Thursday, August 25, 2005

SRAM entering road market? Things could get very interesting...

By now, many of you (I am sure) have seen the first spy shots of the prototype SRAM road shifters. Word is that the new road group is going to be ready for release in "calendar year 2006". This group is to include shifters (very, very similar in appearance to Shimano STI... hmmm...) , front and rear derailleurs, a 10 speed cassette and chain, brake set, bottom bracket and crankset (TruVativ?). This is supposed to be a pro level component group for high end use.

Now, this is big news to me. Why, well, as a Product Manager for a bike brand, it gives me another option for road parts, which is always good. Also, it creates more "pressure" for Shimano to keep up the efforts in development that they have made over the years. More competition is good for all of us and could even result in better pricing as well as better products. Don't get me wrong, I love Shimano. I love Campagnolo too (and keep waiting for that box of Record parts to just show up on my desk after a lunch ride). However, I really like a lot of the SRAM family of parts and think they could do some cool things in the road market. I haven't personally seen any of these new prototype parts (though if they want to send me some I will gladly test them... if you're reading this SRAM guys), but I have a feeling they are doing some pretty cool stuff. The shifter issue was the biggest hurdle, I am sure, and then brakes. Now they will allegedly have both.

To me, this is really exciting news. I am really looking forward to seeing and touching these new parts. From what I saw, the shifters look very similar to the Shimano shifters and not as pretty as the Campy shifters (but really, what is that pretty). The proof is going to be in how well they work. So far, I have not heard anything about how they work, though they were ridden at the USPro criterium championships. I haven't heard of anything not working. I've never had a SRAM component that I didn't like over the years, so this could be a really good thing.

Shimano is likely very, very aware of these developments (well, I know they are) and probably has some concerns about what this will all mean- ie; patent infringement issues. Campagnolo probably isn't too worried, just because their products (here in the US at least) tend to appeal to a different consumer than Shimano products. I think these SRAM components would pose the biggest threat to Shimano.

Maybe it is just me, but this could prove to be some of the biggest news in road componentry of the past few years. I eagerly await the chance to see, touch, use these new parts and find out if the long wait has been worthwhile (hey SRAM, I'm talking to you). People have been saying for years and years that somebody was going to come along and develop a complete road group. Is this going to be it or are we looking at another Mavic Zap/ Tektronic component group that fades into obscurity?

I am very curious.

Tim

4 comments:

SanDiego81 said...

spy pictures . . . always a crowd-pleaser.

Bernie said...

I don't know... they look pretty different from shimano. Look at where the brake lever has a pivot bolt. I would think that would prevent it from being moved sideways to shift like Shimano. And there of course doesn't appear to be a release lever on the inside of the hoods either, a la Campagnolo.

My guess is the shift lever will be moved one direction to shift up, and the opposite direction to move down. That would definitely take some getting used to, but if the shape the shift lever right, doesn't seem like too difficult a thing to do.

I really like the more Campy-shaped flat-topped hoods too. I'd definitely go SRAM if these perform on par with the other big two.

Bernie
[url]http://www.panthercitybicycles.com[/url]

Bernie said...

Oh, and you bring up a good question as to whether they'll use truvativ cranks to complete their group, or rebadge them as SRAM. Also, will the brakes be Avid? Or will they call those SRAM, too? I think in the road world it's still preferred to have the whole group branded the same. Of course, SRAM has pretty much defied tradition since day 1, so who knows?

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Bernie,

All very good comments. I too wonder about the branding of the items already with a separate name. Could this spell the end of those other brand names, as road components at least?

The cosmetics of the shifters do have a blend of Shimano and Campy. The look of the shifters is interesting. It would appear that the shifting all takes place with the smaller inner lever, but I can't see how it would pivot both left and right of the main body. It looks like it snugs against the body of the main lever like a Shimano inner lever.

Regardless, I'm damned curious about this stuff...

Tim