Tested: SRAM’s New Red AXS Road Group

The brand's flagship road component groupset is lighter, faster, and overall better than its predecessor. 


The Takeaway: Although there’s less new in the latest generation of SRAM Red than we anticipated, the company’s decision to keep the best parts and refine the rest results in a very polished group. It addresses many of the complaints from riders—and Bicycling—about Red 2019.

Red AXS 2024 is lighter (now the lightest electronic road group available), the front derailleur shifts faster and smoother, and the brakes have a smoother feel and lighter action. The new ergonomics of the hoods and brake levers are also a win. Additionally, SRAM takes a forward-looking approach to electronic integration with the new Hammerhead Karoo cycling computer.

Overall, the new Red AXS 2024 builds upon the excellent performance of Red eTap AXS 2019. It offers further an elevated riding experience and refinement suited to today’s highest-performance bicycles.

When the first photos of SRAM’s new component group leaked online, my mind ran wild with visions of 13-speed cassettes and direct-mount rear derailleurs (like those used on the brand’s Transmission mountain bike drivetrain). There is a precedent for these flights of fancy: Historically, a new Red group incorporates innovative features and technology. In only slightly over a decade, the Chicago, Illinois-based brand introduced features that changed the road drivetrain landscape.

SRAM was the first component brand to wholly incorporate power meters (2012), disc brakes (2015), wireless shifting (2015), wide-range gearing (2016), 1x systems (2019), and pulley cage dampers (2019) into its top-level road group.

Of the three main drivetrain manufacturers, it is not an overstatement to say that SRAM now sets the standard for road groups. It anticipates the evolution of drop bar riders’ needs much more than Shimano or Campagnolo. SRAM also senses how and where cyclists ride and makes parts to meet riders where they are at, and where they are going.

sram red 2024

There is much new in Red 2024, but the underpinnings of the group are the same as before. Trevor Raab

Refresh vs. Redesign

While I had dreamed of an all-new group with 13 gears and direct-mount rear derailleurs, that is not Red 2024.

Surprisingly, SRAM’s new Red group is more of a refresh than a redesign. Certainly, there is newness in the group, but viewed from a high level the underpinnings of this group are the same as the Red AXS group that launched in 2019.

Fundamental elements that carry forward include chainring and cassette tooth profiles, derailleur motors and gearboxes, shifting patterns, gearing philosophy, and both 1x and 2x options. Even some of the “new” parts previously debuted in other groups. The hollow pin and link chain was first seen in the company’s XXSL mountain bike group, while the brand has long offered 10-36T and 10-30T cassettes (just not at the Red level).

But the best evidence for my declaration of refresh-not-redesign is nearly complete backward compatibility. Almost all Red 2024 parts can be mixed with Red 2019 (except for a couple of cassette sizes). While the gear geek in me wants groundbreaking new everything in all-new parts I applaud SRAM’s compatibility approach.

Red 2019 was good, but over time it became clear that, like with every component group in the market for a few years, some details needed improvements. And with Red 2024, it’s like SRAM collected those details onto a checklist and set out to address them all.

sram red 2024

The hoods are the most-changed part of Red 2024. Trevor Raab

Red 2024 is a better overall group than Red 2019. But because of the backward compatibility, anyone with Red 2019—or Rival and Force eTap AXS—can seamlessly upgrade their existing groups with the best bits from Red 2024. By sticking with 12-speed and many of the brand’s underpinning technologies and philosophies, SRAM greatly eases the task of finding repair and replacement parts—for Red 2024 and Red 2019.

But there remains room for SRAM to surprise us. The products contained in this launch do not include any Red-level XPLR parts for gravel and adventure riding. So perhaps we’ll get direct mount derailleurs, 13-speeds, and more in a follow-up Red XPLR launch.

And since Red is part of the 12-speed AXS ecosystem, Red 2024 parts are cross-compatible with existing XPLR components and SRAM’s 12-speed mountain bike rear derailleurs.

It is All In the Details

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No more trial and error: SRAM finally marked the high and low limit screws on the front derailleur. Photo: Trevor Raab

Though Red 2024 isn’t fundamentally all-new when looked at from a high level, if you zoom in closely, you can see some of the nerd-level attention to detail SRAM baked in during its quest to improve its top-level group. Many little things that might escape your attention, or might not even see, help make Red 2024 better.

