We put SRAM Red eTap, the only wireless groupset on the market, through its paces

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

SRAM Red eTap groupset

Pros:

  • Excellent and precise shifting
  • Simple setup
  • Great value
  • Good battery life
  • Low weight

Cons:

  • Rear derailleur shifts could be marginally quicker

Product:

SRAM Red eTap

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,060.00 (complete groupset, including non-electrical parts)

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SRAM Red eTap has to be the most anticipated new product to hit the market in the last few years. First spotted in the rather low key setting on the Illinois State Cyclocross championships in December 2013, it was then tested with some misleading fake wires at the 2014 Tour of California, before some much more open use throughout 2015 by Ag2r-La Mondiale.

After finally being officially launched in September 2015, we’ve got it in for test. The question is, after nearly two years of hype and anticipation, will SRAM Red eTap be able to meet some fairly lofty expectations?

Installation

Installing SRAM Red eTap is really an astonishingly simple process, and one that is comfortably within the skill set of even the most ham-fisted of home mechanic.

The first step in installing SRAM Red eTap is to pair the derailleurs with the shifters. This is very easy, and all you have to do is press and hold the small function button on the rear derailleur arm until the LED light flashes next to it, and then repeat this with the shifters and front derailleurs.


Watch: how to install SRAM Red eTap


The front derailleur is fitted in the same way as a standard front derailleur, with the height and angle of the derailleur governed by how you attach it to the frame, and the high and low limits adjusted using screws on the outside of the unit.

>>> Road bike groupsets: a complete buyer’s guide (video)

The high and low limits of the SRAM Red eTap rear derailleur are adjusted in the same way, as is the height of the derailleur cage using the B-adjust screw. Adjusting the alignment of the rear derailleur means using the micro-adjust function, which is done by holding down the function button on the inside of the shifting levers, while simultaneous pushing the lever itself.

That might sound a little fiddly, but in reality it really isn’t, and can be done easily enough with one hand while riding along if you find the chain is rubbing on the outside of a sprocket.

Battery Life

While both Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS use a single central battery to provide power to all their components, SRAM Red eTap goes down a different route, giving individual batteries to the shifters and each of the derailleurs.

SRAM RED eTAP rear derailleur battery

The battery can be removed from the rear derailleur when travelling

The derailleurs are powered by one of SRAM’s own Lithium-Ion Polymer batteries, which simply clip on to the back of the derailleurs, and can be removed easily enough if you’re travelling with your bike overseas.

These batteries provide a minimum of 1,000km or 60 hours of riding, and can be recharged in only an hour using the supplied battery charging pack. The LED lights on the SRAM Red eTap derailleurs will also show how much juice they’ve got left, showing green if when the battery life is good, going through red (for when battery life is down to about 250 kilometres) and flashing red (for when you’re about to completely run out of juice).

>>> Are electronic groupsets necessary?

If you do find yourself running out of battery, then the rear derailleur battery will go first. However, the good news is that because the batteries are interchangeable between the front and rear derailleurs, you can simply shift into the small ring at the front, then move the still-running front derailleur battery to the back, which should be enough to get you home.

The SRAM Red eTap shifters use standard CR2032 coin batteries, which are easy enough to find in supermarkets. This means that if they do run out of juice mid-ride, then it should only be a short ride to go and buy another one, although with a battery life of up to 24 months, you shouldn’t have to do this too often.

Security

One of the big questions surrounding SRAM Red eTap when it was announced was about security. It’s hard not to have visions of crafty directeur sportifs hacking into the shifting systems of rival riders and having their chain drop into the small ring just as they needed to respond to an attack.

SRAM RED eTAP shifter function button

Function buttons on the individual components are used to pair the groupset

The good news is that, according to SRAM, this is impossible. In fact, to put it in the terms used by the company itself, “SRAM Red eTap is more secure than a cash machine”.

This seems like a pretty big claim to us, and surely nothing could make the system completely secure in an age where cyber-attacks appear every other day on the news. However, SRAM certainly seems to have gone to every reasonable length to make its system as secure as possible.

