SRAM Red 5-Piece Upgrade
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Purchased 9/23/08

SRAM Red 5-piece component upgrade
This is a review of the SRAM Red 5-piece upgrade. I've been sticking with Shimano 9-speed Dura Ace because I have 4 road bikes that I'm always switching components on. Plus, I haven't really seen a compelling reason to switch my Dura Ace Octalink BB (175 grams) and FSA Superlight Cranks (522 grams) for the new-tech outboard bearing cranks; they aren't significantly lighter and are a lot more expensive. However, I recently bought a new used Cervelo R3 and the weight-weenie bug struck hard. Plus, the 11-26 SRAM cogset seems like a great upgrade that lends a huge range of flexibility. Shimano offers only 11-23 or 12-25. And the Red component group is rumored to be much lighter. It was time to upgrade to 10 speed. Plus I pooled my 42nd birthday funds to afford the upgrade.

Below is pricing and weights from the Excel Sports web site (as of 9/29/08).  Last year's Dura Ace and Campy Record 10-speed currently have steep discounts while the new Dura Ace and Campy 11-speed have big premiums as they are being introduced. SRAM Red is in between; more expensive than the 2008 models but less expensive than the 2009 models. But lighter than all. Kudos to SRAM for forcing the competition to go back to the drawing board. This being said, the original Dura Ace 9 Speed has certainly stood the test of time and is a remarkable value for price and weight.

  SRAM Red SRAM Red   Dura Ace 9Spd   Dura Ace 10 (7800)   Campy Record (10 spd)   Dura Ace 10 (7900)   Campy Record (11 spd)  
  Claimed Actual* Cost Weight Cost Weight Cost Weight Cost Weight Cost Weight Cost
Shifters 280 323**  $    550 485  $ 349 435  $ 379 324  $    339 420  $    699 329  $    524
Cassette 166 165  $    229 157  $   95 173  $ 145 192  $    259 163  $    299 201  $    385
Chain 265 260  $      39 266  $   29 280  $   33 261  $      49 252  $      69 261  $      89
Front Derail-braze on 58 70  $    108 74  $   76 74  $   76 75  $    125 68  $    150 78  $    150
Rear Derailleur 146 146  $    310 181  $ 110 180  $ 110 184  $    290 168  $    300 176  $    424
Gruppo 915 964  $ 1,236 1163  $ 659 1142  $ 743 1036  $ 1,062 1071  $ 1,517 1045  $ 1,572
Weight/Cost       -248  $ 577 -227  $ 493 -121  $    174 -156  $  (281) -130  $  (336)
*claimed weight used for comparison. From Excel Sports.
** shifters include cables

The SRAM shifters came with the shift cables installed. I didn't want to remove them so weighed them together, they came in at 323 grams, 53 more than the claimed naked weight. But still far less than the 485 for D/A 9 Speed. Campy and SRAM shifters are a lot lighter than D/A, regardless of the model. Also, the cassette, chain, and rear derailleur were largely on track though the Front Derailleur was way off. I chose to compare "claimed" weight according to Excel Sports to provide the most consistent baseline.

Regarding costs, it is ABSURD to think that shifters are now over $500. And the new Dura Ace at SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS should be considered criminal. $300+ for a rear derailleur is also getting out of hand. As 2008 draws to a close, deals can be found on last year's models so keep an eye out.

Component Highlights - Shifters
In a few years, I think the cycling community will look at Shimano shifters that have the derailleur cables coming out at 90 angles as totally primitive. SRAM and Campy offer cable routing that follows the taper of the bar. SRAM even offers the ability to route the derailleur cables either inboard or outboard. How smart is this? Having both cables route on the inside provides a seamless transition along the handlebar-awesome. Ironically, I did initially miss the "safety blanket" feel of the cable jutting out as a hand hold. But I'll get over this. As a side note, I believe Campy has offered multiple cable positions for some time.
Another cool feature is the SRAM Red shifters/brake levers also offer adjustable reach. But I chose to leave the reach in the default position. 

How do they work? The shifters are very fast and have a nice, positive and substantial feel. The front derailleur has a bit of a long throw to get into the big ring, but it is not objectionable. Shifting the rear down from the 26 to the 23 was a bit tricky; it will take some time to master the small step down versus clanking all the way to the 21. But overall, not a traumatic change from Shimano. And as I get used to it, I am sure it will become second nature. 

