SRAM’s top-tier road groupset, Red eTap AXS, was last updated in 2019. Despite fast approaching its fifth birthday, it’s still among the best road bike groupsets available today, but it appears SRAM has its replacement lined up.
Following patents surfacing last year, there have been plenty of rumours suggesting a new version is on the way in 2024. The rumours appear to be true after photos were leaked on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday by user @MoBaohua.
The three photos show the rear cluster, including the rear derailleur with cassette and chain; a front shift/brake lever fitted to a road handlebar, and a disc brake rotor and caliper. All images feature at least one instance of SRAM Red branding, and none of the products shown appear to match any product from within SRAM’s current groupset hierarchy.
We reached out to SRAM, but the brand chose not to comment on the matter, so at this stage, SRAM hasn’t confirmed the authenticity of the products in the photos, and their origin remains unclear.
They appear to be from a studio photoshoot. Despite being low resolution, the lighting and quality is of a studio level. Interestingly, the rear cassette and derailleur are mounted to an ‘invisible bike’ using a studio trick commonly adopted by groupset brands to show off their product without the chainstay detracting from the product on show.
The images also appear to match the patents which leaked late last year, as well as the photos of the prototype groupset that Movistar used at their December training camp back in 2022.
There were no descriptions or sell sheets in the leak, so these three pictures are all we have to go on so far, but there are a handful of things we can discern and decipher about the new groupset and the direction SRAM is taking its top-tier road groupset.
Still 12 speed, and the 10T cog remains
One of the biggest things given away is that SRAM is sticking with 12-speed, rather than pushing up to 13. It makes sense, and maintains the impressive level of compatibility across SRAM’s road and gravel groupsets. This means users of new SRAM Red, assuming these photos are in fact legitimate, will continue to be able to spec a Red derailleur with, say, a Force cassette and presumably Rival shifters.
Also noteworthy here is the 10-tooth small sprocket, as this cassette appears to be a 10-36T option, as exists in the current range. SRAM caught a lot of flak when switching from 11 to 12 speed, with criticism primarily aimed at the efficiency of the smallest 10-tooth sprocket. Despite larger rings being widely accepted as more efficient, this photo shows us that SRAM is sticking to its guns and keeping the 10-tooth sprocket.
It also suggests that SRAM will retain the XDR freehub standard.
Finally, it suggests that SRAM has remained conscious of weight, with what appear to be holes milled out of the body of the parallelogram.
New hoods, brake levers and shift paddles
The second photo shows a totally new shifter shape, with what appears to be a smaller hood, a less bulky lever, and a sleeker shift paddle, in a design which matches those leaked in 2022 at the Movistar training camp.
When SRAM launched Rival in 2021, the brand spoke a lot about the new lever shape and how it was smaller, more refined. A handful of SRAM’s sponsored pros were even seen using it, albeit with a carbon fibre lever that you couldn’t buy. That lever was then carried over into the launch of Force last year, and even more of SRAM’s sponsored pros were seen using it in favour of the bulkier Red lever. The impression SRAM gave off was that it knew the Red lever was too bulky, but that it had nailed the solution. If it weren’t for the nagging doubt of the Movistar team camp leak and then the patents, we’d have assumed the Rival/Force lever would carry through here.
Evidently it hasn’t though, and the new design has been likened by a few as akin to Shimano’s GRX, with the high-pivot brakes, kinked lever and steep upward ramp of the hood itself.
The single button suggests that SRAM is sticking with the DoubleTap shifting logic, and the button itself appears shallower, which should help to negate the problem found by those with small hands. Adjusting the lever reach inward so that small hands could reach the lever more comfortably would often mean the large paddle either hit the bar, or hit one of the fingers still wrapped around the bar when trying to brake.
The third photo shows a tightly cropped photo of the brake lever and brake rotor mounted to the fork of a Specialized Tarmac. The rotor appears to have had a total overhaul. It still uses the CenterLine XR design with the rotor itself mounted to the separate black centre, but both parts have larger cut-outs in what are presumably weight saving measures.
The caliper also appears to have two holes cut out on either side of the pad retaining bolt, although that could be a trick of the light in these photos.
When will new SRAM Red be launched?
In short, we don’t know!
On the assumption that these photos are legitimate, given they show a nearly-finished groupset, it would seem likely to expect a launch this year.
We have recently been at the Tour Down Under – the first WorldTour race of the season – and as shown in our tech gallery from the race, none of the SRAM-sponsored teams were using it there, which suggests it’s not coming right away. The next big races to look out for it will be the Spring Classics, but we’ll be on the ground at various early-season races so we’ll be sure to keep an eye out.