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SRAM Rival Observations

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SRAM Rival Observations

Old 09-18-10, 06:50 AM
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SRAM Rival Observations

I know there are a ton of threads on Rival vs. a specific Shimano system so not many people describe the details in depth because it's been done before. But it's been done before in bits and pieces scattered through various threads that are time consuming to find amongst all the noise. Anyway, feel free to ignore, but I just went for a test ride on a bike with Rival and despite reading a ton I found some things that I didn't expect while riding it.

First of all, after all the reviews I was sure I would love Rival. I think it's very good and I could definitely get used to it. However, there were some things that I didn't like. Let's start with the bad, then the good. These are personal observations only.

Things I didn't like:
1. The levers arc inwards (and it felt like downwards a little bit). I could definitely get used to it but at first it just wasn't comfortable in the hoods. I had to twist my wrist a little as I shifted from the hoods. But I told myself it would probably be great for the drops, which leads me to the next negative.
2. The shift lever didn't extend low enough. This just might be that the shifters weren't placed appropriately on the handlebars, but I felt like the tips of the brake levers were in a good spot, so I'm not sure that's it. When I was in the drops I had to twist my wrist back in order to reach the shift lever. I know the setting is adjustable, perhaps they had the lever reach adjusted too far in? I'm a big guy with larger than average hands, so it was awkward having to reach up and back a little.
3. It took some force to shift up. I hear Yokozuna cables help with that, but I found I had to push somewhat hard to get that second click. Not that I wasn't strong enough (I know, HTFU), but it would be an irritation over time.
4. The lever throws are shorter than Shimano, but there are two things to consider. It's a shorter throw (probably via an angle measurement too) but a shorter lever too, so especially on upshifting you don't have as much leverage (see 3 above). Second, I found it kind of annoying to have to double click every time I just wanted to go up one cog, felt kind of superfluous. Again, probably something I could get used to and would become second nature.
5. Before this I was worried about getting Rival shifters as I'm one of those suckers that falls for improved features and wanted the Zero-Loss in the rear Red shifter. Supposedly Rival has Zero-Loss in the front. Maybe I misunderstand Zero-Loss, but my take is that it reduces the slop when you press on the lever to when you start to feel cable tension and resistance. I did a quick test of pushing both levers in lightly until I felt resistance. Interestingly enough, I was able to compare the two by seeing where they were in relation to the brake lever. It was an almost imperceptible difference, I would estimate 1-2 mm. Short story, don't believe the hype that some people promulgate that Zero-Loss is a noticeable difference. Caveat: I haven't ridden Red. But I think it's probably accurate that you would need them both sitting side by side to even discern a difference. Even I would have no problem getting Rival now.
6. This is a big one for me, I didn't like the "hump" on the top of the hoods near the back. I guess it goes in the palm of the hand but it was uncomfortable to me.

Things I liked:
1. I liked having the stationary brake lever, seems more secure and safer to me.
2. Shifting performance was great. The single clicks responded fast and once I got to the second or third click it shifted right away. I prefer the firm feedback of SRAM that lets you know the shift was completed.
3. Hard to tell on a test ride but I like that it's light weight. The carbon brake levers felt nice.
4. The shifting lever had some good surface area.
5. You can grab the shift levers and pull them in towards the bars. That's a cool little feature when you're in the drops and know you'll be shifting a lot.
6. It looks nice.
7. I just like having a competitor out there with an innovative and different solution.
8. There was less slop than Shimano, cable engagement was faster. Not as big of a deal as I would have thought but it's a consideration.
9. I like that all SRAM parts are interchangeable between their product lines. For the mountains I was thinking of getting a mid-cage Rival derailleur and an 11-32 cassette. Can't do that with Shimano.