>>> How to build your new bike

Communication between the various SRAM Red eTap components is done through a proprietary system called Airea, which uses a 128-bit rolling encryption, so each shift generates a new, unique encryption code. This means that anyone trying to hack in to the system cannot simply record one transmission between the shifter and derailleur, then replay this to break into the system.

The derailleurs can also only be paired with one set of shifters at any one time, and the pairing session that you have to go through when setting up the system times out automatically after 30 seconds, so you cannot accidentally leave the system vulnerable if you forget to end the session.


Watch: Buyer’s guide to road bike groupsets


Aside from concerns about hacking, it could also be conceivable that SRAM Red eTap could suffer from interference from other wireless signals such as from TV and radio, or indeed from other SRAM Red eTap systems nearby.

This is where SRAM’s extensive testing in the pro peloton comes in. Even before it was released, SRAM Red eTap had been used in professional races for a year and a half, and the company says there has been no problems with interference, even in races as big as the Tour de France where you’ve got TV and radio motorbikes everywhere, team and race radios, and spectators at the side of the road with smartphones.

>>> Katusha switch to SRAM Red eTap wireless groupset for 2016

I am going to have to take SRAM’s word for it to a certain extent on this one, but at least I didn’t have the same sort of problem suffered by users of Mavic Mektronic, a wireless shifting system released in 1999 that was infamous for getting a mind of its own and shifting erratically when riding past radio transmitters.

One other thing to note is that although the Airea system doesn’t allow signals to come in to the system, it does allow signals from the system to be sent to other devices. This opens up the possibility for things such as battery life and gear selection to be shown on your cycling computer, as is the case with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 (when using D-Fly) and Garmin Edge computers. This is something that we’d certainly expect to see on future Garmin Edge firmware updates.

Riding

The shifting on SRAM Red eTap makes a pretty major departure from that on the mechanical SRAM groupsets. Gone is DoubleTap and in its place is a shifting system that is far more intuitive and easy to use.

You change up at the back by pressing the right shifter, change down using the left shifter, and change the front derailleur by pressing both shifters simultaneously. Being so different to all other systems on the market means that it can take a couple of rides to get used to, but no more than that.

sram red etap shifter

The shifters offer more positive feedback than with Di2

As well as being a highly intuitive way to set up a shifting system, this configuration also does away with one of the big problems with Di2. With Shimano’s system, the shifter buttons are positioned right next to each other, and while they are easy enough to distinguish when riding with bare hands, once you impede your sense of touch with bulky winter gloves it is very easy to press the wrong button and find yourself shifting in the wrong direction. With SRAM Red eTap, this is impossible.

The other way in which the SRAM Red eTap shifters are a step up from Shimano Di2 is that they give much better feedback when changing gear. With Di2, you only get a small click, which is easy to miss when wearing gloves, but the eTap shifters give much better response, going some of the way to replicate the response you would get from mechanical levers.

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

The only minor problem I found with the SRAM Red eTap shifters was when shifting the front derailleur. The problem stems from the fact that the same action (pushing both levers simultaneously) is used to shift the front derailleur in both directions (with the system knowing which chainring you are in, and therefore which way to shift).

The bad news is that although the system knows which chainring you’re in, you’re not always quite so sure. Let’s say for example you’ve just got over the hardest section of a steep climb and a steadier section of 2-3 per cent, meaning that you shift into the big ring, while staying in the 21t sprocket.

SRAM RED eTAP rear derailleur

The rear derailleur gives smooth and precise shifting

A few seconds later you begin the descent, but forgetting that you are already in the big ring, you go to shift the front derailleur in search of a harder gear, only to find the chain being shipped into the small ring. Not ideal.

That said, I’ve only had this happen once or twice during my time on SRAM Red eTap, and it is more an inconvenience than a problem, especially when you consider the otherwise excellent shifting.

>>> Review: Shimano Ultegra Di2

The shifting, both front and rear, is crisp and precise. The rear derailleur is very consistent, giving the exact same feel whether shifting from the 28 to the 25 or from the 12 to the 11.

As is the case with Di2 and EPS, SRAM Red eTap has a multi-shift system, which means that if you press and hold the levers, the chain will be sent cascading up or down the cassette. Even better, while you’re doing this you can also shift at the front. So if you’re at the top of a climb and about to start a quick descent, you can hold down the right shifter to send the chain skipping down the cassette, while also pressing the left shifter to change into the big ring at the front.

