Urban Velo

SRAM Rival – On Test

SRAM Rival

To preface this review, you should know I’m not a road racer. I don’t do crits, I don’t do metric-centuries to fulfill my training regimen. In fact, I don’t even do training rides. So you competitive road racers and techno weenies may want to skip my review and take a look at James Huang’s review over at Cycling News. James is a stand-up guy, who knows his stuff and writes from the perspective of riders like yourself.

SRAM RivalFor the rest of you—namely the serious bike commuters and road-riding enthusiasts—this review is for you. I’ve been riding an entry-level road bike for going on three years, replacing parts as necessary. Finally the drivetrain was shot, and I chose to upgrade to SRAM‘s entry-level road bike groupset, Rival. At $920, it’s not cheap, nor is it meant to be. It’s a serious 10-speed component group that offers high-performance and durability at a pricepoint that’s less than their premium offerings (as well as lower-priced and lighter than the competitors’ mid-range offerings). More important than price or weight, SRAM offers riders a choice in functionality via their patented Double Tap shifting.

SRAM RivalOn paper, Double Tap shifting sounds rather confusing. Depress the inboard lever briefly and the chain falls to a smaller ring/cog. Press the inboard lever a little farther, and the chain is swept up onto the next larger ring/cog. In practice, the motion is rather intuitive and easy to get accustomed to. At first you may occasionally find yourself trying to press the brake lever inward to upshift, but after a few rides that habit is easily broken. In addition to functioning differently, Double Tap shifting feels quite a bit different. When you change gears, you know it. Some people may be dismayed and say that it feels “clunky” whereas other’s will revel in how “crisp” and “positive” the shifting feels. One thing that can’t be denied is how well it works. Plus, riders with smaller hands will appreciate the noticeably shorter reach, and almost anyone will appreciate the reach adjustment feature.

SRAM RivalAnother way the Rival groupset gives riders choices is the cable routing. Both cables are routed to exit the shifter at the back, and you have the choice of running the second cable either in front or along the rear of the handlebar. This is especially nice if you’ve got modern road bars with cable grooves on the front and rear, but still nice even without. Either way you go, you’ll have an extremely clean looking cockpit once you’ve taped your bars. Another installation highlight is the easy access to the clamp bolts. My only nit to pick with the levers/shifters is the use of carbon fiber on the entry level groupset. While they look great, I’m very practical minded, and carbon fiber is easily weakened by surface scratches. I don’t like the notion of snapping a lever off because it got scraped one too many times in day to day use. But we’ll have to wait and see if that ever happens.

SRAM RivalMoving down the bike we get to the brakes. The quality of the forging and machining are obvious, and off the bike they feel so light you wonder if they’ll be stiff enough to provide any stopping power. Thankfully, the answer is yes, they’re plenty stiff and impressively strong. The stock brake compound is grippy, even in wet conditions, which is a boon to bicycle commuters.

SRAM RivalNext we get to the front derailleur… Yep, it’s a front derailleur. It’s got a steel cage for durability and comes with a clamp band or naked for braze-on mounting. I received the latter, an it seems to work fine with the derailleur clamp that came on my bike. Just like every groupset I’ve ever tried, shifting into the big ring takes a significantly long push of the lever. That’s hardly the derailleur’s fault, though. The rear derailleur is also appropriately strong and light. I’m glad SRAM eschewed carbon on the cage for an all-aluminum construction, making the Rival rear derailleur a bit more rough and tumble. Commuters take note, however, the largest cassette cog you’ll be able to use is 27t.

