Spotted: Polished SRAM wireless shifting drivetrain

Prototype being raced at USA Pro Challenge has refined rear derailleur, textured hoods

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Both the rear derailleur and shift levers are far more polished than the last version we saw.

It appears wireless road bike shifting is getting very close to becoming reality in the consumer marketplace. Both the Bissell Development and Optum Pro Cycling teams are racing what looks (and feels) like a highly refined version of SRAM’s yet-to-be-released electronic shifting drivetrain at the ongoing USA Pro Challenge stage race in Colorado this week.

On Thursday, RoadBikeReview got an exclusive up-close look at the updated system that was first spotted at the Tour of California. The pictured bike is the Trek Madone of Frenchman Clement Chevrier (Bissell Development) who’s currently leading the seven-day race’s best young rider competition.

The biggest immediate difference between SRAM’s prototype and Shimano Di2 — aside from the lack of wires — is the actuation feel. Where Shimano uses a button or buttons that makes almost no noise, the SRAM system has a more-mechanical looking and feeling shift paddle that produces an audible click when actuated. This will be an attractive feature to those who complain that previous electronic shifting systems lacked feedback, and could be tricky to operate in cold-weather conditions, especially if the rider is wearing thick gloves.

SRAM has moved away from its double-tap shifting actuation found on its mechanical groups. Instead, the left paddle moves the rear derailleur one way, the right lever has the opposite effect, and depressing both levers simultaneously moves the front derailleur up or down.

A source with the Bissell team says mechanics received the new groups just after the Tour of Utah, which concluded on August 10th, and that it took longer to pull off the old cables than install the new wireless system. “The biggest issue with setting up the shifting was making sure the derailleur hanger was straight,” said our source, alluding to the sheer simplicity. “If that’s right the rest is simple.”

All the team’s Trek race bikes, both primary and back-up, are now spec’d with SRAM wireless. Same goes for Optum, which as SRAM PR man Michael Zellman noted, was a good sign. “You can read into the fact that more teams are using it,” said Zellman, who would not answer deeper questions about the group or speculate on a release date.

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The front derailleur is operated by clicking both shift paddles at once.

Some members of the Bissell team received their rebuilt bikes just a day before the USA Pro Challenge kicked off, but according to a team source, the learning curve was short and there have been no major issues, just a few small tweaks.

With that level of refinement, it seems a safe bet that the group will be coming to market next spring. As it stands now, its been about six years since rival Shimano released its wildly popular Di2 electronic shifting drivetrain. But SRAM’s new group was finally leaked in earnest at the Tour of California back in the spring. Now it’s further out in the open and performing in tough conditions.

According to our Bissell source, none of the team’s riders had any issue during Monday’s stage 2 ride from Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte, which was punctuated by driving rain while the bunch was pedaling up and over Kebler Pass, which has extended dirt road sections.

Two days later, the evidence of that ride could still be seen when the battery was removed from Chevrier’s bike. But despite the slight grit build-up inside the battery mount, shifting is claimed to have been flawless throughout the race’s first three stages.

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No wires on the bike of Frenchman Clement Chevrier, who is leading the USA Pro Challenge’s best young rider competition.

Even at the Tour of California the look, shaping and finish of the levers and front and rear derailleur were fairly refined, but SRAM has since responded to some of the team’s feedback, further polishing the rear derailleur and adding a lower limit screw, while also adding some texture to the hood surface, which was completely smooth in California.

Batteries and motors are integrated into the front and rear derailleur, and are easily removed for charging. Bissell riders have been riding on the same charge all week, which is being done at the request of SRAM as means of testing battery life.

System communication is likely achieved via ANT+ or Bluetooth, which means the system should be able to interface with various head units allowing riders to track things such as current gear and cadence.

Besides cleaning up the look of bikes, the wireless system will eliminate the headache of running wires or cables through a frame. One mechanic we spoke to estimated that it takes him about two hours to build up a fully prepped frame with a mechanical or wired electronic system, but that time would be cut in half with a wireless set-up.

Wireless shifting will also be a boon to time trail bikes, which often have circuitous frame shapes that make running cables or wires an exercise in mass frustration. “If they can bring a wireless system for TT bikes to market, the clouds will open up and angels will sing,” said one mechanic working at the USA Pro Challenge.

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SRAM has refined the shaping and look of the prototype shift lever and adding some texture to the hoods.

Spotted: Polished SRAM wireless shifting drivetrain Gallery
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Overhead view of the rear derailleur and its battery. The top-mounted lever lifts up to release the battery. The limit screw is a new addition since the Tour of California.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

The front derailleur is operated by depressing both shift paddles at the same time.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Instead of buttons, the SRAM system has a distinct shift paddle that makes an audible click.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

The entire Bissell fleet is outfitted with the prototype system.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Frenchman Clement Chevrier is leading the USA Pro Challenge's best young rider competition.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

The levers look very close to production ready, and that just might be tape covering up the new system's name.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

The shift paddle looks easy to use even with thick gloves on.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Ergonomics look fairly comfortable.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

The rear derailleur is operated by clicking the shift paddles one at a time.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Another look.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

These look pretty darn close to consumer ready.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

One click is all it takes.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Texture improves grip in wet conditions.
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Ready for retail?
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SRAM Wireless Drivetrain

Frenchman Clement Chevrier's Trek Madone race bike.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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  • Grumpy says:

    This means you’ll be able to shift the drivetrain of the racer next to you! Imagine as you wind up for the sprint, you shift the other guys into the small ring. Winner!

    • al says:

      How often do you get crosstalk on your Garmin with other riders?. Never, they will be paired via the comms protocol.Obviously you need to understand modern wireless comms protocols.

  • John Baggs says:

    Are they going to make it solar powered?

  • Matt says:

    I wonder about the weight difference between a set of cables/housings and the 4 independent battery packs.

    • al says:

      And the batteries in the other DI solutions its not just the cables, 4 small batteries or one big clumby one on your frame or in your seatpost!

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