SRAM Red 22 Review Gala

As a premier online bicycle retailer, Art’s Cyclery is invited to a number of exclusive, black tie events. I won’t go into detail but yes it is tiring being such a big deal… and don’t get me started on the press. The most recent soirée privileged with our attendance was the SRAM Red 22 review gala.

Okay…OKAY. It was in the middle of the day, there was no live entertainment and we all agreed black ties weren’t a great accent to our street clothes. But, there was a whole mess of cutting edge componentry that SRAM let us take for a spin around the parking lot.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that slapping an extra cog on your drivetrain is the “hip” thing to do nowadays. Campy has been there, Shimano has done that. Now it’s SRAM’s turn to show off the 11-speed guns and some fancy new hydraulic braking options for both disc and rim. We’d like to share with you our first impressions of the all new SRAM Red 22 group and break down the features a little bit.

Shifting Quality and Hood Ergonomics 

Daniel – Shifting quality is practically indistinguishable from Red 2012 (which is outstanding), but is slightly better in that it shifts a tiny bit quicker out back. The ergonomics of the hydraulic levers are remarkably good. The extended horn at the front of the hoods offers more usable hand positions, which is always welcome.

You can see the pronounced shape of the hood to house the master cylinder.

Brad – The addition of an extra gear in no way changes the classic Sram Red feel, every shift is just as positive as ever. The extra bump on the hoods provides an additional hand perch like Shimano levers of old.

Jerald – The shifting in the rear seems a bit smoother with the additional cog but it would be difficult to notice if you weren’t looking for it. The front derailleur shifts quickly and concretely, even when laying power down. The redesigned hood shape takes a little getting used to and I’m not totally sold on it but, it would be perfect for hand placement during more aerodynamic positioning.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes 

How long before the Pro Peloton is sporting discs?

Daniel – The disc brakes feel very similar to mechanical rim brakes, but of course lack the rough feel of steel cables dragging through housing. Braking power on the discs is extremely impressive with the 160mm rotors on the test bike. The power far exceeds what is available with mechanical road rim brakes and modulation is outstanding. Feel isn’t quite ideal however. There is a slight metallic scraping sound and feel that is transmitted through the levers. I wouldn’t let this put you off of the discs though, as I fully expect that as pad options improve, so will the feel of the brakes.

Brad – Whatever preconceived notions I held (positive or negative) were shattered after the first ride. The hydraulic brakes feel so much better then cable actuated. The Disc version will definitely work perfectly for cross and tandem use, though it seems a little overkill for road, at least with 160mm rotors.

Hydraulic Rim Brake

Daniel – SRAM’s Red hydraulic rim brakes are outstanding. They have a very smooth lever feel that modulates very well. Power is very close to mechanical options but just a bit better. The barrel adjuster on the caliper offers tuning options that are just as easy to use as mechanical brakes. The test rims were Zipp 404’s and the power/feel limitations of the carbon braking surface were not fully overcome by the hydraulic brakes. With that said, I’ve never used a road rim brake that feels better than these do.

Adjustment on the hydraulic rim brakes was divine

Brad – I was most surprised at the hydraulic rim option. The modulation is just about perfect, with immense power when you need it, but none of the grabbiness of the disc version.

Jerald – The hydraulic rim brakes were the crown jewel of the technology we tested today. I have to admit I was a little puzzled by the necessity of a hydraulic rim brake, especially one adding about 250 grams, but one ride and I was sold. If you have them in your budget, the Red 22 hydraulic rim brakes add an unparalleled smoothness and adjustability to your ride with just the right amount of power and fantastic modulation.

Bottom line: 

We all agreed that the shifting quality was just as inspiring as SRAM Red ever was, possibly a touch better in the rear with that higher gear count. If we were given the choice of any road brake on the market, we would hands down choose SRAM Red hydraulic rim brakes. For the cyclocross racers like Daniel, the Red 22 discs would be an ideal choice, but mated to 140mm rotors front and rear instead of the 160mm. If you want to slap any of these awesome components on your bike in the near future, check out the selection of SRAM Red 22 available at Art’s Cyclery.