SRAM RivalOne slight drawback to the 10-speed system is that SRAM’s PC-1070 chain no longer offers their venerable, re-usable “power link” connector. Perhaps they’ll engineer a new, thinner version someday, but in the meantime you’re left with a one-shot “power lock” connector. After the initial connection, you’ll need to use the chain tool for future removal/installation. The OG-1070 cassette is rather standard-fare, though you’ll notice large sections of missing teeth. This is said to improve shifting over previous cassettes, and thankfully seems to work perfectly well thus far, with no dropped chains or ghost-shifting.

rival8The crankset includes an outboard bottom bracket with standard steel ball bearings, and an aluminum crankset. The crankarms are available in 165, 170, 172.5, 177.5 and 180mm lengths, and I can’t detect any flexibility. For a short person, like myself, having the option of 165mm crankarms seems to make a difference in comfort and power transfer. It’s hard for me to really qualify that statement, but I raised my seat a hair after installing them, and when I’m riding, life is good. My cranks came with 53/39t chainrings. The 39t inner ring is pretty much fine for what I’m doing, but the 53 is a bit much. That said, on those occasions where I get a long downhill (like ripping down Baum Blvd from Oakland to East Liberty at 3am) it feels like I’m about to take flight.

Stay tuned for a down-the-road report, including more ergonomic and durability observations. In the meantime, visit www.willyoumaketheleap.com for more info.

About Urban Jeff

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  1. Michael Zellmann - SRAM PR GuyJune 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Solid review Jeff, and thank you for touching on a lot of the subtle advantages of our drivetrain. One note, we recommend people only use the chain tool to remove links and then use PowerLocks as needed to close the chain. I’ve had two or three PowerLocks in a chain, they work perfectly and are as strong as the standard links. Your local shop should have or can get.

  2. Rick from New ZealandJune 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Hey Jeff, nice review. KMC do a 10 speed power link-ish link that is reusable and works like Srams power link. I use one on my Durace chain so I can swap from full size cranks to compact for winter without breaking the chain. I have two chains of different lengths I swap over with the cranks.

  3. Bruce (Sacchoromyces)June 1, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    What the hell are you doing anywhere near E. Liberty at 03:00? You sure better be flying in big ring gears in that ‘hood at that hour…and you would be well served to be wearing body armor.

  4. Urban JeffJune 1, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I’ve lived in East Liberty for more than 5 years.

  5. Len VJune 16, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Rival’s great stuff, especially the 2009 version, and nothing will give you better bang-for-the-buck.

    That said, do yourself a favor and run a Shimano cassette and chain instead of the SRAM ones. Shifts better, and is QUIETER.

    That’s really the only Achilles heel, aside from the ‘non-impressive’ bottom bracket (to quote my LBS’ mechanic). Overall, Rival is better, lighter, more ergonomic and cheaper than either 105 or Ultegra.

    And… have you SEEN the new 6700 Ultregra’s prices?!? The brifters alone are going to be $550! Completely ridiculous.

  6. StevenJune 24, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Too bad SRAM doesn’t make a Rival triple. Us heavy guys (235lbs) need lower gearing in the hills. BTW, I’m full shimano EXCEPT for Cassette & shifts great.

  7. SRAM DoubleTap 10 Flat-Bar Road Shifters at Urban VeloFebruary 8, 2010 at 9:53 am

    [...] a crisp, audible click. SRAM followed up on their success with the introduction of their Force and Rival road bike shifters. The road bike systems featured a new technology called Double Tap, which uses a [...]

  8. Slow Joe CrowApril 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I’m a little late to the party, but as another heavy guy (230ish)I thought I should mention that you can get usefully low gears with a compact double. First off, you can run an 11-28 cassette with Rival, I put one on my 2009 Redline Conquest Pro and Redline factory installs an 11-28 on the 2010 models. Before I did that I ran some gear inch calculations against a road bike with a 12-26 cassette and a triple and found that even with a 36-48 cyclocross crank I had a low gear equivalent to the second lowest with a triple. While you will lose the maximum granny gear, you make it up a little with reduced weight and better shifting. I also hit the gym and lost 10 lbs. which helped just as much.

  9. DaveJune 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Like the review. You can go 11-32 on the rear cassette if you switch our to the mid-size rear derailleur. Coupled with a compact front 50/34 you have pretty good range. A nice alternative to the triple. WiFLi with Rival. I just did this on my new Litespeed M1. Apex does this too.

  10. CharlieMay 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Good review. I’m so ingrained to all things Shimano, that I’m wary of other ways. This said, SRAM might be something to consider the next time I change things around. Thanks!

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