08 November, 2019

A Robo-Neutrino with SRAM Force eTap

by Igor

When Brook from SRAM emailed us asking about getting a Neutrino, I was incredibly intrigued. Is this a personal commuter? Traveler? Are they coming out with mini-velo components? Turns out, they wanted a fun and approachable bike to showcase their new eTap AXS Wireless Force components both at their booth and seminar for Philly Bike Expo. Enter Robo-Neutrino...

The idea is that while SRAM often shows these items on high-zoot mountain and road bikes, they haven't really told folks about the benefits and flexibility of the wireless platform on a bike that will see more practical urban use. While I cannot speak to the long term reliability (I'm sure it's good), the performance and ergonomics of the system is really fantastic.

The rocker button is in a perfect place for your thumb, leaving plenty of room for your hand on the grip. Additionally, the shifter can tell the derailleur to dump gears up and down simply by holding the respective button. It's pretty neat.

On the left side side sits the remote dropper lever. It's just a button. Press it once while sitting on the saddle and the post goes down. Press it again and the post goes up. It's a nice speed too. Putting a dropper on the Neutrino makes the bike that much smaller when space is at a premium. 

It also had a Force crankset and SRAM Hubs.

Stopping is handled by their Level Hydraulic Brakeset. It stopped those tiny wheels with ease and comfort.

The part that brings the whole kit together is Sram's controller app for your phone. You can program all the buttons, monitor component readiness, update firmware, and personalize component behavior. It's all pretty trick.

What do you think of this Robo-Neutrino? Whether it's Mavic Zap, SRAM eTap, Campy EPS, Shimano Di2, or otherwise, have you tried electronic shifting?


Stephen said...

The only real benefit I can see is that the 10T cogs allow a more normal sized chainwheel to get a reasonable high gear. However, the road AXS chains have a different sized roller so apparently only the matching rings will work, and these top out at 50T...

Joseph said...

I'll bet you would sell a bunch of these as completes. Any idea what the price would be?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else feel all the electronic hype is getting out of hand considering the ethical issues surrounding the labor in mining and manufacturing, let alone electronics waste? I appreciate that e-bikes and electronic shifting platforms help those with certain physical conditions start and/or continue riding, but am concerned that to some extent these things are mostly just another wave of marketing-induced consumption exacerbating some of humanity's global problems.

Joseph said...

No, nobody else thinks that. We're not going to stop building things with electronics.

Peter C said...

I volunteer for an organization that provides bikes for people with disabilities. Some of this technology would be quite helpful to people who have little to no use of their fingers. Motor assist tech is also helpful. But for those of us who are lucky enough to have no disability; it seems like the answer to a question which no-one asked. How much delay do you experience when shifting with conventional equipment? And, by the way, what happens if you forget to charge the system or a wire breaks? This electronic technology is simply "the next big thing" which probably will be "yesterday's news" in another couple of years. By then, the manufacturers will have moved on to implanted devices which allow you to think a shift. Good for the manufacturers; just a money pit for the rest of us.

Mad Mike said...

While electronic shifting may be over-hyped, e-bikes are not. Last summer, Madison, Wisconsin, converted its entire bike share fleet to electric bikes. Ridership more than doubled. Getting people off the couch and out of their cars is a step toward addressing, not exacerbating, some of humanity's global problems.

Joseph said...

That little electronic shifter on the Neutrino may eventually help me keep riding. I have basal joint arthritis predominantly in my right hand and have moved my rear shifters to the left side. Realistically this disease isn't going to stay only in the right, which means shifting with manual pressure may become impossible for me. I'm glad we have electronics available to solve this.

Not so mad Mike said...

This will evolve and find a good use. But, it is an example of technology overwhelming simplicity. The simple bicycle with simple moving parts and simple to service is not so much any more.

Anonymous said...

Mixed feelings. My Prius makes a good comparison. Many benefits from reduced carbon footprint, but the increased electronics in cars can be a money pit. The motherboard in my car has gone out, so the dash and camera displays don't work now - that's a thousand dollar fix. A more analog car has dials for the dash information, not a motherboard, and those dials are just super reliable. This little electronic shifter is a great idea (especially for the physically challenged) but it's a lot more expensive than a mechanical shifter to repair, may require more specialized servicing as opposed to owner repair (cars all get hooked up to computers now at major cost). Is that the direction we are going with bikes, which are currently affordable means of transportation? Are these devices just for the elites who can afford them? I think e-bikes are great for lots of people, I even have a small drive for my bike but it's the only part of my bike I cannot service myself. I used to be able to work on and fix my car myself, too. And then there's all the batteries and the pollution from producing this stuff, sigh.

clau66 said...