>>> Do we need 12-speed gears?

The only slight gripe that some might have with the shifting is that it is not quite as quick as on Shimano Di2, something which SRAM says is down to the requirement to ensure longer battery and chain life. However again this is a very minor issue, and barely noticeable most of the time. Perhaps adjustable shift speed (something offered by Shimano Di2) will be offered in a future firmware update.

SRAM RED eTAP front derailleur

The front derailleur offers excellent shifting power

At the front things are just as good, with the vast majority of changes handled with minimal fuss or effort. The great thing about electronic groupsets is that the motor in the front derailleur gives more power than can be offered by mechanical front derailleurs, meaning more assured shifting, even under load.

That said, you do still need to ease off the pedals a little if you’re trying to change rings, while riding out of the saddle up a steep climb, but that is the same on any groupset, so I’ll let SRAM off on that one.

>>> First ever FSA groupset spotted at the Tour de France

As you’d maybe expect, the SRAM Red eTap front derailleur inherits the excellent Yaw technology that has received so much praise on the mechanical version of SRAM Red. This means that the front derailleur cage rotates as the chain moves up and down the cassette so that it is always parallel with the chain.

This differs from the auto-trim function on Shimano Di2, and means that as long as you have set it up correctly, it is impossible to have any chain rub on the front derailleur, even if you’re forcing it to deal with a seriously inefficient chainline, running a gear combination like 53×28.

Remote shifting

As you’d expect SRAM Red eTap comes with the ability to attach remote shifters, or as SRAM has chosen to call them, Blips, which are small buttons designed to be attached to the handlebars in the desired position.

sram red etap blip

The Blips are designed to be positioned beneath your handelbar tape

In line with the rest of the system, setting up the Blips is an absolute doddle. Each shifter has a couple of ports into which you can plug the Blips using the only wires in the whole system.

You can have two Blips attached to each shifter, meaning that there is the possibility to have these positioned on both the tops and in the drops, allowing you to easily shift wherever your hands are on the bars.

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The only slight issue I had with these is that the Blips on the Cycling Weekly test bike were positioned on the drops with a well-cushioned gel handlebar tape over the top. Adding on to this the fact that I was testing in the middle of winter with bulky winter gloves, and they required a bit of a prod to use.

However, this is only really going to be a problem if you’re lucky enough to be using SRAM Red eTap on your winter bike in the middle of winter, as when you’re not wearing thick gloves, the Blips are very easy to use.

Weights

SRAM Red has earned a reputation as the weight weenie’s groupset of choice, with a total system weight of around 1,750g, making it the lightest groupset on the market. SRAM Red eTap can’t quite match this, but it certainly compares well with other electronic groupsets.

The weight of the shifting components are as follows:

Front derailleur (with battery) – 162g

Front derailleur (without battery) – 138g

Rear derailleur (with battery) – 235g

Rear derailleur (without battery) – 211g

Shifters (each) – 131g

Batteries (each)– 24g

Blips (each) – 6g

That means that the total SRAM Red eTap weight is 659g, plus an extra 12g for each set of blips that you choose to attach. This is pretty comparable to Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 once you factor in Di2’s junction box and cables, and around 100g lighter than Campagnolo Super Record EPS

The rest of the hardware weights are as follows:

Crankset (53/39t) – 557g

Bottom bracket – 53g

Cassette (11-25) – 151g

Chain – 246g

Brake calipers – 240g

This means that, once you include all the non-electrical parts, SRAM Red eTap weighs 1906g, plus an extra 12g for each set of blips that you choose to attach, making it the only electronic groupset to weigh less than 2kg.

Prices

The complete SRAM Red eTap groupset has a recommended retail price of £2,060, including all of the non-electrical pieces of hardware (crankset, brakes, cassette, bottom bracket, and chain). However, if you’ve already got a SRAM groupset, then it is possible to just upgrade the shifting, while leaving all of those bits and pieces where they are.

