A close look at SRAM's new 12-speed eTap groupset

Next generation wireless groupset spotted at 2019 Tour Down Under

After months of teasing, SRAM’s all-new RED eTap AXS wireless groupset is now officially here.

Check out our comprehensive five-star review of the radical groupset to learn all there is to know about it and be sure to check out our first ride reviews of the equally exciting Eagle XO1 AXS mountain bike drivetrain and wireless Reverb AXS dropper seat post.

This article was last updated 6th February 2019. The original story continues below.

The all-new 12-speed version of SRAM’s wireless eTap road groupset has been spotted by BikeRadar on all of Trek-Segafredo and Katusha-Alpecin’s team bikes at the 2019 edition of the Tour Down Under.

The new groupset was first spotted in November at the Saitama Tour de France Criterium in Japan, but this is the first chance we’ve had to get really up close and personal with it.  

Why 12-speed?

Both Trek-Segafredo and Katusha-Alpecin are using the new groupset
Both Trek-Segafredo and Katusha-Alpecin are using the new groupset

The big news is, of course, the move from 11- to 12-speed.

The 12-speed era is here
The 12-speed era is here

The addition of another cog allows for smaller jumps between gears in the middle of the cassette. This is not only useful in a double-chainring drivetrain, but it also opens up options for 1x drivetrains (more on those in a moment).

The new cassette also adopts a 10t small cog.

The pictured bike is set up with a 50-37t chainring combo and a 10-28 cassette. A gear of 50x10 is similar to that of 53x11 — the top gear ratio commonly used by professional riders — at a marginally lower weight.

The largest cog appears to be made from a different material to the rest of the cassette
The largest cog appears to be made from a different material to the rest of the cassette

Mounted to a wheel, it’s hard to be certain how the cassette is constructed, but it appears the first 11 cogs borrow the one-piece Hollowdome construction — which sees a single forged steel billet milled into a one-piece cassette — used on the original eTap cassette. The largest cog, which is made from a different material to the rest of the cassette, then appears to be mounted separately.

We think it’s safe to assume that the new 12-speed cassette will be mounted via SRAM’s XDR (XD Road) driver.  

The XDR freehub body is based on SRAM’s XD driver — which was introduced with the first generation Eagle drivetrain — but is 1.85mm wider.

This extra width is required because unlike on an Eagle cassette where the large 50t cog can be dished over the spokes, a road-sized cassette is not large enough to accommodate this.

The main body of the derailleur is alloy
The main body of the derailleur is alloy

The main body of the rear derailleur is constructed with an alloy main body paired with a composite cage, which is slightly chunkier than the outgoing model.

The removable battery looks identical to the one used on the outgoing generation, suggesting these will likely be cross-compatible.

What chain does SRAM eTap 12-speed use?

The inner plates of the chain have a unique squared profile
The inner plates of the chain have a unique squared profile

We didn't have a chance to whip out our calipers to measure the width of the new chain, but we think it’s likely that the new eTap 12-speed chain will be narrower than an 11-speed chain.

Looking closely, the inner plates of the chain are also considerably chunkier than on an 11-speed chain, with no cut outs or shaping to the upper face of the plate.

Assuming the chain is narrower, we imagine this extra material is required to maintain strength and deal with more extreme cross-chaining angles caused by the wider cassette.

One-piece chainrings for new SRAM eTap 12-speed

The chainrings are a one-piece direct-mount arrangement
The chainrings are a one-piece direct-mount arrangement

It’s not entirely clear from the photo, but the chainrings are a one-piece spiderless construction. This is similar to the setup used on, among others, Cannondale’s Hollowgram cranks.

The bike pictured is set up with a 50-37 chainring combo, but we’ve also seen a 50-36t combo at the Saitama Criterium, suggesting a number of options will likely be available.

The cranks feature a Quarq power meter
The cranks feature a Quarq power meter

The chainrings are mounted to a set of carbon arms that, visually at least, appear similar to existing cranks from the brand. This is fitted with a Quarq power meter.

Will there be a 1x 12-speed SRAM eTap groupset?

