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By Matt Pacocha
In the tech world, there’s always something newer, lighter and lustier right around the corner. In the marketing world, thousands of dollars are spent to create a good buzz at just the right moment to drum up sales for the new stuff without cannibalizing sales of a company’s existing product. Recently, SRAM may have gotten its tech and marketing wires crossed, as a 42-page document detailing its yet-to-be-released, top-end road group, Red, began circulating on the Internet well ahead of SRAM’s planned launch.
When SRAM unveiled its Force and Rival groups in April of 2006, company spokesmen alluded to another group coming down the road. Full details weren’t disclosed, but pieces of the puzzle soon began to pop up: Time-trial shift and brake levers were introduced at the Tour of California. Ceramic bearings were released at the Sea Otter Classic. But again, the full picture was kept intentionally shrouded.
This spring, all was well in the SRAM camp as new technologies were rolling out smoothly and the company got its products into the ProTour with Saunier Duval-Prodir. Recently SRAM began trickling out other product onto pro racers’ bikes where it could be spotted by a trained eye.
At the Tour of Georgia, Road magazine editor Neil Browne spotted prototype DoubleTap shifters on Millar’s team issue Scott Addict and posted the photo on his blog, www.neilroad.blogspot.com, under the title “Which one of these doesn’t look like the other?” Note that the shift lever has a different shape than a Force or Rival lever. Browne has a good eye, but rest assured SRAM knew the lever stuck out like a sore thumb — it was in Georgia to be seen.
But every once in a while the best-laid plans go awry.
SRAM’s plans for a later launch for Red had already started to spiral off course during the previous week at the Sea Otter Classic. In mid-April, Bicycling magazine contributor Joe Lindsey posted a link to a PDF document flying around cyberspace in his weekly Boulder Report column under the headline, “SRAM Launch: What’s Here, What’s Not.” The live link came down roughly a week later.
Lindsey had posted a link to a 42-page document entitled “SRAM Technical Specifications MY08 MTB and Road Components,” which appeared to be intended only for bicycle manufacturers and wholesalers.
“I’m not sure if it was the guy that runs the Light Bikes blog or what, but somebody got it and it was posted there originally,” said Lindsey. “If you want to credit someone, that’s where I first found it; in my story that’s who I credited. I had heard a rumor about a document that was leaked, and basically I Googled it and came up with the document on Light Bikes.”
The document outlines the specifications for Force, Rival and a new road group called Red. Within the document weights and material specifications are outlined in detail.
SRAM representatives will not deny or confirm any specifications that have been reported on the Red group. But this is where things get interesting. While the official company line is that the specifications of Red do not yet exist, SRAM’s “Will you make the leap?” [www.willyoumaketheleap.com/seered/] Web site on May 4 confirmed the existence of the Red group and gave three details: The group will be under 2000 grams, available in October and will be a no-compromise, high-performance racing group.
On May 15, cyclingnews.com published a report on the new group based on its technical editor’s research. The story was live for a short time in the early morning then was promptly pulled offline. Cyclingnews.com reposted a report on the topic this morning.
“There was some information — posted, released, whatever — online,” said SRAM media manager Michael Zellmann. “None of that information is officially ours nor are we going to verify anything.”
So is the PDF the real deal or something that unintentionally slipped into cyberspace? Or is this 42-page document just more clever marketing? Regardless, the juicy details about SRAM Red and its alleged incorporation of carbon, titanium and magnesium into all sorts of nooks and crannies makes for good reading.