Details like (finally) marking the high and low limit screws on the front derailleur, larger and brighter LEDs on the electronic components, and a new tool that almost guarantees perfect front derailleur setup improve the rider experience and help get the group dialed in for best performance. Even the texture of the hood covers serves a purpose beyond grip: The lines on the top and sides serve as guides to help get the hoods properly and equally positioned.

sram red 2024

An improved set up tool helps ensure the front derailleur is properly aligned for best performance. Photo: Matt Phillips

But while all those little updates are huge reasons Red 2024 is better than Red 2019, the handful of highlight updates steal the spotlight.

SRAM’s product team paid close attention to front derailleur performance. After riding the new group for over a month, I can say that it has much improved. The shifts are faster, smoother, and quieter overall.

This front shifting improvement came from narrowing the derailleur cage and adding micro trim. Previously the Red front derailleur moved to shift followed quickly by one small trim movement—and then remained in that position until shifted to the other ring.

The front derailleur now microtrims repeatedly as the rider shifts across the cassette. This allows the use of a narrower cage because it prevents chain rasp. The combination means the cage is closer to the chain at all times. (So it doesn’t need to swing as far to push the chain up or down onto the chainring.)


The previous hydraulic system layout (left) and the new arrangement (right). Pic courtesy SRAM.

Brake lever effort is noticeably lighter, which makes braking feel smoother and more powerful. It’s a result of a host of changes in the hood body and brake caliper. Leading the list was a repositioning of the system’s primary piston.

Instead of a vertical layout with a pull piston that resided in the hood pommel—this was the reason for Red 2019’s tall pommels—SRAM switched to a horizontal reservoir in the hood body with a push piston. In turn, this allowed SRAM to reduce the height of the pommels, resulting in the new Red’s sleeker-looking hoods.

Other updates include a higher pivot which increases leverage, and moving the caliper pistons’ center of pressure outboard which “applies the pressure of the pistons and pads to a more usable space on the rotor.”

Lighter brake lever effort gets combined with new ergonomics—new shapes for the hoods, brake levers, and shift paddles. SRAM says the changes were driven by observing that riders at all levels (including the top professionals) use the hoods as their primary hand position.

Weight Wars

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We weighed the parts on our scale. Photo: Trevor Raab

It wouldn’t be a new road group review without mentioning weight savings. And SRAM cut about 154 grams from the Red group, bringing the total group weight—with a power meter— to a claimed 2496 grams. That’s 66 grams lighter—SRAM says—than Shimano’s Dura-Ace, making Red the lightest electronic group on the market.

Bicycling’s scales offered a different story, however. While we saw that Red 2024 is a good bit lighter than Red 2019, it was (on our scales) just 23 grams lighter than our Dura-Ace 9200 test group.


I provided our weights to SRAM for comment. The brand maintains that it weighed both groups with all parts accounted for—including hardware, adapters, brake fluid, and comparable gearing—the weight difference is 66 grams—and potentially more depending on gearing.

I have observed that high-end bicycle drivetrains tend to be lightest on debut with later production runs trending heavier. It is possible that the Dura-Ace group we weighed—which we received at its August 2021 debut—falls on the lighter end while the Dura-Ace parts SRAM secured are heavier.

But let us remember that we’re squabbling over a weight delta that’s equivalent to one, or less than one, energy bar. Still, all credit to SRAM: They now lead the weight battle.

However, the product cycle is never-ending. Shimano’s current group launched in mid-2021. Since Shimano and SRAM typically refresh their top-tier groups every four or five years, we might see a new Dura-Ace group as early as 2025.

We expect Shimano to follow SRAM’s full wireless approach instead of (9200’s semi-wireless system) based on some recent patent applications, and there are rumblings that next-gen Dura-Ace will go to 13-speeds.

It is also reasonably safe to assume that a new top-tier road group will be lighter than the generation before (although Dura Ace 9200 was about 2o grams heavier than Dura Ace 9100). So we might be only a year away from Shimano arriving with a full wireless, 13-speed, Dura-Ace group that’s lighter than the 9200 series. However, it remains to be seen if Shimano’s typical timeline is impacted by the twin blows of its crank recall and data leak.

But as Shimano and SRAM seem to be on staggered launch schedules, once Dura-Ace 9300(?) hits the market, it won’t be too long until another SRAM Red (2028?) arrives.

The point is: For the foreseeable future, we’ll see these two brands slug it out and try to one-up each other in weight, performance, and features. We will watch the advantages between the two brands’ flagship road groups swing back and forth between Red and Dura-Ace—unless and until there is a big change to the high-performance bicycle chain-and-derailleur drivetrain paradigm.

