SRAM EAGLE AXS X01 DRIVETRAIN
IS IT WORTH IT?
Words by Drew Rohde
Over the last eight months we’ve logged hundreds of miles and over one hundred thousand feet of vert on our SRAM Eagle AXS X01 drivetrain. The system came stock on our Trek Rail 9.9, one of our top picks for the 2020 eMTB Bike of the Year. During the course of our testing we made lots of changes to the cockpit, swapped bars, brakes and riders to get a wide variety of riders on the products. The wireless, electronic 12-speed drivetrain is certainly an impressive bit of technology and leading the industry in terms of functionality and features, but the AXS kit’s price point makes it prohibitively expensive for a large section of riders. SRAM makes no apologies for the group’s price. It is the cutting-edge tech that will no doubt influence future groups, and we’re really excited to see the technology trickle down.
Built to be SRAM’s enduro-specific drivetrain, the Eagle AXS boasts many of the feature’s riders have come to know from big red. The 1x drivetrain features a 500% gear range, a longer wearing X-Sync 2 chainring, and a forged aluminum cage with stainless hardware. If you are looking to update your drivetrain, the shifter and derailleur are compatible with existing SRAM Eagle components. So whether you’re looking to get an entirely new drivetrain or just want to add a Bluetooth and ANT + wireless shifter to your bike, SRAM Eagle has you covered. SRAM’s AXS app also allows you to customize the shifter’s actions or perform firmware updates on your own. We chose to set and forget as we’re pretty low-tech in our riding preferences. SRAM also noted, riders who already have AXS can upgrade to the 52t cassette as the AXS rear derailleur is already compatible.
There is no denying these are luxury items that will certainly give most riders some sticker shock. A Complete kit runs about $1,900, with a major portion of that price being the $700 rear derailleur. The $200 shifter/controller can be programmed to your preference and can also be used on SRAM’s AXS Reverb dropper post. If you’re updating your Eagle equipped bike then you’ll save significantly by not having to purchase a $449 cassette, $485 cranks or the $85 chain and can get into the wireless game for close to $1,000. Yes, still crazy expensive.
A beautiful piece of equipment, the AXS derailleur sits inboard further and is 10mm shorter than mechanical derailleurs, offering a little bit extra clearance from the dangerous elements trying to rob you of another $700. The upper jockey wheel is also positioned forward a bit, which create more chain wrap around the cassette. SRAM packs some neat features into the derailleur like Overload Clutch protection. If you hit the derailleur it will quickly move out of the way while simultaneously disengaging the motor gearbox. The derailleur instantly returns to its position so you can keep pedaling in the same gear you were in before the hit.
What does this elite drivetrain get you? Instantaneous, reliable, and effortless shifting. Shifts can be made by tapping the paddles, it’s closer to clicking a mouse than deploying a cable-actuated shifter. During our long test period we only had to make one adjustment to the drivetrain and that was to adjust the B-screw. We were experiencing random mass upshifts during climbs that would essentially dump the chain to our hardest gear. We’d have to pause our climb, get off the bike and downshift to get back to our climbing gear and remount. After a call to SRAM we found that this can happen when the B-spacing is off, so we made the adjustment and have been happy ever since. Unfortunately during one of those mass-shift events, we twisted a couple of links in our chain, which resulted in us needing to replace the chain.
Throughout the course of our testing we’ve only needed to charge the batteries four times, which is pretty impressive in our opinion. SRAM claims a life expectancy of about 20 hours on the derailleur, depending on how much you shift. The shifter uses a CR2032 button cell battery and is claimed to last for about two years and so far it’s not shown any signs of losing power on our end. We did have a ride where we nearly killed the derailleur battery and quickly swapped it with the seatpost battery and continued the ride without any issues. The batteries are easy to remove, charge quickly and you can check them quickly by looking for a green, red, or flashing red light to give you an indication of how many rides you have left.
During our test period we rode in hot, dusty deserts, through snow, mud and creek crossings. We even got home and put the bike through some pressure washing sessions and the system continues to perform.
Although the performance, simplicity of tuning and reliability are all impressive traits of the AXS Eagle kit, we don’t love the size of the shift paddles. They’re a bit large and depending on what type of brakes you use, it could create some clearance issues. While creating our Dissected video with the new TRP DHR Evo brakes we found that the shifter and TRP brakes didn’t give us a lot of options in terms of cockpit adjustability. Ideally the shifters would be a little bit smaller and not as tall for more room to snug the shifter pod up to non-SRAM brakes.
The Wolf’s Last Word
After reviewing the products for the last few months, the question has transitioned less from being “Is it worth it?” to “Do you need to buy it?” Unless you’ve got the money to spend, probably not. This is not a drivetrain for everyone, and we don’t think SRAM will get upset by us saying that. At least we hope they don’t ‘cuz we sure do love riding AXS-equipped bikes. But we don’t have to pay for the parts so there’s a big difference. That’s ultimately where we settled, we simply don’t have the cash and couldn’t justify spending this much money on the AXS drivetrain ourselves, but there is no denying its performance and the beauty of a simplified cockpit.
Budget aside, is the system an industry leader? Yes. We have a few critiques, like the size of the shifter paddles and how they place with non-SRAM brakes. Overall, however, the SRAM Eagle AXS group performs well, is reliable, and offers more benefits than drawbacks in our opinion. Shifting is effortless as riders tap the up or down buttons, shifts are quick, only mildly slower than a mechanical system in some instances, but they are almost always smoother. On top of that, the servicing, maintenance and cable tensioning routine is over. We’d gladly trade an occasional battery charge for the mindless rides and shifts in-between. The SRAM Eagle AXS X01 drivetrain is an exciting bit of tech and while we’re grateful for SRAM pushing the envelope and wealthy customers supporting the line, we’re most excited about the hopes of this technology making its way down to more affordable price points, because when they do, a lot more people’s rides are gonna get a lot more fun.
Price: $1,900 (Full X01 Kit);
X01 Derailleur: $700
XG-1295 Cassette: $385
AXS Controller (Shifter): $200
X01 Eagle Dub Crankset (Not Tested Here): $485
XX1 Eagle Chain: $85
Easy to Use
AXS App and Customization
Less Time Tuning Bike
We Can’t Afford It
Shifter Paddles Are Big, Doesn’t Play Nice With Some Brakes
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