SRAM goes 22-speed and offers hydraulic road brakes for 2014

SRAM’s road engineers have been mighty busy since last year’s launch of the new Red, they’ve launched two full groupsets – Red 22 and Force 22 – along with two completely new hydraulic braking options for road bikes. SRAM’s wheel brand Zipp has launched a wheel compatible with the disc brakes.

SRAM’s top-of-the-range groupset, Red, gets a complete revision for 2014 with an eleventh sprocket being added to make it a 22 speed groupset, in fact SRAM are keen to point out that with no trim required on it’s Yaw front mech and no chain rub their’s is the first 11-speed groupset that you can run in any gear, without restriction, hence the tag line of True 22. At the same time as Red 22 getting a makeover, Force 22 has been given a ground up reworking too

Alongside Red 22’s mechanical brake system SRAM has taken the opportunity to revolutionise road bike braking and has gone to town with hydraulic options. The first is HRR or Hydro Road Rim, a hydraulically-operated rim brake and the second is HRD or Hydro Road Disc. Both used the same shifter to operate the hydraulic brake.

Along with the hydraulic disc brake Zipp, part of the SRAM group, has launched it’s first disc brake wheel. And to make sure that 10-speed users either present or future aren’t missing out they’ve made the S-700 HRR or HRD.

SRAM red 22

SRAM Red 22

It won’t take a genius to guess what the headline grabbing news with regard to Red is, the clue is in the name… By adding an eleventh sprocket to the Red Powerdome cassette, SRAM has matched Shimano and Campagnolo in terms of the number of gears available but by using its Yaw front mech, SRAM has gone one better as there is no need to trim the front mech as you move up and down the block. And to add further embellishment they don’t say you have to avoid awkward chain lines when you run the outer ring and the largest sprocket, hence 22, you can ride in all the gears available.

With the graphic removed you’d be hard pushed to see what has changed with Red 22. The same great ergonomics that were brought in for 2012’s revision remain but minor changes throughout have been made to optimise the set up for the 11th sprocket.

The key to the Red 22 is the adoption of the 131mm rear wheel width, this gives a little extra room, that when combined with a slightly further offset spoke pattern makes room for the extra sprocket.

Just creating an extra sprocket wasn’t where the hard work ended though as the chain needed to be narrowed to fit the sprockets and correspondingly the rear mech given a greater swing, both mechs and the chainset needed to be tweaked to work with the narrower chain. In fact, even the internals of the shifter had to be looked at in great detail – it wasn’t just the case of adding an extra ratchet notch, the narrower indexing meant everything had to be looked at if it was still fit into the hood profile of old.

SRAM Force 22

SRAM Force 22

Since the advent of Red demoted Force from being the top-of-the-range groupset, it’s received updates in a drop-down fashion. Now, though, it too has been given a makeover.

With all of the same technologies found in Red 22, Force 22 is most definitely still playing second fiddle but it now has a slightly better-defined place in the line up.

Somewhat like the Italian opposition, SRAM’s engineers have chosen not to make Force less durable and downgrade pivot bearings in order to differentiate it, instead the major differences between the groupsets are down to materials used and graphic treatments applied.

For instance, the brake levers of Force 22 are exactly the same profile as Red 22 but instead of being made from carbon they’re alloy, to keep costs down. The result is a groupset whose cost is nearly half that of the top of the range version.

Force’s brakeset is the only carry-over items from the previous version.

SRAM hyrdaulic road brake system offers rim and disc brake options

Hydro Road Rim

Using a modified Red shifter, SRAM has really gone to town on the hydraulic road brake and created the HRR or Hydro Road Rim brake.

The shifter’s front bulge sits around a centimetre higher than the non Hydro version this is because the master cylinder is incorporated into the body of extended bulge and is actuated by a lever attached to the top of the brake lever.

Running the hydraulic hose down the inner edge of the hood proved to be quite a challenge as SRAM were determined to keep the same profile as the old lever and didn’t want to create something else to get used to and risk putting people off.

At the brake caliper, the 5mm hydraulic hose actuates a single piston, which comes complete with easily-accessed adjuster and just as with a cable-operated brake caliper, a quick release. Of course from the company that owns Zipp you’d expect it to work with the latest wide rim profiles and so it does, it also offers clearance for tyres of up to 28mm.

Hydraulic road brake internals

Hydro Road Disc

It seems that disc brakes have become quite the buzz in the cycle industry over the past 12 months or so with a number of companies creating various ways to convert road levers to operate hydraulic discs.

SRAM has many years of disc brake manufacturing knowledge through it’s Avid brand so they drew upon that talent pool to create the Hydro Road Disc also known as HRD.

Three years in gestation, the first stage was to create a stem based converter that took a cable pull and made it into a hydraulic push to operate the disc brake, this was soon abandoned and the Hydro shifter was created.

Owing to its unique characteristics, SRAM found that it wasn’t possible to get the function they wanted with an adapted MTB disc brake caliper so a completely new road disc brake version had to be created.

Zipp 303 Firecrest disc

Having a disc brake on a road bike is all well and good but you’ll also need a pair of wheels to run with it, here SRAM turned to Zipp and charged them to come up with a suitably flash set of hoops.

Zipp’s answer was to take its toughest rim the one they created for the cobbled classics and adapt that, in fact the rim itself required no further reinforcement around the spoke holes Zipp found that the wheel could be made strong enough by adapting the spoke pattern, adding virtually crossed spokes and creating a new set of disc compatible hubs, the rear of which uses a 135mm spacing.

S-700 HRD/ HRR

If you thought that SRAM’s current 10-speed users were getting left behind then think again as the hydraulic brake revolution is very much on the cards for current owners too.

With the S-700 HRD (Hydro Road Disc) or HRR (Hydro Road Rim) set up SRAM has launched a hydraulic option for those of us still using the older ten-speed setup in either old Red / Force or current Rival or Apex.

The shifter is the same basic item as found on Force 22 but obviously with 10-speed internals meaning that you gain the benefits of hydraulic stopping without having to buy a complete new groupset.

As you’d expect, both Hydro options are offered so you can use disc brakes (presuming your frame and fork are compatible) or the hydraulic road rim option which, from what we’ve seen, will fit just about every road bike currently on the market.

Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release wherever you are in the world with our iPad edition –  International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

Related links
SRAM pricing and weights (Excel spreadsheet)