Rather than trying to develop their own version of Shimano’s integrated shift and brake lever ‘Dual Control’ system – “that decision took us maybe a couple of seconds” designer Scott McLaughlin said at the press launch in Mallorca – SRAM have gone for maximum user options.
“We’re not into specific XC or DH components," said McLaughlin, "we just want to make the world's best mountain bike components, and to me that means components that can be used for anything.”
To reinforce the point, Steve Peat and the seemingly invincible Gunn Rita Dahle were both on hand to flaunt their SRAM transmissions.
So while Shimano seem to be getting increasing forum flak for attempting to impose their ‘wisdom’ on typically churlish consumers, SRAM have made their shifters as adjustable as possible. The trigger lever can be moved through a broad arc to tune thumb position and potential gear count per push. The whole pod can be shifted a centimetre sideways, and the new thinner clamp can sit inboard or outboard of the brake lever. The thin pod profile means it’s compatible with every brake lever – V or Disc - out there too.
In fact the only compatibility SRAM aren’t interested in is developing a Shimano friendly version as they have with their existing Rocket/Attack shifters. The reasoning that “we don’t want to give the shifter a bad name…” might have been said tongue in cheek, but it certainly shows that SRAM is not afraid to pitch head on against the Japanese monolith.
The performance certainly puts SRAM way ahead at the top of the ‘conventional’ shifter market. Aside from the adjustability and lighter weight (112g versus 126g for XTR Rapidfire) a new “zero loss travel” pawl system gives beautifully crisp and immediate shifts every time. The front shifter also uses a linkage to give exactly the same shift feel between inner and middle and outer and middle chainrings, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you try it. In short this is the fastest, sharpest and most user friendly gear change system I’ve yet used.
SRAM is also trying to move from its previous 90-95 percent OE output to a bigger slice of the aftermarket action, so they’ve spared no expense to make the shifters look super sexy. Carbon top caps mix with crisply CNC machined adjusters, clamp and main thumb lever for full Formula One chic, and with a projected price around £150 a set they are definitely aspirational rather than affordable.
The same aerospace aesthetics are also extended across the rest of the transmission. The X.0 rear mech. gets carbon fibre jockey wheel plates reinforced with a carbon/Nylon liner and the new top whack PC990 cassette gets a stiffer, red anodised aluminium spider and lock ring.
As for the other members of the new extended SRAMily, cross brand integration is being done slowly and carefully rather than rushed. Having seen the excellent results from the manufacturing knowledge of SRAM staff combined with the suspension insight of existing Rock Shox designers that seems to be a thoroughly good thing.
New Rock Shox product won’t be unveiled until later this month with new Avid slightly later. While Truvativ has released a new carbon crank that was planned well before they got bought and we were told not to expect full integration before the 2007 product range.