The shifter paddle gains a textured pattern to improve grip
The shifter paddle gains a textured pattern to improve grip

As requested, a closer look at the hoods
As requested, a closer look at the hoods

So far, we have only seen the groupset in a double guise, but it’s likely that a 1x version will also be available.

A top-end 1x road groupset has been conspicuous by its absence from the SRAM lineup — a company that famously declared the front derailleur dead to the mountain bike world when Eagle was first released — since its Force and Apex 1x groupsets were launched some years ago.

Whether 1x groupsets will be adopted by the notoriously conservative pro-peloton is a another question; its relationship with single-ring drivetrains has so far been — to be generous  — fairly rocky. However, should a 1x option become available, it’s sure to be popular in the world of gravel and ‘cross.

Will SRAM 12-speed eTap be disc only?

We'll have to wait and see if SRAM will also be bringing a rim brake version of eTap 12-speed to the market
We'll have to wait and see if SRAM will also be bringing a rim brake version of eTap 12-speed to the market

The hydraulic disc levers feature a reach adjust beneath the hood
The hydraulic disc levers feature a reach adjust beneath the hood

So far, we have only seen a disc brake version of the groupset. While there’s still wide demand for rim brakes in both the professional and enthusiast world, we still wouldn’t be surprised if only a disc version will be available, but that is pure speculation.

That’s all we have so far. We’re here for the duration of the Tour Down Under, so we will try to get more photos and details as the race proceeds. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions and be sure to leave your thoughts below.

The original article runs below (6 November 2018)

12-speed SRAM eTap groupset spotted at Saitama criterium

This article was originally published at Cyclingnews.com

A 12-speed wireless SRAM Red eTap groupset was spotted at the Saitama Tour de France Criterium in Japan at the weekend, sparking suggestions that the new top-of-the-range technology will soon be available.

The 12-speed groupset included an integrated 50-36t chainset and a 10-28 cassette. A gear of 50x10 has a similar development to that of 53x11 — the top gear ratio commonly used by professional riders.

The 12-speed disc-brake groupset was seen on a red Canyon bike belonging to Katusha-Alpecin's Nils Politt. It was first spotted by well-known Japanese photographer Kei Tsuji, who published a story on the cyclowired.jp website.

A look at the front derailleur and what appeared to be a new Quarq power meter crankset
A look at the front derailleur and what appeared to be a new Quarq power meter crankset

Cyclingnews managed to take several photographs of the groupset on Sunday before Politt moved the bike away form prying eyes. He refused to give any further details, but he appears to have been testing the groupset for some time.

After the Cyclowired story, black tape covered some SRAM logos on the groupset, but others were still visible on the derailleur, cassette, chain and chainset. It looked to be a polished, finished version, with only a few bar codes and labels indicating it was undergoing testing.

Campagnolo revealed a 12-speed groupset early this year, and Shimano is expected to do so sooner or later. SRAM clearly doesn't want to be left behind and has already created the 1x 12-speed XX1 Eagle mountain bike groupset.

A closer look at the 12 cogs of SRAM's new Red eTap groupset, as used by Katusha's Nils Politt at the 2018 Saitama Criterium
A closer look at the 12 cogs of SRAM's new Red eTap groupset, as used by Katusha's Nils Politt at the 2018 Saitama Criterium

SRAM and Zipp created the XD cassette body design some time ago to allow for a 10-tooth cog, and so a larger gear range for mountain bikes. The more recent XDR (Road) body was created for road gravel bikes, perhaps fitted with 1x drivetrain. However, the extra 1.85mm space on the body could clearly be used to add a 12th cog. That appears to be the case with the 12-speed cassette spotted here.

The chainset included a new-looking power meter crank arm from Quarq and the new integrated chainring design. The bike was fitted with Zipp wheels and SRAM's Red eTap HRD disc brake system. However the brake levers looked to have a smaller HydroR lever head and a chunkier brake lever shape.

All the components could be part of a new SRAM Red eTap electronic 12-speed disc-brake road groupset.

This article was last updated 10th January 2019

Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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