9 things you should know about SRAM eTap

Knuckle it, put it to sleep, shift without touching a shifter

SRAM Red eTap, the wireless 11-speed road group, will be available sometime this spring. If you want to dig into the details of the group, or the thoughts of four testers who have ridden it, we have those stories below. If, however, you just want the highlights, here we present nine critical things you should know about the groundbreaking group.


Related Red eTap reading:

1. You can knuckle it

Free of shifter cables and featuring only a single paddle shifter on either side, the Red eTap levers offer great ergonomics. With your fingers wrapped around the hoods or the drops, you can easily shift with just a knuckle. This is great for shifting while out of the saddle; whether climbing or sprinting, you can keep your fingers close to the bar, and just reach out slightly with a knuckle to shift.

2. You need both hands to shift

Shimano Di2 features two buttons per lever with a stock configuration identical to mechanical Shimano. While critics contend that this can lead to mis-shifts with cold, gloved hands or over rough terrain, it also means your left hand can shift the front derailleur both ways and your right hand does the same for the rear.

With Red eTap, you need both hands on the bars to move the rear both ways or to move the front at all. This isn’t a big deal, but something to keep in mind before you head off on a short errand with a cup of coffee in your hand.

You need both hands on the shifters to move either derailleur both directions: you need both hands on the shifters to move either derailleur both directions

3. It falls asleep

If you sneak up on an unsuspecting eTap group and ever so gently touch a shifter without moving the bike in the slightest, nothing happens. The group is sleeping. Accelerometers in the derailleurs wake the group at the slightest movement and keep it awake for a time even when still. When you are riding, it’s always awake.

This auto-pause feature allows for a longer life (a claimed 60 hours or 1,000km) with the 24g battery.

4. It’s lighter than Di2, but heavier than Red 22

The eTap group as a whole is about 1,970g, roughly 60g heavier than mechanical Red but about 75g lighter than Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 for comparably configured setups.

5. It’s not ANT+, but it has ANT+

Most cycling computers do their wireless communication on ANT+, whether for heart-rate straps, power meters or speed sensors. A distant but gaining second for wireless communication in cycling is Bluetooth, primarily for tethering to smartphones. 

SRAM eTap uses neither of these, instead relying on a proprietary wireless language to ensure a closed system. However, eTap does speak ANT+; look for integration with Garmin Edge computers in the near future for things like gear-indicator and battery-life  graphics.

6. You can shift with a button on each derailleur

Primarily used for maintenance, each derailleur has a function button that does multiple things. On the rear, pressing the button once shifts it outboard. Two quick presses moves it inboard. On the front, pressing the button once moves the derailleur to the opposite ring.

Press the button to shift the derailleur: press the button to shift the derailleur

7. The batteries are interchangeable

SRAM hasn’t yet announced whether individual batteries will be sold to be used as a backup (we could see tucking one in a saddle bag), but you can swap them between derailleurs. With Shimano Di2, when the main battery gets close to dying, the front derailleur stops working and you have 100 or so shifts left in the rear. This is okay — unless you’re in steep rolling hills or the mountains. 

While stopping your ride to switch batteries and thus chainrings isn’t exactly ideal, it could make a lousy situation a little bit better. (At this point SRAM would point out that light indicators give you plenty of time to realize that it’s time to recharge the batteries before you stranded yourself.)

8. It’s the only group that includes a power meter

Okay, it’s not the only group with a power meter; you can also get SRAM Red mechanical with the spider-based Quarq. And, sure, you can get matching power meters now to go with a Dura-Ace Di2 or even Campagnolo EPS group, via Stages or Power2Max. Nonetheless, the fact remains that SRAM eTap is the only electronic group you can buy direct from the company with an integrated power meter.


9. A hydraulic version is almost certainly on the way

You knew this was coming. And a loyal BikeRadar reader sent us spy shots from a Chicago coffeeshop (SRAM is headquartered in the Windy City) confirming that hydro-electric eTap prototypes are certainly being tested by the SRAM crew. Stay tuned.