Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Pros:

  • Wide range of gears without the extra weight of a triple chainset
  • Smooth shifting and performance

Cons:

  • Larger steps between gears compared to conventional cassettes

Product:

SRAM Apex groupset

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£604.00

So what’s with the name? For SRAM, the point of the new Apex groupset is to open up the experience of riding big mountains to mere mortals, so the US company’s thrust for the new groupset is all about getting to the top of that big climb on your ride, the Apex of the hill if you like.

To this end SRAM has come up with WiFLi, in other words wider gear range, faster shifting and lighter mass. Key to making this happen is the creation of a 32-tooth cassette which allows a 34-tooth chainring to obtain a slightly lower gear ratio than is available with a conventional triple chainset. At the same time the 11T and 50T combination also provide a higher top gear than a standard triple.

The point is that you don’t need three chainrings at the front to get a wide range of gears – two rings are lighter and pose less mechanical issues to set up.

When it came to riding, frankly there was little to choose between the performance of the Apex groupset and its bigger brother Rival. When shifting through the gears, either up or down, front or rear, both performed beautifully – just as you’d expect for a brand new groupset from an established manufacturer. Nevertheless, it says a lot about the quality of Apex that the differences were so small that without a direct, back-to-back test we couldn’t feel them.

As with all compromises there has to be a little give and take on both sides. Just like with a compact crank, the ratios of the 32-tooth cassette are wider than a racer would ideally choose, but it was only when you got to the top of the cassette that the steps became obvious. SRAM says that each gear on the cassette equates to a 12 per cent step, so it has kept it to a minimum.

As with Rival, SRAM has stuck with its well-established and excellent hood shape. As for the brake pads, SRAM has sourced them from a well-known specialist manufacturer – SwissStop. As a result the brakes feel great on first acquaintance.

Verdict

It's often difficult to make a low-end groupset exciting, but thanks to the quality of thought and time SRAM has brought to the Apex range it's well worth checking it out. In fact I'd go so far as to say that at this level Apex has become the default option for those looking to get through the big mountains with ease - it's got to be the death knell for triples.

Full Specification

Supplier: www.sram.com
  • Paul B Jackson

    Bought my second Basso frame and fitted the SRAM Apex, previously I had used Shimano Dura Ace and was always very happy with the smooth gear change and it didn’t take much maintenance, but as I’m getting older and slower I need different gearing to allow me to still take on the hills without going to a triple hence my move to the Apex and boy am I regretting the change. The Apex the gear change is clunky as it appears to jump between rings rather than glide across and it requires constant maintenance and adjustment to get it working at its best although even at its best its definitely not as good as Shimano. If I had the money I would go back to Shimano and throw the SRAM Apex in the bin.

  • barry davies

    does nobody ever check the actual gear ratios on a gear chart ???? years ago all triples were 32/42/52, and these could be used with a fairly close freewheel.
    Makes me laugh when cross bikes are fitted at the factory with 34/50 chainsets totally useless for cross.
    to work out gear ratio’s
    formula is chainwheel size (say 52) x wheel size (27) divided by sprocket size (say 13) = 108 inches.

  • Mark Whitmarsh

    “pose less mechanical issues to set up”

    Am I missing something here? When I set up my triple it was exactly the same process as a double. Adjust the limit screws so the chain doesn’t drop down the inside or fly off the outside. What else is there to do?

    I haven’t ridden a 50/34 but I know from riding 48/34 a long time ago that 14 teeth is too big a jump for me.

    They’re right that 50/11 gives a bigger top gear than 53/12 but frankly I hardly ever use even 53/13.

    I’m guessing 50/34 is designed for big Alpine/Pyrenean days when you’re not really doing much on the flat so always either grovelling up or flying down huge mountains.

  • Ron Stuart

    Simon E makes some good points but I would like to add that a front inner of 36 teeth (110 bcd) would obviate the big jump which I have now got used to on my 50-34 compact and still give a very low gear. Secondly there is a lot less setting up of a double front mech compared with a triple chainset mech and also a lot less fiddling about when cleaning the chainset.

    How long is the rear mech though?

    By the way the 11T and 50T combination doesn’t give a higher top gear than a standard race triple at 12T and 52T it’s the other way round mate!

    Mike, is there a reason this review does sound more like a press release?

  • Simon E

    Death knell of the triple? Not necessarily. That’s just a slice of SRAM’s marketing blurb because they don’t sell a triple configuration.

    The weight penalty (about 250g) is worth it for me. Riding easy the 39T middle ring is just right. With 50/34 there is a big jump between the two chainrings.

    50×11 will give the same top ratio than a triple if the cassette has 11 teeth. Triples invariably have 50 or 52 teeth on the big ring.

    It might be an idea to actually put some miles on this unit so a review sounds less like a press release and will give a better idea about its durability as well as what it’s really like to use out on the road.