In summary, I think I could get used to most of the issues and would have no problem buying a Rival equipped bike. It's just no longer a deal breaker not to have SRAM like it was before the test ride. Also, I test rode a bike with Dura-Ace before this one, so maybe that tainted my view.
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Old 09-18-10, 07:12 AM
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Nice in depth review. thank you!
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Old 09-18-10, 07:21 AM
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Very thorough, thanks. A lot of new bikes I'm looking at have Rival or Force and I've wondered about many of the items you mention. What did you think of the "double tap" action vs. the second lever for downshifting? Obviously on a test ride you're not going to have a lot of time to get used to it, but it seems like the biggest adaptation needed for the rider (duh).
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Old 09-18-10, 07:41 AM
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Those have been my observations, too. I haven't ridden Red yet either, but dry-shifting the right/rear shifter in the shop showed me a noticeable difference with the zero-loss feature.

Regarding the hump at the back of the hoods, I've read around here that it can be alleviated by changing how the bartape is wrapped. I'll try it myself if I ever get around to switching to Sram.

Between Sram, Shimano, and Campy, they all do things that I prefer over the others, but they all also do things that I don't like. I like how Campy (I got to demo 11sp Chorus) has all single-function controls, can dump half the cassette with one thumb push, and can pull in its shift lever like Sram, but I don't like having that thumb lever always in the way. I like how absolutely buttery-smooth Shimano is, but I wish it were easier to shift from the drops. I also like Sram's pop-pop feedback, the leverage of its brake levers, and the mobility of its shift levers, but not what feels like long travel for downshifts.

Probably just better for me to focus on the aspects I like. That way, I can feel happier when I choose one over the others.
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Old 09-18-10, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by kenrudman
What did you think of the "double tap" action vs. the second lever for downshifting? Obviously on a test ride you're not going to have a lot of time to get used to it, but it seems like the biggest adaptation needed for the rider (duh).
Here's what I think after a few test rides --

Whereas on Shimano I think "small lever, smaller gear size", with Sram I started thinking "smaller tap, smaller gear". Makes enough sense for me to remember quickly.

Keep track of where you are on the cassette, especially if you're at one end or the other. You can imagine being on the small cog and wanting to upshift another cog smaller, but when you move the lever, it's not going to do anything until you downshift to the next-bigger cog. The lever won't just stop when the derailleur is at the end of its travel like Shimano does.

That's the only mental trick I had to be careful of. Other than that, it's cool.
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Old 09-18-10, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by kenrudman
Very thorough, thanks. A lot of new bikes I'm looking at have Rival or Force and I've wondered about many of the items you mention. What did you think of the "double tap" action vs. the second lever for downshifting? Obviously on a test ride you're not going to have a lot of time to get used to it, but it seems like the biggest adaptation needed for the rider (duh).
It becomes second nature after a few rides...just like driving a car with a stick!
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Old 09-18-10, 07:56 AM
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The sram "hump" is due to the bars being improperly wrapped for the levers. This is kind of hard to describe but there needs to be a little piece of bar tape in between the bar and the top of the hood (the plastic underneath the rubber hood)where it makes a little dip so that there is a smooth transition. If this is done then the transition between the levers and the bar is perfectly smooth and there is no "hump".
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Old 09-18-10, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by cooleric1234
Things I didn't like:
1. The levers arc inwards (and it felt like downwards a little bit). I could definitely get used to it but at first it just wasn't comfortable in the hoods. I had to twist my wrist a little as I shifted from the hoods. But I told myself it would probably be great for the drops, which leads me to the next negative.
2. The shift lever didn't extend low enough. This just might be that the shifters weren't placed appropriately on the handlebars, but I felt like the tips of the brake levers were in a good spot, so I'm not sure that's it. When I was in the drops I had to twist my wrist back in order to reach the shift lever. I know the setting is adjustable, perhaps they had the lever reach adjusted too far in? I'm a big guy with larger than average hands, so it was awkward having to reach up and back a little.
3. It took some force to shift up. I hear Yokozuna cables help with that, but I found I had to push somewhat hard to get that second click. Not that I wasn't strong enough (I know, HTFU), but it would be an irritation over time.

