The Low-Down On SRAM’s $99 Wireless Blips

I wrote about these last month. They’re out now, for sale. The price is shocking to me. They’re $99 a pair. There are two ways to look at this. One: That it’s a remarkably inexpensive product to develop and make. But I’m more inclined to err on the second option: They’re loss-leaders. They’re an inducement, or permission, to buy the rest of the groupset.

Let me remind you again of what these are: true wireless remote shifting. But it our case, in triathlon, they’re true wireless bar end shifting, if we want them to be. Not that they were designed for this. SRAM hasn’t explicitly told me this, but my instinct tells me there is no way these were designed with bar end shifting in mind. The design is not remotely appropriate for bar end shifters, pun intended. They were designed as remote shifters for drop or flat bar bikes. Second-position shifters. The 3rd and 4th shifters on your road, gravel or MTB bike. The other tell is that these shifters aren’t rechargeable, nor do they have all the “smarts” necessary to perform the tasks of primary shifters (which I’ll get to, including the workarounds that allow them to act as primary shifters if you so desire).

The Freedoms

SRAM did it. SRAM was the first company to make bar end shifting wireless. Well… it already did it, with the Zipp VukaShift AXS 90 extensions. But that product was only a semi-hit for two reasons: first, they were $800 a pair, kinda spendy; second, their introduction coincided with the debut of the kinds of extensions we all want to buy now, which are the full-length forearm-supported aero extensions similar to the Speedbar. It’s too late now, and I wasn’t smart enough to realize it at the time, but what SRAM probably should have done was intro the VukaShift extension while simultaneously offering the electronics to other aerobar makers. Which it can still do. And there is utility for sure in those electronics. These Wireless Blips – ideally – don’t replace those electronics but work alongside them, which we’ll get to.

These Wireless Blips are light, they’re spare, they can pretty much be put anywhere on a bike. What they actually replace are a product SRAM calls Multiclics, which are wired remote shifters. Most of the AXS shifters that SRAM makes have ports that accept the jack from a Multiclic wire. The new Wireless Blips truly eliminate all wires. The only thru routing on an AXS-shifted bike, of any sort, for any discipline, are the hydraulic brake lines.

The Restrictions

The Freedoms you enjoy – from wires, from Blip Boxes, from weight, from figuring out where to put all of the junctions and wires – come with some hurdles. But hurdles are meant to be… hurdled. Here is the first: these shifters are not rechargeable. Why? Because a 2032 coin cell battery – which is the battery SRAM employs in just about every electronic device it makes other than its derailleurs – is itself as large as the entire circumference of the Wireless Blip body. If you made this shifter rechargeable it would grow the size of the unit considerably. This Wireless Blip shifter is guaranteed to last 2 years, and is likely to last 4 years, perhaps up to 7 years. For $99 a pair, I’m in. The only concern I had was “notice”. I didn’t want to enter an event, train for it, travel to it, only to have my shifter die mid-race. There is no battery status light on a Wireless Blip, as there is on an AXS primary controller (road shifter, Blip Box, VukaShift 90), again because of weight and cost. But you can check battery status in the AXS app. For me, that solves it. Unless the battery is on fumes – status viewable in the AXS app – I’m unworried.

Above is a screenshot of my 4 Wireless Blips in the AXS app, and you can see the battery status on an enlargement of that screenshot. And remember, these were never designed as a primary shifter. So, if a remote shifter does die mid-race, so what? It’s the secondary shifter. You can still shift the bike. But we’ll talk about using this as your primary shifter in a moment.

The second hurdle with this shifter is that it can’t initiate the pairing process with your derailleurs. These shifters pair with your derailleurs, yes, but only a fully-vested smart wireless shifting component can execute certain AXS functions. What fully vests such a component? If it has an AXS button, and an AXS light, then it qualifies. You’ll see the button and the light on any AXS road shifter, and on a Blip Box, and on a Zipp AXS VukaShift 90 aerobar extension. Only the components with the light and the button can execute a pairing session. So, look at your Wireless Blips as babies that need a midwife to come into the world, but once they’re birthed they can breathe on their own. This can be a drawback for you if you own no such device and you want to use 4 Wireless Blips as your primary (bar end) and remote (pursuit bar) shifters. But this is easily overcome.

You don’t need an AXS connection component to be on your tri bike. You just borrow the use of one for pairing your Wireless Blips. In my case, I have other bikes that are SRAM AXS shifted. I just placed my tri bike next to my gravel bike, and used a shifter on my gravel bike to pair the Wireless Blips with my tri bike’s derailleurs. The process for pairing shifters and derailleurs in an AXS bike is this:

I press the rear derailleur AXS button on my tri bike until it blinks slowly. Then I press the tri bike’s front derailleur AXS button until the rear derailleur light blinks fast for just a moment. Then, I press the AXS button on my gravel bike’s shifter (either the left or the right). Then I press the Wireless Blip on the right extension of my tri bike, then the left extension, then the right pursuit shifter, then the left. Each time I press the AXS button on a device, that green AXS light on the rear derailleur will blink fast for about a second. After I’ve gone through this cycle I press the AXS button the rear derailleur and the green light will stop blinking. I’m done. I don’t need that connection device to perform midwifery any longer.

