When it comes to designing and developing bicycle components, balancing affordability and functionality can be a real challenge. The good stuff is often reserved for the top-tier group, and only a smattering of the high-end features trickle down to the less costly components. That’s definitely not the case, however, with SRAM’s Rival 22 component group.
Like the company’s higher-priced Red 22 and Force 22 components, the Rival 22 group boasts 11-speed compatibility, upgraded DoubleTap™ shifters with Zero-Loss™ and Yaw™ technology, and the choice of regular or WiFLi™ gearing. And to ensure future-proof compatibility, SRAM offers Rival 22 with no less than three brake options: hydraulic discs, mechanical calipers, and hydraulic calipers.
Having spent the better part of last year riding SRAM’s Force 22 components, we were anxious to see how the Rival 22 group stacked up. To guarantee a fair comparison, our Black Mountain Cycles test bike was set up with the same gearing (50/34, 11-32), wheels, and cockpit that were used for the Force 22 review.
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Choosing affordable shifters is sometimes a gamble–you may get the same number of gears as the pricier models, but ergonomics or performance can differ wildly. Often times, lower-priced shifters have action so soft that it’s difficult to tell whether you’ve actually shifted or not. Thrifty cyclists looking for high-end performance won’t be disappointed with the SRAM Rival 22 DoubleTap® shifters ($251 MSRP).
Thanks to SRAM’s ZeroLoss™ technology, Rival 22 levers deliver shifting that is quick and crisp, with action that features both tactile and audible feedback. Even wearing bulky winter gloves, we didn’t experience any missed or unwanted shifts. And comfort? Wrap your hands around the hoods and you’re treated to the same great ergonomics of the company’s top-of-the-line Red 22 levers. Riders with small hands will definitely appreciate the ability to independently adjust the brake levers’ and shift paddles’ reach.
The DoubleTap levers are one of the brightest stars in the Rival 22 group. Weight-wise, the Rival 22 levers are only marginally heavier (25 g) than the Force 22 units (due to the latter group’s use of carbon fiber), yet the Rival levers fatten your wallet by more than $200. More importantly, though, Rival 22 levers bring 11-speed compatibility to the masses without sacrificing any of the functionality found on the company’s higher-end products.
When we pulled the rear derailleur from our Rival 22 shipment, we initially thought that it may have been a pre-production unit. The derailleur’s matte grey and black finish, while nicely done, was a stark contrast to the glossy black color scheme found on the group’s other components. An email to SRAM confirmed that the derailleur was indeed a production version, and that the anodized finish helped keep the price down ($72 MSRP for the mid-cage WiFLi model). The Rival derailleur may lack Force’s stainless steel hardware and carbon cage, but it does retain the latter’s AeroGlide Pulleys™ (which feature sealed bearings for reduced maintenance).
Curious to see compare the Rival 22 derailleur to its costlier Force 22 sibling, we installed the Rival rear mech on our otherwise Force 22-equipped test bike. In the stand, we couldn’t detect any measurable difference between the two derailleurs’ performance. On the road and trail, the newer Rival derailleur worked as well, if not slightly better than the older Force unit (which we attributed to fresh cables and housings).
With only an 18 gram weight penalty compared to the costlier Force 22 model ($118 MSRP), the Rival 22 rear derailleur is an obvious choice for cyclo-cross or mixed-terrain use where there is a high risk of damage from rocks, mud, or branches.
If you were to compare the Rival 22 and Force 22 front derailleurs, you’d be hard pressed to spot any differences. Functionally, the two components are identical; they both feature SRAM’s Yaw™ technology, but the Rival 22 version uses a less expensive finish in order to meet a lower price point ($38 MSRP). Aside from the different finish, the Rival 22 front derailleur works every bit as well as the Chicago-based company’s more expensive models.
After riding several thousand miles on Yaw-equipped bikes, we’ve become very spoiled by SRAM’s trim-free shifting. There’s no noise or rubbing if you suddenly find yourself cross-chained, and by eliminating the need for multiple clicks, shifting is faster and more positive. Setting up a Yaw system is different compared to a conventional setup, but once everything is dialed in, it’s virtually maintenance free.
The majority of the weight difference (approximately 204 grams) between the Rival and Force groups comes from the cranks–a whopping 142g. While the two groups’ chainrings are nearly identical, the Rival 22 crankarms are constructed from aluminum alloy instead of carbon fiber. The good news is that the Rival 22 crankarms are available in a wide range of lengths–165 mm to 177.5 mm, in 2.5 mm increments. Chainring sizes are limited to 52/36, 50/34, and 46/36.
The Rival 22 cranks, while not particularly light, proved to be very reliable. Shifting performance was indistinguishable from the pricier Force 22 crankset. The alloy arms remained tight and creak-free for the duration of our test period, and the glossy black finish withstood plenty of shoe rub and sloppy winter riding conditions. SRAM offers only one level of aftermarket GXP bottom bracket (with steel bearings), and it’s compatible with any of the company’s GXP cranks (road or mountain). Our previous experience with SRAM’s GXP bottom brackets has been very positive, and we expect similar performance from the Rival 22’s bottom bracket.
Cassette & Chain
SRAM’s PG-1130 cassette and PC-1130 chain are the company’s least-expensive 11-speed consumables. The differences between the 1130 and the costlier 1170 units are minimal, though. The 1130 cassette uses a steel locking (the 1170 cassette comes with an alloy lockring), and the 1130 chain features solid pins instead of the hollow pins found on the 1170 chain.
In our experience, SRAM’s chains and cassettes tend to perform equally well, and the Rival’s 1130 units are no exception. When it comes to durability, proper maintenance and using the appropriate chain lube generally have more of an effect on longevity than price or pedigree.
Rival 22 proves that affordable doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. SRAM successfully delivers lower-priced components with the same features found on their high-end groups. Our Rival 22 group easily held up to dirt, gravel, and even commuting–dispelling the notion that 11-speed drivetrains are finicky and need constant attention. The 204 gram weight penalty is pretty easy to swallow when you consider the $580 savings compared to the equivalent Force 22 components.
Disclosure: SRAM provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.