SRAM is the second most popular road bike groupset manufacturer. Many believe it’s better than Shimano.
In this article, I will compare the weights, performance, prices, and other differences of current SRAM Rival, Force, and RED (eTap AXS) 12-speed electronic groupsets.
SRAM Rival eTap AXS is the best entry-level electronic road bike groupset. It has better ergonomics than Force but is only available for disc brakes and has a few other limitations, like no possibility of connecting satellite shifters.
Force eTap AXS is the golden mean, and RED eTap AXS is ideal for racers and serious roadies.
The reliability, shifting speed, and accuracy of these groupsets are the same.
Please, remember that this article only covers the latest SRAM electronic groupsets. You may still find bikes with mechanical or older-generation groupsets.
SRAM Road Groupsets Hierarchy
According to this estimate, Shimano holds about 70% of the market share, while the rest is split between SRAM, Campagnolo, and other manufacturers.
A reasonable estimate is that SRAM accounts for around 20% of the road bike groupsets market. However, their position is stronger in the MTB market.
Please refer to the following table, which summarizes the hierarchy of SRAM road bike groupsets.
|Mid-range||Rival eTap AXS||12-speed||Electronic|
|Pro||Force eTap AXS||12-speed||Electronic|
|Pro||RED eTap AXS||12-speed||Electronic|
SRAM focuses mainly on its electronic groupsets, and they haven’t updated the mechanical ones for a while.
SRAM Apex is the most affordable groupset. It’s mechanical and only 10-speed. Then there are Rival, Force, and RED which are all available in mechanical and electronic versions.
Due to the relevancy, I will focus on the electronic groupsets only (eTap AXS).
Naming and Generations
SRAM adds “eTap AXS” to the names of their electronic groupsets. The eTap refers to the wireless shifting technology, while AXS refers to the integration system that allows you to connect SRAM groupsets with the SRAM smartphone app. (Source)
The latest SRAM groupsets are as follows:
- SRAM Rival eTap AXS
- SRAM Force eTap AXS
- SRAM RED eTap AXS
All three series are electronic and wireless and have 12 gears.
TIP: See this comparison of SRAM vs. Shimano groupsets.
If you’ve done any research, you’ll have noticed that SRAM eTap AXS groupsets are cheaper than Shimano Di2.
|Rival eTap AXS||~$1400|
|Force eTap AXS||~$2100|
|RED eTap AXS||~$2500|
So far, it doesn’t look like SRAM wants to compete with cheaper groupsets like Shimano Claris, Sora, or Tiagra.
These three groupsets mainly compete with Shimano 105 Di2, Ultegra Di2, and Dura-Ace Di2.
The overall weight of the individual groupsets depends on multiple factors. Mainly on the cassette/chainring size and the inclusion of a power meter.
|Component||Rival eTap AXS||Force eTap AXS||RED eTap AXS|
|Shifting/brake levers, brake calipers, and hoses||845g||822g||736g|
|Chain (114 links)||266g||241g||245g|
|Disc brake rotors||158g||158g||133g|
Data source: SRAM
Unsurprisingly, the SRAM RED eTap AXS is the lightest groupset weighing around 2478g. SRAM saved weight using premium materials (carbon) and made some parts (chainrings) lighter.
On the other hand, SRAM Rival eTap AXS is pretty heavy. At 3155g, it exceeds the weight of some of the mechanical groupsets.
Is the price-weight difference justifiable? Only you decide. Unlike Shimano, SRAM’s prices aren’t as aggressive, and you won’t pay as high a premium for the top-of-the-line groupset.
However, you shouldn’t remember that saving a few hundred grams is nothing compared to reducing your CdA. Learn more in my article explaining cycling speed.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to try all generations of SRAM groupsets yet. I had only ridden the RED eTap AXS when I borrowed my friend’s bike.
So, I dove into forums like Reddit and talked to SRAM users to learn more. Those with rich experience agree that the shifting differences between these groupsets are negligible.