1- Many consider this a feature. I hardly feel the front-to-back articulation while shifting.
2- Size lg gloves here, and originally had some hassles reaching the levers from the drops. Irritating. After changing handlebars (for different reasons), was happy that I now have direct access to the shift levers. Lots of strong headwinds on my rides, so I spend a good amount of time in the drops. Now its just bang and go.
3- Roger, I feel the heavier effort on longer rides. I can live with it.

Sounds like better brifter/handlebar ergos could bring improvements.
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Old 09-18-10, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by cooleric1234
9. I like that all SRAM parts are interchangeable between their product lines. For the mountains I was thinking of getting a mid-cage Rival derailleur and an 11-32 cassette. Can't do that with Shimano.
Nice, detailed review. But I don't understand this last comment. You can do the same thing with Shimano shifters and derailleurs, with either shimano or sram cassettes.
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Old 09-18-10, 08:22 AM
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I have it on my new Cross bike. I'm used to using Shimano, so it took a few minutes and gear changes to get used to. Seems fine. I don't really put a lot of thought into the components unless they don't work. If it shifts when it's supposed to, it's good in my book.
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Old 09-18-10, 09:22 AM
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Nice review.

Really the only thing I want to know is, does it work and will it last?
Getting use to how it feels, is just part of it. Kind of like changing your set up.
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Old 09-18-10, 12:09 PM
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Good comments. I have 2010 sram Force and like it except for:

1) Seems like I'm going to break the paddle shifter on front D shifting. Takes some considerable force. RD not as much but still strenuous.
2) More noiser than Shimano, not quite as smooth.
3) Force brakes are NO WHERE near Dura-Ace in stopping power or modulation.

Setup is a full Force group except for cassette, which is ultegra mounted on a Pedal Force RS2 frame, 58cm. Dura-Ace wheels.
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Old 09-18-10, 12:22 PM
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it sounds like some parts of the bike weren't set up quite right. For instance, I have no slop at all in my left shifter--and it was a pain for me (noob) to get it that way, but really nice once it was done. the rear has some noticeable slop, but it's very little.

edit: i keep seeing comments about needing a lot more effort to shift the front. I wonder if this is a setup problem as well, because plenty of people comment -theirs- is about as light as ultegra. *shrug*
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Old 09-18-10, 12:29 PM
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"Effort", or "distance"?
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Old 09-18-10, 12:35 PM
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Terrible review. Probably took longer to write it up than the author spent riding it. If you want a true review, read something from someone who has been riding it for a while. You can get all the above and more simply by skipping the time spent reading the OP and going to a bike shop and riding a Rival equipped bike.

Some observations and experiences with Rival over the last year and a half:

1) bikes in some shops are set up very badly. Particularly Performance stores (though I have no idea where the OP test rode his bike). The shift lever sweep is weird on the test ride because the lever is meant to be set up with the main body of the hoods aligned with the bars; some sloppy builds set it up so the main body is canted in, which makes the shift lever sweep inward.

2) The brake levers are a bit shorter than Shimano; the shifter is meant to be set up with the tops of the hoods just above level. Obviously, as with any brake lever, if you set it up so the levers are pointed to the sky, then you will have difficulties reaching things from the drops.

3) The shifting force on the front derailleur is a disadvantage of SRAM. Good cabling (including the routing) offsets this, however, it is more a function of the pull ratio of SRAM vs. Shimano (1:1 vs. 2:1 - Shimano's 2:1 ratio gives better leverage over the shifter). I tolerate it, but Shimano is truly better in this respect. And I have no idea about the zero-loss thing. I ride on the older aluminum levered Rival. I have found that SRAM shifts much better in the front if you use the cable tension screw on the downtube to increase the cable tension when the derailleur is in it's relaxed position. If you do that, even the non-zero-loss shifter shifts pretty well (though Shimano still has the edge here).

