Ask a Mechanic: SRAM Road Components – Where to Spend Your Money

Question: Really enjoyed your video on mixing Shimano road components to get the most bang for your buck. Could you do the same for mixing SRAM 22 road components? Red, Force, Rival? From: Peter

Answer: No problem Peter. A lot of people have been asking for this.

When selecting a shifter, remember that this is the part controlling the derailleurs. Any imprecision here will directly affect shifting performance. SRAM Red and Force are both a cut above Rival. There is less slop, lighter action, and lighter weight. The weight difference between Red and Force is insignificant at just 7 grams and the shifting performance is very similar; so my pick for a value shifter is SRAM Force.

Rear derailleurs are highly overrated for their affect on shifting performance. The main difference between the Red, Force, and Rival 22 rear derailleurs is weight, but we are only talking about a 40-gram difference between Red and Rival. Although the Red derailleur has pulleys equipped with ceramic bearings, the budget friendly Rival 22 rear derailleur has steel ball bearing equipped pulleys, which is really all you need on a value build, so my pick for a rear derailleur is Rival.

For front derailleurs, both the Red and Force 22 Yaw derailleurs are very similar, so my pick is to go with Force because it is half the price of Red. Rival is cheaper still, but the stiffer cage, improved cage surface treatment, and higher precision pivots on the Force Yaw 22 front derailleur are well worth the extra money.

The SRAM Red Exogram crankset offers a big improvement in performance compared to Force or Rival. The 1-piece hollow carbon arm and spider structure of the Exogram crankset offers lighter weight, a big increase in stiffness, and improved aerodynamics. How much lighter are they? 157 grams lighter than force and a massive 330 grams lighter than Rival. Even when you consider that Force and Red chainrings are the same, the Red Exogram crank is still the way to go in my opinion.

When it comes to cassettes, the Red X-Glide 1190 is a masterpiece of engineering and machining, but masterpieces don’t come cheap. It’s three and a half times more expensive than the Force level PG-1170 cassette. The 1170 cassette also runs a little quieter than the 1190. When you consider the fact that cassettes wear out, SRAM’s PG-1170 cassette is the value pick here; especially because SRAM’s Rival level 1130 cassette is only a few dollars cheaper than the 1170 and doesn’t have the alloy carrier and lockring of the 1170 cassette.

Let’s look at chains. The SRAM Force level PC-1170 is essentially the same weight as the Red 1190 chain and uses the same construction. The main difference is that the 1190 features stainless inner links while the 1170 does not. Price difference between the two isn’t much. If you live in a wet area, go with the PC-1190 and for everyone else the PC-1170 is plenty good, although we are only talking about a few bucks either way. Both seem to last longer than the 1130 chains, so stick with either the 1170 or 1190 chains.

SRAM Red AeroLink brakes use a completely different architecture than Rival and Force that produces more power, modulation, lighter weight, and improved aerodynamics. However, that performance comes at a price that is three and a half times more than Rival. So my value pick here is to go with Rival. SRAM’s Force brakeset is 33 grams lighter than Rival, but that’s not much different. You’re looking at about $35 more for the Force brakeset, so I’d just go with the one that matches your bike better, which in most cases will be Rival.

To sum it all up, these are my value picks for SRAM 22 road components:

Shifters: Force

Rear Derailleur: Rival

Front Derailleur: Force

Crankset: Red Exogram

Cassette: Force PG-1170

Chain: Force PC-1170

Brakes: Rival

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