Battle Royal: The Wrap-Up

Comparing anything in the bike industry is a dangerous business. There’s a long history of manufacturers expecting—and getting—reviews of just their equipment without having the results muddled up by any comparison to the work of a competitor. There’s also a history of pissed-off companies withholding ad dollars, not just in the bike industry, but any industry you look at. If you never see an ad from Campagnolo, Shimano or SRAM, this series would probably be why. Most bike companies aren’t wild about reviews that don’t spit-shine their every effort. So I’ll try not to be surprised if none of them ever advertise with me. They’re each accustomed to kid glove treatment, but I can’t in good conscience claim to have written an in-depth appraisal and not note some of the weaker features—some intended, some not—that give these groups their real-world identities.

So which component group is best for you? After all, that’s the question. Judging from the comments these posts have received, very few readers were willing to accept the idea that there was a winner. And that’s okay. What I wanted to make people aware of was that there are objective features found in some of these groups that elevate that group in consideration. When someone tells me, “It’s just a matter of preference.” I bristle in the same way that I do when someone tries to tell me, “How can you say with certainty something is a good piece of writing? It’s all subjective.”

Um, nope. No, it’s not. You see, if I posted a piece of writing riddled with misspelled words, used no capital letters and included no punctuation, you’d stop reading after just a few minutes. I guarantee it. And that’s even if all the verb tenses are correct. No matter how excellent the ideas might be, without a sense of the rhythm and focus of a writer’s ideas, the work becomes just a jungle of words. Similarly, a group is just a bunch of bike parts until they are properly assembled and adjusted to the point of working according to factory spec.

Below are a number of considerations that help illustrate some of the stronger features each of the groups has to offer, while also highlighting some of the weaknesses to be found as well.

Foolproof shifting: Despite the input from some readers that (insert group name here) shifts like crap, my experience is that Dura-Ace and Red have been more foolproof than Campagnolo. Red gets a ding because if the chain is in the largest cog and you try to downshift again because, for instance, you believe the chain’s in the 21 when it’s actually in the 23, unless you’re paying attention and push a bit harder on the lever, you’ll end up upshifting, so you’ll get a higher gear when you were looking for a lower one. I’ve made that mistake, but I’ve also learned that if I go for the downshift and the cog’s not there, all I have to do is push a bit harder and the chain will stay put. Not so bad. Sure, it’s simpler the way Campagnolo  and Dura-Ace let you know you’re out of cogs: the lever won’t move, but there’s more to this feature than that.

More impressive is that a Red group built with the included Gore cables I could ride through a hurricane’s storm surge and the shifting would continue to be butter-smooth.

I’ve missed dozens upon dozens of upshifts with Dura-Ace because I needed to rotate my wrist to get that last bit of lever travel and couldn’t because I was mid-sprint. And I’ve overshifted the Super Record thumb buttons just as many times. But I’ve never missed or over-shifted an upshift with Red, in part because I can pull the lever back to the bar, tucked beneath my index finger.

In downshifting, practically speaking, I never downshift more than two cogs at a time. I broke too many Shimano chains in the 1990s because I tried shifting three cogs (or maybe more).

There’s no clear victor, but I give the edge to Red.

Front derailleur trim: That Dura-Ace no longer features any trim is a fail. I don’t know a rider who doesn’t get at least a bit of front derailleur rub in some gear. That’s not to say perfect adjustment isn’t possible; the problem is that so few mechanics (me included) know exactly how to achieve it. Because Red only offers trim in the big chainring isn’t a fail, but it gets a B-. Super Record is the clear winner here because you can trim easily in either the big or little chainring.

Braking performance: With regard to modulation, I give the edge to Super Record. For absolute brake power, Super Record and Red have an edge over Dura-Ace, but not by a lot. That said, swapping out wheels often makes a bigger difference than going to different groups. I’ve ridden each of the groups with wheels that resulted in poorer than expected braking and with wheels that offered braking that was a bit more responsive than I wanted. Ultimately, they all offer terrific modulation. They are so good they beg the question: Who really needs hydraulics?

