SRAM Red 5-piece Component Upgrade Pro Review


SRAM Red 5-piece Component Upgrade By Twain Mein

  • Double Tap brake/shift levers
  • Front and rear derailleurs
  • SRAM PC-1090R chain
  • SRAM Red cassette (11-26)
  • Actual Cost – $1236

This is a review of the SRAM Red 5-piece upgrade. I’ve been sticking with Shimano 9-speed Dura Ace because I have 4 road bikes that I’m always switching components on. Plus, I haven’t really seen a compelling reason to switch my Dura Ace Octalink BB (175 grams) and FSA Superlight Cranks (522 grams) for the new-tech outboard bearing cranks; they aren’t significantly lighter and are a lot more expensive. However, I recently bought a new used Cervelo R3 and the weight-weenie bug struck hard. Plus, the 11-26 SRAM cogset seems like a great upgrade that lends a huge range of flexibility. Shimano offers only 11-23 or 12-25. And the Red component group is rumored to be much lighter. It was time to upgrade to 10 speed. Plus I pooled my 42nd birthday funds to afford the upgrade.

Below is pricing and weights from the Excel Sports web site (as of 9/29/08). Last year’s Dura Ace and Campy Record 10-speed currently have steep discounts while the new Dura Ace and Campy 11-speed have big premiums as they are being introduced. SRAM Red is in between; more expensive than the 2008 models but less expensive than the 2009 models. But lighter than all. Kudos to SRAM for forcing the competition to go back to the drawing board. This being said, the original Dura Ace 9 Speed has certainly stood the test of time and is a remarkable value for price and weight.

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About the author: Twain Mein

Twain Mein is fascinated with the technology and gear aspect of cycling, and is a longtime product reviewer. Twain has been doing triathlons since 1987 and has been ranked in the Top 50 U.S. National Age Group on numerous occasions.

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  • Anonymous says:

    – The SRAM product manager contacted my LBS (Calmar) by reading various posts here at roadbikereview. He was concerned–the red plate should not come off of the cassette (it did on this). Calamar sent the cassette back to SRAM.
    – Subsequently I ordered a new freehub body from Easton and another Red cassette (to put on my other bike). The new cassette goes over the freehub absolutely smoothly; no issue at all. I think the first one was defective.

    The grouppo has been a pleasure to ride with since. Fast shifts, fantastic gearing range, and significantly lighter. It’s no wonder Astana (and others) are using them now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Good stuff Twain! I was curious to see how these fancy components stacked up against my weekend-warrior group (Ultegra SL), so I did a little research.

    Note: Listed weight/MSRP from Excel Sports

    Shimano SL
    Shifters: 447g/$380
    Cassette: 262g/$80
    Chain: 280g/$35
    FD: 86g/$60
    RD: 198g/$110
    Gruppo: 1273g/$665

    Compared to SRAM Red

    …or to put it another way, SRAM Red is 24% ligher but 86% more expensive compared to Shimano SL. Oh, the price of being a weight weenie…

  • Anonymous says:

    Red vs Ultegra is really not a fair comparison. It should be Rival vs Ultegra.

    Based on current Excel Sport prices:

    SRAM Rival
    Shifters: 335g/$299
    Cassettes 225g/$95
    Chain 273g/$42
    FD: 88g/$42
    RD: 280g/$88
    Grouppo 1201g/$454

    Compare to Shimano Ultegra SL

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for looking up those numbers Jett. You’re right, comparing Ultegra SL with SRAM Red is definitely not a fair comparison — I just did that to point out how much premium some of us pay for diminishing return in performance-gain.

  • Anonymous says:

    Check the SRAM dealer PDF again: the ceramic pulley bearings should be lubed every 100 hours of riding, not every 100 miles.

  • Anonymous says:

    IMO the 2009 Rival shifters look much better than the Red ones, cost a lot less, perform the same with all the same features. You do gain 15 grams – but you lose that ugly Red logo emblazoned across the brake and shift lever surfaces. (but) If you have no taste and money to burn – get the Reds.

  • Anonymous says:

    Of course, SRAM’s weight claims don’t include cables, which would skew things a bit.

  • Anonymous says:

    I just got a somewhat similar group for $1200 from Ebay, including:

    Red Doubletap controls
    Red 177.5mm compact cranks, 50/34
    Red rear derailleur
    Force front derailleur
    Force brake calipers
    SRAM PC-1070 cassette, 11-25
    SRAM PC-1090 chain
    GXP Team bottom bracket (I didn’t go for ceramic)

    Can’t wait to put them on. Even without installing the gear, I can say the brake hoods are the most anatonically comfortable I’ve ever had (coming from having used 9spd Ultegra, 9spd 105, and a lot of earlier Shimano and Dia Compe in the 80’s and 90’s).

    There are great prices on Rival, Force, and Red from at least two quality sellers on Ebay. I had a great buying experience, and saved a lot of money. I could have bought a full Red group for $1450-1500, but didn’t feel the need to get every Red piece.

