Rival is SRAM’s third-tier group set, behind Red and Force. As the name suggests, the new Rival 22 is an 11-speed set up with “22 usable gears with Yaw front shifting for no trim, rub or rasp,” says SRAM, and, at the top end, features HydroR levers and hydraulic calipers. Discs and CX-friendly chainrings mean Rival 22 is going to be a great groupset for cyclo-cross. The redesigned levers are also less boxy and fit better in small hands.
SRAM’s HydroR tech was subject to a recall last year due to lever problems during cold weather riding. Internals have now been modified and I got a chance to ride 40 miles on a HydroR equipped road bike (a carbon Focus) at PressCamp in Utah. There was some freak June snow but no freezing temperatures so there was no way of testing whether SRAM’s redesign of the master cylinder bore is up to scratch (given the problems a too thin one caused, I’d guess the problem has been fully nixed). The brake has a new two-piece bleed port on the top of the master cylinder, with a removable central core. Braking was powerful and consistent, as you’d expect with hydraulic discs. The redesigned levers allow of good finger wrap, even for folks with small hands such as myself.
Rival 22 also comes in a mechanical or hydraulic rim brake flavours. ErgoFit on the shifters uses the same ergonomic design and textured cover as Red 22. The DoubleTap shifter internals are identical to Red 22. Other cross-overs are the hydraulic master cylinders and calipers (albeit without titanium fittings) and brake pads. Rival 22 is available with a compact 110BCD, with 46-36, 50-34 and “new compact” 52-36 ratios. The rear derailleur comes with two options either a short cage for £45, or a WiFLI mid cage for £55. The WiFLi cage will work with cassettes up to 32-tooth.
The mechanical lever set has the same internals as Red but with aluminium used for the brake and shift levers instead of carbon.
The brakes have some hearty tyre clearance, for up to 28c tyres (did someone say gravel grinder?) The chain has nickel plating power lock connector and chrome hardened pins for longer life.
Naturally, Red rides crisper but says SRAM, with Rival 22 you get 75 percent of the performance of Red for half the price.
The top-end Rival 22 groupset will cost £578.