Today I changed the control levers, gear cables and brake cables from the silver Shimano Sora set which came with the bike to black SRAM Red equipment.
The gear cables supplied with the Red set are from Gore RideOn and claim to have low-friction sheathing and special cable-sheath-ends to stop grit getting up there. I can’t say I’ve noticed that being a problem before, but presumably it makes some people feel happier about the amount they’ve just shelled out if they get some technobabble to help them post-rationalise it. My main criticism of them is that they are extremely difficult to cut, and once you have managed to cut them the cut part has been crushed out of shape so that the cable can’t get through and the ends don’t fit on. With two of the sheath runs you can put the cable into the end you didn’t cut, then force it through the one you did to make it the right shape again. Unfortunately there are three sheathing runs in a typical road bike’s gear cable system so you’re going to have to find another way to deal with the problem on at least one of those sections.
The inner cable for the gears is fitted to the control levers before you open the box, so I have no idea how easy or difficult it would be to do that: I cynically suspect it would be difficult. The brake cables are easy to fit: you squeeze the brake lever to expose the cable hole and then shove it through.
The brake cable sheathing is labeled SRAM and is considerably easier to cut than the Gore sheaths. Again there are 3 runs, but the sheathing is much better at keeping its shape so no problems getting the cable through and the ends on to any of the sections. The Red levers and Sora callipers seem to be compatible with each other, thankfully, so I don’t need to shell out another £80 on SRAM brakes (although I do think that black callipers would look nicer on my bike: maybe I’ll get some 105 ones when Cerys isn’t looking).
The obvious question is: have these achieved what I wanted them to achieve? Routing all the cables under the bar tape rather than having the gear cables fly free from the side of the shifters will definitely resolve my road-illumination issue.
The amount I need to move my fingers to change gear is vastly reduced: downshift at the rear used to mean moving the brake lever through something like 30 degrees; whereas now I am moving a gear paddle through less than 15 degrees (those numbers might be wrong but the ratio is about right). The gear paddle is nearer my fingers than the brake lever as well, which all adds up to a significantly easier shift. Upshift at the rear really is just a tap on the gear paddle: much more convenient than a button you can only reach from the hoods. Shifting the front is similarly easy. As every review of Red says, you have ‘trim’ on the big ring only: the way it works is that if you’re in the small ring you can shift to the outer part of the big ring with a single click; once in the big ring you can trim to the inner part of the big ring with a little tap (one click) or shift to the little ring with a big tap (two clicks) or another little tap. I seem to be able to shift at the front relatively well using my Sora dérailleur with the Red shifter; but I can confirm that the Tiagra derailleur at the rear doesn’t work.
Finally, I have to mention that the black control levers and cables look rather better on the black Allez frame than the original Sora/Tiagra silver-finish stuff.
I’ve ordered the SRAM derailleurs to go with this kit, and the cassette, chain, bar gel and bar tape I need to finish the project. I’ve also ordered a so that I can use my bike in the winter months without getting horribly damp. I’ll post reviews of all that when I’ve fitted them.