We put the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 electronic groupset head to head with SRAM Red eTap

With the launch of Dura-Ace R9100, Shimano has launched a new salvo in the battle of top-end electronic groupsets against SRAM Red eTap and Campagnolo EPS.

If you’re buying a new bike with electronic shifting in the next year, the likelihood is that it will be fitted with with either SRAM eTap or Shimano Di2, so we’ve put them head to head to see how they compare.

Ease of setup

Compared to mechanical groupsets, SRAM eTap and Di2 are both easy to set up. Although both still have high and low limit screws on the derailleurs, all of the rest of the set up is done using buttons on the derailleurs and the shifters, which makes micro-adjusting the shifting a particular doddle.

SRAM eTap is the easier of the two systems to set up initially, and should be well within the capabilities of anyone with a decent set of Allen keys and the ability to read an instruction manual.


Watch: how to install SRAM Red eTap


Our step-by-step installation guide will give you a full run-through of how to fit SRAM Red eTap, but it really is as simple as bolting on the derailleurs and lining up the gears using the function buttons on the shifters and the limit screws on the derailleurs.

Shimano Di2 has a slightly more complicated setup process. Bolting on and adjusting the derailleurs is done through a broadly similar process, however you also have to deal with the routing of the cables to connect the derailleurs, shifters, battery and junction box.

Battery Life

If there’s one area where Di2 wins outright, it’s on battery life. The latest iteration of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 should be good for 2000km on a full charge, which might be only two weeks riding if you’re making your way around France in July, but should be a good couple of months for the rest of us.

>>> Six things no one ever told you about Di2

Power for Di2 is provided by a single central battery which is usually located inside the frame. This is then recharged through a plug in the junction box, with charging only taking a few hours. The junction box also includes a light which gives an indication of the battery life when you hold down a shifter button for a couple of seconds.


Watch: buyer’s guide to road bike groupsets


SRAM eTap is powered in a different way, with the derailleurs having seperate rechargeable batteries, while the shifters each have a CR2032 coin cell battery. Battery life is then indicated by a light on each component, which changes colour depending on how much juice you’ve got left.

>>> How to set up your brakes (video)

Although the SRAM shifters will last up to two years on a single battery, the derailleurs have a stated battery life of 60 hours or 1,000km, so roughly half that of Shimano Di2.

SRAM RED eTAP rear derailleur battery

The SRAM batteries can be removed from the derailleurs for charging

However, when the batteries do need charging, the process is nice and easy, with SRAM Red eTap coming with a charging dock which simply needs to be plugged into the mains, into which you put a removeable battery from the derailleur which will be fully charged in an hour.

Shifting

Dura-Ace R9100 comes with redesigned front and rear mechs with the latter now able to handle cassettes of up to 30 teeth. It’s telling that when Shimano explained to us why they do not see the need to update Dura-Ace to wireless shifting, they said that the feedback from the pros was that the shifting on Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 was so good that there was simply no point messing with it.

The new Shadow rear derailleur architecture, which is transferred over from Shimano’s MTB groupsets, ups the game still further on shifting quality, with the mech body positioned directly below the cassette rather than to its right for more precise shifting.

Where the new Di2, and indeed all electronic shifting systems (including eTap), stand out is with the front derailleur shifting. Having an electronic motor in the front derailleur gives a hell of a lot more power than you get with mechanical systems, which is a particularly good thing if you have small hands and struggle to properly reach the shifting levers.


Watch: SRAM Red eTap review


While mechanical systems can require a decent amount of force to be applied to the lever, particularly when shifting from the small ring to the big ring, with an electronic system you just need to give a quick press of a button applied with no more force than if you were shifting from the 12 to the 11 with the rear derailleur.

So if Di2 and eTap can’t be seperated at the front, it’s at the rear derailleur where Di2 really sets itself apart.

>>> How to change your chain (video)

As you’d expect, the shifting is crisp and precise, but also seriously fast, so you can always be confident that you’ll quickly be able to find the right gear when it’s needed to respond to an unexpected attack.

