Ask a Tech – SRAM Double Tap Levers

Q)  It seems like the in-the-drops shifting position of SRAM shifters can’t be beat due to the flexibility of the shifter itself.  For crit racing, this is obviously a huge advantage and I’ve been thinking about trying to ditch my Shimano equipment for a SRAM group.  Plus,  you can’t beat the price point on SRAM stuff.  Two things I wonder.  One:  how does SRAM keep the price point so low?  Is the stuff sub par?  Two:  The double-tap mechanism seems like it might be prone to breakage because, compared to Shimano STI levers especially, it seems like a  fragile piece of equipment.  Can you speak to the long-term reliability of SRAM shifters across all the groups?  Is any level of component more durable than any other?  Thanks!  ~Ian P.

A)  Hi Ian,    SRAM’s “Make the Leap” campaign vied for shift superiority with Campagnolo and Shimano.  The slogan simultaneously reminded people that the company got started with shifting innovation with Grip Shift while also ushering in SRAM’s latest shifting innovation – Double Tap technology.  The “other” leap associated with Double Tap describes the internal mechanism of the racheting pawl which “leaps” over a rotating spool when the cable is actuated.

With SRAM shifter internals, less is more; the simplicity, lightweight and relatively low cost of the SRAM shift levers is the best in the business.   At this point, it is impossible to deny SRAM’s presence in the racing world, both road and cyclocross, for providing Tour and World Cup-proven equipment through efficient design.  SRAM’s entry level Apex group all the way through the top of the line Red fundamentally have the same technology and internal design.   As you ascend the SRAM ladder, carbon, magnesium, and titanium are introduced to lighten things up both weight-wise and in terms of shift action, bearing quality improves (Red uses ceramic bearings) and innovative, but more expensive, manufacturing techniques are introduced.  All models, regardless of price, employ SRAM’s Double Tap Technology and Zero Loss Technology.    The Red level Double Tap shifter,  however, stands alone as Zero Loss is not only applied to the front shifter, but the rear as well.   Red thus provides the shortest lever throw of any of the SRAM options and quite possibly of any lever on the market.   Zero Loss is accomplished by altering the pawl geometry in the shifter, pushing the shift paddle immediately actuates the cable and there is no initial angle of engagement for the paddle.   All other SRAM models (Apex, Rival and Force) have Zero Loss applied only to the left shifter.

A few more things to consider:

– SRAM levers, like Campagnolo levers, can be rebuilt, and they are much easier to rebuild than Campy ones too. Durability-wise, they are usually excellent as well, due to the simplicity of the internals.   While Shimano’s design has demonstrated that it works well, it is also quite complicated; an exploded view of a current Shimano lever indicates that Shimano designed their levers as a veritable “black box” – with almost triple the number of parts compared to SRAM, STI levers are quite complicated and not very serviceable.   With SRAM, crashing aside, it would be safe to bet that the durability of the shift and braking action across all SRAM groups would be relatively equal, but that the harder, lighter and more precise materials found at the Force and Red level do offer advantages in shift quality and precision.

– SRAM builds the lightest complete groups on the planet.  SRAM Red weighs well over 100 grams less than Shimano’s Dura Ace – most of this is in the shifter mechanism.

– All levels of SRAM shift/brake levers offer a four position adjustable lever reach to accommodate for a wide range of hand sizes.   Small hand riders rejoice!

– While SRAM does not offer a triple group, there 1:1 shift actuation ratio is the same as on their mountain bike groups and you can mix and match mountain bike rear derailleurs and gearing with road shifters for incredibly wide gearing ranges.   SRAM Red with a XO rear derailleur and cogset is the super sweet lightweight hillclimb setup and Apex offers similar gearing ranges at very budget friendly levels, but is notably heavier.

While we don’t tend to play favorites on components, we have been impressed with SRAM’s innovation, quality and pricing.  They certainly offer very valid competition to Campagnolo and Shimano and actually have “upped the ante” in more than one department.

Thank you for the inquiry and ride fast.

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