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Review of the SRAM Rival 2009 groupset (£671.93)

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This article originally featured in February 2009’s “Cycling Weekly” Magazine

Rival is SRAM’s mid-priced groupset, and at around £650, sits on a similar platform to Shimano’s Ultegra groupset in terms of current website price searches. In SRAM’s line-up it is the budget version, as both Force and Red are more expensive. I’ll say from the outset that to my mind, its performance is close to Dura-Ace, which means it punches considerably above its impressively low weight.

Rival was originally launched in 2006, so you’d expect the ’09 upgrade to feature a few cosmetic, material changes trickling down from SRAM’s Read and Force groups, as well a few ergonomic modifications which make gear changing (even) easier.

In the looks department the ‘double tap’ technology brake levers have been upgraded to carbon and look for all the world identical to the more expensive Force versions. Essentially the gubbins are also the same on the inside as force, that this year has seen the trim shifted form the inner ring onto the big ring, another improvement.

Where this year’s model wins out is with the slightly longer levers and larger format gear-shift paddles, which on the road makes braking and shifting a doddle from a variety of hand positions, particularly in the drops and a vast improvement on the originals. The short 15deg sweep also gives a shift that is superior to Shimano, feeling vastly reduced especially when changing up the block.

To my mind the hood shape has always been superior in design to Shimano and Campagnolo alternatives when it comes to comfort and that’s still the case here, replicating the top-of-the-range Red ergonomics. Reach is adjustable but this can be fiddly; the shift lever uses a separate adjuster that is the worst, needing to push in a small clip, which requires a sharp implement or small flat-bladed screwdriver. The brake lever is the polar opposite, just pull back the hoods and use a hex key to pull back the lever.

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