I have been a SRAM user since I started riding a road bike in January 2010.
I watched with envy as Shimano launched an electronic groupset, the Dura-Ace Di2, in 2009. This was followed by the Ultegra Di2 in 2011. The other of the big-three groupset manufacturers, Campagnolo, launched their first electronic groupsets, Record EPS and Super Record EPS, in 2011 as well.
SRAM finally launched an electronic version of its Red groupset, known as eTap, in August 2015. So SRAM was late to the party. But they brought one trick to the party that Shimano and Campagnolo could not match. SRAM’s electronic groupset was wireless. No need for shifter cables.
The geek in me was instantly intrigued. Wireless shifting. How cool was that? I wanted it. My enthusiasm was doused however, when I discovered that eTap was available with a short cage rear derailleur (RD) only. The maximum sized cog that the short cage RD can accomodate is one with 28 teeth. I run a cassette with a 32 tooth rear cog.
It wasn’t until October 2016 that SRAM announced a Red eTap WiFli RD, which fits up to a 32 tooth rear cog. It then took a while for the eTap WiFli RD to become available in Malaysia.
Fast-forward to October 2017. eTap WiFli RDs had hit Malaysian shores. And I had a milestone birthday coming up. A perfect excuse to treat myself to a present.
I bought the upgrade kit, which includes left and right shifters, a WiFli RD and an FD, a charger, brake cables, and a firmware update dongle.
I’ve put about 1,300km on my eTap groupset so far. Enough to need to recharge the RD battery, which is rated at 60 hours of use per charge. The front derailleur (FD) uses an identical battery. Battery life on the FD is 90 hours. The RD and FD batteries are interchangeable. Which would be very convenient in the event one battery, most likely the RD one, dies mid-ride. The batteries clip into a standalone USB charger, which takes about one hour to fully charge a battery.
Each of the eTap shifters use standard CR2032 coin batteries, which are expected to last for 24 months. Lights on each of the components indicate remaining battery life. Green, changing to red, and then flashing red as the batteries are depleted.
I have been delighted with the Red eTap shifting performance. The shifting logic is very simple. One tap on the right shifter moves the chain one cog down the cassette. One tap on the left shifter moves the chain on cog up the cassette. Holding either shifter down moves the chain across multiple cogs.
Tapping both shifters simultaneously toggles the FD between big and small chainrings. The most noticeable difference between the Red eTap and the Red mechanical groupsets is in FD shifting. The eTap FD shifts faster than the mechanical version, and it seems impossible to drop the chain while shifting the eTap FD.
eTap RD shifting is said to be marginally slower than it is on the Red mechanical groupset. I can’t tell the difference.
Where I do notice a difference is at the shifters. The eTap shifters are quieter than their mechanical counterparts. With the eTap levers, light pressure on either paddle generates a barely audible but tactile click, and a shift takes place. All the work is done by the derailleur motors. The rider does not have to generate the force needed to move the derailleurs.
The eTap shifters are aso easier to use for multiple shifts. On SRAM mechanical shifters, the right lever has to be pushed quite far inboard to execute a multiple shift up the cassette. Depending upon your hand position, this can be quite a strain on the wrist.
You do not need to sweep the eTap levers inward to move the chain across multiple cogs on the cassette. The RD will keep shifting the chain for as long as you press on the shifter paddle.
Still on the shifting front, a feature which eTap shares with Di2 and EPs is remote shift buttons. In SRAM’s world these are called Blips.
Each shift lever can accomodate two Blips, so you can install a set of so-called ‘sprint’ shifters on the inside curve of the drops, and have two more Blips on the top of the bar, working as ‘climbing’ shifters.
I put a set of Blips on the top of the bar, near the stem. I am still fiddling with the positioning of those Blips, but they work well as thumb-activated shifters when I have my hands on the top of the bar.
A drawback of the Blip design is that the underside of each switch is shaped to fit a round bar. Blip clamps are available, but they too are shaped for a round bar. Users of bars with flattened tops have to either install the Blips underneath bar tape, or use double-sided tape to stick the Blips to the bar.
Another difference between eTap and mechanical groupsets is that eTap uses ANT+ to communicate with Garmin and Wahoo bike computers. This means that you can display a data screen which shows, for example, battery charge levels, and the gear combination that you are in.
Note the Blips installed on the round bar using Blip clamps.
I am very happy with my birthday present. Shifting has been flawless, even during very wet rides. The Blips are a great addition too.
My equipment now probably exceeds my dedication. But as my friends tell me, you only live once!