We all like a bit of bike porn, and this is some serious stuff! Meet Neil Towns' Team Wiggle Eastway Emitter R0, fitted with SRAM Red eTAP!
I was all set for a season of riding crits on my Eastway Emitter R0; set up with a 1x11 SRAM Force transmission. I'd selected my gear ratios, and was interested to see how a year of 1x translated to the Crit circuit. Best laid plans…
SRAM eTAP ARRIVES...
My plan had not factored in the launch of the new SRAM wireless electronic groupset - RED eTAP. More accurately, I'd not considered it likely I'd get my hands on a groupset in time to build the bike for the season. SRAM are being super controlled in the manufacture of RED eTAP, as you would expect; quality and reliability are the top of their consideration, and as such, the chances of me landing one of the initial batches was small!
Having seen the factory making and assembling the eTAP equipment in Taichung (Taiwan), it was easy to see that SRAM don't cut any corners, or take any risks, when it comes to supplying their equipment to the market. To be fair, this is extremely evident in everything you see at their factories; from RockShox forks, to the cassette machining; from assembly tools, to the CNC machines; SRAM really are at the top of the cycle industry from a manufacturing position - pushing boundaries and performance to improve our bike riding experience.
RED eTAP is the latest way that SRAM have pushed the boundaries for the road rider (you'll have seen how they just pushed the envelope in the MTB world with the ground breaking SRAM Eagle groupset). Wireless electronic shifting moves bicycle drivetrain systems on from Shimano's Di2; no longer is frame design bounded by the need to thread wires or cables to derailleurs - How long will it be before we see frame designs making super clean eTAP specific framesets? - No more holes or cable housings required!
What was even more of a surprise than the incredible new technology in SRAM's RED eTAP groupset, was that within days of it coming to the market, I was able to get one! – I know, I'm lucky, I work in the biggest bike shop in the world, that's got to have some advantages! All of a sudden, the 1x11 plans went out the window! Back to the drawing board!
So, all of a sudden, it was an Eastway Emitter R0 with a SRAM RED eTAP drivetrain - unique!
Chainset: This bike will be used across the season; from circuit crits, to road races, to Euro mountain sportives. I needed to build a versatile machine. With this in mind, I selected the semi-compact chainset (52-36T); capable of crits, as well as riding in the Dolomites and Alps. When bringing eTAP to the RED groupset family, SRAM updated their RED graphics; the updated eTAP SRAM Red chainset is a triumph in understated carbon fibre design!
Cassette: In an effort to keep gearing and wheels consistent across my stable of bikes, I opted for the SRAM 11-28 cassette. It keeps all my wheels in play, from Zipp 202's for the mountains, to Zipp 404's for the road racing in the UK; even my Fulcrum Racing Ones for training, spring riding and Spring Classics sportives - these were the wheel of choice in my early season Tour of Flanders sportive on the Eastway R0 – the bike and wheels passed the test, with flying colours!
Shifters and derailleurs: The SRAM RED eTAP groupset really is a fine piece of engineering. The levers offer the same great ergonomics as the standard Red levers, but communicate to the front and rear derailleurs via a wireless signal protocol.
Both the derailleur units are simple too; and have clean lines that 'melt' into the bike. The lack of wires makes them seem more 'a part' of the bike than 'add-ons'! Setting up the gears is a simple process: Batteries into the levers, batteries clipped onto the derailleurs; bolt the derailleurs into place, adjust the upper and lower limit screws on the rear mech, and you're done.
OK, not quite. The front derailleur is a little trickier; the YAW technology requires you to get your angles right. Focus on the job at hand and its easily done though – just follow the instructions. The most difficult thing, is testing the set-up in the workstand! With your bike in a stand, in order to test the front derailleur set-up, you need to be able to press both buttons and turn the cranks simultaneously - I could do with octopus arms! (We got there eventually).
Chain choice: Up to now, I have ridden Shimano groupsets, and without exception favoured the KMC X11 Super Light 11 Speed Chain. I intended to use the same chain with the eTAP, but should have believed SRAM when they said they had designed all the parts to work in harmony, chain included…
The special machining on the SRAM Red 11 speed chain marries with the chain rings, cassette and the front YAW derailleur in a particular way. If you use the wrong chain, it challenges the performance when pushing to the full gear range (remember that SRAM Red is a 22 speed groupset - so running big chain ring to big cog on the cassette should present no issues). The KMC chain just didn't work the way that it should, so I changed it to the 'proper' RED chain. Lesson learnt!
Pedals: I opted for the Speedplay Zero Stainless Road Pedals - easy choice.
Finishing kit: Having built up the frame with the latest groupset to the market, I finished the bike in the only manner that would be fair – with top level kit! I have long enjoyed the performance of Ritchey finishing kit, so I had no hesitation in bringing the full Superlogic experience to bear on the Eastway. A full carbon matching bar, stem and seat post set, was a luxury. With no junction box to hang off the stem now, I also get to have a super clean stem and bar set up.
Saddle: I have, for a couple of years now, ridden a Astute Skycarb VT saddle. It's expensive, light and Italian! Handmade in Italy, bringing local skills in carbon and material together, the Astute brand is bringing the artisan back to the high-tech saddle. At 140g it is super light, too; but the double carbon shell, covered in multi-density foam and wrapped in high quality microfiber material, ensures that the weight doesn't compromise comfort – it is without doubt the most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden, as well as the lightest!!
For the Eastway Emitter though, I am trying a new perch in the Astute range; a slightly less expensive Astute Skylite VT I-Prof version, with no cut-out, but the same flat racy design. It is just 160 grams, and replaces the carbon with a nylon/carbon composite; otherwise a few rides in and I'm finding it hard to see or feel the difference!
I reckon I've created a bike that is at the leading edge of bike technology. With the SRAM RED eTAP it looks stunning, rides absolutely beautifully, and is a bike that weighs under 7 kilo's - even with my Fulcrums in place ready for the Tour of Flanders sportive!
I'm spoilt, I know; this is an amazing bike. I can't wait to ride it for Team Wiggle this summer, and hopefully I can do it justice with some amazing results.