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Two key ways SRAM hopes eTap HRD disc will stand apart

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (VN) — SRAM eTap was certainly the most exciting tech development in road bikes last year, and SRAM has grabbed the spotlight yet again in 2016 with the launch of eTap HRD, a hydraulic disc-brake version of the eTap system. The disc version of SRAM’s wireless system is…

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FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (VN) — SRAM eTap was certainly the most exciting tech development in road bikes last year, and SRAM has grabbed the spotlight yet again in 2016 with the launch of eTap HRD, a hydraulic disc-brake version of the eTap system. The disc version of SRAM’s wireless system is set to launch in early 2017, so those that have embraced road disc — not to mention cyclocross racers — have much to look forward to in the coming months. SRAM hopes to stake its claim atop the hydro disc brake market by focusing on two key concepts: adjustability and heat management.

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One pull on the eTap HRD lever and the solid lever feel is apparent, paired with a positive return, which means stopping power and modulation should be possible from any hand position.

But what’s notable about the system is the combination of both a reach adjustment and a contact point adjustment. The reach adjustment should be done first to accommodate riders with smaller hands. A simple turn of a 2.5mm bolt underneath the brake assembly behind the brake lever adjusts the reach inward, and a turn in the other direction returns it to the outboard position.

Photo: SRAM
Photo: SRAM

Once that’s set, peel the top of the brake hood back to reveal a 5mm screw that adjusts the contact point. Turn the bolt to customize whether the brakes initiate early in the lever pull, later in the pull, or somewhere in the middle.

Keep in mind that this screw does not adjust the distance between the pads and the rotor. Instead, it adjusts the relationship between the cup seal within the master cylinder, and the ports that essentially block brake fluid from passing through. Those tiny ports control when the master cylinder begins to build pressure for braking. The sooner those holes get closed off, the sooner the brakes will engage. Your rotor clearance remains the same no matter how you adjust the contact point.

In order to provide consistent braking power, SRAM dedicated plenty of engineering to heat management. Most of that happens at the one-piece caliper. For starters, the pad pocket (the big hole where you insert your brake pads) is larger to encourage airflow. A special phenolic coating on the aluminum pistons helps dissipate heat (it’s similar to that rubbery material you often find on frying pan handles). And a heat shield helps break the barrier between heat build-up and the caliper itself.

Photo: SRAM
Photo: SRAM

Why does heat management matter so much? Aside from preventing premature wear, heat dissipation helps ensure consistent and reliable braking modulation. It also prevents brake fade — or, the loss of stopping power during prolonged or repeated braking. Brake fade happens when the pads and rotor heat up enough that, while the brake lever may still feel solid, braking power starts to diminish. It can also occur if the brake fluid heats up, leading to spongy feel. SRAM uses DOT 5.1 fluid, so the boiling point should be higher than you’ll ever achieve on a fast, prolonged descent.

Finally, SRAM improved set-up and maintenance with a new bleed system called Bleeding Edge. The syringe fitting snaps into the caliper port, then you turn it to open the system. A revised fluid path in the caliper helps eliminate any air bubbles. SRAM says the entire bleed, from dry to ready-to-ride, should take about 90 seconds.

Photo: SRAM
Photo: SRAM

The brake levers and shift paddles are identical to eTap levers that use mechanical brakes, but the eTap HRD hood shape is different. It extends farther upward, but not nearly as drastically as SRAM’s other hydraulic levers (like the Force 1 hydro hoods). It’s a good middle ground, and the eTap HRD hoods provide a comfortable cradle for your hands.

The entire SRAM Red eTap HRD kit weighs 960 grams with 160mm rotors (not including crankset, chain, or cassette). Both post and flat-mount calipers will be available. The kit includes shift-brake controls and calipers, front and rear derailleurs with batteries, power pack, USB firmware update dongle, and CenterLine X rotors with titanium hardware. All that will run you $2,204. Throw in a Red crankset, chain, and cassette, and your total comes to $2,940. Expect to be able to purchase the new eTap HRD kit in early 2017.