First Impressions: SRAM Force 22 Components

When SRAM redesigned their Force 22 group, the company leveraged its top-end Red 22 line for many of the new group’s features. Among Force 22’s improvements are twenty-two usable gears and Yaw™ front shifting. The redesigned Force line also features trickled-down enhancements such as improved ergonomics, reduced weight, and updated aesthetics. GRAVELBIKE spent the last six months putting the Force 22 group to the test on Colorado’s roads and trails.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SRAM Force 22 WiFLi rear derailleur 11 speed cassette

SRAM’s Force 22 drivetrain on the Black Mountain Cycles test bike.

Like SRAM’s Red 22 group, Force 22 boasts twenty-two usable gears. Whether you’re in the small or large chainring, you can access all eleven cogs without trimming the front derailleur. This trim-free shifting is made possible by SRAM’s Yaw front derailleur. Unlike most derailleurs, the Yaw cage rotates in line with chain, improving shifting speed and precision, eliminating the need for shifter trim. If you were taught to always avoid cross-chaining, this new paradigm may take a few rides to get used to. We rarely used the small chainring/small cog combo, but being able to easily–and safely–shift up to the largest cog while in the big chainring proved to be valuable on more than one occasion.

Knowing that terrain, riding style, and even fitness can vary, SRAM provides three cassette options for the Force 22 group. The 11-speed PG 1170 cassette is available in 11-26, 11-28, and 11-32 ratios, with rear derailleurs offered in short- and medium-cage (WiFLi) versions. For our testing, we matched an 11-32 cassette with the company’s Force 22 carbon cranks (34/50 chainrings). Thanks to the cassette’s cog spacing (11,12,13,14,15,17,19,22,25,28,32), this combination worked equally well for fast-paced road riding and off-road exploration. The Force 22 rear derailleur ($115 MSRP) may lack some of the carbon and titanium bits found on the pricier ($380 MSRP) Red 22 model, but the Force 22 unit never missed a shift.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SRAM Force 22 WiFLi rear derailleur 11 speed cassette

Force 22 mid-cage derailleur with WiFLi (11-32) cassette.

SRAM’s Force 22 group now includes hydraulic and mechanical brake options, and the company offers DoubleTap® levers for both types of braking systems. Like SRAM’s Red 22 levers, the redesigned Force 22 levers feature SRAM’s ZeroLoss™ shifting technology, which results in faster shifts, front or rear. The Force 22’s ergonomics are a huge step up from earlier versions, as is the ability to quickly and easily adjust the brake and shift levers’ reach. We tested the mechanical Force 22 levers with a variety of brakes, including Avid’s BB7 road discs, and deep-drop calipers from Grand Cru and TRP. Whether paired with disc or rim brakes, the Force 22 levers offered plenty of power and modulation.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SRAM Force 22 WiFLi rear derailleur 11 speed cassette

The ErgoFit textured body shows virtually no wear despite almost daily use.

Despite all the technological advancements found in the Force 22 group, installation and setup proved no more difficult than competitors’ products. The Yaw front derailleur came with a sticker warning us to follow the user manual for proper setup, but we found those instructions to be clear and easy to follow. Once everything was dialed in, the Force 22 drivetrain required essentially zero tweaking to keep it running properly (even when swapping rear wheels and cassettes). After six months of riding in a variety of terrain and weather, we found the 11-speed system extremely reliable, with chain and cassette wear on par with 10-speed drivetrains.

Are SRAM’s Force 22 components suitable for the gravel or dirt-road rider? We certainly think so. The group’s wide range of gearing options, combined with mechanical and hydraulic-brake compatibility make it a logical choice for a variety of setups. We’ve actually come to prefer the DoubleTap levers’ ergonomics, and are more than a little spoiled by the system’s trim-free front shifting. Despite being only slightly heavier than the company’s top-tier Red 22 line, Force 22 has proven sturdy enough for a trouble-free daily use.

Disclosure: SRAM provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Under Test: Panaracer Gravelking 700×32 Tires

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Panaracer Gravelking tire knobby

Here’s a sneak peek of the 700×32 Gravelking that Panaracer will be releasing in November. The new 32mm model features a more aggressive tread pattern, but retains the natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker, and supple casing found on the 23mm, 26mm, and 28mm sizes.

Stay tuned…