4) SRAM is much better at shifting in the rear than Shimano. The cable tension is not as finicky, and the shifting is very precise. Harder feedback, but precise. This is, again, because of the 1:1 pull ratio on the derailleur. It takes less shift lever movement to make an equivalent movement on the RD when compared to Shimano. The shifts are not as silky smooth as shimano, but you get more precision in return.

5) Basically, I think of SRAM as the ideal shifter for crits and sprinting: shifting is precise (nothing like sprinting on a bike that's only half in gear) and the shift paddles are huge so you can find them in the middle of a sprint. I have another bike with Shimano Ultegra; it is better at longer rides and climbing because the shifting, while less precise, is easier. If you are a racer, this is maybe good info. If you are a rec rider, don't discount or buy into anything. Try what you buy and ride whatever makes sense to you, at least on your first bike. You aren't pushing the limits of your machine, so it really doesn't matter all that much.
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Old 09-18-10, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ThinLine
Good comments. I have 2010 sram Force and like it except for:

1) Seems like I'm going to break the paddle shifter on front D shifting. Takes some considerable force. RD not as much but still strenuous.
Do check your cabling. In my case, the shifting is virtually effortless in the rear, and very, very easy up front as well.
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Old 09-18-10, 01:14 PM
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I've considering Rival. Thanks for the review.
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Old 09-18-10, 01:14 PM
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less than idea routing/adjustment -> lots of effort.

a little improvement on cable path and tension adjustment -> awesome.

I really worry about how shops are setting these bikes up. I realize they don't always have the time I have to put into throwing a bike together, but should be considerably faster than me at this point.
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Old 09-18-10, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
Probably took longer to write it up than the author spent riding it.
False

Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
If you want a true review, read something from someone who has been riding it for a while.
Fair comment. I was just sharing my observations from one test ride, I tried to make that clear. Perhaps I should have made the title "what you might observe if you test ride a Rival equipped bike from the shop." I was hoping that people would chime in and tell me what was a result of an improper setup from the shop. With this information people can know what they might observe and what can and can't be changed with proper setup.

Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
You can get all the above and more simply by skipping the time spent reading the OP and going to a bike shop and riding a Rival equipped bike.
You may not believe it yourself but I did test ride a bike from a bike shop (the Cannondale Synapse 4).

Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
1) bikes in some shops are set up very badly. Particularly Performance stores (though I have no idea where the OP test rode his bike). The shift lever sweep is weird on the test ride because the lever is meant to be set up with the main body of the hoods aligned with the bars; some sloppy builds set it up so the main body is canted in, which makes the shift lever sweep inward.
Good to know. The levers were straight ahead, inline with the body. Am I mistaken or isn't it accepted that the SRAM stuff arcs inward? Are you saying that's from incorrectly installed shifters?

Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
2) The brake levers are a bit shorter than Shimano; the shifter is meant to be set up with the tops of the hoods just above level. Obviously, as with any brake lever, if you set it up so the levers are pointed to the sky, then you will have difficulties reaching things from the drops.
That is how this was set up, with the flat part of the hoods slightly above level.

Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
3) The shifting force on the front derailleur is a disadvantage of SRAM. Good cabling (including the routing) offsets this, however, it is more a function of the pull ratio of SRAM vs. Shimano (1:1 vs. 2:1 - Shimano's 2:1 ratio gives better leverage over the shifter). I tolerate it, but Shimano is truly better in this respect. And I have no idea about the zero-loss thing. I ride on the older aluminum levered Rival. I have found that SRAM shifts much better in the front if you use the cable tension screw on the downtube to increase the cable tension when the derailleur is in it's relaxed position. If you do that, even the non-zero-loss shifter shifts pretty well (though Shimano still has the edge here).

4) SRAM is much better at shifting in the rear than Shimano. The cable tension is not as finicky, and the shifting is very precise. Harder feedback, but precise. This is, again, because of the 1:1 pull ratio on the derailleur. It takes less shift lever movement to make an equivalent movement on the RD when compared to Shimano. The shifts are not as silky smooth as shimano, but you get more precision in return.

