Higher Gear – Wilmette was host to the SRAM Road Ride Experience this summer as it made its way across the country. As someone in the market for new components, I made sure to take advantage of this experience to test ride SRAM’s latest equipment.
Even in cycling shoes, I’m vertically-challenged and was a little concerned that people of my stature would be neglected, but was relieved to discover that in their arsenal of 20 bikes on the road tour, SRAM had a bike in my size. Bonus, it was outfitted with Hydro R Road Rim (HRR) and the Quarq I’ve had my eye on for the past year – score!
I was going out on tired legs, so I’m sad to say I didn’t put the components through their paces. That said, I was still able to get a feel for them. My IronMan husband, however, had a training ride scheduled for that evening. His two-hour tempo ride was all about training at his lactate threshold that night. He was really able to get a feel for the SRAM components amidst a serious training session.
Below is a conversation we had about what stood out from our respective test riding experiences. For the record, the features we got to test out included:
- Zipp Service Course SL bar, stem and seatpost
- SRAM RED 22 drivetrain
- Hydro R Road Rim brakes
- Zipp 404 Firecrest carbon clincher wheels
- Quarq power meter
SRAM Red 22 Drivetrain
[Me] Before I left for my test ride, I was instructed to pay special attention to the shifting – especially of the front cog under load. For lack of hills in the area, I routed towards a hill in Winnetka. Sure enough, shifting was no problem. Going from the big ring to the small was not only easy, but eerily quiet.
I ride SRAM on my cyclocross bike, though not Red. The SRAM 22 was much smoother. And, even with the additional space in the levers for the hydraulic braking, I’ve always found the SRAM components to fit my small hands nicely. Of course, the levers are adjustable to fit a wide range of hands, but even without making those adjustments, I find the SRAM levers to have a nice feel.
[Hubby] The most notable improvement was the silencing of the rear cassette. I currently ride the 2011 SRAM Red on my road bike, but opted not to go with the corresponding rear cassette because of reviews I had read about noise.
It was fantastic. Under heavy load, I’d be standing in the pedals and perform shifts. It was completely smooth and accurate. It was quiet too. Quick and responsive.
I had a really difficult ride, so I was really laying into it. Normally drivetrains don’t like to be shifted under load. They tend to crunch and make horrible noises. This was really nice. Unbelievable, in fact. It was truly impressive.
Hydro R Road Rim (HRR) Brakes
[Me] I’ve read and written about the debate over hydraulic braking in cyclocross. I know there is some backlash from the luddites of the cycling world who scoff at electronic shifting and adding hydraulic braking to road bikes.
I have to say, I really liked the feel of the HRR! I’ve only ridden road and I’ve only ridden rim brakes, so I have no base of comparison when it comes to hydraulic braking. What I noticed from my test ride was how intuitive the braking felt, like it was a natural extension of the ride, of me and the bike. A squeeze of the lever and the bike would begin to brake. It reminded me of the introduction of ABS in automobiles – something we didn’t know we were missing, but once available made so much more sense. I can totally see myself choosing hydraulic brakes after this experience.
[Hubby] You sound like a brochure for the Hydro R Road Rim brakes! That’s exactly how they’re described, as being “intuitive.”
I liked how well modulated the brakes felt, being hydro. I like, too, the length of the hoods now. Because they’re so much taller, I felt like I had an additional position. If I wanted to get a little bit lower, I could. It felt like I could have ridden much lower while tucking on to the hoods.
Quarq Power Meter
[Me] Married to you, an IronMan who takes his training seriously, I completely understand training with power (versus speed or RPE). It makes so much sense and I relish the time during CompuTrainer season when I get to test my FTP and train to raise that number. When leading Higher Gear’s group rides, I’m aware of the fact that speed only tells a small part of the story. Maintaining a given speed on a flat requires less wattage than the same speed on an uphill. It can be difficult to gauge that and I often think a power meter would come in handy for those situations also.
Having the ability to watch my power numbers from the Garmin 510 provided to me was as cool as I have always imagined it to be. I impressed myself with the numbers I could hit when starting from a stop – a place I know where you, as a triathlete, try to minimize going out too hard. It was cool, too, to play around with the numbers
[Hubby] Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to look at the data from my ride. While my Joule paired flawlessly with the Quarq, I didn’t have a speed sensor on my bike, so I had to use the Garmin that was provided. I wasn’t able to analyze the data I got.
From my experience with it during my test ride, the main difference between the Quarq and my power meter is that the Quarq enabled me to see how smooth my pedal stroke is. It was nice to get a left/right percentage reading.
Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheels
[Me] I would have thought 404’s to be too deep for someone as petite as myself. I would have thought I would have gotten blown all over the road. Now, it wasn’t a particularly windy evening, so I can’t speak for that, but I will say the wheels felt stiff, yet comfortable. With the Firecrest technology, I’d be willing to give them a test ride on a windy day. What did you think?
[Hubby] Oh man, those were great!
I’m familiar with the frame I test rode, because it’s the same I ride. Knowing how it feels, I could attribute any differences to the wheelset. I could really sense the difference. They were great at absorbing road noise. They presented a very smooth, supple ride. While doing that, they still remained really responsive. Very crisp handling.
There wasn’t a cross wind, so I couldn’t really test that. I wish there had been a crosswind to test them out in. I’ve heard that they’re great, but I couldn’t verify that day. I’d really consider a pair.
In the past I’ve stayed away from Zipp, because word around the campfire was how fragile they were. After learning how well SRAM stands behind their products, that fear was alleviated. They have an excellent crash replacement program that seriously impressed me.
Want to learn and see more?
- See the gallery of photos from this event on Higher Gear’s Facebook page.
- Learn more about Zipp’s Firecrest technology in the Zipp 303’s and 404’s.
- Read up on the Quarq power meter options.
- Check out the SRAM, Zipp and Quarq technology used in the 2013 Tour de France.
- Considering hydraulic disc brakes for cyclocross season?
- Heading out to Interbike? So is the SRAM MTB Ride Experience. The SRAM Road Ride Experience is currently on the east coast.