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Review: Sram Components (Red vs. Rival)


With the many advancements being made in the world of cycling, there are so many new products out there that are pretty incredible. The only downside to this – the price tag.

I’ve had the chance to ride the three biggest competitors in the road components category (Sram, Shimano, Campagnolo), and Sram has won my favoritism without question. I made the “leap” to Sram when I purchased my current racing bike in summer ’09, going for their flagship “Red” group. It didn’t take too long to get used to the doubletap shifting Sram has incorporated into their unique and visually appealing shifters. When compared to the other two groups, there are some differences to be aware of, most good in my opinion. The most noticeable difference is that Sram components are going to sound much louder than both Shimano and Campy, especially if you are using the OG 1090 dome cassette. Second, is that the rear shifts are definitely more reassuring. By reassuring, I mean that the shifts are not quite as smooth as the other two component groups. Even when using the Red group, you’ll feel and hear a loud “clunk” when you shift. Personally, I prefer to have this attribute, especially while sprinting. The one bad thing I have found is when shifting into the big or little front chainring. When being compared more so to Shimano’s Dura-Ace, too much power on the pedals when shifting can sometimes result in a dropped chain with Sram.

Despite any flaws, I absolutely love everything about the Red groupset, so much so that I decided to sell an older Campagnolo Record group on my spare bike to replace it with Sram’s lower-end Rival groupset. After riding the new Rival set for several weeks, I’ve come to some surprising conclusions based solely on my own opinion and not hard facts. Overall, other than the weight and aesthetics, there wasn’t too much of a major difference that I could tell between Red and Rival. The most noticeable was the lack of the “ZeroLoss” function on Rival’s right shifter. Basically, it took a little more effort to shift the rear drivetrain. The second thing was that Red definitely shifted quicker, smoother, and more precise at times, but not by a huge margin. After looking at the differences, I find it somewhat hard to justify the $1000+ price difference!

Had I had this knowledge prior to purchasing Sram’s Red gruppo in 2009, I can honestly say that I would have settled with the middle-ranged Force group. Though Force is functionally the same as Rival, it’s a tad bit lighter, looks nicer, and only cost around $400 more. The only thing I might consider changing would be to use an all Force group with Red shifters to have the ZeroLoss to make the rear shifting just a little quicker.

Some people might just like to have the top of the line equipment, but my advice for next time you’re going for a purchase is to research every little thing and always have a test ride! You might just be surprised…

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