The wait to hear about cycling’s “worst” kept secret is finally over. This week at Eurobike, SRAM announced Red eTAP – their new electronic groupset. And while this announcement may have been a long time coming, it appears to have been worth the wait.
SRAM Red eTAP
The biggest news (and yet least surprising) is that SRAM’s new system is electronic and wireless. More specifically, there are no wires connecting the derailleurs to each other or to the shifters. Although on TT\tri shifters, there is a bit of wiring…. but we will get to that. Like SRAM’s mechanical Red system, Read eTAP is 11-speed.
The components of eTAP talk to each other over a proprietary wireless protocol that SRAM calls AIREA. The system utilizes a 128-bit encryption, and each time an eTAP groupset is paired, a new encryption code is generated and assigned to the components in this group to ensure complete shifting security. The system also outputs an ANT+ signal for a Garmin or other cycling computer to read from, giving you status information on the system.
Individual batteries run each the components themselves. The derailleurs get rechargeable battery packs that are interchangeable between front and rear derailleurs, and are easily removed from the bike. With a 1,000-plus kilometer range, the batteries can recharge in 45 minutes. Standard CR2032 batteries that are easily accessible under the hoods of the standard road shifters power the shifters. To preserve battery life, sensors within each wireless component automatically power up the component when your ride starts, and then enter sleep mode at the end of your ride. The goal here is to extend available riding time between charges.
SRAM lifted its shifting logic straight from the track (we are talking cars this time, not bikes). Want to drop down a cog? Press the right shifter. To go up, press the left. Want to change from the big ring to the small ring? Just press both shifters at the same time. It is easy, straightforward, and should result in less miss-shifts.
To get to this point, SRAM has put the system through over 20,000 hours of complete system testing that covered over 500,000 kilometers (and as SRAM happily explained to us, that is 12.49 times around the globe).
For those weight weenies out there, the rear derailleur weighs in at 215g sans battery, and the front at 163g. The batteries themselves weigh 24g. The road shifters are 260g for the pair.
But if you are reading AeroGeeks, you probably aren’t as worried about road bike setups—at least not without a pair of aero bars. No, you are here for triathlon setups, and SRAM has you covered.
SRAM’s got Blips
SRAM’S solution for TT and Tri (as well as sprint \ climbing) setups are Blips. Blips are small (weighing as little as 6g) wired buttons that can be mounted anywhere on the cockpit. Want buttons on the extensions and brake levers? No problem. Have a road bike and want buttons on your clip-ons as well as in a sprint position? The Blips have you covered. Blips are available in three lengths: 150mm (6g), 450mm (8g), and 650mm (9g).
On road bikes, two Blips each can be attached to each drop bar shifter, giving you a maximum of six shift positions. On TT \ Tri setups you’ll need a Blipbox. The Blipbox weighs in at 31g and allows you to connect up to four Blips, giving you extension and pursuit shifting. Like the road shifters, the Blipbox operates on a single 2032 battery.
For those who are fans of specific brake levers, or hydraulic braking, this means that the times of Di2 hacks are over. The Blips ensure that you get shifter locations wherever you want, and attached to any component you want.
Unfortunately this look at eTAP was just an appetizer. The AeroGeeks team is going to get some serious hands-on time with the system in a few weeks at Interbike. After that, we all have to wait until the spring for full availability. But until then, its time to start asking yourselves a very serious questions – where do you want your Blips?