You and I must follow this process exactly, when pairing our tri bikes (or road or gravel any AXS-equipped bike). Once done we’ll be able to pull up these connected devices in the AXS app and when you see the Wireless Blips on the screen (above left) you can click Configure Controls, at which point you pull up the screen above right and can tell each shifter what you want it to do exactly, if something other than the default operations.

But we’re not quite done. There is one more thing that “midwife” can do for us. The Wireless Blip cannot microadjust the rear derailleur. One SRAM feature is the ability to microadjust that RD, even while riding. The AXS button on (say) an AXS road shifter allows you to do that. But you need that fully-vested AXS shifting component to do that. So, after system pairing I used the gravel bike shifters of mine to perform the RD adjustment on my tri bike. Then I’m done with those gravel bike shifters.

If you had a Zipp AXS VukaShift 90 on your tri bike, as a primary shifter – or if you had the electronics from that extension working on a different extension – and you had Wireless Blips as your remote shifters on the pursuits, you’d have it all. You can pair all the shifters using your VukaShifts (or the electronics from it in another extension), and those shifters would also allow you to adjust the RD, whether on the workstand or while riding. Because the shifters on those VukaShift 90 extensions are rechargeable, you never had to worry about a battery lifespan. Because the Wireless Blips carry their own power supply if something ever did happen to one of those VukaShift 90 bar-end shifters you still have the pursuit shifter to function in a pinch, to get you home. This is the very best current system for shifting a tri bike in my opinion, assuming I like the aerobar extension. But…

Using 4 Wireless Blips as your shifters on your tri bike is perfectly fine. Yes, you need to borrow the use of an AXS connection component, which SRAM calls a "controller". If you just don’t have one, your LBS will. Anything he’s got on any bike on his showroom floor, or in his parts inventory, will work. This will pair the system and adjust the RD and then you don’t need that device any more. (A Blip Box is the one AXS controller that cannot, in concert with Wireless Blips, adjust the RD). Yes, the Wireless Blips have a defined life and then they’re dead. But, they’re $99 a pair, they last several years, the system is sealed against the weather, and you can track the battery life in your AXS app on your handheld. Yes, the shifter can nevertheless die. But you have 4 of them on the bike, but the only way you lose shifting entirely is if both left or both right shifters die during a ride or race, and that’s about as likely as a comet strike.

There are two things this system lacks that would make it just great, and they’re both AXS app emulators. It would be nice to see firmware updates to that app that allow it to handle pairing without an AXS controller borrowed to midwife the pairing of Wireless Blips to derailleurs; and it would be nice if the app had an emulator that allowed the microadjustment of the RD. But look, I’m “wired” to look at a system not only as it is today, but as it will be in a month, or in 6 months. Are these emulators I’m wishing for just a matter of writing code? Is it that simple? I don’t know. But if those emulators were to magically show up in a firmware update, I think this completes the system and makes Wireless Blips good enough for OE spec on tri bikes spec’d from the factory. With one exception.

Here’s one way a Wireless Blip surely fails: It falls off the bike. In my opinion, the cages or mounts that SRAM makes for these are not adequate for use in triathlon. For example, in the pic above is where SRAM says you could put the Wireless Blip, versus where I placed it on my tri bike. I can pretty well promise you that if you put it right on the pursuit bar, where your hand goes, you’ll be shifting your bike by mistake, and often. I have mine mounted with a very aggressive 2-sided tape on the side of my pursuit lever (and SRAM does include 2-sided tape with these shifters). What requires a bit more strategizing is the bar end shifter mounting. Perhaps SRAM’s view is you just put that included clip around the extension. But then I’d have to add quite a bit of length to that extension. In the case of the Vision Metron TFE Pro extension's I have on my tri bike the length of the hand-hold is prescribed. My best bet is to put that shifter where SRAM already knows that shifter should be: as part of the extension plug.

One solution is to epoxy, or 2-side tape, this Blip to a bar plug. But that’s not straightforward. Most of the included plugs with clip-ons are half-round and the plug where you affix the Wireless Blip needs to be flat. Even this one below (left) has a slight bevel to it. You can’t just put any old handlebar plug in the extension because the ID of a typical road bar (which is what most handlebar plugs are made for) is about 22mm (depending on the thickness of the handlebar material). The ID of an aerobar extension is more like 18mm or 19mm. Most handlebar plugs won’t fit in there. Here’s an interesting one, below right, from Profile Design. It’s not exactly flat but has a contour that roughly matches that of the Wireless Blips. I think I’m going to get a set of these if I can and try to use them as my bar end Wireless Blip mounting platform.

I think SRAM is where it needs to be, right now, to claim a unique set of solutions for triathletes that make it a compelling drivetrain choice. Four of these shifters on an AXS Rival 2x or XPLR 1x groupset should allow a bike brand to sell an electronically shifted tri bike for under $4,000, if that brand didn’t do what brands too often do, which is to assume that an electronically-shifted bike must also be spec'd from the factory with a $2,400 wheelset (just spec the bike with cheap training wheels and let me buy the race wheels I want, or use the race wheels I already have).

The remaining work to be done to bring these shifters up to full (or near full) functionality are emulators in the AXS app, and a nice bar plug onto which I can mount them. Here are the Wireless Blips from SRAM.