Following on from our exposé about the likely changes to Shimano's Dura-Ace mechanical and Di2 groups for 2013, we've received some new insider information on what SRAM apparently have planned for the next generation of their flagship Red group.
Even if just a portion of this information is correct, it seems that model year 2013 is rapidly heating up for high-end road customers. According to BikeRadar's sources, SRAM's next-gen Red group will stick with its current 10-speed configuration but that's about the only thing that's unchanged.
First and foremost is a new DoubleTap lever body shape, which will supposedly sprout a more pronounced knob up front to provide a more secure handhold – similar to what Campagnolo have done with their Ergopower levers, based on what we've been told – along with customizable gel padding beneath the hoods that will allow riders to tune the feel of their controls.
SRAM Red 2013 teaser video (courtesy: SRAM)
We don't have information on the rear derailleur but the front derailleur is apparently a total departure from convention, ditching the standard parallelogram layout in favor of a pseudo-rotating configuration that not only actively lifts the chain up on to the outer ring but also tweaks the angle of the cage throughout the travel for smoother running (similar to what SRAM already do with their rear derailleurs).
Based on this description and what we expect to be marked improvements in the accompanying chainrings, we anticipate far faster front shifts – a known weakness with the current Red group – along with quieter operation and possibly the complete elimination of trim.
SRAM look to make a big jump forward in terms of technology with the new Red crankset. We've heard this new crank is not only much lighter than the existing piece courtesy of true hollow carbon fiber construction but will also sport a hidden fifth arm, which presumably will help reduce chainring flex for, again, faster front shifting, particularly under load.
We're told the new Red cassette will essentially be a downsized version of the current XX mountain bike piece, complete with an aluminum innermost cog, hollow 'X-Dome' construction and an aggressively machined exterior. This should not only substantially reduce the weight – the new 11-28T is rumored to weigh about the same as the current 11-23T – but also improve the cassette's ability to operate in mud for cyclo-cross racers.
The back of the new SRAM Red cassette uses a pressed-on machined aluminum cog similar to the current XX mountain bike piece
We've also been told of a surprisingly broad array of braking options, including both mechanical and hydraulic rim and disc brakes. We don't know yet what the new integrated hydraulic levers will look like but we've heard what they'll be connected to and it's not what you might expect – at least not yet. While a lightweight, compact hydraulic disc caliper is the obvious answer, SRAM road and PR manager Michael Zellmann insists that option isn't slated to be included with the new Red group options at launch.
Of course, that doesn't eliminate hydraulic disc brakes as a future option and Zellmann did confirm that they were in development. We're still hopeful that it'll be a mid-season release of some sort in time for next 'cross season. We do, however, expect a lightweight mechanical disc caliper to be included with the initial Red group when it's officially unveiled to the public in late January.
SRAM have been previewing a slick hydraulic rim brake module to OEMs, though, designed to be integrated directly into time trial frames for an ultra-sleek aero package. In addition to being a turnkey drop-in solution for frame designers looking to shave every gram of drag, this hydraulic module should also solve the persistent issue of conventional cable and housing drag that often comes with convoluted internal routing. The fully sealed mechanism should also make things easier for team mechanics after the initial installation.
Mechanical rim brakes will still remain in the line-up, so we're told, but the next-generation SRAM Red mechanical rim brakes will supposedly abandon the current version's conventional dual-pivot layout in favor of a cam-operated single-pivot design a la Zero Gravity and others. In addition to helping to save weight, we've been told the new cam system also affords unusually generous rim clearance while still retaining good power and control – a key feature for today's ever-widening crop of aero wheel shapes.
Lightest groupset yet
Total weight loss on the new Red is said to be in the neighborhood of 250-280g, making the new group the undisputed lightweight leader for mass-produced complete packages. Costs are said to climb by about 10 percent or so – though SRAM wouldn't confirm as such – and we've been told that SRAM will have complete groups available to consumers sometime around next summer, several months before Shimano's new Dura-Ace groups are rumored to arrive.
Naturally, SRAM weren't thrilled to hear we had this information and at this stage, it's possible that not everything is correct. Aside from the hydraulic disc brake, though, Zellmann didn't deny the accuracy of the other details listed here – and we also managed to squeeze out of him two images of the new cassette included here for our exclusive use.
When asked if SRAM would continue to solely offer cable actuated transmissions moving forward, Zellmann hinted to us that the company may be working on an electronic drivetrain. "SRAM is squarely aimed at improving performance and offering value to our customers utilizing any and all technologies," he said. If so, we at BikeRadar don't expect to see it until MY2014.
In the meantime, we expect the new Red group to deliver impressive performance and a substantial jump forward compared to the current group. Hopefully, SRAM's outstanding track record of trickling down technologies to lower price points will continue, too, but Zellmann was noncommittal on the topic so buyers may have to wait a year to see if that happens.