SRAM's top-tier road groupset, the Red eTap AXS, was last updated in 2019. Despite its fifth birthday quickly approaching, it's still among the best road bike groupsets available today, but it looks like SRAM has been replaced.
After patents surfaced last year, there were a lot of rumors suggesting a new version was on the way in 2024. And it appears the rumors are true after images were leaked on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday by user @mubahua.
All three photos show the rear assembly, including the rear gearbox with cassette and chain; The front shift/brake lever is mounted on the road handlebar, disc brake rotor and caliper. All images feature at least one instance of the SRAM Red branding, and none of the products shown appear to match any product from within the current SRAM Group hierarchy.
We've reached out to SRAM, but the brand has chosen not to comment on the matter, so at this point, SRAM has not confirmed the authenticity of the products in the images, and their origin remains unclear.
They look like they are from a studio photo shoot. Despite being low-res, the lighting and quality are studio-level. Interestingly, the rear cassette and gearbox are mounted on an “invisible bike” using the studio trick usually adopted by group brands to show off their products without the chainstay detracting from the product on offer.
The images also appear to match patents leaked late last year, as well as images of a prototype kit that Movistar used for its December 2022 training camp.
There were no descriptions or sellsheets in the leak, so these three images are all we have to go on for now, but there are a few things we can discern and decipher about the new groupset and the direction SRAM is taking at its peak. Class road set.
There are still 12 speeds, and the gear remains 10T
One of the biggest takeaways is that SRAM is sticking with 12 speeds, rather than ramping up to 13. This makes sense, and maintains the amazing level of compatibility across SRAM's road and gravel groupsets. This means that users of the new SRAM Red, assuming these images are in fact legit, will still be able to spec a Red track with, say, a Force cassette and Rival shifters.
Also of note here is the small 10-tooth sprocket, as this cassette appears to be a 10-36T option, as found in the current range. SRAM took a lot of criticism when switching from 11 to 12 speeds, with the criticisms primarily targeting the efficiency of the smallest 10-tooth sprocket. Although larger rings are widely accepted as being more efficient, this photo shows us that SRAM is sticking to their guns and keeping the 10-tooth sprocket.
It also indicates that SRAM will retain the standard XDR freehub.
Finally, this indicates that SRAM has remained conscious of weight, with what appear to be holes milled out of the parallelogram body.
New head covers, brake levers and shift paddles
The second image shows an all-new shifter shape, with what appears to be a smaller bonnet, a less bulky lever, and a sleeker shift paddle, in a design that matches the one leaked in 2022 at Movistar's training camp.
When SRAM launched the Rival in 2021, the brand talked a lot about the new lever shape and how it was smaller and more precise. A group of SRAM-sponsored pros have been seen using it, albeit with a carbon fiber lever that you can't buy. This lever was then moved to last year's Force launch, and more SRAM-sponsored pros were seen using it in favor of the larger red lever. The impression SRAM gave was that they knew the red lever was too bulky, but they worked it out. If it weren't for the nagging suspicion of the Movistar team camp leak and then the patents, we'd assume the Rival/Force leverage would continue here.
Obviously this was not the case, and the new design has been likened by some as being closer to Shimano's GRX, with high-pivot brakes, a twisted lever and a steep upward slope of the casing itself.
The single button indicates that SRAM is committed to the DoubleTap shifting logic, and the button itself feels shallower, which helps negate the problem those with smaller hands found. Adjusting the lever reach inward so that small hands can reach the lever more comfortably often means that the large paddle either hits the bar, or hits 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 on the Specialized tarmac fork. The rotor appears to have undergone a complete overhaul. It still uses the CenterLine
The caliper also appears to have two holes cut into either side of the pad mounting bolt, though that may be a trick of the light in these photos.
When will the new SRAM Red be released?
In short, we don't know!
Assuming these images are legitimate, as they show an almost complete set, we can likely expect it to launch this year.
We were recently at the Tour Down Under – the first WorldTour race of the season – and as shown in our technology gallery from the race, none of the SRAM-sponsored teams were using it there, suggesting it won't be coming right away. The next big races to look out for will be the spring classics, but we'll be on the ground at several early season races so we'll be sure to keep an eye out.
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