The boys over at Bikeradar did a fantastic job in their in depth analysis of the new group, it’s pretty complete with weights and photos and tech design changes from the old system, I wont repeat them but you can find the details over here.

I rode the predecessor group for 2 years on several different bikes and installed a fair number of groups too. I have had the chance the ride a fair few hours on this group now including some racing and here are my findings.

Installation of this new group is more tricky than the bolt on and ride off affair of old. The rear derailer is easy enough, it simply bolts on and limit screws adjust light enough to turn with a fingernail. The front derailer is a lot more tricky, but you’ll be rewarded for your diligence later. Getting the initial height and angle is a time consuming ordeal, especially so with a clamp like my bike uses, I expect the braze on tab to simplify things somewhat. The idea is to get the alignment right over the big blade down the centre of the cage. I used the limit screw to hold it open then once you’ve got the position right then you can set the limits to the right place. I found that a combination of height, angle limits and cable tension was needed to get it just right but if set up correctly you can use the entire cassette block in the big blade and the top 9 cogs in the small ring without rub. Then there are the brakes… again these are more difficult than before to get set up, but with the right tools you can get them dialled in soon enough, again the time spent is worth it. This time you’ll need a spanner to centre them instead of pushing them around like the dual pivot versions.

The new shifters feel very good to hold, the gripper rubber is a cool new non-slip design and the now higher tops make for a very secure hand position. SRAM provide some gel inserts to install under the tops for your palms too but I chose not to use mine. I have also ridden with them in the wet and had no hand slip at all. Initially I didn’t like the idea of the longer brake lever blades from launch photos and the shift paddles seemed huge when hand-held before installation, but once fitted they looked sleek as well as providing way better reach and usability when in the drops, something you will appreciate most when descending or tucking into a headwind.

The lever throws seem a little different, shorter maybe, the rear is similar but prefers more cable tension than before in setting up, but is smooth and precise as always. The front is quite different; with the yaw technology you don’t need the trim so you only have two positions, up and down. Shifting up is fast and smooth, but the biggest difference for me is the speed of the down-shift – it’s lightning fast and almost too quick as the slightest thought and touch of the paddle and the chain derails. The only gripe I could possibly foresee is the rider changing his mind mid-shift and want to stay in the big blade, it is possible to “catch” but it’s so fast it requires a momentary pause in pedalling to keep it on the big blade. I have not fitted the chainwatcher supplied as I haven’t found the need. I run Quarq Cranks with the Sram Red black rings, so the interfacing is all spot on for fast reliable shifts.

The brakes after setup are superb, the modulation is good so as not to cause unwanted lockups and still the power is awesome! I usually use the yellow king brake pads on my carbon rims and simply leave them in for training on my standard clinchers, but I left in the standard black aluminium specific ones supplied to ride through winter so it may be a little biased to say they are way better as I found the old Red callipers great stoppers too, but the bite on the new brakes is fantastic. I’ll update this once I start using the yellow pads and also talk about rim clearance (which I believe is better) once I fit my 404 Firecrests.

So far so good then… the old Red group is still a huge bargain, but the diet and small changes on the new group is worth the extra ponies, even if you just get the new FD it’s another “Leap” forward.

PS – since I ride the Quarq I haven’t tested the new cranks, but the weight savings are very enticing!