Ryan’s Review of SRAM’s Red eTap Electronic Wireless Group

2017 TIME Scylon Featuring SRAM RED eTAP Wireless Shifting

Most people who know me probably know that I have my favorites when it comes to bike gear. I’m also lucky enough to get to try a lot of gear just to make sure that my point of view from the soapbox has some deeper route than a loyalty to a brand or a stubbornness common in cycling. It is a bit of the “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” approach. I can be a bit reluctant to try something new, but if I think it has a chance of being cool, I’m likely to find a way to give it a shot. So for the last five years, my go-to has been the top-end framesets from Time, in the ZXRS and Skylon models, built with either the mechanical or electronic versions of Shimano’s Dura-Ace components.

This fall, I replaced my Skylon frameset with a newer one and this gave me the opportunity to give the new Sram eTAP electronic/wireless shifting a serious try. I had test-ridden eTAP equipped bikes on several occasions and was excited to really give it a go out on the road. Unfortunately my bike’s completion didn’t beat the snowfall. This was due to a great extended fall of mountain biking lasted until the middle of November and I couldn’t resist stretching the dirt season knowing that I’d have plenty of road time in the spring. I’m embarrassed to say that the first several rides of my eTAP group was on a trainer. Since I probably shift less than twice per ride on the trainer, my first exposure to the difference between eTAP and Shimano was the shape of the brake hoods. As it is with Shimano, it seems like one of the nice side-effects of an electronic group is having less constraints on the shape of the shifter body and being able to focus purely on ergonomics of the hoods. I wouldn’t say that the eTAP is necessarily better here, but they definitely did it right. SRAM eTAP Wireless Rear Derailleur

At the first glance of spring weather, I was able to get outside and get some real riding in and really give this stuff a test. I have to say I was really impressed with the overall performance of the group. Probably my favorite thing in the group is the tactile click that the shifter makes with each shift. This is the same thing that everyone said about Campagnolo’s EPS groups. Shimano’s road groups are notorious for feeling more like a “mouse-click” with each shift. The changes Shimano made to their mountain bike groups and the upcoming Dura Ace tell that they heard this from lots of people. Ok, maybe my real favorite thing is the unique way that the shifters work to control the front and rear derailleur. Having always preferred the movement or functionality of both Campagnolo and Shimano’s shifters over Sram’s Red Double Tap functionality, the eTAP definitely offers a totally new approach. One that is easy to explain to new users and really easy to explain to someone new to riding. It’s simple. Push the left button (the only button) to move the rear derailleur to the left. Push the right button (the only button here too!) to move the rear derailleur to the right. Push them both to shift the front to whichever chainring the chain isn’t currently on. It’s intuitive and easy to adapt to. Yes you can add “satellite” or additional shifters. Sram calls them Blips. I guess if I was still racing I’d maybe put a set of them on the drops for sprinting situations. The other noteworthy function is you can hold the shifter buttons down to shift the entire range of the cassette. Something that I never really thought was necessary, but I know people have always loved this with other electronic groupsets out there.

SRAM eTAP Wireless Shifters Push the buttons and it shifts. Well you hope so. I was a bit skeptical at how my bike would shift. I was running a non-Sram crank (so I could keep my SRM aboard to measure the rapid descent of my power output) and a Shimano cassette on my rear wheel. Mixing parts is always discouraged by the manufacturers and I understand why. Luckily there were no issues here. The bike shifted well. The shifters made crisp and precise clicks. I was even able to control them with fairly fat fingered gloves. My only “I don’t know if I can get use to that moment” came at the bottom of a steep short climb. Normally I’d drop the chain to the small ring and shift the rear into two or three gears harder in anticipation of where I’d need to be a couple of minutes later. Well you can’t shift the front and rear simultaneously. Is it a big deal? Probably not. It does require an additional step but it happens pretty quick.

The wireless eTAP makes setup easy and works seamlessly. Time will tell on this. We’ve got several eTAP groups out on the road and some of them have over six months on the road. It’s clear that Sram did their testing on this. I don’t really have a grasp on battery life, but I’m confident that this will be a non-issue like it is on both Campagnolo and Shimano’s electric shifting systems. I was a bit skeptical of having multiple batteries, but they’re smaller and easy to remove for docking in their charging station. One small complaint, I wish you could charge both batteries at the same time.

Obviously the main focus of any commentary on Sram eTAP is going to be about the shifting. What about the rest of the group? The brakes are superlight and work well. I’d say that a lot of carbon wheels and super light brakes take the “good enough” approach to stopping. These definitely are far better than that. The cranks look great and come in every configuration possible including having a Quarq powermeter on board. The chain, chainrings and cassette leave nothing to complain about. Shimano has always set the standard here and I’d say these guys have done a great job in the “continually getting better” category.

So the overall consensus is that the eTAP is really great. The sensation of actually clicking a shifter rather than tapping a mouse and the intuitive nature of how the system works are the highlights. I honestly feel that these features overshadow the fact that the system is wireless. I’m excited to get out and ride this group more and really put it through the paces. Hopefully this group’s durability is as good as it’s functionality has been in the first few months.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    Dave Sellers

    |

    Good review Ryan. I think I charge mine about once a month. My Garmin will show current battery status, but I usually just wait for the critical battery warning. I have no complaints.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Brad Steele

    |

    Great Review and spot on! I love the eTap. I’ve charged my batteries only 3 times in 10 months. Very flawless shifting.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Robin Perkins

    |

    That review was a joy to read, thanks Ryan. I really like my Di2 but I can see how one button on each side and the clicking sensation would be nice.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Alex Rosas

    |

    Ryan put an e-tap wireless on my Ritchey breakaway carbon. It shifts flawlessly. One great advantage in a travel bike is that it can be put together faster, since there are no Fd and Rd wires to hook up. One can even remove the Rd completly from the frame (if using a connex chain breaker) if needed. Very easy to adjust. Ill be riding the e-tap hard in May, going to Italy to follow and ride some stages of the 100th anni of the Giro d’Italia. Ill write a review of it then, but so far, I love it. I have all three (Campy, Shimano, Sram) shifting systems in several bikes and they are all excellent. However, if I had to choose just one, i would probably pick the Sram e-tap because it is comfortable, dependable (so far), easy to adjust, shifts very well and it is very intuitive besides being practical and having a clean look

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Amy

    |

    Thanks for the review.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    tim

    |

    Ryan, great article. I have one question if you did have a battery go dead on a ride can you still shift enough to get you home? I m considering a new bike I have never ridden with electronic shifting and skeptical.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Alison Littlefield

      |

      Tim,

      The Etap batteries hold a pretty deep charge. If you got in the habit of charging them every three to four weeks, you’d never have an issue. If you went a few months and were riding a bunch, it is possible that you could have a battery die. The two batteries on the derailleurs are interchangeable so you could switch them around to allow you to use the rear mechanism to get home. There are coin cell batteries in the shifters too, I think those would start to “fade” a bit and you’d know that the batteries are getting worn.

      As with Shimano Di2, battery life on these things is totally over-kill. I always use the analogy that it is like if you had a cell phone that holds a month worth of charge, you’d have to be really neglectful to ever run out of battery life.

      Hope this helps!

      Ryan

      Reply

Leave a comment