Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obligatory Shimano vs Sram Post

I was excited when I got the Trek to be going back to a full Shimano drive train. Everything from shifters to derailleurs, brakes, cranks and even pedals have got those nice little XTs stamped all over them. But after what seems like a ton of riding and racing already, there's trouble in paradise.

Gearheads are notorious for vigorous debates between the merits of Shimano vs Sram. Each side boasts rabidly loyal customers that will fight ad nauseum over things I don't understand or care about like ratios, materials and on and on. I never really entered the fray because you know what they say about arguing on forums ...

Anyway, this isn't a forum, it's a blog so I can say whatever I want and moderate your comments after. Besides, until now I didn't realize how much I have to say on this topic. So here is my "user's review" with absolutely no nod to engineering or design whatsoever (unless colour counts!)

Last season I rode the Giant Anthem Zero (above) and it came spec'd with full Sram X0. It was a beautiful bike and I didn't know how good I had it when it came to shifting. I remember when I picked it up from the shop, I hated the Sram. The thumb-thumb shifting after getting used to Shimano's thumb-trigger really screwed me up and I felt like I had to relearn this most basic skill. But the brain is an amazing thing and after the second ride, it was second nature. I never gave my shifting a second thought. Oh, the things we take for granted!
This season, on the Trek (above) and its Shimano XT build, I'm spending more time than ever fussing with stuff I don't think I should have to be fussing over. As much as I love this bike (and I can't stress that enough) the shifting is really starting to grind my gears. Last night I raced it in the Superfly Tuesday night series and was reminded once more how annoying it is to not be able to shift under power (read, abuse my equipment as sometimes happens in race situations) and count on my drivetrain to work through the mud and hills of Albion.

So here is my Shimano vs Sram match up.

Sram X0
  • satisfying "chk" on every shift
  • even under too much pressure (like a climb) shifting remained reliable
  • highly adjustable controls which is great for women with smaller hands such as myself
  • sleek metal/carbon design on the shifters
  • set and forget -- tuning stayed in place for a whole season! (whereas my XT has trouble doing that for one whole ride.)

Shimano XT
  • notably light
  • unreliable shifting, sometimes taking two pedal strokes to get in gear
  • limited adjustability of controls means I can't find a position I can reach with thumb and finger that doesn't cause me to have to move my hand, twist my wrist or cramp my fingers
  • limit tuning required after almost every hard ride
  • plastic parts although light, feel cheap and make me worry I'm about to break it every time I shift into the big ring
Final score? Sram 4, Shimano -3.

It's a knockout.

And speaking of knockouts, look at these beauties!! Sram's new X0 groupo, in colour! Dear Santa ...

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