SRAM Eagle eTap wireless mountain bike derailleur and shifter spotted

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The online mountain bike community has been abuzz lately with sightings of an eTap wireless version of SRAM’s Eagle 1×12 groupset. What was once solely rumour is quickly becoming fact, however, with sports photographer Michal Cerveny recently posting a crystal clear photo of an Eagle eTap rear derailleur on Nino Schurter’s bike.

Since then, a partial image of the new trigger-style electronic Eagle eTap shifter has now emerged as well, courtesy of yet another Instagram account, this time of Specialized Racing team mechanic Brad Copeland.

The rumours of a SRAM wireless electronic group began circulating about a month ago, when a photo on Schurter’s Instagram account showed what appeared to be a rear derailleur lacking a cable, but fitted with a battery. That photo was quickly removed, and all photos from Schurter since then have shown an unusual left-side bias to his handlebars, always cutting out the right-hand shifter and grip area.

SRAM Eagle eTap

This would mark SRAM’s first electronic mountain bike groupset offering. Wireless electronic shifting can potentially offer real advantages on mountain bikes, where the performance of traditional mechanical transmissions can be compromised by convoluted routing, rear suspension movement, and long cable lengths. The rear derailleur pictured clearly features a clutch mechanism for improved chain retention, and looks to work with the existing 10-50T 12-speed Eagle cassette.

It appears that SRAM will be using the same battery here as on the road-going eTap groupset, however the battery life is virtually guaranteed to be significantly shorter. Mountain biking requires more frequent shifting than on the road, and often across multiple sprockets. Combined with the additional resistance of the clutch mechanism, the stepper motor will be working overtime.

At least in theory, this new derailleur could also potentially be paired with SRAM’s Red eTap shifters to create a drop-bar 1×12 drivetrain. This would require a significant firmware update, and so it’s more likely we’ll sooner see the American company offer a wireless electronic version of its Force 1 groupset.

The most recent photo of the new shifter supports the findings of Dutch magazine VeloZine, which detailed patents of the new group, along with two different shifter designs: a twist-style shifter similar in appearance to SRAM’s current Grip Shift controls; and the more traditional thumb-and-forefinger lever-type shifter that has now been at least partially revealed. Although the twist-style shifter has yet to surface in public, SRAM has long offered both styles for its mountain bike groupsets, so both options seem viable.

At least for the trigger-style eTap shifter, it appears this MTB version will use a non-rechargeable coin-type battery for power, similar to the road eTap system. Just as with the Eagle eTap rear derailleur, though, battery life is expected to be shorter given the more frequent shifts that typify off-road riding.

Just as was seen with Schurter being the first rider to race SRAM’s mechanical XX1 Eagle 1×12 a couple of years ago, it seems the opening UCI World Cup in Stellenbosch, South Africa will see Schurter give the Eagle eTap its pro race debut as well. Stay tuned.

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