SRAM unveils wireless, electronic drivetrain group

The inevitable march of technology continues, and today SRAM made official one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry, the new wireless drivetrain known as Red eTap. The new shifters and derailleurs work in conjunction with existing SRAM Red cranksets, chains and cassettes. As bicycle frames become more and more complex, the absence of wires or cables allows them to take on even more aggressive forms. Modern wireless technology, battery technology and tiny servo motors all converge in the new system.

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To shift to a harder gear, tap the right hand button. To shift to an easier gear, tap the left hand button. To shift the front chainring back and forth, click both buttons at the same time. Up to four extra remote shifters, SRAM calls them Blips, can be positioned anywhere on the handlebars for sprinting or climbing positions. The shift levers themselves have carbon fiber blades and offer reach adjustments for a perfect fit.

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Small, removable battery packs on each of the derailleurs are interchangeable and can last a claimed 1,000 kilometers between recharges, which take 45 minutes. The wireless transmissions are encrypted to make it almost impossible for outside interference to influence the system. It uses a proprietary communications protocol and has been tested by the professional peloton for years. Firmware updates can be made with the included USB memory stick.

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The SRAM Red eTap group will go on sale in spring 2016 and it won’t be cheap: $2,758 for the full aftermarket setup. It will also be included on several 2016 model bikes from the major brands.

This type of technology is still far beyond the reach of average cyclists, but it’s interesting to how the bicycle continues to evolve with technology, and it might someday be more common than mechanical shifting.

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