Component Highlights - Derailleurs
The derailleur set up was just plain finicky. SRAM provides terrible documentation, and the group I got from Colorado Cyclist had almost no packaging. I resorted to the web site's downloadable PDF for "dealers" . This proved to be helpful but not perfect.
Rear derailleur: What's cool-the angle between the cable exit and shifter comes out at a sharp angle which locks the cable; it's easier to adjust cable tension than with Shimano. But it was very difficult to set the b-tension screw correctly. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the wide gear range provided by the 11-26, it wasn't possible to dial out chain rub in the 11 and 12 tooth cog while riding in the front small ring. There is significant chain rub in either gear. Additionally, the manual calls for maintenance/relube of the ceramic bearings every 100 miles. I have to say that that is a bit of a pain in the butt.

Front derailleur. The front derailleur provides trimming in the big ring; if you are mid-ring in back, you can semi-shift the FD to drop down a bit. This gives more flexibility in the middle gears and even allows cross-chaining without rub. This being said, in the 53x11, the chain would rub and slip. Adding more travel to the big ring simply meant over-shifts with the chain dropping off. I think I have to visit my LBS for fine tuning of the front and rear.

Component Highlights - Cogset and Chain
The cogset really steals the show. It is machined from one piece of steel and is hollowed out inside! This is pretty ingenious. More amazing, I love the 11-26 combo and wonder why no one else thought of this. The cogset has a third piece-a sleeve that goes over the cassette body. This proved to be problematic as the sleeve wouldn't fit over the cassette body. I exercised restraint (ie, didn't hammer it in to place) and had my LBS, Calmar Cycles, do the final install. This involved using a Dremel tool to file down the detents in the freewheel. Please note, if you are an SRAM Red owner and don't have the sleeve--get one! The customer care rep at Easton (I have Easton Ascent II's) strongly suggested using it and warned of death/serious injury. SRAM also says it keeps water out. The cogs also feature flat spots that are supposed to make the chain pickup faster. Not sure if this works, but it seemed very quick to me. The finish is also a nice and bright. The chain, 1090-r, features hollowed side plates and weighs in at very light 260 grams. Not bad. The chain/cogset combo is a bit noisier than Shimano with a louder, more mechanical "whirring" sound.

The finished product!
All in all, the SRAM upgrade yielded wider gearing (11-26), 10-speed Shimano capability (you can use a Shimano cogset), as well as 8 ounces of weight savings. I also put on lighter cranks (-53 grams) and skewers (-23 grams) netting a loss of 270 grams/ 9.6 ounces.

Here's the finished product at 14pounds, 7 oz or 6560 grams.


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 Cervelo Build: 9/29/08
- added SRAM R3
Road Build 14lb 7 oz Current  
Component Brand Actual Ounce
Frame Cervelo r3 900 1.984
seat collar Cervelo   20 0.044
rear brake bolt Generic 5 0.011
Headset FSA 83 0.183
Fork Alpha 3 375 0.827
headset spacers Generic, incl top cap 45 0.099
Brakes Zero Gravity 185 0.408
Brake Shift SRAM Red 323 0.712
Crank+rings FSA Superlight 9-speed 522 1.151
Bottom Bracket Dura Ace 9-speed 175 0.386
Front Derailleur SRAM Red 70 0.154
Cassette SRAM Red (11-26) 165 0.364
Rear Derailleur SRAM Red 146 0.322
Chain SRAM Red 260 0.573
Pedals Look Keo Carbon TI 198 0.437
Stem Ritchey   110 0.243
Handlebar   Ritchey   225 0.496
Handlebar Tape Fizik   90 0.198
Cables Gore 25 0.055
Housing Gore + Nokon 35 0.077
Computer db4lw 45 0.099
Seatpost Easton EC90 135 0.298
Seatpost adapter USE 30 0.066
Saddle fizik aliante 215 0.474
Tires(f/r) Kenda 440 0.970
Tubes(f/r) Performance Light 140 0.309
Wheels Easton Ascent 2 1450 3.197
Rim Tape Velox cloth 10 0.022
Cages (2) Rav X 50 0.110
Skewers American Classics   88 0.194
  Total 6560 14.462
  ratio 0.0022 14.074