Review: 2012 SRAM Red Groupset


It’s sometimes hard to think that SRAM has only been in the road grouppo game for a few years. The Chicago based SRAM entered the market in 2007 with Force and Rival, two groupsets that introduced the world to DoubleTap, an intuitive technology allowing you to use one lever to control both up and down shifting. They also introduced Exact Actuation, an actuation ratio that gave you precise 3mm shifts in every gear. They followed those introductions, with Red a year later, Red became the company’s top tier groupset, boasting improvements in ergonomics, function, and became the lightest groupset available at the time.

Even with all those improvements, there have always been two distinct weaknesses in the groupset. Front shifting and braking precision always left you wanting more. The front shifting lagged and felt unreliable, some questioned the use of titanium, and many mechanics recommended the lower tier Force front derailleur as an alternative. The brakes, while providing adequate braking, with a little drilling, were only marginally lighter than its peer Force caliper, left us wanting more in the way of modulation.

With the introduction of Red 2.0 or 2012 Red as it’s officially named, SRAM overhauled the whole group and addressed those two issues – with great success we might add.

Red Front Derailluer

In our estimation, the biggest improvement found in 2012 Red is the introduction of Yaw. Up until now, all derailleurs worked by pushing the chain side to side. With the new Red derailleur, the movement is aided by a slight twist when it shifts from the small ring to the big ring. The motion results in quicker shifts, with the chain jumping to the big ring with zero hesitation, even allowing for some taboo gear combinations with no chain rubbing. The redesigned derailleur cage appears smaller, but stiffer, aiding in the smooth, almost effortless shifting. SRAM also includes an integrated chain keeper, a simple install, the nifty addition helps maintain accurate shifting as well as protecting your frame.

Red Crankset

SRAM also tweaked the crankset, claiming it’s the stiffest crankset they’ve ever made. The new crankset gets stiffer chainrings with new shift timing pins and ramps that are optimized for shifting with the new Yaw derailleur. There’s no question a stiffer chainring would help with snappy shifting, but how SRAM achieved it is somewhat counterintuitive. The arms are now more hollowed out than ever, as are the rings, so you’re left with less material overall. But the devil is in the details, SRAM lightened the crank to maximize the stiffness to weight ratio, but by machining the rings out of 5mm thich 7075-T6 aluminum, the rings end up stronger. The upshift rivet design is borrowed from SRAM’s XX groupset and precise CNC machining of each tooth shape and ramp make this work in tandem with SRAM’s new Yaw front derailleur. In our experience, the crankset leaves nothing to be desired, there’s no power loss felt in hard efforts whether that be cresting a hilltop or sprinting for the county sign.

Red Brake Calipers

The other major improvements to Red are the completely redesigned brake calipers. Designed with some aero advantages, the most noticeable design change is the SRAM AeroLink arm. The arm is independent of the main caliper arm, instead pivoting on it’s own and is connected to the other arm by a small link, effectively multiplying the force. The result is a brake that improves both braking accuracy and control. In our experience with the brake, the new Red feathers nicely, but can still take you from fast to stop just as quickly. The new design also makes it easier to fit the new trend of wider rims, such as the case in the photo above. These Zipp Firecrest 303s were not easy to mount with the old Red calipers, but with these new calipers, the wheel clearance is improved. The pad to pad width is now a whopping 31mm allowing for 28mm tires on wide rims to fit with ease.

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About the author: Thien Dinh

Thien Dinh gained most his cycling knowledge the old fashioned way, by immersing himself in the sport. From 2007 to early 2013, Thien served as RoadBikeReview Site Manager, riding daily while putting various cycling products through its paces. A native of California, Thien also enjoys tinkering with photography and discovering new music.

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  • Mike Posnot says:

    The official view from Sram and other online stores is that the 2012 Red brake calipers cannot be used with the older Red shifters. Is this true as I cannot see how this would be a problem?

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