5) Basically, I think of SRAM as the ideal shifter for crits and sprinting: shifting is precise (nothing like sprinting on a bike that's only half in gear) and the shift paddles are huge so you can find them in the middle of a sprint. I have another bike with Shimano Ultegra; it is better at longer rides and climbing because the shifting, while less precise, is easier. If you are a racer, this is maybe good info. If you are a rec rider, don't discount or buy into anything. Try what you buy and ride whatever makes sense to you, at least on your first bike. You aren't pushing the limits of your machine, so it really doesn't matter all that much.
Thanks for the explanation. Shifting definitely was more precise on the SRAM Rival, now I know why. I prefer the extra leverage on Shimano but I have also observed the half-shifts that you refer to even with a properly set up system. As I said, I'm sure I could get used to Rival and really enjoy it. It just wasn't the slam dunk I thought it would be.
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Old 09-18-10, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by pacificaslim
Nice, detailed review. But I don't understand this last comment. You can do the same thing with Shimano shifters and derailleurs, with either shimano or sram cassettes.
First of all, you can't use an 11-32 cassette with Shimano like you can with Apex or a medium cage Rival. Second, are all of Shimano's parts interchangeable? I mean could I use a 7900 Dura-Ace lever, Tiagra front derailleur, and Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur? I think not (of course, nobody would do that, but it's just to illustrate the point). All of SRAMs road offerings can be interchanged with the others.

Last edited by cooleric1234; 09-19-10 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 09-18-10, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by cooleric1234
First of all, you can't use an 11-32 cassette with Shimano like you can with Apex or a medium cage Rival. Second, are all of Shimano's parts interchangeable? I mean could I use a Dura-Ace lever, Tiagra front shifter, and Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur? I think not (of course, nobody would do that, but it's just to illustrate the point). All of SRAMs road offerings can be interchanged with the others.
If you meant Dura Ace shifters, Tiagra front derailleur, and Ultegra rear, then yes, you can do that. I'm putting less and less faith in what you say the more you say.
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Old 09-18-10, 02:49 PM
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6700 derailleurs only work with 6700 shifters for the time being. other than that, shimano's gear swaps around very much like sram's. i thought shimano had a medium cage ultegra RD once upon a time. I probably wasn't seeing right, though.
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Old 09-18-10, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by cooleric1234
First of all, you can't use an 11-32 cassette with Shimano like you can with Apex or a medium cage Rival. Second, are all of Shimano's parts interchangeable? I mean could I use a Dura-Ace lever, Tiagra front shifter, and Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur? I think not (of course, nobody would do that, but it's just to illustrate the point). All of SRAMs road offerings can be interchanged with the others.
I've also seen Tiagra running a Deore (I think) reverse-pull RD, long cage, to use a Sram 11-34 cassette.
https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...rora_spec.html
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Old 09-18-10, 04:31 PM
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the front shifting effort isnt at all a pain, but it is weird with the rear shifting being so light. if im shifting the front a lot, sometimes ill crank the rear shifter much harder than i ought to.
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Old 09-18-10, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cooleric1234
First of all, you can't use an 11-32 cassette with Shimano like you can with Apex or a medium cage Rival. Second, are all of Shimano's parts interchangeable? I mean could I use a Dura-Ace lever, Tiagra front shifter, and Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur? I think not (of course, nobody would do that, but it's just to illustrate the point). All of SRAMs road offerings can be interchanged with the others.

Of course you could do all of that. To run a shimano setup that is similar to sram's apex, all you need is a road derailleur that can handle the cassette (one caveat: can't be the latest 10-speed mtb derailleurs, so pick a 9-speed mtb derailleur or a road triple rear derailleur), a road front derailleur of your choice, and any 10-speed shimano shifters (105, ultegra, or dura ace).

Of course with a jtek shiftmate, or an alternative cable clamping, you can do even crazier things, like my bike which runs campy 10-speed shifters with campy fd, sram rival compact crank, shimano xt low-normal rear derailleur, and sram cassettes (11-26 and 11-34).
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