After a few years of modernity:
- I returned to the BB square pin: low costs and zero maintenance;
- I'm back at 2x9 speed: the chain consumes less and costs little;
- I returned to the friction bar-end: excellent and reliable.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who left the third comment at 11/8/19, 1:19 PM.

Joseph, nobody else thinks what, exactly? I didn't propose, and would not propose, the complete end of manufacturing or developing new electronics. Come at me when you care about nuance.

Mad Mike, likewise, I didn't propose an end to electronic bikes. You and I may perhaps be thinking about different global problems, though. I come from the most privileged land in the world, so also would prefer people off their office chairs, automobile seats, etc for the sake of their own health (I worry about my mother's bank-job weight, for instance), but that's not the type of global problem I was talking about. Instead, I was referring to the global problems experienced by those outside of my fellow citizens' sedentary, lazy, complacent lifestyles, specifically those of laborers which allow we citizens as much - those upheld not only by electronic bicycle systems of today, but also by bicycle manufacturing of yesterday.

I still support people getting out of their cars, out of their work chairs, etc. I just prefer to do it by mechanical, more affordable bicycles, something many of my e-bike interested customers haven't even considered (maybe because money/advertisement dictates inordinate amounts of social thought).

So I'll end by encouraging people to think about political turmoil around the world, such as the recent military coup in Bolivia, a country that has suffered under corporate subjugation over water in decades past, but most recently over lithium. Your rechargeable batteries (something I begrudgingly sell in bicycle lights) generally come from someone else's loss. If you care about your rights, please make sure the products you order come from systems securing the rights of those who make those products.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Steve said...

Very cool! I think the Neutrino is a great platform for that SRAM system. Not my cup of tea, but I can see where it would be useful for city bikes and for people who cannot shift (for whatever reason or reasons) easily. The evil side of me has to ask though: Can the system be hacked and thus you can mess with someone's gearing? :)

Stephen said...

I have to agree that it appears to be a solution in search of a problem. The bicycle is simplicity itself. Adding unnecessary complications is not always the right engineering approach. Trick, yes, but absolutely necessary? Maybe not.

a said...

Leaving aside arguments about the current benefits or detriments of electronic shifting systems and the inequities inherent in supplying consumer demand, might we agree that this stuff is destined for the landfill before the end of our lifetimes?

Decades-old mechanical derailleurs that are essentially antiques at this point can still be evaluated by eye/feel, taken apart, serviced, adjusted, and put to use on pretty much any bicycle with a derailleur hanger. Failing that, they become donors to other mechs, or at least can be recycled easily.

Contemporary electronic systems - most devices, not just the latest bicycle tech - are a black box filled with tiny electronic components (SMD) that are nearly impossible to repair except by replacing an entire module. Good luck repairing or even understanding the inner workings of one 30 years from now unless you have a spares bin and good electronics/microcontroller skills.

How many cell phones or other electronic devices have you disposed of in the past 5 years alone, rather than attempting a repair when they failed?


Anonymous said...


a said...

@anon 11/29/19,

I love that site you reference, and have documented component failures of my own. However the examples you provide are, to me, outlier data points, if I assume correctly that you are trying to disparage clau66 from believing that a square-taper spindle remains a viable choice from an engineering and maintenance perspective.

Several of the failures shown are unusual designs, such as the circlip type, another has likely been ridden under extreme situations (pro BMX bike), and yet others are of unknown or relatively obscure manufacturing origin and usage history.

Only the SKF is considered a currently available high quality product, and how many failures of that type are recorded out of numbers produced? They are warrantied for 10 years anyhow: https://www.renehersecycles.com/skf-bottom-brackets-after-5-years/

How many of the examples listed are Shimano UNxx type bottom brackets? Those seem to be indestructible unless subject to abuse or extreme conditions.

Personally I have tens of thousands of miles on square taper BBs, and have zero catastrophic failures. I have however broken a set of fluted Campagnolo cranks which were close to NOS when installed.


clau66 said...

@ anonymous www.pardo.net

Even the planes are reliable and do not fall.
I have more confidence in a BB with a square pin, rather than an airplane.
All can be.