This most likely isn’t the first review that you have read about eTap. Raving reviews have been all over the Internet of this revolutionary group for the good part of a year, way before SRAM was set up to meet the demand of the market. My review has been in the making for the past three years.
I have the fortunate privilege of testing products that aren’t ready to come to the market, during their development stages. Sitting on the SRAM advisor board, I am privy to their manufacturing forecasting and get a sneak preview of skunkworks projects.
I rode the first prototype eTap three years ago during a board session in Arizona. One year later, I rode the fourth edition series, as eTap was working its way towards public release. Neither series much impressed me.
I have been riding Shimano’s electronic shifting since its introduction and felt that the bar was set at a height where the next-to-market system better come up with a genius plan and flawless execution to be considered a viable option. My first two experiences with the prototype eTap fell short. Yes it was better then mechanical, but it wasn’t better then the pioneer in modern electronic shifting.
Earlier this week I built up a Mosaic RT-1 with the new eTap. The key word in that sentence is “I”. Yes, I actually built up the bike, something that I haven’t done in over eight years. Once the cycling world went electronic, I got quickly dropped from bike building. Shimano over the years has made the wiring systems easier, however a skilled technician truly needs to know all of the nuances in building up the system. eTap has simplified the installation of the system by going wireless. In fact, it takes longer to unpack the group from their over designed boxes, then it does to mount the group on a frame.
Once installed, tuning was simple and flawless. A clean bike, sans wires, clearly is the answer for all future groups, no matter who manufacturers them. Going wireless seems like a no-brainer, when you compare it to all of the electronics that we use in our daily lives. SRAM didn’t invent wireless, they brought it to cycling.
Learning a new shifting logic, (which buttons perform which desired action), takes a bit of time. Switching from Campagnolo to Shimano, or Shimano to SRAM Red, all take a bit of hesitated thought to make sure you are pushing the correct lever to get the desired result. The new eTap is logical in its process; one single lever on the right shifter makes the resistance harder and one single lever on the left shifter makes the resistance easier. Both levers at the same time switches the front chain ring from the current position to the other: if you are currently in the small ring, it switches to the large, and visa versa.
It took all of about three shifts to understand and memorize the system. It couldn’t be more intuitive.
My trepidation with the earlier versions was with the speed and sound that went along with the shifting. It was clearly in its experimental phase, chugging along trying to appear polished and complete. SRAM slammed dunked the new elegance of its shifting action. Each touch of the shifter paddles brought a confidence inspiring change of resistance, without hesitation or telegraphing noise. Flawless shifting.
SRAM raised the bar and brought electronic shifting to where it should be; clean, flawless, intuitive and logical. I only hope that some of the criticism that I gave the development team was used in executing this new eTap version. Otherwise, I might be dropped from their board like I was when I used to try to build my own bikes.
PS. How intuitive is the eTap shifting logic? I rode my Shimano Di2 the next day and kept catching myself pushing the left shift paddle when I wanted to go to an easier gear. It made sense, unless of course you are riding a system developed on mechanical logic.