When it came to picking out my "new" Madone, I had a pretty limited selection of what came on the bike. But I was happy to see they were spec'd with some amazing components and some had a full gruppo ready to ride once a set of wheels, chain and a cassette was mounted on the bike.
What I found was that I had a lightly used set of Sram Red from shifters to derailleurs. I was pumped. I couldn't believe I was going to be riding a bike with Sram Red. I hadn't ever imagined that I would ride a bike with this gruppo on it. But lo and behold, I am.
So firt off, it isn't the new Red 22, it is still the 10 speed Red. I know, archaic right? Well not for me. And that's ok. I don't always need the newest and flashiest. I just want stuff that works and works well.
Starting with the shifters, I am in love with these. The aesthetics of Sram shifters has always caught my eye. With their little flags and one huge shift lever means you know when you are shifting. And the way Sram shifts, you can't miss the fact that you are shifting. Unless you are wearing a set of noise-cancelling headphones or going head first into a 20mph headwind. I've always like the feel of Sram hoods when I red down onto them and settle in. They are nice and wide without being too bulky. Still small enough for smaller hands, but not so small they hurt larger hands. For the gargantuan hands, they may need some extra grip tape underneath to widen them out. For me, these work amazing.
The brakes are snappy starting up from the hoods and levers themselves. Once I got the pads aligned, toed-in and parallel, I have never used a brake setup as powerful or smooth on and off as these. The amount of power I can produce to stop immediately is great. It really makes me think of the lower end braking systems that feel so mechanical and choppy and how I could ever ride them again or recommend them to somebody. It's not that they won't stop you, but they honestly don't feel as safe.
The crank. This is th coolest. One thing is that I love how it looks and it flows with the rest of my bike beautifully. The black, red and grey color scheme is sweet and sleek. While the carbon lay also brings out the high-end feel to it as well.
I opted to grab a set of 170mm crank arms that make my riding feel smoother and spinnier. Having come from 175mm cranks, the change was very welcome. Previously, with the 175mm cranks, I felt very crowded at the top half of my pedal stroke. Especially up around my hip flexor and knee area. While at the same time feeling like I was dragging my toes through the mud at the bottom to get a full pedal stroke out of the bike.
What it comes down to when using Sram Red (or any Sram for that matter) is style. Looks, yea sure, some. But shifting style and riding style. Sram uses the same lever to make the same shift in their "Double Tap" technology. This gives them the ability to have one larger pad to swing versus Shimano's shifting technology that utilizes two separate levers. An inner and outer. While being amazing in their own right, it comes down to what the rider prefers. That being said, I would recommend a Sram style shifter for those doing cyclocross or that are in need of a sure contact and shift with their shifting mechanism. Sram delivers with unmistakable clicks and clanks to ensure you are shifting. Shimano, on the other hand is a smooth as butter delivery that will work as well (or better depending on who you ask) for the previous conditions and all other conditions.
So overall I love my Sram Red. Would I trade it for Dura Ace? Maybe. But are we talking 7900 or 9000? I'm shaky to pull the trigger and drop Red, but I know Shimano is top-notch when it comes to bike components.