First Ride: SRAM e-bike upgrades

I recently spent a couple of days on a Specialized Turbo Levo that has been upgraded with some of SRAM's latest offerings. The bike started out as a stock Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie with the drivetrain upgraded to SRAM EX1, the brakes to SRAM Code RSC, and a RockShox Reverb dropper with their 1x Remote. I'll be taking a closer look at these upgrades.

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Reverb 1x Remote Lever


RockShox launched their own 1x dropper post lever in April, following what I can only assume to be demand from riders and seeing the void filled by several aftermarket options.

 

The lever seems a natural development as it sits perfectly where the front shifter used to be. It even uses the same shape lever paddle as seen on SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle shifter but with a slightly more concave thumb pad. Not only is this familiar, but it also places the remote in the most ergonomically sound place as it requires no movement from the wrist or hand to push, unlike some other remotes - especially remotes positioned on top of the handlebar.

 

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The lever pivots on a cartridge bearing to keep the action smooth and give it the same feel and force required to move as a SRAM shifter. Durability has been improved over the standard remote by bolstering the hose and remote connection to prevent the two parting ways in a crash. The return speed can be adjusted: only this time using a T25 Torx key rather than the barrel adjuster we've come to know. There is a bleed port using SRAM’s quick release Bleeding Edge technology should you have to bleed the remote or hydraulic system.

 

The family trade is further cemented by sharing the same clamp as SRAM's brakes with the option to use their matchmaker system. Just like their shifters, the lever can be moved from side to side and the angle can be adjusted to find the perfect mounting position. On the trail, the lever performs exactly like one would expect. The action is good and the feel mimics that of a SRAM shifter very well. In terms of everyday use the action, design and placement is a definite step in the right direction.

 

If you're in the market for a Reverb dropper seatpost and you have a 1x drivetrain, then this is remote to go for.

 

Specifications

  • Hydraulic actuation for adjustability, low maintenance, and low lever force
  • Available option on all Reverb Stealth models
  • 69.2g (21g heavier than the standard Reverb remote)
  • MatchMaker X or discrete clamp options
  • Bleeding Edge lever bleed fitting
  • Tooled speed adjust
  • Backward compatible with all B1 and A2 Reverb models in the market (black return speed adjuster knob)

SRAM EX1 Drivetrain


SRAM's EX1 drivetrain was designed from the ground up as a dedicated drivetrain for e-bikes. This gave their engineers the opportunity to look at the requirements of riders and how to manufacture a groupset that will cope better with the forces of an e-bike. At the heart of the drivetrain is an 8-speed (yes eight) cassette SRAM calls the E-Block with sprockets sized 11, 13, 15, 18, 24, 32, 40, 48 which will give you a nice and wide 436% gear range. The biggest sprocket is 7mm inwards compared to an 11-speed drivetrain which reduces cross-chain. With the cassette only dropping to an 11 tooth, there is no need for an XD driver. To reduce wear and tear the five biggest sprockets have been machined from a single piece, making them particularly durable. The three smaller sprockets can be changed individually. A design feature that will see you save some money when the time comes to replace them. With the 8-speed cassette comes an 8-speed chain that is wider and stronger, to better cope with the high torque loads of power assisted bikes.

 

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The groupset has been designed to shift one gear at a time to further reduce strain and wear on the chain: which has been the weak point on other drivetrains on e-bikes. The bigger jumps and single shifts are something to get used to initially, but it makes perfect sense and after a ride or two it feels natural. With the added power of pedal assist bikes, the 8-speed drivetrain always felt "enough" as you don't need a full selection of gears to power yourself up a steep climb. Shifting is precise with a very positive feel and, much like the 1x Remote, and is exactly what one would expect from SRAM. On various trails and terrain, I never felt like I wanted or needed more gears or smaller jumps between gears. When self-powered smaller jumps obviously make things easier on the legs and lungs, but with the assistance on offer it is not an issue with the EX1 drivetrain.

 

SRAM Code RSC


The most recent addition to SRAM's ever-expanding brake line-up, the Codes are aimed squarely at gravity riders but have found favour with E-Bike riders due to the extra stopping power and heat management on offer. The new Code holds 30% more fluid in the reservoir and comes with 15mm and 16mm pistons (compared to Guide's 14mm and 16mm) all in an effort to increase stopping power, and reduce heat build up. In addition, the new caliper has more room around the top of the pads and a heat shield which is designed to reduce heat traveling from the pad into the caliper and hose in an effort to avoid brake fade. SRAM claim that the new Code brake offers a 15% increase in power with only a 9% increase in weight when compared to their Guide RSC brake.

 

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Compared to the Level Ultimates on my Knolly Warden, the increased stopping power is immediately noticeable, easily making up the difference that one size bigger rotors will offer. They do have a more on / off feel, but there is still enough modulation and feel through the levers for feathering or slow speed controlled sections. Testing their heat management and resistance to fade was made easy due to the fact that they were fitted to an E-Bike which allowed multiple back-to-back downhill runs. On long runs and extended downhill sections the brakes stayed fade free and offered the same feel, response and stopping as they did at the beginning of the ride. The shape and size of the levers are good, very good in fact, and with the tool-free lever and bite-point adjustments, it is easy to dial in your preferred feel.

 

Specifications

  • Weight: 443g
  • Lever Material: Alloy
  • Caliper Design: 4-piston, dual diameter caliper
  • Finish: Black anodized
  • Rotor: CenterLine
  • Pad: Steel-backed metal sintered
  • Fluid: DOT 5.1
  • Mount: Ambidextrous
  • Adjustment: Tool-free Reach Adjust, Contact Point Adjust, Banjo Adjust
  • Special Features: Tool-free Reach Adjust, Contact Point Adjust, Piggyback Reservoir, MatchMaker™ X compatible, Bleeding Edge™, Heat Shield
  • Technology Highlights: SwingLink™,Lever Pivot Bearings, Bleeding Edge™, Heat Shield
  • Rotor Sizes: 160, 170, 180, 200mm
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