What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talks With SRAM’s Gaetan Vetois

Campagnolo and Shimano – cycling brand names don’t come much bigger or stronger. Can those whipper-snappers at SRAM really muscle-in on the gruppo market? We spoke to SRAM Germany’s Gaetan Vetois to find out.

PEZ got a first look at SRAM’s new RED Gruppo at Interbike, but last week at the Saunier Duval-Scott traiing camp in Spain, we sw it in action on the pro’s bikes.

PEZ: Why ‘Red’ so soon after ‘Force,’ Gaetan?
Gaetan: You need more than one groupset to cover the market and we were keen to make improvements on Force; apply what we learned with Saunier.

PEZ: What are the main differences?
Gaetan: We’ve shed a lot of weight for a start, all the components are lighter and the weight of the groupset is lighter than Record and Dura Ace. As far as practical differences, the main ones are: the front derailleur can be ‘trimmed’ now and we’ve done a lot of work on the shifters, they now have what we call ‘zero-loss.’ That means that there’s absolutely no delay between activating the shifter and the chain moving across the sprockets. We think it’s the most positive shift you can get.

We’ve changed the shape of the lever body too and it’s possible to adjust the travel, bringing the lever closer to the handlebars; this is especially useful for guys like Piepoli, who have small hands. (Rubens Bertogliati told PEZ that in his eyes, the Red lever is the most comfortable on the market.)

PEZ: These changes come from feedback from the riders?
Gaetan: Definitely, Saunier have been great at helping us develop the product to suit the needs of the riders and mechanics.

Less weight and big ring trim improve the front mech.

PEZ: You had problems with the Force brake pivot bolts?
Gaetan: We only had one actually snap, but you can’t take chances, so we did a recall. The problem was caused by a titanium supplier who had a quality control problem, it’s been sorted-out now.

Brake mods includ shaved weight and an easier to reach placement for the brake block security screw.

PEZ: There was talk too of “indistinct” changes with the double tap shift system?
Gaetan: We’ve been making mountain bike gear systems for a long time and our XO system has the fastest change there is, but we’re new to the road. A slick gear change can be the difference between winning and losing a race. We think that Red is now he best shift on the market; I asked Riccardo Ricco what he thought of the new gear set-up and he replied; “perfecto!”

PEZ: The brakes remind me of 70’s Dura Ace, with the reinforcing brace.
Gaetan: If it was a shape that worked then, it still works now, the design is rigid, very light and gives great stopping-power.

PEZ: Was your first Pro Tour season an eye-opener?
Gaetan: You can test product in a lab as much as you want, but it’s not until you put it into a race situation that you can really assess it. We learned a lot with Saunier, but we had 29 wins, that speaks for itself. We’re building a reputation and trust now; Astana and Agritubel will be with us for 2008, that’s tells you a lot.

No self respecting mechanic is ever without the proper tools for the job.

PEZ: Does SRAM regard Pro Tour involvement as essential?
Gaetan: If you’re in the road equipment market and you’re not involved with a Pro Tour squad then you’re not a credible player, it’s that simple.

PEZ: What does it cost to develop a groupset like Red.
Gaetan: It’s hard for me to put a specific value on it, but if I tell you that there’s been a large team of people working on the Force and Red projects for three years, then that gives you some idea of the costs involved.

PEZ: Is there really room for a third groupset manufacturer?
Gaeten: If your product is right, then there’s room for you. We’ve already shaken-up the road equipment market and the competition can only be good for the customer.

Put sweet SRAM Red on a sweet bike, and you’ve got ProTour.

PEZ: What about the future, wheels, electric shifting?
Gaetan: This is only our second year in Pro Tour, we’ve just started, we want more victories and to increase our slice of the cake before we do anything. Campagnolo and Shimano are both working on electric shifting, but it’s taking a very long time to get it right. I think there’s a long way to go with mechanical shifting before we need to think about ‘going electric.’

• Get more info at SRAM.com

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