I finally feel like I’ve ridden my SRAM Red group long enough now to give a good review, but first – the backstory.
- I’ve been riding, seriously, for almost 3 years now.
- I’m currently a Cat 4 roadie
- I rode 10,000 miles last year
- I weigh 150 lbs and my FTP is probably around 285 watts right now
- I’ve had my Kuota Kredo for almost 2 years now.
- It previously was all Dura Ace, with Kuota Viking bar/stem, Look Keo pedals, Fizik Arionne saddle and bottle cages from the good folks over at Arundel.
- Before my Kredo I had a Specialized Roubaix that was all Ultegra. However, I’ve also spent considerable time on Campy Record, Chorus and Shimano 105 on rental bikes while traveling.
From an aesthetics standpoint, the group looks great on my bike. Cleaner and with a little more “bling” than my 7800 Dura Ace. It also shaved off some considerable weight – just over half a pound (since the Red groupset is only 1928 grams). With my Dura Ace 7850SL wheels running tubeless, bottle cages and pedals, my rig now weighs right at 16.5 lbs.
The overall ride
The first thing I’ll say about Red has to do with the shifters – I love them. From an ergonomic standpoint, the Red shifters fit my hands perfectly. Compared to 7800 Dura Ace – I now feel like I sit on top of the bars instead of leaning into them (feeling I had with Dura Ace due to the size of the shifters and the saddle horn shape). I also swear that the bike feels 10 lbs lighter because of the reduced weight of the shifters and lack of exposed cables. I know it is mostly mental, but the handlebars just feel “lighter” and seem to move more freely, which gives the impression of riding a much lighter bike.
In general I feel like I am in a better “aero” position when riding Red on the hoods compared to Dura Ace.
As mentioned above, I love the shifters. The actual shifting is very crisp (the throws to upshift with Red are incredible short and very crisp). The DoubleTap shifting becomes natural on the 2nd or 3rd ride – much shorter learning curve than I expected. I’ve heard some complaints about front shifting, but I have had no problems so far. You can only trim when in the big chain ring, but if you’re trimming in the small chainring, you should probably be shifting anyway. I also love the ability to shift from the drops. In a “race” scenario it is great to take the lever with you in the drops and then be able to change gear at will.
Brakes seem to be on par with Dura Ace for modulation, feel and raw stopping power. Braking also feels a little more secure with the double tap shifters since (like on Campy) the brake lever is solid and doesn’t perform double-duty as a shifting mechanism.
The crankset is great. Very stiff and I swear that the ceramic bearings do feel smoother (may be placebo effect, but I’ll take it). It’s also a great looking crankset.
I love the 1090 cassette. The 11-26 cassette is a perfect training cassette – offering a full range of gear ratios. The cassette is crazy-light and the fact that it is machined from a solid piece of steel is pretty cool. Haven’t had to clean it yet, so I may not find the design not so cool at that point, but for now I like it. The chain/cassette combo is slightly noisier than Dura Ace, but not to the point of being distracting or disturbing.
Let’s be real. The top groups from Shimano, SRAM and Campy are all very good. None of them will be the difference between winning and losing, so it all comes down to:
- Looks – honestly, sex appeal is a big factor for high-end bikes
- Personal likes – I can’t stand the “thumb” shifter on Campy, but some people swear by it.
- Value – Even when buying a top-end group, it’s nice to save money or feel like you are getting good value.
So considering the points above, in my opinion:
Is SRAM Red better than 7800 Dura Ace – YES
Is SRAM Red better than 7900 Dura Ace – TBD. I haven’t ridden 7900 DA yet, but considering the considerable price difference between the two groups right now (~$400), Red is probably still a better option.
Is SRAM Red better than Campagnolo Record – YES. I haven’t ridden the new 11 speed Super Record group yet, but considering that it is ~$700 more than Red, I can’t imagine it being worth the increase.