In the world of major groupset manufacturers, Sram are the punky new upstart kid on the block. In the late 1980’s Sram began manufacturing Grip shift gear change systems for Road and MTB markets. Founder, Stan Day, was frustrated having to change gear on down tube gear shifters when he had his hands on the handlebars. This was before Shimano’s STI and Campagnolo Ergopower offered combined shifting and braking.
From the Grip Shift, Stan was keen to develop the business and enlisted a group of entrepreneurial cycling enthusiasts to take the next step into rear derailleur production. The Sram ESP rear derailleur was developed to work in conjuction with the Sram ESP grip shift, this was the first steps by Sram to produce a complete shifting system.
Inspired & acquired
The Sram story is primarily a story of acquisition and innovation. The first major Sram aquisition came in 1997 when they bought German bike parts manufacturer, Sachs. This gave Sram an experienced group of metallurgists and engineers as well as a chain and geared hub production facility. In 2002 Sram aquired Rockshox, the biggest name in MTB suspension and a world renowned brand. In 2004 hydraulic braking experts, Avid, were next on the Sram shopping list, followed by quickly by Truative – producers of bottom brackets, cranks and chainrings. These aquisitions meant that Sram could make all the components needed to enter groupset manufacture.
To the TDF
2006 and Sram entered the world of road groupset production with 10 speed Rival (name carried over from Sachs) and Force groupsets. 2007 saw the first Sram (Force) groupset complete the Tour De France with the Saunier Duval-Prodir team. The Sram road groupsets used their own proprietary shifting technology, Double-Tap. This system used just one shift lever for up and down shifts – offering a simpler and lighter alternative to Shimano and Campagnolo systems. Alberto Contador took Sram’s first Tour De France groupset manufacturer victory in 2009, using 10 speed Sram Red.
R.I.P. Front Derailleur
2007 saw the purchase of Zipp, the carbon wheel, handlebar, stem and seatpost manufacturing experts. Power meter manufacturers Quark were purchased in 2011 and the technology was incorporated as an option into the 2012 Red groupset. 1 X 11 Mountain bike gearing was introduced in 2012 with the XX1 groupset. The new single chainring design featured alternating wide and narrow teeth to help retain the chain, without the need for a chain-guard. 1X11 rear derailleur’s featured a clutch mechanism to add an extra layer of security for the chain. In 2014, 1X11 technology was in cyclocross thanks to the CX1 groupset, which changed into the Force 1 groupset.
2016 and Sram’s 1 X 11 dominance coincided with the popularity of Gravel bikes. The simplified 1 X transmission and hydraulic disc braking were in huge demand. For a few years, Apex, Rival and Force 1 X 11 groupsets were the only options for gravel bike riders – until Shimano launched GRX in 2019 and Campagnolo Ekar in 2020.
In 2015, Sram entered the world of electronic road groupsets with the Sram Red eTap. However, Sram didn’t ‘just’ go electronic, like Shimano and Campagnolo, they went Wireless too. Soon after the Red eTap was launched, the hydraulic brake (HRD) option was available to tap into the widespread uptake of hydraulic disc braking on road bikes. 2016 and the Sram MTB range gained an extra sprocket with the 1 X 12 Speed Eagle drivetrain. This was also the time the front derailleur for MTB became almost redundant. The 1 X 12 drivetrain offered 500% gear range – similar to a 2 X drivetrain, but much simpler and lighter.
2019 and mountain bike groupsets went wireless with the XX1 Eagle AXS & X01 Eagle AXS as well as the Force eTap AXS road groupset. Force eTap AXS offered similar performance to the Red eTap AXS range. The AXS groups have BLE connectivity and an optional free mobile app called AXS. This offers the ability to reassign and customize button functions.
Time to Buy Again?
Sram purchased French pedal and carbon fibre manfacturer, Time, in 2021. The purchase included all the Time patents, including the road and MTB pedals which feature lateral and angular float. Sram Rival eTap AXS groupset was launched as a lower price alternative to the Force and Red wireless groupsets. The Rival eTap group features the same functionality of the upper level groupsets.
The relatively short history of Sram has seen a huge amount of development and innovation. This has both helped guide and push the industry forwards.
See our full range of Sram products here