GCN’s first ride with SRAM’s brand new RED AXS groupset

SRAM has just released its all-new RED AXS groupset that looks to build on the success of its predecessor. The new groupset is visually very different from the previous generation, but the changes go deeper than just the surface. It aims to be the easiest to install, use and adjust to your needs, whilst claiming to be “the lightest electronic groupset on the market”. Prior to launch, GCN‘s Simon Richardson took a closer look at the technology behind SRAM RED and took it for a first ride. See what he thinks about the brand’s latest flagship group in the video above.

What is the new SRAM RED AXS?

SRAM has gone back to the drawing board for the latest generation of its top groupset. At a glance it’s clear that it’s very different from the outgoing model. In fact, even the parts that look the same have had some minor design tweaks to improve performance and lose grams.

Of all the redesigned components, the shifters have received the biggest update. The brake levers have undergone a complete overhaul, with the pivot point of the lever blade moved higher for better leverage during braking. According to SRAM, this has reduced the force required when braking on the hoods by 80% and when braking on the drops by 30%.

An industry first, the new groupset has been developed in conjunction with the Hammerhead Karoo main unit, with some bikes and groupsets supplied including the main unit.

Despite all the weight issues out there, SRAM claims a return to the throne for the title of lightest electronic groupset with this new generation RED AXS.

Time for an update

The outgoing model of SRAM’s flagship groupset was launched back in 2019 and brought with it a radical new design at the time. It included an extra cog, giving the group 12 speeds for the first time, as well as a clutch in the rear derailleur to improve chain retention. It also had a 10-ton sprocket, which means a completely different approach to racing bike gear ratios. Even five years on the groupset doesn’t seem out of place in the sea of ​​pro bikes that make up the pro peloton.

This third generation electronic RED builds on concepts introduced with the previous generation and seeks to improve on a range of performance metrics including functionality, weight and durability.

A groupset that is easier to use

When SRAM started working on the new groupset, one of the key elements they looked at was making the groupset more user-friendly. To achieve this, SRAM has taken a very holistic approach. They wanted it to fit more easily on a bike, easier to configure and easier to use while riding.

Striking new levers

The levers are the first thing that catches your eye, as these new levers are a bold departure from what we’ve become accustomed to with SRAM’s previous groupsets. First, the diameter of the lever has been slightly reduced and lengthened to provide a better ergonomic feel, allowing riders to get a better, more secure grip.

The top of the lever section, known as the pommel, has been redesigned to act as an additional hand position, allowing riders to rest their thumbs on the sloping section. This has been made possible through a reconfiguration of the lever’s internal components, with SRAM moving the reservoir and master cylinder to a lower position in the lever body.

All these changes together make a noticeable difference when it comes to pulling the anchors. In fact, SRAM claims that the force required when braking on the hoods has been reduced by 80% and by 30% when braking on the drops. During his test ride, Si felt a tangible difference in the braking force required when using these new levers.

Continuing the ease of use theme, the new levers are designed for one-finger use, even from the hoods, giving more room for your fingers behind them. Regardless of your preference, you should be able to set up a comfortable setup with independent range and contact point adjustment.

Something new to the levers is the addition of ‘bonus buttons’ located on the inside of the pommel. These can be used to control a range of ANT+ compatible items such as head units or smart lights.

The levers are only part of the braking equation, with the calipers playing an equally crucial role in how well a brake performs. These latest brake calipers have been improved in three ways. Firstly, there is more space for the brake pads, which should prevent disc scuffing. Second, they are lighter. Finally, the caliper is stiffer, which should make the brakes more powerful.

New crankset and power meter integration

While the crankset hasn’t been as radically redesigned as the levers and calipers, it has been given a new look. The cranks now use a hollow carbon fiber construction that saves 29 grams over the previous model. They were created in collaboration with Zipp, utilizing the brand’s knowledge of carbon fiber production.

To keep up with the latest trends in the cycling world, SRAM has added a new 160mm crankset to the range, offering more options for bike fitting, or for those who want to experiment with the aerodynamic savings that shorter crank lengths can offer. offer. The crankset is available with and without power meter. The power meter is now neatly integrated into the crankset with a smoother operation that is both pleasing to the eye and good for aerodynamics.

More gear choices than before

When it comes to the cassette, SRAM has increased the options available. Between the current 10-28 and 10-33 options is a new 10-30 cassette and a new 10-36 cassette to give riders an even wider gear spread. This wide-ratio cassette is a welcome addition given the rise of the all-road bike and riders who typically want to take their bikes through more demanding terrain.

SRAM has invested in improving front shifting by working on a new front derailleur. A narrower cage has been used which allows for more direct shifting, with the derailleur using a micro trim adjustment to move the derailleur cage across to avoid chain friction.

The functionality of the rear derailleur has remained the same, but is now 16 grams lighter. It also uses a number of new oversized pulley wheels that minimize the pivot angle and as a result reduce friction losses within the system.

The chain hasn’t been forgotten either: SRAM has plated the inner links and rollers with chrome to increase durability, while dropping the weight by 13 grams.

All these small weight savings may not seem like much on their own, but when viewed across the system they add up to over 150 grams, bringing the total system weight for a two-person setup to 2,498 grams, including the weight of the power meter.

Hammerhead Karoo Integration

For the uninitiated, Hammerhead is a company that SRAM acquired in 2021. Since then, SRAM has been busy integrating the functionality of the Karoo head unit into the brand’s broader ecosystem. The new ‘bonus buttons’ on the shifters can be operated by long and short presses, which means that the buttons on both shifters can control four different functions. This happens to be the number of buttons on the Karoo main unit. This allows for full control of the main unit without having to take your hands completely off the bars.

The groupset can be set up to work with other main units and does not need to be linked to a main unit at all in order to work. However, some bikes sold with the new groupset will come with a Karoo head unit as standard, which is a bold and interesting move from the brand.

Cost

As you’d expect from a top-level wireless groupset, this latest generation of SRAM RED AXS doesn’t come cheap. Interestingly enough, even with all the updates and new components, Canyon has revealed that a similar build with the new groupset will maintain a similar price with the new groupset as the bikes with the outgoing groupset.

If you want to buy this latest generation RED AXS as an aftermarket upgrade, you will not only get the groupset, but also the Hammerhead Karoo head unit. The retail price for the entire group is £3,000 / €3,350 / $3,000.

Are you a fan of this new groupset? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. For the full news story with all the details of the groupset, visit the technical news section of the GCN website to view the full story.

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