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.
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.