SRAM Etap vs Shimano Di2 – Which is Better?

Jan Poshenko
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Best Value for Money Electronic Groupset – Shimano Ultegra Di2

This is a question of personal preference; past experience with group sets and brand loyalty are also to be taken into account. Both groupsets have their own benefits and drawbacks and many cyclists will be pleased with either.

Both groupsets are electronic, meaning technology is used to change gear. A button on the shift lever is pressed to confirm the change and a small motor inside the groupset makes the change for you.

This is a big difference to mechanical groupsets. The main benefit of electronic groupsets is time; you change gear almost instantly, and there is zero indication through vibrations of your left hand on the handle bar at the time of change.

Both groups have similar battery life, and both are subject to the same environmental conditions. They are both a similar price. Shimano brakes may be slightly better quality than SRAM brakes, but this is not the case for the shifters.

Performance

Overall, they are both excellent groupsets, and because of this and the similarities between them, their performance is very difficult to compare. The have their own strengths and weaknesses where they fare better than the other depending on the rider and the type of riding.

Shimano Di2

It was towards the end of 2010 that SRAM became the first company to release a complete wireless groupset. Instead of cables, it was the battery that was wired in. This allowed the cyclist to stay completely free from any cables.

The technology was seen as a leap forward, and the groupset has since been used by a few riders on the road. The technology was far more expensive than the traditional groupsets, but for many cyclists this was simply the way they wanted to go.

The US company was not the first to come up with the concept. Shimano was well in front with the Di2 technology. This had first been seen on the WorldTour back in 2009, and some teams have now been using it for five years.

But SRAM was the first to take it to the market and has since been working on improving and fine tuning the technology.

SRAM eTap

Vs Shimano Di2 – Which one is better?

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that SRAM’s new eTap and Shimano’s Di2 electronic groupsets are in fact a single unified group, like Magura’s hydrualic groupsets. The similarities are understandably more than a little confusing.

Specifically, both groups offer similar wireless shifting options for mechanical and hydraulic rim brake bikes. Of course, eTap and Di2 each offer more than just wireless shifting as well. There are other factors to consider in deciding between SRAM’s new eTap and Shimano’s Di2.

We’re going to dive into the differences between Di2 and eTap with a detailed explanation of their respective features, and offer some help in weighing the pros and cons of each system.

Both systems are shifters, derailleurs, brakes, and batteries housed in dropper seatposts. Both are 11 speed, but Shimano has 11 speed shifters while SRAM has 10 speed. Both are wireless, with a battery that housed in the dropper post, however, SRAM’s eTap battery can be removed whereas the Di2 battery cannot.

Shimano Di2 – The Basics

Shimano is in the business of making bicycles and parts since 1921. Over the years, the company has developed electronic shifting components, which are used in road, mountain, and triathlon bikes, so they are one of the companies that have really pushed the technology.

In 2007, Shimano released the first Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 system, but the design process began as early as 2004. It came in two parts: the derailleurs and the e-tube wiring system.

By 2012, Shimano has released the 9000 series, which was comprised of DI2 and electronic shifting components (STI). The most recent generation released in 2017, the Dura-Ace R9100 series, has even more updated features, such as the Shimano Dyna-SYS 11-speed drivetrain, which has the biggest gear range of any mechanical groupset out there.

Shimano Di2 Features

What really sets this system apart is the ability to keep shifting performance consistent and predictable in a variety of weather and riding conditions. It’s a dual-wire system, which means that each button and lever are connected to a junction box that is then connected to the derailleur.

Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 Series

Vs. SRAM Red eTap Electronic Groupset

SRAM has introduced eTAP and it will be directly competing with the Shimano Di2 series.

SRAM has been making products for long that are considered to be some of the best in class. Their gear shifting is often preferred over others and its price is always on point. The system is designed to ease the pressure on your hands, make it lag free and also work in a wide range of weather conditions.