Shifting speed, accuracy, and reliability is on par with all of these groupsets (Shimano groupsets follow a similar trend).
If you’ve been using Shimano, you’ll have to get used to a slightly different shifting style. You need to press both the left and right levers simultaneously to shift the chainring.
And to change gears, you use the left/right lever (depending on the setting).
Since the older generations, SRAM has been working on improving ergonomics. Shifters aren’t as bulky as they used to be.
However, we can still find differences between the groupsets. For example, Rival is narrower because it doesn’t offer a brake adjustment like the Force or RED.
Also, there are no connectors for auxiliary remote shift buttons (also called satellite shifters). On the other hand, one can be added on the Force and two on the RED.
Electronic Shifting (eTap) and App Compatibility (AXS)
The difference between using mechanical and electronic groupsets is huge. Electronic groupsets are more convenient.
SRAM calls their electronic groupsets eTap AXS. Unlike Shimano Di2, eTap AXS groupsets are fully wireless (there are no cables leading from the shifter to the battery).
The AXS ensures compatibility of the groupset with a smartphone app that allows you to customize the shifting modes and other settings. Your groupset will also collect data on your shifting habits (which gears you use the most often, etc.).
One of the best things about SRAM is that the components are compatible with each other, including the batteries. You can even swap the batteries from the front derailleur of Rival to the rear one of RED and vice versa.
This can come in handy, for example, when the battery in the rear derailleur runs out. You can swap batteries and still have enough gears to get home.
One of the less obvious differences between SRAM Rival, Force, and RED is in the power meter.
The Force and RED groupsets use Quarq spider-based (dual-sided) power meters. Rival, on the other hand, uses a spindle-based power meter, which only reads power from the left crank arm.
This means that to determine total power, your left-leg power is doubled. This may lead to inaccuracies caused by left/right leg disbalances.
You can read about this more in my single vs. dual-sided power meters comparison.
SRAM Rival vs. Force vs. RED: Summary
The following table compares the key features of these groupsets:
|Feature||Rival eTap AXS||Force eTap AXS||RED eTap AXS|
|Power meter crankset available||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Brake lever adjustment||No||Yes||Yes|
|Satellite shifters||No||Yes (1 only)||Yes (up to 2)|
|Launched||April 2021||March 2023||February 2019|
The price depends on the exact specification of the groupset and whether or not you buy it with a power meter.
Besides weight and price, there’s not much difference between them, right? So let’s finally answer the question:
SRAM Rival, Force, or RED: Which One Should You Choose?
At this point, it becomes clear that the choice depends mainly on your preferences and budget. Performance-wise, all three groupsets are pretty much the same.
Go for Rival if you are looking for the cheapest option. But expect higher weight, no ability to connect satellite shifters, and worse data accuracy if you decide to buy it with a power meter.
If you decide between Force and RED, I would spare more money and go for RED. It looks more refined, has more ergonomic hoods, and is much lighter.
SRAM Road Bike Groupsets FAQ
While the SRAM Rival vs. Force vs. RED debate may seem never-ending, their mutual compatibility gives you more freedom.
The easiest (and cheapest) way to enter the electronic shifting game is by buying SRAM Rival eTap AXS. Yes, it’s relatively heavy, not available for rim brakes, and you can’t connect satellite shifters to it, but it’s a wireless electronic groupset for an affordable price.
If you don’t like any of its parts (e.g., the crankset), you can buy Force or RED crankset that looks much cooler. Some also claim these cranksets are stiffer.
Force is lighter than Rival but has worse ergonomics of hoods (they are bulky). That’s why people often prefer more premium RED shifters.
The final choice depends on your budget and preferences. The biggest differences are in weight, satellite shifters compatibility, power meter, and price. The behavior of the groupsets (their speed and reliability) is the same.
So, which one will you choose? Or will you rather use Shimano Di2? Let me know in the comments below.