Sound: A full Red group is the noisiest group I’ve ever encountered. Full stop. Still, it’s not that terrible. Is it one of the group’s worst features? I don’t think so. I seem to have spent so much time on Dura-Ace that I’ve come to accept its noise level as the standard by which to judge. The upshot to that is when I get on Super Record the group is so quiet I relish the cut in noise. Win to Super Record.

Ease of shifting: For riders with small hands or relatively little hand strength it’s fair to note that the shifting systems require differing amounts of force to execute a shift. This difference is more pronounced with the front shifter. Since Dura-Ace changed to running the derailleur cables beneath the bar tape, the force required to execute a shift has gone up, and with the front derailleur it’s noticeably so. Red requires less force to execute a shift, but this is another occasion where the clear edge goes to Super-Record. It’s the system I recommend for women riders.

Crank options: Super Record is off the back on this one. Campagnolo offers the Ultra-Torque crank in either 53/39 or 50/34 configurations and only four lengths: 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm. Red offers six chainring combinations and six lengths (165 to 177.5mm in 2.5mm increments). Dura-Ace gets the slight edge, for while they offer the same six choices in chainrings, they offer seven lengths, adding a 180mm option to the array.

Gearing choices: If we leave out non-group options such as pairing a Red group with an Apex rear derailleur and cassette and just stick to in-group options, Red doesn’t look so hot with its four choices. Dura-Ace offers more choices with eight different cassette options. However, though Super Record only offers five options, they take the V here because the 11-speed 11-23 offers everything a 10-speed 11-21 offers, plus it adds a little kindness for the odd hill. The 12-25 and 12-27 options make lots of sense where I live and for those folks who need a little extra help on longer climbs, the 12-29 cassette provides something the other groups don’t offer.

Ergonomics: Okay, Dura-Ace just plain loses on this. The current control lever body has all the design sense of a freeway accident. Sure, it’s functional, but looking at it doesn’t invoke any desire to hold it in my hand. The Super Record control lever is its tactile opposite. I can’t not want to touch one, to hold one in my hand when I see it. It simply looks made to fit my hand and if my hand belongs there, then I’m going to put it there. The Super Record brake levers also feel better on my fingers than either the Dura-Ace or Red levers. They aren’t really made for someone with big hands, but the included shims help with that. But as I noted for those of us with smaller hands I wish they offered the ability to adjust the lever throw. That’s a miss.

Red strikes an interesting balance by offering a lever body that is comfortable and natural to hold and giving the user the opportunity to adjust both the brake lever throw and the shifter paddle position. Edge to Red.

Weight: This one goes to Super Record with a weight of 1950 grams (4.3 lbs.). Red is an extra 30 grams, which is pretty darn close. Dura-Ace may be the heaviest of the bunch, but it wasn’t too many years ago that a 2 kilo group would have seemed like the stuff of killer tomato movies.

Cost: Recently, I was talking Campagnolo’s general manager for North America, Tom Kattus. We were talking about how people choose groups and he noted that Super Record isn’t a fair comparison to Dura-Ace or Red because it’s so much more expensive. The fair comparison is Chorus, he says. That’s a helpful consideration if your primary motivator is price. But I think anytime someone looks at Super Record they do it for a simple reason: They want their conception of what is best. People may shop for the best price on Super Record, but by the time they do that they’ve already decided that’s what they are buying. Super Record buyers don’t want better—they want best. The 7-series Beamer is an amazing sedan. However, the Maserati Quattroporte can reasonably be called the best four-door sedan on the market. Some people will argue Jaguar or Porsche, but you can’t count the Maserati out, and that’s the point. The best deals I see are for Red, so again, it takes the win.

Ease of repair: There are three criteria for this section. First is how quick is it to work on or replace a part. Little touches like the clearly marked and easy to reach derailleur set screws plus the easily accessible lever adjustment screws control lever nuts make Red my favorite to work on. Should I want a component worked on and some small part replaced, such as a component within a control lever, Super Record is the ticket. Just take it to an authorized Campagnolo service center. But if I’m away from home and need a replacement part due to a crash or other need (this happens), I’d rather have Dura-Ace. It’s better stocked, both here and abroad. Regardless, if I walk into my garage to work on a bike I’d rather work on Red than Super Record or Dura-Ace. I have the highest level of confidence that I’ll make the adjustment I need in the least amount of time if I’m working on Red.

