On the road
I had a few questions coming into our ride test, and they were all pretty well answered, though of course more time on a component will always reveal more of its secrets. I got about 4 hours in on the group today, everything from cruising on the flats to getting dropped liked a bad habit by Tim Johnson on the day’s final uphill sprint (if he wasn’t peaked for Worlds, I totally would have had him. Also, I was sick in December and got very little sleep on a plane a week ago.)
First: would the front shifting be an improvement, and if so, where does it slot into the current hierarchy of system. Prior to today, my ranking went as follows: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Shimano Ultegra Di2, Campagnolo EPS, Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, Campagnolo Record mechanical, Shimano Ultegra mechanical… on and on between Campagnolo and Shimano. Old Red fit somewhere down near the bottom.
Yes, the new Yaw system and chainrings are a marked improvement over the old Red. In fact, and this is the big one, new Red outstrips Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 and undoubtedly provides the best front shifting of any mechanical group. Even more impressive: new Red comes dangerously close to matching Dura-Ace Di2.
The biggest indicator of a solid front shift setup, and Di2’s greatest strength, is shifting under high load. That’s not necessarily a recommended practice, but then again racing includes lots of ill-advised shift practices. New Red can be shifted up and down under sprint loads without issue.
Rear shifting is just as good as it was before. Crisp and fast. I’m a fan of double tap, so I have never had any qualms there. More impressive, though, was how utterly quiet the whole drivetrain is.
That was made most apparent when I was riding behind our local ride leader, who was using an old Red Powerdome cassette and a Force group and was riding next to a journalist with the new group. While our rider leader’s bike was making an awful racket, the journalists was completely silent. It is a feature that truly needs to be heard to be believed (and, perhaps, appreciated).
Braking was better than with the current Red brakes, though still a bit less powerful than a Dura-Ace brakeset. Modulation was on-par with the best brakes I’ve used. Without trying out more wheel and pad combinations, I can’t honestly go into much more depth than that.
We’ll have much more time on the new group soon, so keep an eye out for a more complete review and wear analysis.