SRAM Red eTap HRD seeks to combine the cutting edge wireless shifting of eTap with the latest developments in road bike hydraulic disc braking
To test the new SRAM Red eTap HRD groupset, SRAM supplied us with it fitted to a Whyte Wessex SE bike. Hydraulic disc brakes fitted to road bikes has in the past come with a significant weight penalty. However it is pleasing to see that SRAM has sought to address this.
The complete groupset weighs just 2361g, which is approximately only 265g heavier than the non disc brake version of SRAM Red eTap.
It is also about 30g lighter than Shimano’s new Dura-Ace Di2 Hydraulic disc brake groupset, which hits the scales at 2389g.
eTap without disc brakes has been around a while now and has established itself as a reliable product that can be subject to rain, dirt and grime without failure. The shifting is the same we have here and although very good, I feel that Di2 is slightly faster. We really are splitting hairs though and it isn’t enough to put me off.
How about the shifter shape? SRAM Red eTap HRD shifters have a higher front end than their Shimano counterparts with the hydraulic master cylinder positioned in the nose. SRAM engineers have also had to fit in the coin cell battery. Fortunately the electronic shifters have far fewer moving parts than the mechanical ones, meaning that SRAM has reduced the sized of the shifter hoods considerably. That said, they still look quite chunky and are significantly bigger than the new Shimano Dura Ace R9170 hoods.
Personally I much prefer the aesthetic look of the Shimano hoods, but the SRAM hoods remain comfortable in the hand when in use. I can’t fault them in that regard.
Functionally the SRAM Red eTap HRD levers are great too. It’s easy to adjust the reach of the lever and more importantly, the biting point of the brake. Using a 5mm Allen key you can adjust the ‘contact point’ on the top of the hood. This is really easy to do and allows you to tune the feel of the brakes, whether you want them to engage early or later on in the lever arc.
Out on the road, the brakes feel superb. They are very consistent, while modulation and feel is excellent too. I found myself looking forward to steep technical descents. Sections of road that on a rim brake bike would cause concern and stress, became some of the most enjoyable parts of the ride. The braking power on offer is massive, which means the lever touch only has to be light, something which helps stop your arms get tired. (Especially important of you have weedy t-rex cyclist guns like me).
Our test bike was fitted with Zipp 303s. When used in conjunction with this wheelset were a good match. When pushing the limits in tight corners, there was no detectable brake rub of the disc on the calliper.
Having ridden the system for two months, durability seems good, with SRAM suggesting that you should bleed the breaks at least once annually. The reason for this is that the DOT fluid will sequest water over time. After a few initial rides, I did have to realign the pads, but I attribute this to normal bedding in of the system.
When it does come to change the fluid, SRAM has much improved this process over previous products through its ‘Bleeding Edge’ technology.
All I can think now, is that when I next head to the high mountains, I want this groupset on my bike!
Hydraulic braking and electronic shifting without a significant weight penality. SRAM Red eTap HRD sets the bar in what consumers will demand for top end groupsets. It remains to be seen how the new Shimano and Campagnolo products will compare.