Overall, the shifters feel great. The carbon levers have a relatively large section to hold on to when braking and the shift paddle is big enough. I’ve never liked shimano’s combined gear/brake lever, so that’s the primary reason I bought this set. My one single gripe is that there seems to be a soft spot just inside the levers where the double-tap mechanism is housed. It’s like the soft spot on a baby’s head… you know it’s only temporary… because this is not how the final grown up version is meant to be. Peel back the inside of the rubber hoods and you realise there is nothing but a big hollow section underneath with no support.
After a few short rides, I’ve realised I don’t really like the double tap ‘feature’. The words ‘upshift’ and ‘downshift’ can mean different things to different people, so I’ll try and explain it another way. Whenever you shift to a bigger cog, as the shiftlever is going through half of its travel, it makes the first noisy click just like it would make if it were going down to the smaller cog. Then the final gear change is accompanied by another not so subtle click. So you have to put up with TWO clicks every single time you change up ONE gear.
Neither is there any multishifting capabilities a la campagnolo or shimano. And as others have pointed out, when you’re in the lowest gear, if you try to go to an even lower gear, it can only make a single click and will do the opposite of what you want. This also happens if you don’t swing the shiftlever far enough across to make a proper gear change. Perhaps the worst part of all is that there is no trim feature on the front derailleur for fine tuning the position of the front derailleur cage. It’s either UP or DOWN and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think that lends a rather cheapish feeling to this product. Having said that, the speed and precision of individual front & rear shifting is on par with the other big manufacturers.
When compared to the competition, shimano’s new 2010 Ultegra carbon shiftlevers are already on sale now and finally have that long awaited hidden cable routing too. Two less reasons to buy SRAM shiftlevers. SRAM Rival do have a big weight advantage though (SRAM’s third-teir levers are respectively 34g / 10g lighter than Shimano Dura Ace / Campagnolo Super Record!). Pricewise, Shimanos levers are the most expensive and porkiest of the lot, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best. My favourite remains campagnolo, for offering the best compromise between cost, ergonomics, performance and serviceability.