SRAM Rival – On Test
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.
For 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.
On 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.
Another 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.
Moving 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.
Next 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.
One 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.
The 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.