The prices for the individual shifting and charging components are as follows:

Front derailleur – £420

Rear derailleur – £265

Shifters – £205 (each)

Blips – £150 (set of four)

Charging pack – £50

USB Firmware update stick – £35

That means that you can get all the electrical parts of SRAM Red eTap for £1,180 (without Blips).

This might sound like a lot of money but is actually incredibly good value. A complete Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset retails for roughly £2,130 and Campagnolo Super Record EPS for even more, so to be able to buy a complete SRAM Red eTap groupset, which is arguably the most technologically advanced and forward-looking of the three electronic groupsets on the market, for less than either of its competitors seems like excellent value.

What’s more, you can take note of that £1,180 price-tag for the electrical components, even if you’re using Shimano on your existing bike. SRAM Red eTap will work perfectly well with a Shimano crankset and cassette, so you could possibly make the massive jump from running the latest version of Shimano 105 to full wireless SRAM Red eTap for only a little more than a grand.

Verdict

SRAM Red eTap is an excellent groupset that is the match of any other groupset on the market. It’s an absolute doddle to install and set up, and once it’s in place provides excellent shifting with a revolutionary shift logic. What’s more, with a recommended retail price of £2,060, SRAM Red eTap is almost a grand cheaper than Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, while also being lighter too.

  • DaveQB

    It seems like you can shift both at the same time. This was what I learnt from this review.

    “Even better, while you’re doing this you
    can also shift at the front. So if you’re at the top of a climb and
    about to start a quick descent, you can hold down the right shifter to
    send the chain skipping down the cassette, while also pressing the left
    shifter to change into the big ring at the front.”

  • DaveQB

    I never thought of that. So traveling with your bike in the back of the car, you really NEED to take the batteries out if you want to conserve battery…

  • llos25

    Is this the groupset that ejects its batteries when you travel over cobbles and if you have two or more you can change each gears .

  • MrHaematocrit

    Anything first generation SHAM will be recalled & spend more time in their hands than consumers, as you have it 50% of the time the cost should reflect this.

  • Graham Dunn

    Lol. People get offended by the strangest things! I’m underwhelmed. Sorry. The machines are taking over! Seems bicycle gear shifting was the last thing on Skynet’s list….

  • bhambadboy1

    …and you just chose not to invent and develop it yourself cuz you were busy working on the space ship for the next Mars mission???

  • bhambadboy1

    There are accelerometers built-in to each unit that shut the batteries off when the bike is not in motion…unlike ALL other systems. However, bikes riding on the roof of chase vehicles does negate this feature.

  • JR Namida

    I played with these @ the Las Vegas Interbike trade show, and found them to be sweet for my abilities. I use a Wifli 11-32 cassette for the hills and because I am old with under-powered lungs. I would like to have the Sram eTap on two of my bicycles yesterday. I understand eTap is not available for the 11-32 cassette, when they are available I will immediately purchase 2 sets.

  • ktula

    “This differs from the auto-trim function on Shimano Di2, and means that as long as you have set it up correctly, it is impossible to have any chain rub on the front derailleur, even if you’re forcing it to deal with a seriously inefficient chainline, running a gear combination like 53×28.”

    SRAM yaw front derailleur is supposed to eliminate chain rub but in real life, that does not apply to all bike frames. I had a 2012 Cervelo R3 Team (size 58cm) and it was impossible to set up SRAM Red yaw front derailleur without chain rub. It didn’t really matter how the front derailleur was set up (four mechanics from three different local bike shops made many attempts), i was unable to use 5 gear combinations because of chain rub. I even bought a second yaw front derailleur just to make sure the first one wasn’t a faulty product. But the end result was the same.

    From what i read so far, it does not appear that front and rear derailleurs in the e-Tap system is aware of the position of each other. That is, the front derailleur does not know where the active cog is on the rear derailleur, and the rear derailleur is not aware of whether the front derailleur is in the big or small ring. The assumption is that the yaw front derailleur operation will be free of chain rub. I personally think that’s an unfortunate assumption, based on my own experience.

  • Graham Dunn

    Although all this electronic shifting is exciting for the industry I think it’s a little underwhelming. It’s just cables and Bluetooth changing gears with electric motors. Basic robotics really….

