Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Service Course: SRAM Double Tap Overhaul

I've been a pretty staunch advocate of Shimano drivetrain systems over the past few years. But truth be told I use to be a SRAM guy. And I must admit that when it was announced that we'd be riding SRAM this season I was a little concerned. I've heard about numerous people breaking Double Tap shifters but rarely hear of similar fates regarding STI.

I went into the whole thing with an open mind. SRAM and Trek got us our cyclocross equipment back in July so I had ample time to re-wire my brain to shifting with one lever instead of two. The transition was smoother than I expected. There were some things I liked better about Shimano, but a similar number of things I liked better with SRAM. And to my surprise, my new Force and Red drivetrains both ran significantly smoother than either my Dura-Ace or Ultegra drivetrains ever did out of the box.

Two months on, and two very muddy races later, I'm getting to like my Double Tap shifters more and more. After our first mud day at the USGP in Sun Prairie, I noticed the rear shifter was significantly harder to shift. My first thought was, "great, how long before this thing breaks?". Like I said, I was a SRAM guy for a long time before my days on Shimano, so I sent out a note to long time race circuit friend Alex Wassman (@SRAMontheRoad) to see if there was anything I could do. Within hours I had SRAM guru Ed Nasjeti on the phone walking me through the process of cleaning the shifter mech. What's even more impressive is I think Alex was in Europe when I sent him the note.

And here lies the difference between SRAM and Shimano. Although Shimano just seems to kind of work forever, if you need something repaired it's basically a pain in the ass. If it's one thing I learned in my previous life at Manitou, it's that building products that are user serviceable is key. Downtime just isn't an option.

After 5 minutes on the phone with Ed, I was good to go. With knowledge in hand, I had the shifter apart, cleaned, and back together in no time. And to my surprise, it worked better than it did out of the box, and after 45 minutes of gut wrenching mud racing. It makes me wonder if all the Double Tap issues I've heard about could have been prevented with a little bit of maintenance. So with that thought in mind, here's what you can do to refurbish, clean, whatever you want to call it, to keep your SRAM Double Tap shifters working smooth after muddy, wet weather.

Still a lot of grime under that hood, even after a good bike wash
Before you start, you'll need the following tools.
  • Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle
  • Small phillips head screwdriver
  • Toothbrush
  • Air gun or use your mouth if you don't mind a little dirt / alcohol mix on your lips
  • lint free rags
  • Lubrication (Ed suggested a Phil Wood tenacious oil, but I used DuMonde Tech Lite)
First, spray a little alcohol under the rubber brake hood. This will make it easier to slid off. After the hood is removed, turn it inside out and clean with a rag and rubbing alcohol.

It should look something like this after it's all cleaned up.


No matter how well you wash your bike post race, there will be all kinds of nastiness going on underneath the clean exterior of those rubber hoods. Next, take your phillips screwdriver and remove the three small screws that attach the cover plate to the lever body.

Doesn't look too bad at this point
Once the cover is removed and cleaned you can see the full extent as to why your shifter isn't working quite as well as it use to. Now, take your spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and do a mini alcohol power wash on your shifter. DO NOT USE ANY KIND OF DEGREASER OR SOLVENT!!! Most of the bigger chunks of grit will be washed away but you may need to use a toothbrush to really clean the silt out of all the corners. Continue to rinse and blow out the shifter until all the grit is removed.

The big reveal, chunks of muck
Don't forget to shift the Double Tap paddle out of the way as there will be more grit lodged behind it as well.

Grass and mud, can't imagine why it's harder to shift
Once all the grit and grim is removed you can go about re-lubing the mechanism. You'll want to put a drop or two of lube on all pivots and pawls. I also put a drop on each ratchet tooth to smooth the release. I really like the DuMonde Tech lube for this as it adheres to the pores of the metal creating a smooth frictionless surface finish. Test shift your shifter before re-installing everything. It should shift and release much smoother. If not further cleaning may be needing. Install the cover, and spray the inside of the rubber lever hood so it slides back onto the lever easily, and your done. Just like new.

All clean, ready for another trip to the podium


munsoned said...

Holy crap. So can you fully rebuild a shifter like Campy? If so, I think I won't have a reason to go back to Shimano or Campy.

MOD 2.0 said...

I don't know about rebuilding it like Campy. The mechanism doesn't look like it easily disassembled for parts replacement. However, as you can see, cleaning and upkeep is incredibly easy.

Douglas said...

Excellent info Mark! Thanks for posting. Just so happens I needed to do this maintenance and I couldn't find info on the web. Perfect timing.

bryan said...

You can't take it completely apart like Campy, but you can get in into five or six pieces.

Vincent said...

"I won't have a reason to go back to Shimano or Campy"

Yes, ride SRAM, it's a really good reason to go back Campy, SRAM sucks! Double Tap worst thing exist.

MOD 2.0 said...

Perhaps you'd care to elaborate?

thefutureofamerica said...

I got slightly different advice from SRAM last week - I did the same isopropyl alcohol powerwash technique but without removing the screwed-on plastic cover, then just painted a little bit of white lithium onto the pawls and cog. Very effective. The only problem I see is that once you start replacing grease with light oil, your maintenance interval is going to get shorter for the rest of your shifter's life. BUT, it only takes a few minutes and the shifting feels beautiful afterwards.

Daryl Spano said...

I gave it a shot and it worked great.
I was so aggravated with how my right Red shifter was acting, I was about to pop a blood vessel in my head. Thanks so much for the life-saving post!