Dura-Ace front and rear mechs are redesigned

Dura-Ace front and rear mechs are redesigned

With Dura-Ace R9100, Shimano allows you to fine-tune your shifting parameters without needing to plug into a laptop. Its new E-Tube phone/tablet app connects wirelessly to the groupset’s “brain”, allowing you to programme shifting parameters or port these over complete from another bike without needing to hook up a computer, as was the case with its older version.

SRAM RED eTAP rear derailleur

The SRAM rear derailleur can’t quite match Di2 for speed

Unfortunately, SRAM Red eTap can’t quite match Di2 at the rear derailleur. The shifts are just as accurate, but just a little bit on the sluggish side. Ok, to call them slow would be pushing it, as they’re still completed within half a second or so, but if it’s race performance that you’re after then you might hope for a little more.

>>> Are you using your bike’s gears efficiently?

SRAM has acknowledged this slow shift speed, saying that the decision was made to slow down the shifting speed in an effort to prolong battery life, but perhaps it could offer a firmware update to enable faster shifting for racers who would be prepared to sacrifice decent battery life.

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New Di2 levers come in road and TT versions as well as satellite shifters

However SRAM eTap does claw back some ground with its intuitive shifting system. While the hand movements used to shift on Di2 are the same as with mechanical Shimano systems, SRAM has taken a completely new approach with eTap, using the right lever to shift up at the back, the left lever to shift down, and both together to change the front derailleur.

This can take a bit of getting used to, but is dead easy to use once you get the hang of it, even when wearing bulky winter gloves. The SRAM eTap shifters also give a bit more of a click when you’re shifting, meaning that you can always be sure that the button has been pressed and the signal has got through.

Dura-Ace R9100 now allows you to set up the shifters to work in a Synchronised Shifting mode.

A single shifter can be used to control up and down shifting, with the system determining when a gear change requires a shift of the chainrings as well as the cassette sprockets. There’s also a semi-synchronised mode in which the rear mech is automatically trimmed in response to the rider shifting chainrings, so that there’s not a large change in ratios.

This all goes some way to closing the gap with SRAM’s system.

>>> How to change your cassette (video)

Weight

With all of the non-electronic parts (i.e. the chainset, cassette, chain, brake calipers, and bottom bracket) being taken from SRAM Red, the world’s lightest groupset, it’s no surprise that SRAM Red eTap is more than 150g lighter than Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. In fact it’s the first electronic groupset to duck in below the 2kg barrier.


Watch: which climbs faster – a lightweight bike or an aero bike


However if you add up just the comparable electronic parts, then SRAM Red eTap totals 658g while Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 comes in 36g lighter. But on top of that you of course need cables and cable housing (and frame ports) for Dura-Ace but not for eTap.

SRAM Red eTap Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Rear Derailleur 235g 204g
Front Derailleur 162g 104g
Shifters (pair) 261g 230g
Battery N/A 84g
Chainset 557g 609 – 621g (dependent on rings)
Cassette 151g 163g
Chain 246g 248g
Brake Calipers 240g 294g
Bottom Bracket 53g 67g
Total 1,905g 2,003g

Price

Shimano hasn’t yet announced UK process for Dura-Ace R9100, but its older groupset was bettered by SRAM Red eTap and the latter doesn’t require cabling or junction boxes either. It will be interesting to see where this new version of its top end groupset is positioned by Shimano.

This page was updated on June 30, 2016 with the release of the new Shimano Dura-Ace.

  • udbhav

    so sram red etap wins outright haha sram etap is obviously the best

  • Ethan S

    dura ace Di2 was like £1500 on wiggle…

  • Péter Kandzsarov

    Not half, about 80-90% of course. Like Ultegra vs. Dura Ace.

  • Philip Lo

    oh ya, forgot about that.. but that’s only for the older version no? with the external battery? anyway the external ones don’t look good, but that’s another thing altogether.. but eTap would not be so complicated, compatible with any frame

  • MrHaematocrit

    Not true…. You mean your frame is not compatible with internal Di2 wiring harnesses. You can get external wiring harnesses Di2

  • Philip Lo

    my bike frame is not Di2 compatible, that’s where eTap has an advantage, there are no such limitations

  • Technocrz!

