side. It doesn’t matter how wet the
roads and the rims are, these brakes work, it’s as simple as that.
Yes, there’s a small drop off in performance in wet weather but it’s
nowhere near the magnitude you see with rim brakes. That gives you the
confidence to keep pushing your speed in situations when you might
potentially soon need to slow down, like going into a tight corner. In
some circumstances it might be the difference between getting into a break
and missing the train.
SRAM Red eTap HRD Shift-Brake Controls have a higher front end than their
Shimano counterparts with the hydraulic master cylinder positioned in the
nose. You can adjust the contact point – when your brakes engage – and
reach to the lever.
Both post mount and flat mount brake brake callipers are available.
SRAM offers power measurement via its Red Quarq power meter chainset.
This comes with carbon arms and a machined alloy spider.
Power measurement is based on five strain gauges in the crank spider.
SRAM claims +/-1.5% accuracy and you can get left/right power balance.
The system uses a replaceable CR2032 battery and has an
IPX7 waterproof rating.
The latest version of Dura-Ace offers power measurement for the first
time. The FC-R9100-P is a chainset with an integrated power meter. Strain
gauges sit inside the crank arms to measure left and right leg power. The
power meter ‘brain’ sits inside the Dura-Ace driveside spider.
An integrated rechargeable battery powers the unit. It can be charged
with a small magnetic adapter without needing to remove covers or casings.
Shimano tells us it has thoroughly tested the power meter to a very high
waterproof standard, but it has not provided an IPX rating at this stage.
These are the manufacturers' claimed weights for the various components
of each groupset. The SRAM figures include batteries where applicable.
SRAM doesn't list individual weights for disc brake components, but in
a FAQ entry says the difference between rim and disc brake set-ups
|Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2||SRAM Red eTap|
|Shifters (rim brake)||230g||260g|
|Chain (114 links)||247g||246g|
|Total (rim brake)
|Shifters (disc brake)||320g||—|
|Disc rotors (2 x 160mm) & lockrings||232g||—|
|Total (disc brake)
As you can see from these figures, SRAM Red eTap edges it in terms of
weight, but it’s a small difference.
Here are the recommended retail prices of the various parts of each of
the groupset. Shop around and you'll find them cheaper.
|Shimano Dura-Ace R9150/9170 Di2||SRAM Red eTap|
|Shifters (for rim brakes)||£549.99||£440.00|
|Chain (114 links)||£44.99||£38.00|
|Recharging power pack||NA||£55.00|
|USB stick for firmware updates||NA||£37.00|
|Total (rim brakes)
|Shifters and disc brakes||£983.32||£880.00|
|Disc rotors (pr)||£138.00||£125.98|
|Total (disc brakes)||£3,216.17
As you can see from these figures, SRAM Red eTap is around £800 cheaper
at full retail price.
|Shimano Dura-Ace R9150/R9170 Di2||SRAM Red eTap|
|Complete groupset (rim brakes)||£1,748.89||£1,772.50|
|Complete groupset (disc brakes)||£2,393.20||~£2,000.00|
|Upgrade kit (rim brakes)||—||~£1,035.00|
|Upgrade kit (disc brakes)||—||£1,299.00|
|Shifters (for rim brakes)||£379.98||~£410.00|
|Shifters + disc brakes||F:
£407.50 | R:
|Chain (114 links)||£27.10||£25.00|
|Recharging power pack||NA||£29.00|
|USB stick for firmware updates||NA||~£40.00|
Which to buy?
Both Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Red eTap are superb groupsets, as
you’d expect. These are, after all, the top tier in the range of their
respective brands and they’re used for racing at the very highest level,
and we’re split in the road.cc office as to which we prefer.
Each shifts well and you really shouldn’t run out of charge while you’re
on the road providing you get into the habit of checking battery levels
In terms of function, the biggest difference between the two groupsets is
the way that you change gear (see ‘In use’ above), and your choice might
come down to whether you prefer SRAM’s design or Shimano’s, bearing in
mind that you can customise a Shimano set-up to a large degree.
Di2, then, has a lot of appeal for tinkerers, and anyone who has strong
feelings on how they want their shifting to behave. You can even fine-tune
the speed of the shift. ETap, on the other hand, has been kept as simple
as possible; you can't accidentally hit the wrong button because there
SRAM Red has a classical aesthetic, with its five-arm cranks and
conventional-looking derailleurs, and its lack of gear wires makes for a
very clean look. Dura-Ace is chunkier, and a look at the comments on this
site for any announcement of new a Shimano groupset will reveal that
Shimano's current design language is at least a little controversial.
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
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Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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.