It also features a low maintenance level and the complete system consists of one junction box and two derailleurs. The total weight is 3.2 pounds and it even works with hydraulic road disc brakes.

When SRAM was developing eTAP, it made sure to maintain compatibility with its shifting components. This will also make it easier to upgrade from an older system. The shifting from the new system has been praised for its smoothness and quickness.

One of the downsides of eTAP is that the remote needs to be in the reach of the operator. There are also some issues with the crank-arm that makes it compatible with certain SRAM cranks. Another negative aspect is that the system only works with Red eTap and Rival 1 shifters.

Shimano Ultegra R8000 Series

Vs SRAM RED eTAP…which is better?

We’re going to look at a couple of key factors that decide overall performance, followed by a comparison of the differences between the two.

Key Factors:

Durability:

ETAP is a bit newer, but it’s also based on a more mature model. IT’s based on the eTap AXS drivetrain. It was designed from the ground up to be maintenance free and to withstand intense and daily abuse and it shows. The derailleurs are built with a reinforced cage that houses the mechanism. The E-Link connector is made from very durable, long lasting plastic. Not only is the product more durable – it also lowers the likelihood of additional wear and tear from the from the user. It’s also a bit more expensive. That extra investment is worth the cost when you consider how much money you’ll save in maintenance costs.

Weight:

Shimano Ultegra R8000: 246g

SRAM RED eTAP: 232g

The Ultegra R8000 is a bit lighter…but only with the derailleurs and E-Link. The RED cassette is 4.5g heavier than the Ultegra cassette.

Shimano Di2 Pros

If you are a lover of new technology, you will be interested in the debate over electronic vs mechanical shifters. Both Shimano and SRAM have electronic and mechanical versions of their flagship groupsets, and within each there are different subgroups with different components separate from the groupset as a whole.

But ultimately, which one is better? Are their differences? Is one more expensive than the other? Should you buy a Shimano or SRAM based on your weight, performance needs, and budget? Let’s take a closer look at both Shimano Di2 and SRAM eTap to see what is what.

Shimano Di2 Cons

SRAM Red eTap – The Basics

SRAM Red eTap is a wireless 11-speed shifting system designed for a wide-range of road and mountain bike use. It is available in a variety of frame and component options, giving you a major deciding factor in the overall selection process. There are various system components and the choice of 2 or 4 frame options that are essential for the overall function and performance. eTap uses the same battery and push button controls as the SRAM Red line of components. The battery life will last for approximately 1000 kilometers under normal use of shift functions. If you do not use the quick release option, you can get 300 kilometers on one charge, which is a great improvement over the original release of Di2. The charge time is 3hrs and the system weighs in at 930g total. The chain rings are available in a 22-32-44 tooth setup, and the option to have a 50t chain ring is an available option as well. eTap is extremely customizable with the option to upgrade your shifting system to have a 1×12 configuration, a 2×11 configuration, or a 2×10 configuration. There is an SRAM eTap battery magnet available that will connect your eTap batteries to your frame for easy storage. The SRAM Red eTap system runs on 11 speed, and there is a 10 speed SRAM Red eTap option available as well.

SRAM eTap Pros

There’s a lot to love about SRAM’s eTap wireless electronic shift system, but it’s not perfect. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights and lowlights:

  • Pros
  • Incredibly accurate shifting
  • Fast shifts via a convenient and customizable button on the handlebars
  • Rear derailleur automatically shifts into optimal position for whatever gear you’re in
  • Takes advantage of battery-powered technology that is in the process of changing the mountain bike industry
  • Cable-free design makes for minimal weight and clutter
  • Integrated, clamp-on cable ports protect the system from water, mud, and dirt concerns
  • SRAM eTap Can Upgrade Any Bike

SRAM eTap Cons

SRAM eTap is a wireless system and there are definitely pros and cons to this.

Pros:

Aerodynamics

This is a great advantage for time trial bikes.

