Wednesday, August 06, 2008

SRAM Rival

Things have come a long way since my first serious road bike. If I remember correctly, my old Peugeot Champion du Monde had a 5-speed Huret rear derailleur, a Stronglight 52/42 chain-set, indeterminate brakes and Leotard pedals with Christophe clips and toe straps.

Since then virtually all my bikes have been Shimano - or one of their clones - equipped, and over the years these systems have become more and more sophisticated, to the point where all braking and gear-change operations are effected through the handlebars. It's been a long time since I reached to the downtube to change gear.

My new Giant is a departure for me. All the drive components are made up from the SRAM Rival range.

SRAM first impinged on my consciousness some years ago with their grip-shift technology for mountain bikes, a system which was similar to that found on Italian motor scooters, and which, as I recall, failed on two counts ... grip and shift.

But what the system did do was force other manufacturers to adopt as a design basic, the ability to control your bicycle without having to move your hands from the bars, which had benefits in safety, comfort and control.

Until recently I was unaware that SRAM now produces equipment for the road, but I was happy enough to consider it, particularly since I noticed a couple of teams using SRAM gear in the Tour de France. If it's good enough for them ...

The main difference between the SRAM gear-change system and Shimano's is that the gears are controlled by a lever under a fixed axis brake lever rather than a combination of gear and brake lever which moves in two axes. This didn't really prove a problem on the change-over from Shimano to SRAM. Indeed, it seemed rather intuitive.

The gear change movement is also rather different. The right-hand rear-gear lever uses a 1-2-click motion. Shift the lever 1-click and the chain drops down a cog; 1-2-click and the chain moves up. The left-hand front-gear changer seems to be similar, but, of course there are only 2 chain-wheels. At the moment, all is very positive and snappy. So far, so good.

The sprocket is 10-speed and the chain has a power-link.

Braking is left to Shimano. The calipers appear to be from the Ultegra range. Whether it's the calipers, or the brake-pads, I don't know, but braking is a step up for me. It's quite easy to lock-up the back wheel from the top of the drops on a fast descent, but having learnt that lesson, they're quite progressive and I haven't done this again.