Crash sensitivity: If you go down, it’s handy to be able to ride home. Super Record’s more liberal use of carbon fiber puts them at a distinct disadvantage here. Any time a friend who owns a Campagnolo Record or Super Record group has gone down we know to call for a pick-up. The components remind me of what a mentor from Arkansas once said of chickens: “They just look for reasons to die.” Unfortunately, Red levers seem to be rather susceptible to death by impact and abrasion as well. Even after going to carbon fiber brake levers I have to admit that Dura-Ace seems more likely to survive a misadventure.

Cool factor: Ah cool. What’s cool is (of course!) entirely in the eye of the beholder. I’ve got plenty of friends for whom cool can only be bestowed by something Italian. Other friends believe that if you’ve spent a dime more than necessary your purchase wasn’t cool. They go for Red. And there are plenty of folks for whom cool only comes by sticking close to the mainstream. No winner; this is a draw.

Overall appearance: The effect graphics can have on a part is easy to underestimate until you see something amazing. One of my favorite features about Red is its bold use of graphics and color. It makes a statement. And while I really like the overall look of Super Record, there are places where the look is more industrial than stylish. Maybe I’d like the look more if I didn’t expect so much from them. For God’s sake, they’re Italian. Their stuff ought, by right, to look so good that I should fantasize pretty girls will blow kisses to me when I ride by on Super Record. As to Dura-Ace, 7800 was a better looking group; 7900 recalls Apple products in the 1990s after Steve Jobs was forced out. I recall seeing one Apple computer and thinking, “They what?” The difference between average industrial design and great industrial design is the difference between Hyundai and Aston Martin. There’s so much I like about Super Record, but Red takes this by a wheel.

Ideal users: The best answer for one user is not the best answer for all users. I tend to steer women to Campagnolo groups for the ease of shifting if they don’t have great hand strength. I’ll recommend Red if it seems like they will have trouble with the reach to Campagnolo brake levers. For newbie racers or those who race ultra-technical courses where you might be hard on the brakes for a tight corner and then sprinting back up to speed, I think Dura-Ace is better than Mexican Coke, because you can brake and downshift at the same time. If you’ve got big hands, also Dura-Ace; the lever bodies are bigger and you’ll be less likely to notice the increased force required to shift to the big chainring. Like to maintain your equipment yourself? Red is the easiest to work on and achieve the desired result in my experience. And for you sprinters, it’s Red. Red Red Red Red Red. And everyone knows that if you hang your identity on Euro cool your bike will feature Campagnolo.

And the winner is … 

As I tallied up the various considerations above, I suspected that what I was going to find was that I’d given more points to Red than the other groups. I was surprised to find that it was essentially a tie between Super Record and Red. When I think about the bikes I’ve had at my disposal recently, I realized that I chose which bike to ride according to the following criteria:

  • If the bike absolutely had to work correctly at all times and I knew I couldn’t afford a missed shift due to drivetrain vagaries, I chose Red.
  • If I wanted the perfect gearing for a hilly day and light shifting plus terrific progressive brake power for descending, I chose Super Record.
  • I seem to wind up on Dura-Ace only when it’s the equipment on the bike that I want to ride.

My Super Record drivetrain has been so fussy that there have been rides where I’ve made a conscious choice not to take it. The more I think about it the more I realize that if the drivetrain had worked flawlessly all the time—instead of only recently—I probably wouldn’t be as enamored with Red as I am. All of the groups have issues that bug me. I’d like the Super Record brake lever throw to be adjustable. I hate the Super Record brake quick release. I’d like more cassette choices in Red. I’d like lighter shift action with Dura-Ace. All that said, that 11-speed 12-27 cassette paired with a compact crank will get me through any terrain when I’m fit. And if I’m not fit (which would include all of 2011 and every bit of 2012 so far), well maybe Fatty will let me contribute to Fat Cyclist again. In the meantime, I think I’m going to go lube my Campy chain; I’m riding it tomorrow. And the next day.

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47 comments

  1. Daniel

    Agreed, these posts were excellent. I will be asking my SRAM riding friends for a test-ride now (and then possibly getting a new Force group set)!

    ps: “For God’s sake, their Italian.”

