It's been a mostly open secret for a few years now that a mountain bike-specific version of SRAM's wireless 12-speed drivetrain has been in the works, but it's only been over the last week or so that we've seen the electronic setup being put to use in the wild. And not put to use by just anyone, mind you, but by this Swiss guy named Nino Schurter who has been winning essentially every race he's entered for a while now, from World Cups to World Champs to National Champs, and even the Olympics.
The World Cup cross-country season is kicking off in Stellenbosch, South Africa, this coming weekend and Nino's Scott has been fitted with a prototype wireless setup that was spotted by photographer Micahel Cerveny
. That doesn't mean that Nino will be on it come race day, of course, as there have been rumors for awhile now that he could have used it at last year's World Championships. But, if Nino does roll out of the start chute with it on his bike and goes on to win, which you'd be silly to bet against given how his 2017 went, it'd be one hell of a racing debut for SRAM's electronic off-road drivetrain.
Below, you can see their road-specific eTap Red 11-speed derailleur, with its battery protruding off the back, much like the prototype that's shown on Cerveny's Instagram page. The eTap moniker has only ever been used for SRAM's road products, however, so expect the mountain bike system to fall under the BlackBox and Eagle umbrella instead.
I reached out to Tyler Morland, SRAM MTB Brand Manager, who had this to say: ''SRAM is constantly experimenting with new technology, and designing, building and testing new products. At this time, we cannot comment on photos, rumors or speculation.''
So SRAM clearly isn't ready to share any details yet, but there are a few obvious things to point out. First, it'll be 12-speed, of course, and we also don't expect the mountain bike version of the wireless shifter to look anything like SRAM's current paddle clickers because, well, it doesn't need to. Instead, I anticipate it being a much, much smaller collar-style shifter that, while still using paddles (or just one paddle), functions more like a switch than something that has to pull or release a cable. You don't exactly need to be a drivetrain surgeon to know that, though.
Interestingly, there were some photos floating around on Instagram that showed something very similar to that description, but those turned out to be shifty photoshops that tricked more than a few people.
Above, you can get a better look at Nino's entire bike from Stellenbosch, including what appears to be some sort of computer extending far out in front of his handlebar. Is this simply the most ergonomic position for his computer, or is it related to his SRAM wireless drivetrain?
Above is a screenshot by PB member @garneau565
that clearly shows the wireless shifter's shape, and it's most definitely not the collar-style clicker that some guy named Mike L. (that's too obvious, so let's call him M. Levy instead) predicted that it would be. Instead, it's mounted to the handlebar with what looks like a normal clamp, and it sits in very much the same place that you'd find a standard shifter.