Interbike 2010 – SRAM | Shimano Shootout

Sram vs ShimanoIt took us a few days to sit back and digest the way’s in which SRAM and Shimano chose to approach their Interbike presentations. What we found was mainly that Shimano and SRAM both duke it out with huge adjustments to their lines by updating their shifting technology for 2011.

SRAM brought 10 Speed down to the X.7, X.9 and X.O and upgraded the technology downstream through their normal trickle down effect from last years top of the line components. Specifically they set up their X.O series with 2 x 10 and have given you a choice on the x.7 and x.9 to run either 2 x 10 or 3 x 10, revamped their Code brakes, and added a new adjustable height suspension seatpost called the Reverb.

Shimano added the new Dynasys technology throughout the upper tiers of their line. Dynasys brings you up to a 10 speed system and adds a smoother shifting rear cassette by keeping the same high and low range while removing the large jumps in the middle rings. Dynasys does not simply mean 10 speed though as they have completely redesigned the pickup systems and created a very specialized asynchronous chain by machining each side to a specific task.

SRAM | Avid | Rock Shox | TruVativ

Sram and it’s offspring (Rock Shox, Avid, Truvativ) have been pumping out new technology, new designs, and innovative products at such an alarming rate, that at any given time, it almost seems like they’re standing still. In the last 2 years, they’ve overhauled their brake line with the introduction of the Elixr Brakes, the Rock Shox line has been revamped with new features and designs and Truvativ has been worked into the Sram groups as a more integral component. Here are a few new products and technologies coming your way.

The largest addition to the Sram line of components is the 2×10 and 3×10 systems that match the hugely popular XX Group. The 10 speed features now trickle all the way down to the X.7 group. One of the most impressive features to be carried down is the inclusion of the carbon cage on the rear derailleur and MatchMaker compatible design. This means that newbie and budget oriented riders can benefit from the same technologies that the pros do. Props to Sram for bridging that gap with even more lanes of traffic.

Rock Shox
Rock Shox has remained relatively the same this season, but that’s simply because the designs are working. The small changes that were made ended up being more improvements than overhauls. One example is the addition of 15mm axles to match the current trends in the mountain bike market. They have also included longer travel versions of existing forks to help cover more range. The Revelation is now available in a 150mm length and the SID sports a 120mm package for those looking for the lightest fork in that travel range.

One exciting new product that really stood out was the new Reverb adjustable height suspension post. This post is designed at such a high tolerance that it eliminates the majority of side-to-side wiggle at the saddle that most other posts of this nature are plagued by. The Reverb features a hydraulic handlebar mounted remote for controlling your ride height. Steep aggressive terrain? drop the post 125mm. Flat section where you need to hammer? Stand and let the post come to you. On the handle bar remote, you can adjust the compression/rebound rate with a simple dial. The Reverb is completely rebuildable with kits rolling out to the market within the next year. Our favorite feature is that the main chamber to control ride height and the chamber to control the rate of movement are kept completely separate. The remote system can be bled just like a brake, however this system does use suspension fluid and will require specific bleed kits.

The single largest overhaul of the Avid hydraulic brakes is in the Code line. The Code line features 2 brakes as before, the Code and Code R, but with distinctly different feels and purposes. Both feature the same 4 piston caliper system that Code lovers have come to live by, but the levers vary quite a bit. The Code brake lever is for the serious downhill racer and gravity crowds, and features the same 3 bearing system as the first generations while the Code R uses the same lever as the Elixr R for a completely different feel. Where these brakes separate is the at the hands. The Code lever settles into the throw a little bit further for the gravity guys who like to run down the trail with their fingers on the lever. The Code R is much more of an on/off feel with a much quicker engagement , similar to that of the Elixr line.

Along with some minor tweaks, Avid has reworked the Taper Bore piston system to squeeze a little more out of an already stellar design. In addition, they have completely revamped their bleed machines and all current models should be ready to ride right out of the box. Gone are the days of inconsistent bleeds from the factory.


Shimano XTR brakes
The XTR series is split into two groups so that you can choose between the ultra light-weight Race series or the more bomb proof Trail series. The Trail series brakes have a stronger master cylinder which provides a more powerful brake feel. They also get heat syncs, called IceTech, directly on the brake pads to help remove the heat build up which plagued older models with the death howl and brake fade. The new XTR Trail brakes will give you 125% more power than the lighter Race brakes. The rotors received a major overhaul by sandwiching aluminum between ultra thin layers of steel to further disipate heat. As for the Race series, it sees mainly weight savings.

Shimano XTR shifting
The new XTR shifters feature the ability to switch from 3×10 to 2×10 by simply flipping a switch. They pull much more cable per throw allowing all shifts to feel exactly the same instead of getting mushy when you reach the lower gears. That means shifts cogs 1 and 2 will feel just like shift 9 and 10. In addition the right shifter in the XTR line received a lot more spring tension giving it super solid feedback and a more positive indication on a shift completion.

XTR Rear derailleur had the leverage point moved out so that they are able to get better torque over the spring across the full rear shift cycle. The cable housing stop was moved out 3cm to achieve this. They went with a outer carbon fiber plate and an inner aluminum plate to give a good strength to weight ratio across the cage.

SLX and XT keep the same crank arm design as before but get new chain rings to work in with the Dynasys system. What this means for you is that you can keep the same crank and upgrade to new rings to make your rig 10 speed. The XTR crank was completely redesigned from every angle. It now features a narrower Q-Factor, new rings, and no longer uses the annoying expansion ring that the previous generation used to tension the bottom bracket.

The new chain is asymmetric which allows them to design the inner plates to work specifically with the cassette and the outside plates are set up to be pushed against the crank’s chain rings and hook the ramp and pins to pickup better. Just make sure you put it on facing the right way! Going to a 10 speed chain gives them the ability to build a chain with a much better tolerance. The side cut of the chain (shown below) shows that they do have a much tighter 90 degree fitting system. One thing to note is that the mountain and road chains are different this year. This will give them the ability to focus on durability on the mountain side and remove some of the outer plate to loose some weight on the road chain.

XTR Pedal
The Trail pedal has a much bigger platform for slightly more aggressive riding while the race version sees the that the jaws have been moved rearward compared to 2010 XTR pedals and it has a shorter spindle length by 2.5mm for lower q-factor. Both pedals have a slightly oversized portion of the body around the axle to move the foot closer to the spindle and aid in mud clearance. They also get intentional contact areas on pedal body for a noticeable ‘connection’ to the pedal.


Both companies have focused on a lot on the shifting technology that they use and have arrived at a head to head battle. As history has dictated, SRAM has put together a line of components from drivetrain through brakes that all benefit from similar designs, use compatible parts, and are driven by a cohesive thought. Shimano has pushed the design and technology to such a finite point, that we now have chains that are directionally specific. Both of their approaches offer some of the greatest technology the industry has ever seen.

In the end, the choice will come down to personal preference as it does with most other components. Many will argue that Shimano wins the precision in shifting at the chain and cogs, while Sram wins at the bars with the feel of their levers and the Exact Actuation. At Tree Fort, we’re heavily divided down the middle with many of us drawing bias based on previous experience. At the end of the day, if you’re a SRAM guy, you’ll probably find a familiar feel and quality that you’ve come to love. If your in the Shimano camp, you’ll appreciate the new designs, added shifting “pop” and the purpose built, specific designs. SRAM does have a slight lead in that they were the first to market with MTN 10 speed and the subsequent trickle down effect. So choose wisely and check the compatibility of your new group. With so many options between 2×10 and 3×10, you want to make sure everything will go together like July and the Tour. Just give us a call and we’ll help you sort through it all!

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