If you keep as close an eye on pro cycling as much as we do, you’ll have seen the spy shots of SRAM’s latest wireless electronic road and mountain bike groupsets.
While SRAM’s eTap road bike groupsets have been out for a while, mountain bikers have been waiting patiently for wireless to hit their world for years. The lure of simpler set up, no gear cables and cleaner looking bikes sure is a strong one, even if the cost can be pretty eye watering.
Well, the wait is over as SRAM have finally delivered, with the all-new 12-speed Red eTap AXS road groupsets and Eagle AXS mountain bike groupsets. We’ve taken a look at the new groupsets, so here’s our low-down on the details behind these incredible bits of tech!
SRAM Red & Force eTap AXS
SRAM’s 11-speed eTap groupsets are top-sellers here at Tweeks and for good reason; it’s pretty damn good! Installation is a breeze compared to mechanical or other electronic groupsets. With no gear cables and simple derailleur setup you can on the road before you know it.
It would have been easy for SRAM to tag a 12th cog onto the cassette and call it good, but that’s not their style. SRAM have taken inspiration from their mountain bike groupsets to completely re-write the rulebook on what is expected from a road bike drivetrain.
If anything, the fact the groupsets are wireless is almost a moot point. The real highlight here is the revised gearing made possible by a new cassette design and all-new chainring ratios. The 12-speed cassettes all feature a tiny 10-tooth bottom gear. This provides a bottom gear that is 10% bigger than a regular 11-tooth gear, so for an equivalent gear ratio, you can use a smaller chainring.
Just as one example, a 50-tooth chainring with the new Red & Force 12-speed cassette has the equivalent gear ratio of a 55-tooth chainring when using a regular cassette and because of this, SRAM has been able to produce cranksets with smaller chainrings to improve the overall gear range at both ends of the cassette. This means that you get higher gears for descending and lower gears for climbing so you really can have your cake and eat it with Red & Force eTap AXS!
The rear derailleur also features a new fluid-friction clutch mechanism to help chain retention, inspired by the clutch mechanisms on their mountain bike derailleurs. Speaking of chains, the new FlatTop chains have been given a seriously radical new profile. The tops of both the inner and outer links are completely flat and work together with the ramps on the cassette to provide effortlessly smooth shifting. It’s all pretty radical stuff and we can’t wait to get it out on the road and see what all the fuss is about!
SRAM Eagle AXS & Rockshox Reverb AXS
While their roadie cousins have experienced the joys of wireless shifting before, mountain bikers have had to wait until now to get their hands on this cutting-edge technology. Not content with the new wireless Eagle AXS drivetrains, SRAM-owned Rockshox have also debuted the wireless Reverb AXS dropper seatpost!
Mountain bikes have been using some of the most technologically advanced kit available in the cycle industry for a number of years, and the number of cables and hoses in front of the bike has been steadily growing. While SRAM’s Eagle groupsets pretty much killed off the need for a front derailleur, that rats’ nest of cables and hoses is still there to rattle around and just look like a bit of an afterthought.
The first thing that strikes you about bikes equipped with Eagle AXS is just how damn clean they look. With just two brake hoses gracing the front of the bike, the bikes look so much neater and those with sensitive ears will be pleased by the lack of cable rattle.
The wireless design is about much more than looks though. Fitting of both the Eagle AXS derailleurs and control unit takes mere minutes rather than half an hour (at best!), while the Reverb AXS is no more difficult to install than a regular seatpost and can be quickly swapped between bikes if required.
Syncing the derailleur and control unit takes only a handful of seconds and the derailleur setup is straight forward, all using the AXS app. The beauty of AXS is that it can be customised to suit your preferences. Want the shift paddles to the opposite of the stock configuration? No problem!
While the chains, cassettes and cranksets are carried over from the mechanical XX1 and X01 Eagle groupsets, the Eagle AXS rear derailleurs feature all-new technology to improve performance and longevity. Both derailleurs feature 10mm shorter cages to improve ground clearance and chain wrap, sitting closer to the cassette and further inboard. They also feature the all-new Overload Clutch. In the event of an impact, the Overload Clutch disengages the clever motor gearbox inside the derailleur, giving the derailleur freedom to move. It then instantly returns back to position for a seamless riding experience.
The Rockshox Reverb has been at the top of the game since its introduction in 2011 and the new Reverb AXS takes it up to the next level. The wireless design means no more bleeding, no more hoses to squeeze through the frame, easing installation and maintenance. The Reverb AXS post also debuts Rockshox’ new Vent Valve Technology. Ever had the dreaded dropper seatpost squish? That’s the result of air mixing with oil inside the post. Vent Valve allows you to quickly remove any air from places it should be, restoring the post to full working order in seconds.
The start of a new age?
All this technology is pretty cutting-edge. It comes at a price. We’ll be sure to see this technology trickle down the line in years to come and we can’t wait to see what SRAM has in store next! In the meantime, we hope to get some saddle time on the new groupsets soon and we’ll report back with our findings as soon as we do, so stay tuned for more!