  2. Paul

    Great write up. I’m interested in your comments about ease of shifting on Super Record. I note from the photos that you have early generation (perhaps 2009 or 2010) SR. I have 2010 SR on my ‘best bike’, and it definitely takes less shifting effort than my old 10 speed Record. I recently installed 2011 Chorus on another bike, and it feels more similar to the old 10 speed Record. I’m reasonably sure that this is not a Chorus/SR difference (the shifters are essentially identical), but that Campag made the shifts firmer again in 2011.

    Also interested in your dislike of an 11T cog. Is this with a full size or a compact crank? I run 50/34 and 11-25 most of the time (12-27 in the mountains), and I find it a great combination. I agree that I don’t see the point of 53/11 for most of us, but 50/11 seems reasonable.

  3. Paul

    One more thought, on whether Super Record is worth it. If I was to do it all again, I would buy Record. The extra bling in SR is mostly some fancy material that saves a few grams and wears out faster. When the ceramic bearings in the crank were trashed after a year, I replaced them with steel Record bearings. When the chain wore out I replaced it with a KMC chain so I wouldn’t have to buy the ridiculous Campagnolo chain tool, and when the mostly Ti cassette goes I’ll replace it with a steel Chorus one!

    I think Record and Chorus are the sweet spots on the Campag price/performance curve. Record gets the edge because of the crank construction, but otherwise, both are great groups at a better price than SR.

  4. Scott G.

    What is fussy about SR11 ?
    I only need to fiddle with Campy 9s when I change cables.
    NB: In the Tiagra group there is a 12-30 10s cassette.

  5. marc b

    Thanks for this series- as someone who writes reviews for another outlet, I thought that it was well done!

    When I picked up a SRAM Red equipped bike several years ago, I didn’t expect to like the group: the price was the deciding factor. After several years of abuse (including 3-4 days/week commuting, year ’round), I’m hugely impressed with Red- it’s held up much better than I would have expected.

    That said, I still blow shifts from time to time (especially at the end of long/hard rides) and, once the noisy/expensive (though wonderfully light) cassette wore out, I replaced the chain and cassette with Shimano- and have run a Dura Ace 7800 crankset since the beginning. If you’re not afraid of irking the purists with a bastard build, I think that this might just be the way to go…

    Of course, we’ll have to hit reset on this whole discussion when looking at Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2 and when the revised Red group is available this spring…

  6. Chris S

    Great job Padraig! A great wrap-up to a wonderful series. I really enjoyed how you got in depth with each group, evaluating all the facets of each system. This is a great set of articles that hit at a real difference in cycling, or at least the part of cycling who even cares about Red v Super Record v Dura-Ace. It’s a thorough review of the positives and negatives of each group, with comments and side-thoughts aplenty. Hearing your personal view of aspects, whether the feel of the shifters under your hand or your appreciation of well marked limit screws, makes this review stand out. The three companies should be begging for this type of comprehensive review by someone who is knowledgeable and as removed from bias as possible. Good work, and I am looking forward to more of your writing as you grow Red Kite Prayer.

  7. Adam

    I also really appreciated this series. Too often a reviewer will essentially just say, ‘I hate XXX, always have, always will. That’s why I ride YYY’ Nice. Real imformative. Could have gotten more info at the local cafe.
    Ultimately, all of the three groups are very good. There’s been more advancement than I could have foreseen only 10 years ago and they’re all more group than I need. But life is about debating the details, and that debate has led me to have Campy on my main bike.

  8. Scott L.

    Padraig-
    I want to add a little grist for the mill. Last year I started riding Super record and several times I had sweat work its way down the opening at the thumb shifter and encrust the internal cog with the result that I couldn’t shift. The mechanic at the local shop said he’d seen that several times. So, a heads up for your readers who are ‘sweat buckets’ and ride Super Record..

  9. Kenny McCarthy

    I ride Dura Ace and while I am happy with it I thought about going back to Campy. After reading this article I’d probably try Red for the very reasons you elaborated on. I just never thought about parts like you do. Thanks Padraig for taking this on.

  10. Gummee!

    That was great. Thanks again.

