Was it love after the first ride? nope, in fact truth be told it took me a few road rides to get used to the mechanics. Especially switching between Di2 and SRAM Red. It was not long however before I started to like the positive feel. Once the racing started I really appreciated the shifting. It was an appreciation that grew throughout the race season.
I really like the fact that changing up and down is achieved with one lever and in one direction. This might seem a small thing but trust me when you are riding at threshold the less you have to think about the better a truism especially relevant to Cyclo Cross racing.
The distinction hit home the first time I had to switch to my "Pit" bike equipped with Shimano shifters. Normally I have no problem switching between the different shifters however in the height of competition the switch was nothing less than frustrating. I found myself dropping gears and in a cross race a dropped gear can be the difference between staying in contact or not. The switch lead to a very sketchy moment during a technical decent and as a result of the whole experience I stripped my pit bike and fitted it with SRAM Force CX1 which I will talk about in a future gear review.
The SRAM Red Double tap shifting is smooth and quick and I personally really like the positive feel of the shifting. Talking with others this can be subject to personal taste so be sure to try it out for yourself and give it a few rides before you make a decision.
The yaw front derailleur is elegant and does its job well. It is not all good news however. Whilst the shifting works flawlessly the shift lever has a long throw. When racing I found that I could not shift quickly, I had to think about shifting far to much and found that it regularly took me multiple attempts to shift. In addition to the long throw the shifting was nowhere near as positive. Fortunately I did not have to use the front changer that much but every time I did the experience was the same. On the road when there is more time it is less of an issue but off road on a rough twisting course the problem was polarized. For me this is were CX1 really comes into its own.
The levers can take a good amount of punishment which is a key ingredient for cyclocross as you will crash. I got all the way through the season but the last race was one too many. I crashed and broke one of the levers. The downside of performance equipment is the strength to weight tradeoff and of course the cost of replacement. That said I did not think twice about replacing the lever with the same model.
To complete the drive train the SRAM Red Shifters are paired with SRAM Red front and rear derailleurs with a front derailleur chain guard and a SRAM Quarq crank set (Power Meter). All of the equipment performed very well week after week.
I went down hard a number of times during the season and the rear derailleur took all the punishment without failing. Now the frame may have to take a little credit as the rear hanger bent which from a cost standpoint is a much better option than taking out the derailleur.
Adjusting the front yaw derailleur took a little time. After a chain ring change I got the bike back with cross talk which can be common when the chain is on the big cog at the front and back. This is not a situation you want on a cross bike as you spend a lot of time in those gears so take the time to adjust it correctly or find someone who can.
The front derailleur chain guard for the most part was excellent except for when the bolt securing it comes lose which is did regularly. I had to check it before each race. When it comes lose it is worst than not having one as it allows the chain to slip down behind it effectively trapping the chain. This happened to me on the last race of the season costing me over a minute. For next year I will be looking for a new option.
The SRAM Quarq has been a robust and reliable device since installation providing power data. I have not had to think about it as it has just worked. I was initially concerned that cyclo cross racing would be too hard on the device but that has thankfully not been the case.
Bottom line I really enjoy the equipment. If I would change anything it would be to move to a x1 system but other than that I highly recommend the equipment.
Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.