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2015 Velo Awards: SRAM eTap is Innovation of Year

It’s fair to say everyone expected an electronic drivetrain from SRAM. The company was the only one of the Big Three component manufacturers without one. Given rumors and spy photos, we were even pretty sure it would be wireless. But no matter how high our expectations might have been, SRAM surpassed them with a wireless shifting system that has the potential to revolutionize not only drivetrains but, more broadly, bicycle design.

Oh, and it works phenomenally. Shifts are notably smooth. And thanks to SRAM’s decision to embrace the freedom of an electronic platform, there’s no more worrying about which derailleur to shift. Up with the right button, down with the left one. It’s like going from a manual to an automatic but without the performance drop-off.

Then there’s setup. Think about a bike frame in which the only wire or cable of any type needing to go behind the head tube is the one for the rear brake. Little or no internal routing; no hidden compartments or access covers; and fewer ports engineered into the frame, which means more strength at lower weights.

Those are the big, slap-you-in-the face differences. But then you find out that eTap shifters run on simple watch batteries, and front and rear derailleur batteries are interchangeable, should the need arise. There’s also the install. The first time you put an entire drivetrain on a bike in under 10 minutes will change your life.

SRAM took its sweet time on this one, for sure. eTap has been floating around the pro peloton for years, as the company did everything it could to make sure this stuff was bombproof before it came to market. But now that it’s here, we can say it was worth the wait. Like index shifting, suspension forks, and carbon fiber, eTap changes cycling.