This is a longer term follow up to the previous postings on my experiences with the SRAM Red eTap Aero derailleur system. I was an early adopter, buying the eTap aero kit in early 2016. A bit of a glitch occurred in November 2016 when the BlipBox malfunctioned, and this was resolved later that winter.
Until recently, the system has functioned flawlessly, and indeed I’ve liked it so much I sourced parts (mostly via eBay) to fit out my P3C bike with it as well. As you’ll see in this report, I’ve had a recurrence of the BlipBox issue, and this caused me to look into buying a replacement, which turns out to be not only expensive, but near-impossible through my usual retailers.
Earlier this year, SRAM released a newer version of eTap, the Red AXS system, which takes the already unnecessary 11 gears to a frankly ridiculous 12 and offers a tighter and coordinated integration of most transmission parts via the AXS system and uses a mobile phone app. A little while later, this was followed by the slightly cheaper Force AXS. Essentially, though, AXS works in the same way as the original eTap, but with a bit more refinement and a number of function improvements. DCRainmaker has an impressively in-depth review of SRAM Red AXS eTap if you want to know more.
The AXS BlipBox is a different shape and as far as I can tell is not backwards compatible with the 11-speed non-AXS system. It’s also rather pricey.
The return of the BlipBox problem
The BlipBox issue that occurred in November 2016 involved the loss of function of one of the inputs to the BlipBox, meaning one of the switches wouldn’t work. The replacement BlipBox has worked fine until now.
While out on the Duo Normand course a few days before the event, I noticed that at some point since the previous Saturday morning’s club event, the switch mounted on the left extension had stopped working. By unplugging it and exchanging it with the base bar mounted switch, it was clearly a defect in one of the BlipBox inputs. Now, nearly three years on from my first BlipBox malfunction, I’d developed what appeared to be exactly the same fault.
This wasn’t the end of the world for the race – I just needed to remember to use only the switches on the aero extensions, but it was rather annoying.
I cogitated at some length on the options available to me. They were, loosely speaking:
- Cough up around £200 for a new BlipBox
- Exchange the BlipBoxes on the P5 and the P3 and live with only two switches on the P3
- Splice two switches into one plug on the defective BlipBox. As far as I can tell, blips are just ‘momentary on’ switches, so this ought to work.
On the grounds that it was the cheapest and easiest option, I first went with #2. So I removed the BlipBoxes and exchanged them, paired them to the derailleurs, reconnected them to the switches and…all four inputs on the ‘defective’ BlipBox now worked.
Somewhat confused, I unplugged the switches, re-plugged them and…the formerly non-functional input no longer worked.
After a bit of head scratching, and investigating, I found that a switch plugged into the formerly non-function input would only work if not pushed fully and firmly into the socket.
So that is one mystery sorted, but other questions are raised…
What happens if…
Just in case I needed a new BlipBox, I checked out the stock at a well-known squiggly online bike kit emporium. The BlipBox was noted as out of stock, so I requested stock updates by email. The other day I received the following email.
It would seem that SRAM’s support for at least some components of the older Red eTap Aero system, namely the BlipBox, is going to cease. As far as I can see, 11-speed Red eTap derailleurs are still available, though 11-speed blipboxes are hard to obtain in the UK. I realise that the Aero parts may be a bit marginal in comparison with the main road groups, but this is a bit irritating to say the least. If any of my Red eTap components fail and I’m unable to replace them, I don’t think I’ll splash the cash for the newer AXS system. I’m not interested in 12-speed wheels – all my TT rear wheels are 11-speed (I really don’t think 12-speed is particularly beneficial), I’m not interested in being pushed to using SRAM exclusively, and I’m not impressed by SRAM’s apparent long term support. Oh, and Red AXS eTap seems to be rather expensive.
I’ve used SRAM products for several years now – Two TT bikes with 11-speed Red eTap Aero, and my commuter bike has SRAM disc brake lever/shifters, and I’ve really no complaints about their function.