Road Tested: Sram Red

Evolution of Sram’s top-level kit turns weaknesses into strengths while preserving old benefits.

Evolution of Sram’s top-level kit turns weaknesses into strengths while preserving old benefits. 

Sram’s first road component groupset—introduced in 2008—had great attributes but two distinct weaknesses: Both front-shift quality and braking precision lagged. The new component heavyweight took full advantage of this first overhaul to its flagship group by dramatically improving former weak points.

Major improvements
The front derailleur is the real revelation in the new Sram Red groupset. Its predecessor suffered from unreliable and slow front shifting—many pros even swapped the Red front derailleur for the supposedly inferior Force alternative. But a revolutionary change and a subtle upgrade combine to transform Red’s front shift quality from mediocre to outstanding.

All other front derailleurs push the chain by moving side-to-side, but Red adds a subtle kick by spinning as it moves. This slight change to derailleur motion—Sram calls it Yaw—results in  impressive rapid-fire shifting. The chain jumps to the big ring without hesitation. Chain rub—interference between the front derailleur and chain when riding in extreme gear combinations—is also entirely eliminated. Combined with a stiffened derailleur cage, the outcome is effortless, nearly automatic shifting.

Brake performance is the new group’s other major upgrade. Completely reinvented construction gives Red’s new brake calipers a bit more maximal stopping power than their predecessors, but the biggest change is braking accuracy and control, often called modulation. While Sram’s other calipers struggle to precisely tune stopping power, these new brakes feather perfectly.

Red inherited Wifli technology from Sram’s entry-level Apex group, which allows an incredibly efficient climbing gear. Instead of being forced to mash against cogs designed for flatter roads, this system offers cassettes tuned specifically for steep grades. This enables higher cadences over all roads, meaning fresher quads for the run.

Still Sharp
Red’s original strengths are largely unchanged and still among the best in its class.

» Rear shift quality is sharp, crisp and resistant to coming out of adjustment.

» The Red kit is still grams lighter than other top-flight groupsets.

» Ceramic derailleur and bottom bracket bearings remain.

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