The first thing you notice when you jump on the bike is the size
of the shifter hoods. If you've used regular eTap, you'll notice
these are slightly bigger. The extra size is due to the master
cylinder being housed inside the hood, but due to the wireless
electronics, the hoods are much smaller than SRAM's first attempt
at hydraulic road disc brakes a few years ago.
Bigger hoods are not necessarily a bad thing, people have
preferences about hood size: some like them small, some prefer them
bigger. Hood size has evolved over the years. Shimano hoods have
gone smaller, while Campagnolo hoods have gone bigger, its latest
hood design is noticeably larger than the old Record 10-speed
groupset. The SRAM eTap HRD hoods are roughly comparable to the
classic Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 10-speed hoods. Remember them, the
ones with the cables sprouting out the sides? So hood size isn't a
constant, it's forever changing.
The bigger hood size of eTap HRD compared to regular eTap is not
a bad thing then, and the critical fact is you quickly adjust to
them. The main part of the shifter body is still small enough to
wrap your hand and fingers around, so you have a good purchase of
the hoods whether in or out of the saddle. The extra height of the
hood body also provides a bit more security to lock your hands
against, especially useful when in a low profile attack position.
So bigger hoods, not all that bad as it turns out.
The shifting layout is the same as regular RED eTap. That's to
say, you have two shift buttons, one behind each lever, with a
fixed position brake lever. Tap the right button to shift to a
harder gear, the left button to go into an easier gear. Press both
at once to shift the front mech. Simple. It takes a little time to
get used to if coming from any other groupset, but the transition
period is remarkably short and it soon becomes second nature.
The brake levers are similarly made from carbon and have a wide
and ergonomic shape with a generous length that ensures you can
easily reach them from the drops. Best of all, there is a wide
range of available adjustment to tune the brake levers. You can
adjust both the contact point of the brake pads and the lever
reach, allowing you to really dial in the feel of the brake levers
just how you want them. It also means you can also ensure both
brake levers feel identical, presuming that's how you like your
brakes setup. I would imagine most people prefer their brake levers
to feel the same.
I like a short reach brake lever so that I can almost wrap my
fingers around the levers for confident descending. Adjusting the
lever reach really couldn't be easier. But the really neat
adjustment is what SRAM calls Contact Point Adjustment. This allows
you to choose whether the brake lever has a short or long throw
before the brakes engage. I prefer a longer throw to the brake
lever and setting the brakes this way was a cinch, and best of all
it's easy to adjust so you can experiment to find a setup you like.
It's adjusted via an Allen bolt on the top of the hood, accessed by
pulling back the hood cover
At the business end of the brakes are new one-piece calipers
using the flat mount standard, which we can safely say has actually
become a standard. They're smaller and lighter than previous post
mount calipers whilst still allowing the same range of adjustment.
SRAM has packed loads of technology into the calipers to ensure
they can cope with the high temperatures that disc brakes can
operate at under high-stress conditions. A heat shield, insulated
aluminium pistons, and a wider pad pocket are claimed by SRAM to
ensure the brakes cope in the most demanding situations.