Review - R2C Shifters
article & images by Nick Salazar
Jul 19, 2010
New gear often comes with some small caveats, and in this case, it's the installation. Actually installing these things is no problem; they install much like regular shifters would. Even choosing the precise angle at which you want to serve as the "neutral" position is relatively easy. One bolt attaches the shifter body to the bar plug, and the bolt on the opposite side adjusts the neutral position. The trouble is that once installed, the shifters are very tight. Meaning, it takes a lot of effort to actually perform the shift. This could potentially ruin half of the benefit of these levers - if it isn't actually any easier to shift, and you still have to get your arm out of your armrest to wrench the things into shifting, then they lose some of their appeal.
Fortunately, this problem has an easy fix. Two fixes, actually, both of which work very well. Option one: just ride them. Over time, the rachet will break in, and shifting will be smooth and easy. How long? We're not sure, because we wanted to accelerate the process. So we went for option two. If you remove the shift body from the bar plug, you'll see the rachet the shifters use to index your shifting. Just douse the rachet in WD-40, and you'll be all set. Your first ride or two will distribute the WD-40 nicely, and shifting will loosen up very quickly. Read your SRAM warranty before you do this, however, and make sure you aren't voiding it.
So are they worth it? In a word, absolutely. Once you're shifting with the R2C, their value becomes undeniable. Shifting is crisp and accurate, as per SRAM's reputation. And what's more, you can keep your hands wrapped around the entire shifter body without consideration as to what gear you're in. It just feels right. Are they expensive? Yes. But consider that the shifters are one of three contact points your body makes with the bike. After your shoes and your saddle, the shifters are the part of your rig that you'll be using the most.
If we were to find a quibble, it's that we wish the front derailleur still worked like a friction shifter. SRAM uses a four-point ratchet up front, to provide the two shifting points, and two intermediate points for trim. Now, switching to friction that isn't strictly possible, since the R2C mechanism requires that the shifters operate on a ratchet. But SRAM could easily use a 10-point ratchet for the front shifter, just like it uses for the rear shifter, which would feel much closer to friction shifting than the 4-point ratchet currently in use. It's not that the current setup has caused any problems for us, but it could be a nice upgrade.
It's important to note that the version we tested was the SRAM version. They felt great in our hands. Because the levers are so thin, we could wrap our hands around the entire shifter body, keeping the tops of our forefingers right up against the lever bodies. When it's time to shift, a simple tug or push is all that was needed.
We've seen and felt Zipp's incarnation, but preferred the smaller, razor-like levers of the SRAM over the bulky, hand-filling Zipp shifters. Zipp's version seemed like it would require more of a whole-handed effort to actuate the shift, rather than the two-fingered version we were used to. Zipp claims their levers have superior ergonomics, but we'll take our SRAM ones all the same.