The New Karoo

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A new Hammerhead Karoo debuts with the new Red group. Photo: Trevor Raab

Lighter weights and faster shifting are things you’d expect from a new generation of road groups. But perhaps the most unexpected and forward-looking part of Red 2024 is not labeled Red, or even SRAM. A new Hammerhead Karoo cycling computer—developed alongside the new Red group, SRAM representatives tell me—launches with the new drivetrain.

SRAM sees the cycling computer as more than an accessory but an integral part of its premier road group, as evidenced in its purchase of Hammerhead in early 2022. This is similar to how SRAM built power meters into Red in 2012. At the time, it seemed a bit wild to wholly incorporate what was seen as a professional riders’ training device into a road group. But 12 years later, power is an ingrained part of the enthusiast riding experience—so much so that over 80 percent of the Red groups SRAM sells include a power meter.

All those groups with a power meter need something to record and display that information. If a power meter is ingrained as part of a modern high-end road group, so should a cycling computer. Reinforcing the notion that SRAM sees the Karoo as part of Red: The first Red 2024 aftermarket parts kits and many of the first bikes with the group available are sold with the Karoo included.

Like the Red 2019 versus Red 2024, the Karoo 2 versus the new Karoo (no, Hammerhead doesn’t call it Karoo 3), is mostly about refinement and addressing shortcomings. The new unit doesn’t look or function much differently than the Karoo 2, but among the new features are a dedicated power button, better battery life, an ambient light sensor, and automatic backlight control. Plus it has a new companion app for your smartphone that offers automatic ride uploads and live tracking.

More significantly—and tying into the theme that the computer is part of the group—the new Karoo integrates more tightly with SRAM AXS components. Some examples of this include automatically pairing with your SRAM AXS-equipped bike’s components and the ability to program AXS shift buttons, as well as the new bonus buttons on the Red 2024 hoods, directly from the computer.

Riding the New Red Group

My Red 2024 group was installed on a 54cm Specialized S-Works Aethos. Rounding out the build was Zipp’s new SL80 handlebar (specifically shaped for smooth integration with the new Red hoods) and its lightest wheelset (353 NSW) wrapped with a new co-branded tyre developed by Goodyear. The bike weight without pedals was 6.4kgs.

I ride SRAM’s road groups more than those of Shimano or Campagnolo (though I ride enough with them to be well acquainted), so I am very familiar with the performance of Red 2019. Within moments of putting my hands on the new parts for the first time and running through the gears of Red 2024 with the bike in the work stand, three things immediately stood out: 1. The front shifting is faster, 2. The action of the brake levers was lighter and smoother, and 3. The new hood shape felt more natural in my hand (plus they look sleeker and more modern).

What I noticed in the stand carried through to my rides. The front shifts are snappier, and the front derailleur’s new micro-trim function seems to eliminate all instances of rasping.

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The new hood and brake lever shapes are superb. Photo: Trevor Raab

The brake levers have a lighter pull with initial breakaway friction almost eliminated. These changes result in more reactive feeling brakes that require less effort to achieve maximum stopping force, and even smoother and more intuitive modulation (already a strong point of SRAM’s brakes).

The new hood shape is excellent—it simply feels right in my hands. The hoods are extremely comfortable—solid grip, adequately cushioned, supportive with excellent pressure distribution, and devoid of pinch points or hot spots.

On the road, Shimano still has a front-shifting advantage—or the perception of it anyway. Dura-Ace 9200’s front shifts are still discernably (if barely) faster and more reliable when subjected to higher pedaling loads. But a gap that once was rather wide is now significantly narrower.

However, Red 2024’s rear shifts are not as transformatively different from Red 2019 as the front’s. They are slightly more refined and, perhaps, milliseconds quicker. But overall, they carry on SRAM’s seeming preference for trustworthy shifting over lighting quick shifting.

Most rear shifts with new Red are smooth. However, the upshift from the 33-tooth to the 28-tooth cog is slightly clunky. When I mentioned this to Anthony Medaglia, Chief Engineer at SRAM, he stated that this is due to the larger-than-average five-tooth jump—the biggest jump of any shift on any Red cassette—and any Dura-Ace 12-speed cassette.

While it is tempting to focus on the bigger updates SRAM made to Red 2024, the real story is the many little improvements made to the group. An example of this is the lever reach adjustment. Not only did SRAM make the adjustment bolt much easier to access, but it also increased the adjustment range. This makes the levers friendlier to more finger lengths and more handlebar shapes.