    Now, if we could take all the best parts from the different manufacturers and combine em and *somehow* make em all work together, that’d be a real treat.

    I’d love to have the Campy shifters with Shimano cassettes and chains with X (insert D/A or Red here) brakes and crank/bb. …but that’s a pipe dream. :cry

    M

  11. sterlingbbiking

    nice article,working part time in a local bike shop,I would have to say that the red group is easy to work on and adjust, but jeez why the heck does it have to be so noisy and clunky? and if a customer (and or riding partner)doesn’t keep up with the maintenance it can sound like a WW1 tank! as opposed to a shimano drive train that seems to get quieter the dirtier it gets.
    and O yeah, the new campy hoods are just pure sex…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      First, I need to thank everyone for joining in the conversation in the comments following this series of posts. This could have turned into a shit-storm of invective and insanity and I can’t begin to express my gratitude for how insightful, constructive and civil your comments have been. Heck, I’ve learned a thing or two.

      Daniel, Ryan and WV Cycling: Thanks for the catch on the typo. I screw up those homonyms on occasion if I type too quickly. I hate when I do that.

      Jeff: Thanks for stopping by. The praise means a lot coming from you.

      Paul: I’m baffled by the way the force required to shift Campagnolo varies from one iteration to the next. It’s been how many years and they still can’t settle on what the shifter should feel like? How come? It’s not a huge deal as they always work well, but that there should be minor variations from one year to the next makes no sense. As to the 11, the fact is most of us are mortal and by the time you’ve spun out a 50×11 you’re going 43 mph. At that point aerodynamics means more than an extra gear. I get in a tuck.

      Scott G: My Super Record was nothing like my 9- or 10-speed Record groups. Either it hesitated to downshift or with a bit more cable tension it hung on cogs instead of upshifting smoothly. I had to visit the folks at Campy to get them to help me get the group shifting properly. This review would have happened more than a year ago if the stuff had been as easy to set up out of the box as previous groups. I held off on the review until it was working because I didn’t want to judge the whole of the group based on an adjustment issue. But that it was so hard to adjust merits some mention.

      Marc B: Thanks for the kind words. Once you have written a thoughtful review you’ve got a different perspective on what goes into one, so I appreciate the praise. I still love the look of that 7800 crank. I’m not surprised you’re running one.

      Chris S and Adam: Thanks both of you. I’m glad to hear you got so much out of the series. I’ve long maintained that a different set of priorities will lead to a different choice in groups. It’s been fun to finally illustrate why.

      Scott L: I’m sorry to hear you had a corrosion issue. Corrosion isn’t solely a Shimano thing. There was an edition of Record 10 circa 2007 or so (I’m not positive on the year so don’t hold me it) that had terrible problems with corrosion. I remember the plating on the chainrings peeling off because of our salt air here.

      Cendres: Thanks for that. It’s odd, I got that info from Campy’s site, so I wonder why there’s inconsistency. I’m glad to know they are offering the longer cranks.

      Kenny, Darwin: Thanks much.

      WV Cycling: Exactly.

      Gummee!: You’ve got a point. There are times when I wonder why more of the minor features, stuff that isn’t protected by patent, hasn’t been adopted by competitors. I like the harmonized look of a group, but there are times when I wish some of the features weren’t quite so different.

      SterlingBBiking: It’s a relief to hear your experience echoes mine and others I’ve spoken with. And yes, the Campy hoods are amazing.

      Concerning the new Red group that SRAM is about to introduce: I just finished a piece on the new parts (based on tech info and photos) for peloton’s next issue. I can’t divulge details, but people are going to be surprised by all the changes. I can’t wait to ride it.

  12. A Stray Velo

    A fitting ending to a great series of reviews. That was a nice read and I’m glad that at least one place on the interwebs speaks their mind and is happy to do so.

    There was an update to the 11spd series of shifters. All the newer shifters have a black wheel (EC-SR060 from their techdocs) at the back of the shifter that the cable runs through when you thread the cable into the shifter itself. The earlier and first editions were white. It can be clearly seen by pulling the hood back and looking into the shifter from the bottom where you would feed the cable in. From what I know this was done to address the cable tension issues on certain frames where cable tension was an issue. I think the new wheel has something do do with the amount of cable the shifter pulls when actuated. Don’t quote me on this but I know that there was a change.

