Fresh patent drawings reveal SRAM is continuing to work on a new brake and shift lever, which could be part of an updated – but yet to be released – Red AXS electronic groupset.
In August 2023, SRAM filed a patent for new levers that strongly resemble those seen in the spy shots BikeRadar first reported on in December 2022. That story runs below this update.
The patent seemingly confirms the new lever shape, the presence of a new auxiliary button – which it is suggested could be customisable – plus some internal redesigns.
Primarily, the hydraulic reservoir is shown to be larger, and oriented horizontally. It’s indicated that this could be used to increase the reservoir volume.
The brake-lever pivot points are higher than in previous SRAM designs, while the master cylinder piston looks to push in to move the fluid, rather than a pull-rod system as used previously.
Both tweaks are reminiscent of Shimano’s approach to lever design. The Japanese brand claims a higher pivot point improves leverage, while it also uses a push-rod style.
The patent also reveals SRAM’s intention to move to a tool-free bite point adjustment.
Where this is currently achievable using a hex key, the new levers feature a cam adjustor under the hoods (positioned towards the rear). In theory, this method should make on-the-fly adjustment easier.
SRAM indicates this could provide up to 1.5mm of adjustment.
We’ll bring you more, including any information on a new flagship SRAM Red groupset, when we have it.
Original story (21 December 2022) continues below.
In December 2022, Movistar Team riders were seen using unbranded road shifters with a different shape to the current-generation SRAM Red eTap AXS shifters at a training camp in Alicante.
These designs have now surfaced in a patent document published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), revealing internal changes too.
In a video posted on its YouTube channel, several riders from the WorldTour team were using the new shifters, while the rest of the group were on the current-generation version.
At the time, Shirin van Anrooij, a Dutch cyclocross rider, was also seen using shifters with hoods similar in form to those seen on SRAM Rival eTap AXS, but with a carbon brake lever and enlarged ‘pro’ branding.
In both cases, the bikes with the prototype shifters otherwise use current-generation SRAM Red eTap AXS components.
It seemed almost certain that SRAM was trialling new levers for its latest generation AXS groupsets, with the Movistar Team’s models now appearing to be the closest representation of what we’re likely to see from a new Red AXS groupset in 2024.
Let’s recap what we deciphered from the images so far.
SRAM is trialling at least two new shifter styles
Van Anrooij’s Rival/Red shifter hybrid suggested SRAM may have simply explored taking the updated shifter body shape from Rival, and applied its best weight weenie technology to that form factor. This may have been to satisfy the demands for ever-lighter components from professional riders.
While it looked like a finished product, it’s also conceivable this was something of a stop-gap.
Van Anrooij may simply have preferred the slimmer and shorter shape of the Rival eTap AXS shifters, prompting SRAM to make custom models with carbon levers to save weight and oversized branding to maintain their prominence in photographs.
The shifters spotted on Movistar Team bikes, however, looked completely new.
The shifter bodies appeared to have been slimmed down compared to the current versions, with a smaller bump on the top.
The DoubleTap shifter paddles have also grown in size significantly, now reaching much further up the brake lever than before.
We don’t expect SRAM to change from its DoubleTap shifting logic (right button for a harder gear, left for easier, both to shift at the front).
Instead, we expect this to simply be a refinement of the system, making it easier to reach the shift paddles with different hand positions.
The brake lever also appeared slightly elongated, curving out a little more towards the top of the blade, before swooping back in and then out again to create finger hooks when riding in the drops.
One blurry image also suggested the existence of an auxiliary button on the inside of the shifter hood.
We suggested that these could be intended to function similarly to the buttons on the top of Shimano Di2 shifters, which are generally used to control bike computers without moving your hands from the brake levers.
In fact, this shifter design shares a striking overall similarity to Shimano GRX Di2 shifters. Perhaps no bad thing, because our tester, Warren Rossiter, called those “the star of the show” in his first ride review.
What could this mean for a new SRAM Red AXS groupset?
Given the current generation of SRAM Red eTap AXS was released almost five years ago, an updated Red AXS groupset is surely on the horizon.
As already noted, the bikes used by both Movistar Team riders and Shirin van Anrooij were otherwise built up with current-generation components.
However, given the tech-obsessed team here at BikeRadar (and other journalists) are constantly scouring social media for new kit like the Eye of Sauron, it didn’t surprise us that SRAM was being more careful about keeping any new drivetrain parts under wraps.
However, since the new lever patent was filed on 17 August 2023, other components and technical documents that could be destined for a new SRAM RED AXS groupset are also now in plain view.
It now appears that SRAM, having updated it’s Force AXS and Apex AXS groupsets in 2023, is readying itself for the launch of a third-generation Red AXS drivetrain in 2024.
Given that we’ve seen Team Jumbo-Visma take a clean sweep of Grand Tour victories in 2023, with an occasional dalliance in mixing the latest Force AXS levers with a Red eTap AXS drivetrain, it seems like the likes of Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss are in for a wholesale upgrade soon.