Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SRAM vs Shimano

After recently making the transition from the "mainstream" Shimano gear shifts to SRAM I thought that I'd "spread the word" and give you the benefit of my experience.

I'm sure that almost everybody will be familiar with the Shimano amd it's MTB groupset with it's various levels of "competence" from the functional yet basic Deore, LX, XT up to the flag ship XTR. But how many of you know about SRAM ?

Background : Until a recently they were a small company building on it's slightly different take to the Shimano "standard" gear changes with different shifters, cassettes, chains. However, they're recently undergone few years of rapid expansion and are "the" company on a roll and are surely out to rival the bigS. They're moving towards being able to supply their own groupset after acquiring the likes of Avid (brakes) and Truvativ (cranks/stems/bars/seatposts/etc). More recently, they also bought out RockShox (forks, shox's) which is fairly big coo and give's them an edge to Shimano as they don't manufacture forks.

The SRAM gear sets range from X7, X9 to the major bling X0.

A number of basic differences separate SRAM from Shimano in the operation of gear changes.

  1. SRAM operate on a 1:1 ratio between the shifters and the mechs, whereas Shimano use 2:1 on the rear and 1:1 on the front. This means that a SRAM system is likely to operate for longer without the need for small adjustments and to be less prone to ghost shifts on full suspension steeds.
  2. SRAM shifter paddles are operated by the thumb only whereas Shimano require both the thumb and forefinger. This was a major selling point for me as having 4 fingers permenantly wrapped around the bars gives a more secure ride over those large boulders. It's also much less strain on the grey cells as only the thumb is in motion.
  3. The rear mech cable routing on SRAM is direct from the chainstay whereas Shimano need a long loop of cable to enter in the rear. The most obvious advantage of a direct cable run is less drag but an additional benefit is that shrubbery is less likely to get hooked along for a ride !
  4. SRAM rear mechs use a much firmer spring mechanism over Shimano. Which greatly reduces chain slap (chain hitting the chainstay), chain derailment when jumping and the mech hitting the chainstay. I can also be a pain to then get the back wheel out ! Update: checkout this thread for a video (approx 28Mb) that helps to highlight the differences.
SRAM also produce a Shimano range of compatible shifters called (rather uninspiringly) "2:1 shifters" ! Fortunately, they're more commonly referred to as Rocket or Attack.

Having previously used Shimano Deore and the midrange LX I can confirm that it's all good kit and works very well, with noticable improvements higher up the range. Converting to the SRAM midrange X9 shifters didn't cause any worries and in operation the changes are slightly less slick but feel more positive. Which I find a bonus when you've a set of full fingers gloves on as I always mis-shifted Shimano gears during the winter as their operation is quite light to the touch. Do they change any differently ? Probably but I'll be damned if I can tell. You'd need a dedicated test rig to figure that out and personally I'd prefer just to get out and ride...

Appart from the shifter ratio's all other components are interchangeable between the manufacturer's and my current rig has SRAM X9 shifters, rear mech and chain with a Shimano cassette and front mech. I've found that SRAM chain's tend to last longer but that probably means that the rest of drivetrain wears a little more rapdily.

The general understanding is that the SRAM front mech isn't as slick as Shimano, all Shimano cranks/bb's set the industry standard for light/stiff, that the top flight SRAM X0 rear mech is the bees-knees, that the SRAM X0 shifters are leagues ahead and that the rest of the kit functions on a par.

You chose which you'd like...


ihatethetv said...

Thanks for the info. Good rundown.

Anonymous said...

Ok cool thanks for the info. I've been struggling my wife bought me a schwinn ditch 3.0 & I didn't know that much about bikes so all info is good.. The bike seems to be fine after I took the first one back. The rear sprocket was loose.. 300 bucks she paid for bike I ride every day now. Let me know what you think about parts in my bike...