    Personally I have fallen out of love with Shimano components. I have a bike with 7800 on it that I still love to ride but I’m in the middle of building a SRAM bike and before the year is out I’d like to have a Campy bike built up as well. I really like all the options that are out there at the moment aside from Shimano but I’m hoping they get their act together and the new group is better than the current.

  13. Dennis

    Thanks for going into so much detail with your reviews. I’ve really enjoyed reading each installment!

    I do have a question: you discuss crank options, but in your experience is there a noticeable difference in crank performance? How about chainrings?

  14. grolby

    Thanks for a great series of reviews, Padraig.

    There are actually a number of components that can be mixed and matched without issue, at least between Shimano and SRAM: cassettes, chains, front detailers and cranks between those are all basically neutral. I already run Shimano cassettes most of the time. I go back and forth on chains; the Shimano ones seem a bit smoother and have a better reputation for strength, but the lack of a master link system for them is irritating as hell. I actually prefer the KMC 10-speed and older SRAM 9-speed chains to the 10-speed master link that can’t be re-used, which makes it about as useful as Shimano’s replacement pins. If I do switch back to SRAM (I’m on Ultegra 6700 right now), it’ll be for the rear shift lever response. A good sprint is one of the major weapons in my racing arsenal, and I’m a bit worried about upshifting while sprinting. I’ll try a season with the Shimano, first. But if I do return to SRAM shifting, I’ll likely stick with the Shimano crank. The q-factor seems ever-so-slightly lower, it feels ever-so-slightly better. Like anyone, I want my parts to match, but I also want the best combination for my preferences and idiosyncrasies. For example, I also wish that I could have Shimano or SRAM drivetrains and shifting with those glorious Campy brake hoods – easily the most comfortable brake hoods ever made by anyone.

  15. NorCalEddy

    Hello, excellent article. I do have one comment regarding Campy cranks. In my effort to set my wifes bike up with record 11, I discovered they do not offer record or super record in 165. The 165 crank is not availible as part of a group, and I believe it is Athena level. Anyway, my impressions of all 3 after using all 3 pretty much matches yours.

  16. CAT4Fodder

    For me, the reason for the switch to SRAM was simple….I have smaller hands. What is interesting to me, is that most of the cyclists I ride with are either women or guys my size (i.e. – smaller hands). I swear, Shimano decided all cyclists must all be 6’3″. It was as if their design team got their ergonomics from watching an NBA game.

  17. WV Cycling

    @TheRaceRadio – 52 x 36 is the perfect front end ratio! I put a 36 on my (compact 50/34) bike, and I live in the Appalachian mountains!

    @Padraig – Just like everyone else, I was hanging on the seat of my pants for each post of this expansive review. Thanks for, well, having your style of writing and critique. Love it.

    Random bits: I’m afraid of Campy. Living in the middle of nowhere with no one having a ton of materials or experience with this group, I fear that if I couldn’t fix it… It would mean $replacement$ or shipping it out for repair. In 2008, my LBS was weary of playing with SRAM. My bike was the first he worked on with SRAM on it. Everyone plays the Shimano game for road bikes around here, just because it’s the OEM king. Mountain bikes are a different story!

  18. Paul

    NorCalEddy,

    What group does your wife have now? When I put 11 speed Chorus on my training bike, I left the 10 speed record ultra torque crankset and 10 speed record QS front derailleur on it. Works great.

  19. paul

    This is the best RKP post in a long time. Those details, observations, and plainly stated opinions are a refreshing break from prose regarding cycling lore and mystique and nostalgic tales from childhood.

    I’d like to see the same write up for the mid tier groups (Rival, 105, Centaur). I hope that some of the self-funded riders here use components from those groups. Or, who knows, maybe regular old Record is roughing it …

  20. RollinPolish

    This article is terrible. Every single quantifiable test has shown that Dura Ace brakes blow the other two out of the water. Second, this all comes down to random preference. I have never missed a single Dura Ace shift in any direction. The levers have been the best shape of any I’ve ever tested. Lastly, I’ve heard the people that say the same about both of the other two major component groups.