The space behind the brake lever was also refined to create more room to wrap fingers around the hood, and less chance of pinching a finger between the shifter paddle and handlebar when braking with shorter lever reaches. The shifter paddles are better shaped and easier to access from the drops.

New bonus buttons are in the hood pommels. From the factory, they’re programmed to mirror the shifter paddles, but they can be assigned other functions. Examples include controlling the Karoo (changing data pages, triggering a lap) and many other AXS components like the RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post. It isn’t an earth-shattering technology—Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 has featured bonus buttons going back two generations—but it is a welcome addition nonetheless.

The drivetrain makes a bit less noise overall—even the derailleur motors seem a little quieter even though they are the same as Red 2019—and feels slightly more damped and smooth, with less mechanical buzz transmitted into the frame.

While I haven’t had time to do a deep dive into the power meter’s accuracy and consistency, I haven’t seen anything strange in my ride data. Plus, the power meter carries forward from Red 2019, which is a product that has been bulletproof for me. If you’re paying for a precision measurement device, you should get one, and SRAM/Quarq power meters have historically been among the very best and admirably reliable.

Wrapping up my impressions

The new Red AXS is excellent and exactly what I want in a group for my drop bar riding. More than Dura Ace or Super Record, SRAM’s features and gearing options suit my needs as someone who does not race and is primarily road/gravel adjacent. And I’m happy that, for once, SRAM rolled out a new Red group that isn’t a total reset of the one before but instead an improvement of an already good group.

If you ride a bike with a current SRAM road group you will immediately notice Red’s new details. These details are noticeably different and they—along with many other little things SRAM improved—provide a better rider experience. It gives the Red 2024 group a sharper, higher-quality feel.

But I want to stress that the experience of riding Red 2024 makes clear that it is built atop Red 2019. While the Red 2024 revision is more than just shapes and BNG (Bold New Graphics), overwhelmingly what I experienced were welcome refinements to an already good group.

Will the faster front shifts help you win more races than you could with Red 2019’s slower shifts? Do the lighter action brakes stop you quicker? Will the new hood shape make you faster?

I don’t believe so, but my complaints—and, as far as I can tell, most others’ gripes—about Red 2019 wasn’t function, it was perception. It is in the rider’s experience and their interaction with the parts.

And yet, despite my and others’ complaints against Red 2019, SRAM’s racers and teams enjoyed massive success with the parts, including overall victories in the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France (men’s and women’s), and Vuelta a Espana.

The groupset on a five-figure drop-bar bike should be precise and smooth. It should telegraph quickness and performance; using it ought to be so nearly effortless that it should feel like an extension of you. And it should do all this ride after ride after ride. In this aspect, Dura-Ace historically outshone Red. Shimano’s parts didn’t make you faster, but they felt like they did.

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Photo: Trevor Raab

SRAM, meanwhile, was better at bringing features and concepts to market that were more in line with the needs of the evolving drop bar rider. But while SRAM moved fast in development, it couldn’t nail the polish and the squishy gray areas that act on riders’ pleasure sensors as Shimano did.

With Red 2024, it feels that SRAM has turned a corner. It made notable strides in the refinement of the parts, how the rider interacts with them, and how they perceive the parts’ function and performance. And the result is a group that is more satisfying to ride.

New Red AXS feels higher quality, and more like the high-end, high-performance group it is. Red also has a better look. The graphic details are more subtle, but also crisper in a way that conveys the premium aura expected from high-end parts.

Overall, the new Red AXS is just a better group. SRAM’s bold moves on its previous Red groups made the brand’s presence known. New Red lets us know SRAM arrived in the lead group and is here to stay.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

The introduction of the new Red group leaves us with a few intriguing questions. Notably, there are no Red XPLR parts for pure gravel riding, a domain where SRAM has been a trailblazer with its high-performance 1x drivetrains.

There’s also the question of how this Red will influence Force, Rival, and Apex AXS drivetrains. Will they all get the new ergonomics? Will Force and Rival get the new micro adjust front derailleur? Signs point to yes, but the timeline is unknown.

It’s not a huge surprise, but the new Red does not offer controls for rim brakes. This marks the first time a new Red has launched without. However, because of the interoperability of AXS, riders can combine all the other new Red parts with the Red 2019 shift/brake levers for cable-actuated brakes.

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