SRAM?s long anticipated 2007 road groupsets got their first UK test ride by dealers on May 15, 2006. Bikelabs? Stu Bowers got the first chance to see if SRAM can spoil the Shimano and Campagnolo party.

SRAM, who recently brought some new innovation to the MTB market with the XO shifter has now applied their technology to the road market, attacking the Shimano and Campagnolo stronghold. SRAM?s shifting makes use of a unique one to one actuation ratio for a faster and potentially more positive gear change. Significantly less moving parts ? 28 moving parts compared with over 120 in a Shimano lever – means that arguably there less to go wrong weight is impressive too. A Force lever saves you over 100g on a Dura-Ace STI unit and around 50grams on Campagnolo Record.

SRAM are already an established name for aftermarket chains and cassettes but for the new 10 speed set up there are a couple of improvements, the most significant being a ?window of opportunity? in the cassette tooth profile. This is where a section of teeth have been completely removed to form a gap in the cassette in a specific orientation to provide the chain with a clear path onto the next sprocket. This is great for rapid changes at high speed or under load. SRAM has identified that the profile and ramping applied to a chain ring design needs to be specific to the gap in size between the chain rings.

For example, the ramping on the outer ring needs to be different when using a 34 compared to a 36 tooth inner because of the diameter change in the ring. This reiterates their attention to detail in the search for flawless shifting but it does mean you need to purchase replacement rings with a matching profile. Other than the minimalist look of the front and rear mechs there is not a vast difference to the opposition. The mechs are not compatible with anything other than the SRAM shifter because of the actuation ratio.

?Double tap? shifting uses an independent lever very similar to the Campag design; however, it is a single lever responsible for shifting the mech in both directions. A short tap is all that is required to shift down the cassette and a larger sideways sweep to change up including multiple shifts if required.

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking the levers look a little bit odd as they seem to stick out from the bars however as soon as you put your hands on the hoods you appreciate why; in use the sculpted shape of the levers and clever ergonomics of the lever hood result in a very comfortable fit.