    This is an example of why cycling publications are so terrible- there is absolutely no empirical evidence and just a bunch of opinion. We can all write our opinions all over the internet, but it doesn’t mean that any of it actually counts for anything.

  21. Ryan Cousineau

    Really enjoyed this series, especially the detailed, clear-eyed comparisons. It sounds like there’s a sweet spot with the SRAM stuff where you can go with an Apex cassette for gearing, and maybe a Force front derailleur for the stiffer plates, and that corrects some of the worst faults the group has. (Conversely, it’s harder to fix the failings you see in the Shimano and Campy groups by looking elsewhere; maybe the Gore cables would be nice on those groups).

    Of course, one thing I’m interested now is a value-drivetrain follow-up: what happens when you compare these makers in their cheap-racer lines, like Shimano 105?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Ryan: While I don’t know what the selection will be cassette-wise with the new Red, it looks like most complaints with Red will be addressed in the new group coming out next month.

      Paul: Thanks for the kind words. We’ve gotten so many requests for an analysis of less expensive groups we’re going to ask around and see if the component companies will play ball.

  22. C_hris

    I really appreciate that this review was done as a comparison, rather than a simple write-up whose copy mainly consists of finding new ways to express the fact that a group successfully upshifts and downshifts most of the time. I was disappointed that crank performance, both from a shifting and stiffness standpoint, was never brought up, nor the myriad durability issues that SRAM’s BB30 bottom brackets have had.

    I’ve also found it fairly easy to set up my 7900 front derailleur to avoid any chainrub, even in cross-chain gearings. That may be because I have a clamp-on fd, rather than a braze-on hanger, but the reviewer failed to mention what he used. This is not a slight against the reviewer himself, but the format of the review itself. There is no way that one reviewer’s experience with a product can possibly give a comprehensive breakdown of its pros and cons. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed each installment, and I’ve now bookmarked redkiteprayer as a result.

  23. amused to death

    From my personal experience with Campagnolo, I can say that you can use any part of any 10 speed group from Campagnolo work with each other. I had on one bike Centaur ergo’s, Record rear derailleur and sprockets, Veloce front, Daytona brakes, KMC chain and Record square-taper crank with Chorus bottom bracket. Everything worked flawlessly even after a heavy crash downhill. On my current bike I ride the 2008 Record compact group and I’m very happy with it. Maybe someday I’ll switch to 11 Chorus or Record for the comfy hoods.

  24. AMR

    What a great finish… this post was!

    Am I excited about The Change? Oh, Yeah!!

    Goos work!!

    PS: “…without a sense of the rhythm and focus of a writer’s ideas, the work becomes just a jungle of words…” – Far out, have you been reading my shit!!!

  25. George

    I only started wrenching my own bikes last year, starting with building an entire bike from frame up with SRAM Force. This winter I stripped the bike back down and built it back up, and did the same with an older bike equipped with Ultegra 6500. I will say that the biggest difference I found was that the SRAM parts, especially the levers, are just mechanically simpler, which to me is better and more elegant. The Ultegra parts work great, but peering inside the levers, you could see that Shimano’s solutions to various engineering problems was a lot more complex, and from a wrench’s standpoint, more problematic in terms of reverse-engineering and repair.

    Aside from that, I’ve enjoyed SRAM a lot. Obviously its a lot lighter than what I was used to, but in terms of usage its intuitively simple, and while somewhat clunkier, I prefer the lever and hood shapes and contrary to Patrick, prefer that the brake lever not rotate on a lateral axis. To me that just feels a little safer.

  26. TV@VT

    As one who’s still got Dura Ace 7700 9 speed stuff on all my bikes, this was an interesting set of reviews. But I can’t say it makes me want to go out and get any of them! Sounds like DA7900 has made a few steps backwards (I have FD trim on my 9 speed levers!), and the fussy Torx aluminum bolts on SR11 sound really bone-headed. And while not mentioned at all here, I’ve heard way too many complaints about the quality of SRAM stuff, that they’re not as durable as the other two.

    Campy 10 speed still seems to have lots of proponents, as does DA7800. Maybe it’s that Shimano is putting all their eggs in the Di2 bucket now, but their mechanical gruppos don’t seem to be as good as their previous 7700 and 7800.