Flexibility

When you don’t have to worry about route wires, you can run wires wherever you want.

Auxiliary Battery

The Aux battery can provide more electricity throughout the bike. Shimano Di2’s battery life lasts longer than SRAM eTap.

Maintenance

To change a drivetrain on Di2, you only need to remove the battery from the frame.

Color

The color options of SRAM eTap are just a couple of standard colors, while Shimano Di2 is technically customizable.

Compatibility

SRAM eTap can be used on most types of bike frames. Di2 is only compatible with specific frames, whereas eTap has more versatility.

Modifications

SRAM eTap can be modified to but Shimano’s Di2 can only accept improvements that can be done in just the factory.

Disc Brake Compatibility

SRAM eTap is Compatible with disc brakes, where Shimano Di2 isn’t.

Just the Right Amount of Technology

SRAM eTap vs Shimano Di2 System

Motobecane is a company that prides itself in offering great value for the money, no matter whether you’re talking about high-end road bikes or more mainstream commuter bikes. The problem is that in the US, there aren’t many brands that really focus on getting the best bang for the buck, and Motobecane is out there by its lonesome.

Bearing that in mind, earlier this year we were really excited when SRAM and a few other companies formed a partnership to offer the same kind of performance and features at a better price. The result? The eTap groupset. If you’re interested in learning more about SRAM eTap, check out this article.

When the eTap groupset was launched, it was made available on several bikes from several brands. And while a road bike with eTap and disc brakes is probably awesome, I am more excited about eTap on the road bike I already own: A Motobecane Gran Premio Elite.

Before we dive into the review of this groupset, let me give you a little background on my bike:

Wired vs Wireless

Which is better?

While electronic groupsets are more common in road bikes, one of the first companies to take advantage of the technology is SRAM. SRAM made a wireless version of the RED groupst set and called it the RED eTAP. Since then, a number of Shimano electronic groupsets have been released. The electronic technology was first released for road bikes with Shimano, before making an entrance on mountain bikes.

What is SRAM eTAP and Shimano E-Tube?

SRAM eTAP and Shimano E-Tube are wireless electronic groupsets.

Why Wireless?

The primary advantage of plug-free road groupsets is that you no longer need to worry about your bike being in perfect tune. You don’t have to remember to plug in your device properly and you don’t have to leave the system plugged in to charge. Just like the earlier mentioned reasons, i.e. wireless shifting and charging are some of the most common groupset advantages.

How does it Work?

The design of clutch-less or wireless groupset systems involves the placement of the motor, battery and other electronic components next to their respective devices. These new generation road groupsets are placed in a way that they are easy to maintain and service. All shimano etap parts are well protected to prevent damage and environmental exposure.

Weight Comparison

Let’s see how the weight of the systems stack up.

Electronic Rear DERAILLEUR (Etap): 340g for converter, 75g for battery, 100g for wires, and 300g for shifters. Total: 750g.

Electronic SHIFTERS (Di2): 257g for converter, 75g for battery, and 20g for wiring. Total: 426g.

Total Weight Difference: +324g

And let’s look at how much smaller, and lighter Di2 is over Etap.

Etap: 340g for converter, 75g for battery, 100g for wires, and 300g for shifters. Total: 750g.

Di2: 257g for converter, 75g for battery, and 20g for wiring. Total: 426g.

Total Weight Difference: +324g

And finally, let’s see how the two compare when it comes to shifting speed.

Etap: no shift detection at slow speeds.

Di2: can shift even when pedaling at 8mph or slower.

Aesthetics

It is evident from the many discussions/websites putting down Shimano Di2 that aesthetics are an important factor in this topic. To offer some weight to the aesthetic argument, we opted to test the look and feel of Etap vs. Shimano Di2 by holding the two brake levers side by side.

We do not claim to have models of all SRAM and Shimano components, so we note that the following photo shows a Shimano crank/bottom bracket and an SRAM Rival derailleur roughly the same size as the Etap and Shimano Di2 levers.

