February 20, 2010
Just this week, the US based bicycle component manufacturer SRAM released details on a road component group that may find a good home on touring bikes. The model name will be called Apex, and will cover your full drivetrain with 10-speed front and rear derailleurs, chain, cassette, bottom bracket, crankset, brake calipers, and SRAM's double tap brake/shift lever system.
Why should this be of any interest to touring cyclists? At first glimpse it looks a little bit on the racey side of the cycling spectrum, however, the crankset will be available as a compact double with 50 and 34 tooth chainrings, while the medium-cage rear derailleur will accommodate the new Apex 10-speed 11-32 cassette. This combination yields plenty of range to tackle the climbs, and cruise through the flats.
When mounted to a touring bike, the double tap brake/shift levers have an aggressive look to them, but they also pack some handy features. Both the brake and shifter cables are routed under the handlebar tape, which clears up plenty of space for handlebar bags. The brake levers also have a reach adjustment screw, which allows people with smaller hands to move the brake levers into a more accessible position. If an integrated brake/shift lever system is not for you, SRAM also makes alternative options with bar end and flat bar shifters.
As far as the braking is concerned, the brake levers are fully compatible with cantilever style brakes, which may be a better option for loaded touring. If you do choose the Apex brake calipers, you can use tires up to a size 700x28 without fenders.
As far as cross compatibility is concerned, the SRAM shift levers will only work with SRAM derailleurs, however, the chain and cassette are Shimano 10spd compatible. Just make sure you have a medium or long cage derailleur if you are going to use the 11-32 wide range cassette.
Right now the price is looking as though it will be close to $800 for the entire group. To provide a frame of reference, the level of performance and quality should be somewhere between the Shimano Tiagra and 105 component range, but we'll have to wait until later this summer to give it a good test and see where it stands. Regardless, it's nice to see another component company stick their neck into the world of bicycle touring.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.