As we anxiously await the release of Sram's unnamed 12 speed groupset, I posted a question on our Instagram and Facebook - What would you like to see in the new groupset when it is released? And one of the responses made me pause. Why upgrade to 12 gears? Why indeed.
It's one of those simple questions that deserves more than a quick answer like, 'it's progress' or 'it just comes after 11'. For many, it might feel like the phone market where, no matter how fast we buy a new phone, it becomes an old model within a few weeks. Certain models though, are worthy of upgrading. And here at Glory, we think the 12 speed Sram groupset will be that upgrade.
From the minute it was spotted at the Saitamata criterium, rumours have swirled, photos have been scrutinized, and theories have been formed. But for myself, the most interesting reveal were the gear ratios used at last weeks Tour Down Under. A 10-28T cassette paired with a 50-37 crankset.
When Campagnolo first released their 12 speed groupset early last year, they did so because they believed that cyclists have changed the way they shift. And Campagnolo was right. Straight block 11-21 cassettes are as common as a Mapei Colnago C64 frameset. Large cage rear derailleurs might as well come standard on complete bikes. 28s and 32s are not reserved for Alpine passes but everyday rides. Campagnolo saw this and came out with a 12 speed groupset that is made for an 11-32. In fact, that is the only (current) option besides an 11-29!
Sram has obviously spotted this trend a while ago (hello WiFli) but appear to be implementing it in a very different way. Instead of adding a 12th large gear at the top of the cassette, Sram has placed it's 12th cog in the form of a 10 tooth at the bottom of the cassette and paired it with a 50-37 crankset. This is fascinating because these ratios give both larger AND smaller gear options than your standard 53x11 with an 11-28. Technical data to follow....
I used the gear ratio calculator over at BikeCalc.com if you want to test it for yourself. I also used speed at cadence since that is a more tangible metric to compare in one's mind than gear lengths or ratios.
At 90 RPM, a 50x10 produces 57 kph (35.4 mph). At the same cadence, a 53x11 gives you 55 kph (34.1 mph). On the other side of the coin, a 37x28 at 90 RPM turns into 15.1 kph (9.4 mph) where a 39x28 returns 15.9 kph (9.9 mph). The skeptics might point out that a wider selection will leave greater gaps in between, but remember - there's now a 12th gear to fill in the gaps!
No doubt some of you will have noticed that the speeds for a 50 tooth chainring range from 57 kph (35.4 mph) in the 10 at 90 RPM to 20.4 kph (12.7 mph) in the 28. While many out there will be clamouring about the possibility of a 1x12 set up, there is no word on it. That being said, Sram's Force and Rival 1x groupsets have become incredibly popular and I doubt that market will go unnoticed.
Finally, and interestingly enough, only disc brake groupsets have been spotted. Will there be a 12 speed rim brake option? Or will the company that famously declared front derailleurs dead to the mountain bike world during its release of the Eagle groupset, also declare the rim brake dead for the road world?
Will 12 speed be worth the upgrade? Will this release be an "S" model year or a number model year (for all the iPhone users out there)? Only time will tell and until then, we wait with bated breath.
In the meantime, here is a #10YearChallenge with Sram Red from 2009 and the yet to be released 12 Speed groupset.