  • Altimis Nuel

    Can Etap install on non-Di2 frame without modding? my frame have internal routing by default (using 105-5800 atm)

    I want to go Di2 but I hate modding…. I don’t want risking modding the frame.

  • MrHaematocrit

    Some teams are not using it on spare bikes as the battery drains when the bikes on a roof rack, SRAM are pretty vague about how much in the FAQ but it seems to be enough to concern some.

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

    Ultimately etap only addresses issues for people building bikes, while it creates new ones for those riding them

  • Vincent Courcy

    It’s SRAM, not CHRAM damnit

  • Hyun-ji Song

    I’m from Australia and though not sure about UK pricing, I checked wiggle uk for dadi2 and its around 1390 pounds.
    Lets be honest, saying a Dura ace Di2 retails for 3000 pounds is a bit over the top as it can be had for half of that.

  • Ed

    Are the shifters/brake levers compatible with Shimano brake caliphers?

  • Tired of the BS

    Other than the simple setup I don’t see any advantage to this system. The simple setup only benefits the mechanic when building the bike. The shifting is novel but limited which is perplexing. The fact that you can not shift both derailleurs at the same time is a huge over sight. Then with the woefully slow multi shift can leave you playing catch up while everyone else has ridden off.

  • Tired of the BS

    EPS is the standard bearer for the quickest multi shift but Di2 is close Etap is horrendously slow. What’s funny is that Campagnolo mechanical systems are quicker than all of them.

  • Jay

    It’s a fantastic technological advancement for derailleur shifting that has been around for ages. I just think it’s ridiculously overpriced for very simple electronics circuitry and servos. Wait for the prices to come down once SRAM recover all their R&D costs.

  • Jeff

    Wonder if their rear derailleur will be compatible with both 10 speed and 11 speed hubs? Unlike their competition that basically said you have to buy a new disc wheel because they wont program their components for both.

  • JR Namida

    Have given up Beer until September 2017, to have enough spare change to purchase a Wireless Groupset. Sram, it is an extreme life style change, but after playing with these shifters at the Interbike Vegas, giving up beer is the only way this groupset will begin to fit in my monthly budget.

  • James Quinton

    Do these work on their own without a cycle computer? I don’t use a computer.

  • RobTM

    Shame the video has that “first look” banner, splattered so it covers the shifting before SRAM Brad starts talking, we ALREADY had a Cycling Weekly title page, seeing is believing

  • djconnel

    Di2 shifters just need to close a relay. So you could do the same here but you’d need to use the satellite shifter interface since it’s a wireless connection to the rear derailleur rather than a simple wire.

  • kpadam

    The AG2R rider that had the issue was on the mechanical Sram red the day he had issues

  • Dick_Turpin

    DI2 was reverse-engineered to do all that (and shift fully automatically, tracking a target cadence) a while ago. So all things are possible.

    Although, the encrypted wireless nature of the SRAM kit probably makes it harder to hack about than the wired setups.

  • RobTM

    On another site, they mention a mechanic demo-ing the whole fit and adjustment in just 5 minutes, sounds like they have made it easy. Part of it, will likely be paring shifters and derailleurs by touch of button.

  • RobTM

    Well I’ve found a GCN demo video, shows a 53×25 change to 39 and chain stays on 25 cog, but with fast changes I guess you can tap right or left paddle, then both easily enough and sometimes you want the larger shift, thanks to front ring anyway..

  • GPIvqH1SUr

    I’m curious about setup–tuning it to line up “just right”. Is there a “mode” for that? I ask as a guy who tunes his own bike and who worked in a bike shop four summers in his youth. 🙂

  • Mike Prytherch

    That would be sweet if it did, there is no doubt they could program it to do that if they wanted, its all software after all.

  • M1K475UM

    is it this new thing that give problem to one of the ag2r rider during TDF when leading descending stage…

  • RobTM

    I wonder if it shifts the rear to, when front shifting to reduce the gearing ratio jump. If so it couldn’t be a lot harder, to just have right UP, left DOWN and leave the groupset to choose optimum chain ring

  • Mike Prytherch

    Mighty impressive this, real blue sky thinking again by SRAM, top marks, love the way the shifter buttons work