  27. TV@VT

    I will also add that I’ve used a Truvativ crank on one bike that took the GXP SRAM bottom bracket. I’ve never encountered that much friction in a BB before. It was terrible. Just did not spin at all. Went back to Octalink BB (and a different crank) – the difference in friction was stunning. The crank on the Octalink BB just spun and spun. Smooth as silk.

    When I see that SRAM has upgraded this BB, I may think about using that crank again, but only when they throw out the GXP.

  28. Jeff

    Respectable opinions on all 3 groups in one place. Nice. The inter-webs are buzzing. One criticism — I think the ease of set up, or out of the box plug and play-ability, or just fussiness in general should be weighted more. (I weighted it more in my decision.) This would lower SR11 desirability some. Peoples love/commitment for Campy requires that they fuss until they get it right. Sometimes it is not only adjustments that are needed but swapping parts. My evidence is only what I read on my MacBook or hear on the group rides but I rarely/never hear it about mechanical Dura Ace, but hear it often about Record and SR. The deal breaker for me was test riding 11 speed when Campagnolo was touring the country a while back offering test rides. I had heard about 11 speed fussiness and thought that if the Campy people could set it up, so could I, and I would put it on my new bike. The Record and SR bikes were out with the shop sponsored riders, but I got to ride an Athena bike. It made a racket on the middle sprockets. No second chances. But boy oh boy did I want Campy on my new bike.
    Jeff


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Jeff: For what it’s worth, I’ve had Campy nine-speed Record plus three 10-speed Record groups prior to Super Record. They were all easy to set up and maintain. My Super Record group is the first fussy drivetrain I’ve experienced from Campy since the days of 8-speed Record (which I never liked).

  29. Jeff

    Padraig,
    That is what bummed me out. During all the years of planning my dream bike, Campy had that reputation. When I finally get to put it together, Campy’s best had gotten too complicated, and I couldn’t put Centaur on my dream bike. (My comments about Record and SR above refer to 11 speed only.)

  30. Ben

    Great analysis. Thanks for putting it together.

    One category I’d like to discuss is durability. I have owned DA and Red, and DA is more durable. I have had Red on two bikes over four years. I love the performance and usability of Red, but the chainrings wear down quickly compared to Shimano. I have also had two component failures with Red. So while it costs less to buy Red, it will cost the same or more to operate.

    With that said, I like the Red ergonomics and shifting and it makes a really light bike!

  31. Ken Woo

    Really enjoyed the full installation, nothing like it elsewhere online.

    But alas, with this issue’s wrap up so close to the lastest release of Red ver 2013, it’s time for a re-match err re-write.

  32. stickboy

    Great write-ups. Refreshing to read no punches pulled reviews. Another thing to note would be customer service. If something does happen to go wrong, SRAM sets the gold standard in this department. Shimano is catching up, but Campy still lags behind (and we are a Campy Pro Shop). And the days of Campy small parts availability are over (at least as far as their shifters are concerned).

  33. Philip

    I have 2 bikes with red shifters and rival derailleurs/brakes. That seemed like the best bang for the buck. I have numerous wheels with various sram,shimano cassettes and the shifting has been a little better with the shimano. I use a KMC chain for value the reusable link. My bad weather bike has rival shifters/ders and dura ace 7700 brakes. Sram rear shifting is a joy and seems the most intuitive of the brands but the front shifting is not as powerful and requires more effort then the old shimano 7700 I came from. I don’t understand why it is impossible to shift the chain back on the chainrings after throwing it off to the inside with sram? I hope the new sram front der is more powerful/less effort and is backwards compatible?

  34. MikeyWolf

    Great article, covers all the points i was considering when i bought my road bike last year. I always had an idea i wanted Campagnolo Record on whatever bike i had. I ended up getting a Boardman Team , equipped with a SRAM Rival groupset ( except brakes, which got upgraded a month later). I must admit, the Rival stuff is very good, never a missed shift, but i didn’t like the 50/12 top gear. I upgraded the cassette to a 11-23 Dura Ace with a Dura Ace chain, and it’s awesome now. Again, fantastically written article

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