Fun With Tools: SRAM Double-Tap Internals

Fun With Tools: SRAM Double-Tap Internals

I’d been mulling my frustration with SRAM Force 1 and discussing how great a group it would be if I didn’t live in a place with fall-line fire roads carved into Redwood forest. Never mind the fact that this is exactly the place I want to live. Don’t sidetrack me.

I was talking with the head mechanic at a local shop and wondered aloud about how the inside of the lever body was shaped on the left Force 1 lever. He immediately observed how he’d seen a video (on Youtube, natch) in which a mechanic had taken internals from one lever to replace something broken in another. No surprise there, but it got me to thinking; SRAM Force left shifter internals will all be the same, regardless of what variety of brake the group uses. It was obvious the lever body was hollow inside. The question was how much work it would be to move the mechanism from one Force lever to another.

It’s fair to ask why I was even thinking along these lines. Well, I’ve got a Force 22 group that isn’t currently being used and there was a frameset that I wanted to use the Force 1 group on, but I really wanted more low-end, gearing-wise. So I figured I’d try to swap the mechanism over. There are other ways to address the gearing issue, but this was way more interesting than watching TV and included the added drama of an unknown outcome.

The original Force 22 body with everything cleaned out.

The possibility of an unsuccessful outcome became much more likely once I completely removed the hood and the panel that covers the shifter. It took a little while to figure out the order in which to remove the components. Fortunately, unlike some products from Shimano and Campagnolo, when I opened up the lever it didn’t cause any springs to dislodge and shoot tiny parts across the garage. On one occasion I was traumatized enough that I simply rounded everything up and took it to an authorized repair center because I didn’t even know if I’d found everything that Roman candled out of the lever. This was the first time I’d opened a lever since then.

What I really appreciate about SRAM is the simplicity and elegance of their designs. Nothing is over-engineered. There’s a ratchet, a spring, a lever and not a lot of other stuff. When I looked inside the lever it was easy to conclude why SRAM can bring new products to market more quickly than Shimano.

The vexing ratchet catch with the C-clip removed.

As processes go, the whole thing reminded me a lot of a video game. There would be a sequence of relatively easy steps followed by one that was more difficult. Then, there would be another sequence of relatively easy steps followed by one that was even harder.

The first step, I learned the hard way, is to remove the hood from the lever. This is best done while the lever is on the bar so that you can tug on it more easily. The next step is to remove the three screws holding cover shielding the shifter mechanism. With that done, I removed the lever from the bar.

There’s a central axle on which the ratchet turns. To get the mechanism out, the axle must be removed. There’s a small retaining screw that keeps the axle from backing out; that goes first. Next, I had to take an angled pick and reach behind the brake lever and find the spot where the axle protrudes slightly from the lever body, behind the brake lever. It was a difficult spot to find; you’re working blind. After many attempts, I finally got a feel for where it was and was able to gradually push the axle several millimeters out so that I could grab it with needle-nose pliers. With one good yank it slid free.

At that point the shifter mechanism basically fell out; I had to observe carefully how the spring sits, but with the guides molded into the lever body, it was pretty easy to figure out.

The ratchet catch installed in the new body with the C-clip installed. 

No matter how hard I thought pushing the axle out was, the ratchet catch which is mounted to the bottom part of the lever body was much tougher to move. Getting the C-clip off and removing the catch wasn’t hard. Finding the C-clip on the floor after it ricocheted off the side of the box in which I was performing disassembly (so that I wouldn’t lose any parts) took significantly longer.

Again, I used a pick to push out the axle on which the ratchet catch sat.

With everything removed from the body of the first lever it was time to install the parts in the new lever body.

Arguably, one of the toughest operations was reinstalling the C-clip for the ratchet-catch axle. The lever body won’t allow you to hold the C-clip with needle-nose pliers and push it into place from behind. I had to place it above the axle and then use two small screwdrivers to slide it into place. I’m sure there’s a better way, but finishing is winning.

The new lever with the internals installed. 

Truly, the most maddening step required me to hold the ratchet catch out away from the body while sliding the ratchet mechanism in place and making sure the spring drops into the correct slot, plus simultaneously sliding the ratchet axle in far enough for the mechanism to sit on it. There are two springs to line up plus a part of the ratchet that must nest into the ratchet catch. I must have spent a half hour working on this; there are at least four ways to do this wrong. I even considered the possibility of removing the ratchet catch and then reinstalling it after the ratchet was in place, but I was suspicious of trying to work with the tiny axle while under spring tension.

Once everything was in place I gently slid the axle the rest of the way in and guided it into the receiver at the other end of the lever. And when I finished installing the retaining screw I let out an audible breath. A few more screws and the panel was in place. I fed a cable in, secured the lever to the bar, rolled the hood down and then wrapped the bar.

I’m sorry there aren’t more photos. I was alone and there were times when trying to photograph the parts would have resulted in probable, if not certain, disaster.

I’m reminded of the David Foster Wallace book, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” but this was fun enough to do the once.

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  1. Tominalbany

    Did you hit a flow state? I’ve found when I’m doing that kind of detailed work, I totally zone out from the world – even to the point where I stop blinking as often as my eyes would like!

    Cool project, Padraig. Now that you’ve done it, does it all work as planned?

    1. Author

      I did hit flow some. There were moments where I was in a world where the music wasn’t playing and I had more than enough light, which is to say that I was in a poorly lit garage with a bluetooth speaker playing music from my phone. It was not the satisfying rush of a descent, but it was all the payoff I needed.

      And yes, it works perfectly. It was a huge relief that it worked correctly on the very first try.

    2. Jeff Dieffenbach

      Here’s a flow state Q unrelated to the shifter question: Is it possible to be in a flow state and simultaneously be aware that you’re in a flow state?

      I was skiing this past weekend. From time to time, I would link together a set of turns such that I was totally absorbed in and not thinking at all about the turning. At some point in the series of turns (I’m guessing 15-30 seconds in), I would eventually notice that I had been totally absorbed (think of the feeling you get when you’re driving and realize you don’t remember any of the last N seconds or minutes). The sudden awareness wouldn’t stop me from continuing the fluidity of the turns for another 15-30 seconds or more. (I would then definitely snap out of any flow that I was in when my 50+ year old thighs announced their discomfort with the whole situation.)

      One description of flow that I’ve heard is finding a degree of difficulty in your activity that requires you to give your full attention without being so challenging as to be scary. I wouldn’t call the terrain that I was on particularly taxing for my ability level, so it wasn’t so much that I had to pay full attention as it was that I was no longer paying attention.

      Given all that, might I have been in a flow state when I was absorbed in the turns? And might I have still been in one when I became aware of the turns?

    3. Author

      I’ve had conversations with Steven and others about this phenomenon, where you’re in flow, but your identity can still give a status report. Transient hypofrontality—that is, when the prefrontal cortex goes offline and you stop thinking about who you are—is one of the more significant markers of flow. I see flow on a continuum. The more intense the flow state the less aware you are of your internal editor, of time, of your surroundings, of what you’re making for dinner. In lesser flow states, when the stakes are lower, the world can intrude more easily. And when I think about those ebbs and flows, it lines up, just like with your description: In a turn, when you need to focus, you’ll drop into flow. And once you’re out of the turn and gliding across corduroy (or better yet, powder), the demands on your attention drop and you snap back to the real world a bit.

  2. Ted kelly

    Any idea if the insides of Etap levers can be swapped so the right one shifts to bigger cogs?
    To my mind sram got the rear derailleur control exactly backwards from what makes intuitive sense. Alternatively is anybody hacking the software?

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