Is an updated SRAM Red AXS groupset on the way?

Images snapped at the recent Movistar training camp as well as World Cup CX races show newly shaped levers that could indicate a Red refresh for 2023

Image shows cyclist racing with SRAM shifters
(Image credit: Getty Images / Luc Claessen)

‘Tis the season of joy and celebration… and in the cycling world, speculation too.

Multiple sightings, from training camps to cyclocross races, seem to show the presence of an updated – but yet unannounced – SRAM Red eTap AXS shifter. And do these freshly shaped hoods mean that an entire groupset reboot is on the way?

Winter training camps are typically an ideal place for the eagle-eyed to spot unreleased products, and at this year’s Movistar annual get together, the Spanish WorldTour team appeared to be using shifters with a notably slimmer hood design, as reported by CyclingTips' Ronan McLaughlin. 

Given that Red eTap AXS – SRAM's flagship groupset – hasn't been updated since its release in 2019, it’s not too much of a stretch to speculate that one may be coming in 2023.

A post shared by Ronan Mc Laughlin (@ronan_mc_laughlin) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Is this just some rebadged SRAM Rival?

But first, let's back up a little bit. There has already been some other interesting sightings of unreleased SRAM shifters earlier this month, but those seem to be really quite different to this latest one. 

Let's go back over what was spotted to get the context and then have a second look at what Movistar Team has been riding around on...

At the recent Antwerp and Dublin legs of the CX World Cup, the Baloise Trek Lions team riders, Lars Van Der Haar and Shirin Van Anrooij, were both spotted using SRAM levers that don’t quite resemble any of the US brand's current line-up by a roving road.cc photographer. 

(Image credit: Getty Images / Luc Claessen)

Interestingly, the shape the shifters most closely resemble are that of the current Rival AXS shifter, SRAM’s third-tier eTap groupset

Naturally, with these components being used by some of the best cyclists on the planet, Rival-level componentry wasn't going to simply be plugged into the flagship model line. Sure enough, those shifters of the Baloise Trek Lions riders appear to be sporting carbon fiber brake levers, rather than the long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic material used on the current Rival shifters. 

Image shows SRAM Red shifter and SRAM Rival shifter

On the left is a SRAM Red AXS shifter and on the right is a SRAM Rival AXS shifter

(Image credit: SRAM)

However, SRAM didn’t exactly quash the idea that these riders might actually be using its third-tier shifter in professional competition by replying to queries from a number of cycling websites (we too reached out to SRAM for answers and, at the time of writing, are awaiting its response) stating that:

“These are SRAM’s newest shifter architecture featuring a custom carbon lever and pro race graphics. Lars van der Haar, Lucinda Brand and Shirin van Anrooij of Baloise-Trek Lions will use these during the CX season.”

Which could translate to a Rival shifter body, which is SRAM’s "newest shifter architecture” in terms of release date, with a lever and graphics added just for these riders. Given that, on their release, the Rival shifters received plenty of plaudits, it makes sense that some SRAM athletes may prefer the hood shape and have asked for it to be replicated at the Red level; more compact than both the Red and Force shifters, it allows riders to better wrap their hands around the hood, which could be a positive attribute depending on your preference. 

Image shows cyclist riding with SRAM Rival shifters

(Image credit: Getty Images / Ramsey Cardy)

For what it's worth I prefer the shape of the Rival levers and would welcome them at both the Rival and Red level. And there were others at that Dublin round of the World Cup who seemingly prefer the ergonomics of Rival – and are happy enough using third tier lever blades, such as Sara Vega Cueto 

A whole new shifter...

A post shared by Ronan Mc Laughlin (@ronan_mc_laughlin) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

But whilst the CX sightings do look very much like a fancier lever blade – one which doesn't say 'Rival' – has been plugged into a set of Rival level shifter bodies, what the Movistar Team has been most recently spotted riding looks really quite different.

Most notable is the shifter button. Much, much slimmer than the current shifter buttons of SRAM Red and Force – it's also a little more svelte than the current SRAM Rival shifter button. In fact, apart from not appearing to have two separate buttons, the profile looks most similar to that of Shimano's latest Dura-Ace and Ultegra shifters.

And it doesn't end there – the higher looking pivot point and backsweep of the lever blade also manages to echo the quite unique design of Shimano's GRX Di2 gravel levers as well. It would certainly mark a sharp departure from the 'high hoods' design of SRAM's current first and second tier groupsets.

Of course, this might just be a prototype, with the eventual article potentially appearing quite different. But it certainly looks like SRAM is likely to be coming out with a new gruppo next year – and it's probably not going to be a rehashing of its Rival line.

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Freelance writer

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.