The photo does not do justice to the colour and finish of the levers with the Rival rear derailleur (silver and black) creating a different background contrast. The photo does give an approximate visual representation of how they stack up against each other – and we’re going to address what we see here.

Similar Shape and Size

In this comparison, the Etap has a taller lever body and flat top. The Shimano Di2 is flatter. Although the difference in the body may appear to be minor, it is more noticeable as we take a look at the brakes from a side view.

The Shimano option shows more space between the hood and the lever body.

Shifter Hoods Ergonomics

The three-button Ergofit Short-Shifter hoods have a somewhat different shape to the traditional hoods on mechanical Shimano STI gear change levers.

The shift buttons are pushed down to shift. Ergofit ergonomics have just two fingers wrapped around the base of the shifter hoods; the thumb and pinky are tucked behind the lever body.

As we see when we use these shifters on the group ride, however, this is just a different way of getting to the same place. People adjust readily.

Installation and Initial Set Up

Most of the parts included with SRAM and Shimano electronic shifting systems are basically the same.

The most common difference that some users have noticed is that the Shimano FD-R660-E – short cage derailleur — does a better job keeping the chain on the smallest sprocket of the rear.

Whereas with SRAM, bar spin may be required.

Both Etap and Di2 use 4mm Allen keys – the tool used to tighten Allen screws – for the initial set up.

Di2 has a second clamp bracket that has to be installed below the bottom bracket.

While Etap has a one bracket solution.

Because SRAM has one clamp the battery is under the cable stop. Shimano has designed theirs to be under the seat stay.

To set the derailleurs, Shimano recommends that you set them at about 2 o’clock, which is lowest, and move to the right, setting them until they feel right.

SRAM recommends installing the battery, rear derailleur, and front derailleur first, then setting the stop screws (included).

The battery in Shimano is rechargeable. It lasts about 200 miles before it needs to be recharged.

Whereas SRAMs have a AA battery (three of them).

Shifting Performance

Let’s get this part out of the way first—the ergonomics of SRAM Etap are not quite as refined as Shimano Di2. The Etap battery pack sits above the left brake lever on the handlebar, and the junction box sits at the junction of the shifter and left brake lever boss. Both of these main components take up valuable real estate near the shift index finger and compromise the natural ergonomics of shifting.

Which means SRAM had to get creative in its cable routing. The cables emerge from the shifter on the top of the bar, loop underneath the bar tape, and then re-emerge toward the brake lever. The wire is anchored at the bottom of the bar with a barrel adjuster that’s well positioned for easy access.

The shift cable exits the left brake lever at the top of the bar and loops down around the brake boss, before looping back up the bar to the shift lever. The shift cable is anchored at the bottom of the bar near the bottom of the lever.

The junction box is positioned low, and the cables lay in close on the front of the bar, giving the shifter a sleek look. The thumbshifters are offset to the sides instead of the traditional centralized position.

Conclusion

In the end you are looking at two of the best groupsets that money can buy.

Do doing a bit of weighting though is the bike that you have in mind.

The Shimano Di2 has been in use for a long time now, and unless you are a pro and want changes made on the spot, this is the better and more reliable groupset.

There are some proprietary components in the Shimano Di2 setup, like the battery and the battery charger/adapter. But this is not a problem as Shimano compatible Di2 batteries and chargers can be used.

So who wins?

In my opinion, SRAM Etap is hands down one of the best groupsets on the market.

It is still fairly new, and the traditional derailleur and cable system has been beefed up to much more sturdy and reliable.

One of the reasons that people have always preferred the cable derailleur system is their easy assembly and maintenance.

The color range is better and there are a few very well made cassettes that you cant get with the Shimano.

There are also a few more freehub bodies that work better with the single ring and cog system.

The overall weight is very similar to the Shimano Di2 setup, maybe the Di2 is a bit lighter.

The good thing about both groupsets is that they are basically future proof.