By Karl Rosengarth
SRAM told me that their 9.0 component group was designed for the high end enthusiast, not necessarily a racer, but somebody who rides a lot. Shucks, that sounds like me. Bring it on.
Oh yeah, they brought it on: front/rear derailleurs, Shorty grip shifters, 11-34 Powerglide II cassette, PC-69 Power Chain, brakes, levers and disc-upgradable front/rear hubs. With that much loot, I was able to order the Gunnar Rockhound frame I had been dreaming about and build up a fine, heat treated steel steed. All for the sake of product testing—a rough job that somebody’s got to do.
But, how to tell you about so many parts in a short amount of space? Well first off, I’m not gonna bog you down with a zillion specifications. Those infinite details you can find in the SRAM catalog or online at www.sram.com. Best to tell you how the stuff worked for me.
That’s easy. The stuff worked as smooth as buttah! It worked well, rain or shine, for three solid months. Yeah, I know, we never give a negative review—I’ve heard that one before. Trust me, I approached this review full of objectivity, if not skepticism. I’ve been running Shimano stuff for 14 years—it was easy to be skeptical.
You want a few more details? No problem. First, some highlights. Shifting action on the rear derailleur was crisp and consistent. The Shorty shifter had a nice light feel, and indexing was spot on. Call me a geek, but I liked the visual gear indicators on the front and rear shifters. I liked the SRAM brakes/levers better than any of my personal V-style brakes. The “infinite adjust leverage” feature allowed me to dial the “feel” and power exactly the way I like it—a progressive feel, with plenty of power at the end of the stroke. It’s a little thing, but I liked the chain’s PowerLink feature that allows you to install and remove your chain without a chain tool. And, finally, changing the shifter cables no longer involves pulling off the grip portion and snaking the cable in a big loop. The cable now routes in a “straight shot” through a convenient hatch in the shifter—woo hoo!
I mentioned the highlights, so it’s only fair to mention the lowlights. I had a prior bad experience with the red plastic quick release things breaking off the brake noodles (on a test bike). So, I bailed on the SRAM noodles and used some standard noodles I had in my stash. The front shifter is not indexed—so shifting into the middle ring occasionally resulted in an over or under shift. That’s about it for lowlights.
I did have one “self-inflicted” problem, which I must mention because 12 guys on a 9-hour epic ride in central PA witnessed it. It turned out that the lower water bottle boss on my Rockhound interfered with the front derailleur band. Being a huge fan on the Dremmel tool, I, er, “modified” the band by auguring out a notch the size of the interfering bottle boss. That’s the type of modification that mechanical engineers refer to as stupidity. The notch led to the band cracking in half on the epic ride. Having to middle-ring it for five hours on the “Bald Eagle Death March” was equivalent to writing on the blackboard 1000 times: “I will think before I Dremmel.”
Speaking of guys on rides, a lot of them questioned the durability of running brakes, levers and derailleurs made with so many “plastic” parts. Well, it’s not simply plastic, Cupcake. It’s an injection molded, glass-filled nylon composite (SRAM calls it Grilon). SRAM assured me that Grilon is quite durable. They were also quick to point out the weight savings, compared to metal parts. Hey, the future’s in plastics, or so they say. You’ve stuck with me so far, so bear with me while I sum it up with a haiku: “A twist of the wrist Shifts flow like melting butter Much happier now”
Sorry left brainers. If you’re still reading, here are the SRAM 9.0 weights and prices: rear derailleur 260g/$78, front derailleur 115g/$40, Shorty shifters with cables and outer grips: 282g/$76, 11-34 cassette 289g/$70, brake lever pair 152g/$70, front and rear brake pair 372g/$70, PC69 chain (at full length) 297g/$26, front hub 180g/$50, rear hub 380g/$78. All weights were measured by Dirt Rag, except the hubs (oops). Disc brakes require optional disc adapters, which run $21 per wheel.
Contact: SRAM, 1333 North Kingsbury Street, Suite 401, Chicago, IL 60622; 800.346.2928; www.sram.com.