  • Anonymous says:

    “it wasn’t possible to dial out chain rub in the 11 and 12 tooth cog while riding in the front small ring. There is significant chain rub in either gear”

    My experiences too. Guess my mid-life hearing loss has a silver lining after all (<:

  • Anonymous says:

    First off, make sure you check out the user reviews here:

    Also-regarding the Front Derailleur. My awesome LBS, Calmar, explained that Red is made for the pros. So the F/D trimming is optimized for the BIG RING. Historically, trimming (ie, the mid-way detent) was optimized for the small ring in pretty much every other gruppo. So adjust the F/D to be optimized for Big front/smallest rear.

    In general, I like SRAM Red a lot, particularly the light weight, comfy levers, snappy downshifts, and awesome cassette. The weakest link IMO is the chain. It is noisier and seems to have more friction than Shimano. Cyclingnews says that the ’09 chains have been improved (though I don’t know how to tell the difference). You can also use a Shimano 7800 chain–seems to work well and is much quieter.

  • Anonymous says:

    “Red is made for the pros,” what kind of nonsense response is that? Last time I checked, Dura Ace is made for pros too and doesn’t have the fine-tuning issues of the SRAM gruppos. Yes, the cable routing is nice and I’ve not used the SRAM groups extensively though I found the shifting style a bit odd (though I’m sure a person adapts to the short throw/long throw method of shifting), but the one place where Shimano shines is in setup. I’ve been using their product since back in the days of friction shifting and since their modern index gruppos have come out, they have been the industry standard in simple setup and install and forget riding. They require virtually no tweaking out of the box, work with significant cross gears, and the shifting is smooth, precise, and effortless.

    What the reviewer describes above and from what I’ve seen in the comments, it seems like the SRAM product requires the same amount of finessing that good old friction shifting Campy Super Record required. I do not miss the days when I had to use my special front derailluer cage tool to manually reef on the cage to get the FDR to shift properly, or the endless amount of fiddling with the RDR to get is to handle cross gear shifting (though once you get it dialed it does work…and I’ve still got an old Italian steel bike to prove it!).

  • Anonymous says:

    Eric A-way to hold me and my bike shop accountable. Totally busted!
    ” ”Red is made for the pros,” what kind of nonsense response is that? ‘ ”

    It is pretty ironic that us fair to middlin’ riders pay big bucks for “WHAT THE PROS RIDE”. Yet when there is some deficiency, we make the excuse that “We’re not pros”. Shame on me 🙂

    Yep, SRAM Red is a pain in the rear to set up. However, they deserve huge props for agitating the industry by making significantly lighter and more innovative parts.

    The response from Shimano and Campy is that they have stepped it up a few notches. Unfortunately, they have also stepped up the pricing–so that maybe only (sponsored) pros can afford them. $700 for shifters (DA and Campy Super Record 11) is plainly obscene.

    But look on the bright side. As all this stuff gets more complicated, our “mechanical skills” will get better too 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    yeah, it is definitely a good thing to have competition, and I’ve actually used SRAM stuff but that was way back in the day when they had gripshift for roadbikes (which was mechanically the simplest, lightest, most bulletproof index shifting mechanism ever invented, but talk about goofy cable routing!).

    When I worked in a shop and raced a lot it was DA or Super (or C) Record and all else was inferior. Then when I actually had to pay full price I discovered that Ultegra and 105 were pretty darn good too and survived with that for almost 20 years. I recently got a new (though used) bike that happened to have DA 7800 hardware and it works just great, but not orders of magnitude better than Ultegra or even 105. Bottom line is that most decent spec road hardware is pretty dang good nowadays and I generally try to stick to proven hardware that is relatively maintenance free and if it needs to be serviced I want it to be simple and affordable to work with. I think the current cost for a lot of hardware is sickening and I’m not sure what the major cost driver is because the cost difference didn’t used to be so pronounced in the ‘good ole days.” Heck, on another forum I railed on the absurdity of $400 dollar bike shorts and people spending $2000 on wheelsets when someone like Mike Garcia can make a kick a$$ set of sub 1500g wheels for $400 but they don’t have fancy schmancy carbon deep section rims or thick bladed spokes.

    For a lot of people it seems to be bragging rights, now I’ll admit that my new (used)2008 S-works Tarmac SL2 is one hell of a bike and a substantial improvement over my 1991 Trek OCLV that it replaced. However, I would never, ever have paid full retail for it and was supremely lucky to get a great deal on it used. I must say that the bike I probably have the most fun on is a Redline Monocog 29er I also picked up used…for $300. About $200 on a few upgrades and I was quickly having heaps of fun!

    In the final analysis its the pleasure you get from the riding a properly fitted bike and not the bragging rights of the hardware that really makes cycling so much fun.

  • Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately for those of you seeking lower cost on NEW component Groups on E-Bay they are not covered under warranty so beware those looking for a great deal may end up on the short end of the stick …

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