Rival 22 is the cheapest of SRAM’s 11-speed groupsets and in its hydraulic disc configuration it commands a premium over the standard mechanical option. It benefits from significant technological trickle down, sharing its more expensive siblings’ clever Yaw front derailleur – it rotates as it moves through its travel to eliminate chain rub – as well as the ZeroLoss levers, which claim to make shifts more instantaneous.
- Highs: Progressive, powerful braking, comfortable hoods
- Lows: Shifting’s outshone by the competition
Rival’s aimed at everyday cyclists rather than road racers, so the 110mm BCD (bolt circle diameter) cranks are available in 46/36, 50/34 and 52/36 ratios, with axles for BB30 or GXP bottom brackets. Three cassettes are offered, with 11t small cogs and a choice of 26, 28, 32 or 36t at the low end. The two widest range options necessitate the use of the mid-cage WiFLi rear mech. We tested this one, with an 11-32 married to pro compact 52/36 BB30 cranks. Excluding the bottom bracket, cables and hoses, our components weighed 2643g including 203g for 160/140mm rotors.
SRAM supplied a full groupset, which we fitted to our Niner RLT9 test bed. The Yaw front mech needed careful setup, as did the included chain spotter. Once sorted we were rewarded with a drivetrain that’s all but rub-free in every gear combination.
The brakes are a little complex if you need to shorten the hoses, and if you do, you’ll likely have to bleed the system afterwards. This isn’t hard, but SRAM’s basic bleed kit (supplied as an extra) proved disappointing, with low quality syringes making it difficult to eliminate air consistently. Toxic DOT 5.1 brake fluid means more safety precautions need to be taken than with mineral oil based systems.
On the road (or trail), Rival’s gear change is a familiar experience if you’re used to DoubleTap: the single click to shift to smaller cogs or chainrings has a snappy quality, while pushing through to the second click to move up the cassette (or onto the big ring) requires effort. Shifting’s consistent and reliable, but relatively unrefined.
The tall brake hoods look odd but feel natural
Braking is a more rewarding experience, with a progressive feel that makes fine speed adjustments easy, and enough power for stress-free one-fingered stopping. The tall brake hoods that house the fluid reservoirs look odd, but feel quite natural in the hand. As a bonus you can wrap your fingers round them when cruising, giving an extra hand position over standard SRAM shifters.
Rival 22 brings the braking power of discs to a relatively affordable groupset. Whether or not it appeals will depend largely on how well you get on with the shifting, and how street pricing stacks up against Shimano.