    For me eTap is a win win game, Di2 is a mess, its giving u more cables then mechanical ones plus routing those cables is pain in A.., with eTap u cahnge a bike it will take you 1 hour to place your wireless groupset and tune it, voilla you are ready, at this moment I like eTap more than Di2, for Di2 u need real professional to install the groupset.

  • Dave Lettieri

    How come they don’t include the wire sets and junction boxes in the weight?
    Also in the cost it doesn’t mention the battery charger for the Di2. Kind of an incomplete review for me. I have both and if the SRAM is slower shifting (I can’t tell), it is not going to make a difference to 99% of the users. I also don’t see [people switching from Di2 to E tap. E Tap gives riders a choice when they want electronic shifting.

  • Adam Hughes

    “Bouhanni is sprint against Matthews, Matthews moves to the inside, he’s alongside Bouhanni. Bouhanni shouts something across at Matthews and wait, suddenly Matthews is dropping back… He’s in the wrong gear!!”

  • grasspress

    now with wireless eTap systems in place all hardware is present (except for a voice input device), as well as available technologies, to move to hands-free voice-activated shifting. in response to the acknowledgments in the article (example: when ‘you have small hands and struggle to properly reach the shifting levers’) such a system would solve many problems and give instance shifts when out of the saddle or sprinting. also, such a system would be an add-on, leaving physical shifting in place when preferred as well as voice-activated shifting with an additional charge for the voice input device. can you imagine quick shifts by saying UP, DOWN, or FRONT into your voice piece? sounds like a choice i would welcome.

  • JRF

    I was pretty let down by eTap. Mechanical SRAM works better, and that’s saying something. The performance comparison to Di2 is not even close. We’ll see if SRAM can make some improvements via firmware updates, but right now, wireless is the only “advantage” eTap has, even compared to its mechanical counterparts.

  • MrHaematocrit

    Wireless makes a difference once, when the bike is being built. Shift performance & quality makes a difference every time. Wireless seems to be a lot of hype to me, unless there are other advantages I’m missing.

  • MD

    Where Shimano really wins at the moment is that is offers not only Dura Ace but also a cheaper, slightly heavier but otherwise functionally equal Ultegra Di2. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of their Di2 sales came from Ultegra. I must agree though that Shimano’s response of “there is not need for wireless” is either a head in the sand approach (people upgrading bikes would much prefer not to have to worry whether their frames are Di2 compatible) or a calculated response until they have their wireless version ready.

  • Stevo

    Super Record mechanical. Perfect change evey time, and no batteries. No contest really.

  • ridein

    Is there any hard numbers on different brands mechanical and electronic shifting speed?

  • MrHaematocrit

    You forgot to mention that eTap stays on & suffers battery drain when being transported on a vehicle roof rack unless you remove the batteries. This is why some SRAM teams have mechanical Red bikes as spares. I also question how water resistent the battery seal will be after a year of the batteries being taken on and off. SRAM also do not actually state that its waterproof only that its been tested in wet weather.

    https://sramroadsupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/207514077-Will-the-parts-stay-on-when-the-bike-is-on-my-car-rack-

  • Michael Lorentsson

    I cant understand why there is such fuzz about the control buttons and the way they operate.
    You can configure Di2 the way you want them, I been running mine with just about the same as the eTap a couple of season and it is great.
    My choice is:
    Left hand=lighter rear/front, Right hand=heavier rear/front

    Br
    Michael

  • Andrew Bairsto

    It hardly blows away as you put it on price both are much to expensive for what they are.

  • Lee Wingate

    When comparing, I would note the following;
    – you also need to add in weight of cables/wires for Di2.

    Also, of course shimano are going to say there’s no market in wireless! But you can bet they are fighting to catchup. Wireless makes absolute sense as a system, no cables/wires, easier integration with bikes and component manufacturers. More aero for a start due to no cables and wires.

    also if you are going to make a comparison, surely it would make sense to inc campag eps…. Even as a comparison. As well as a comparison with a top end mechanical setup.