The article you’re currently reading didn’t start out as a SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS review. Nope, far from it. My original plan was to test a complete bicycle equipped with SRAM’s new SRAM Force eTap AXS™ components. Rather than using an unfamiliar bike as my test rig, the folks at SRAM suggested a different approach: send them a rolling chassis–in this case, a Breezer Radar Pro frameset, PUB Gravel 734 carbon wheels–and their tech wizards would build up the bike with a Force eTap AXS group. Like many plans, though, that would change.
Having spent the past four seasons exclusively riding 1x setups, I was pleased that SRAM offered single-chainring options for both the Force and RED eTap AXS groups. While generally satisfied with my gravel bike’s current 36 x 10-42 configuration, I hoped to extend the test bike’s overall gearing range (i.e higher high, lower low). I pitched the idea to SRAM and they recommended a 38t chainring paired with one of their 10-50t cassettes. That combination would require the use of their new XX1 Eagle AXS™ rear derailleur and XG-1299 cassette, but the Eagle components were compatible with road eTap AXS shifters. Oh, did I mention that I planned on running Jones Loop H-Bars instead of drops? SRAM’s response: “No problem, we’ve got flat-bar options.”
A week after shipping everything off to SRAM, I received an email confirming the frameset and components’ safe arrival. Said email also informed me that the Breezer’s 73 mm bottom bracket shell was incompatible with SRAM’s DUB™ road crankset, requiring a substitution from company’s MTB product family. The good news, however, was that GX Eagle™ DUB™ cranks were available in my preferred 165 mm length, and compatible with the aforementioned 38t direct-mount chainring. With the details finally settled, I patiently (ha!) awaited the test bike’s arrival.
|XX1 Eagle AXS™ derailleur||$700|
|XG-1299 Eagle™ cassette||$499|
|Eagle AXS™ controller||$200|
|XX1 Eagle™ Chain||$85|
Aside from a handful of guest reviews, I’ve personally installed or configured each product reviewed on GRAVELBIKE. And while that approach has worked well for the past eight years, the AXS review would require a slightly different tack. Since SRAM was delivering a ready-to-ride bike, my setup duties were limited to pairing and configuring the AXS components with my iPhone. Rather than pre-install the SRAM AXS applications (available for Android and iOS platforms) and study the documentation (aka, RTFM), I opted for a more real-world approach: connect and configure everything without referring to instructions, online help, YouTube videos, etc. Despite all the fancy electronics, it was still just a bicycle. How hard could it be?
Discovering and pairing AXS components takes about as much time (and effort) as setting up a pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones. After assigning the derailleur and controller (aka, shifter) to my bike’s profile, it was time to configure the controls. Although the Eagle AXS single-paddle controller mimics SRAM’s mechanical 1x shifters (press top for an easier gear, bottom for a harder gear), the wireless controller’s actions can be swapped if desired (top=harder, bottom=easier). You can also enable the system’s multishift option, which allows multiple shifts when pressing the controller (more on this later). SRAM’s AXS app is also used for firmware updates and monitoring the components’ battery/charge levels (although there were no firmware updates during my four-month test period).
To get a good feel for the AXS components’ operation, I chucked the Breezer in my repair stand and ran through the gears. Shifting up and down the 10-50 cassette was effortless. Using the wireless controller felt more like clicking a (computer) mouse button than operating a cable-actuated shifter. And although the XX1 AXS controllers’ ergonomics were different than the trigger shifters found on my other bikes, the wireless controller actually felt more intuitive in use. What really separated the AXS drivetrain from its mechanical siblings, though, was the speed of the wireless system’s gear changes. There was no perceptible delay between the faint click of the controller and the whir of the derailleur as it moved the chain to the desired gear. After numerous unsuccessful attempts at causing a dropped chain or mis-shift, it was time to take the Breezer out into the real world.
How the XX1 Eagle AXS components behaved in the repair stand did not fully prepare me for just how well they would perform in the field. With muscle memory formed by countless gear changes made on traditional, cable-actuated drivetrains, I found myself making multiple shifts instead of my desired single-cog gear changes on the AXS-equipped Breezer. That’s not meant as a dig against the SRAM’s wireless system, though. No, far from it. Those multi-cog shifts illustrate just how quickly gear changes happen on the Eagle AXS drivetrain–especially when the multishift option is enabled. To dumb down the XX1 Eagle setup during my adjustment period, I temporarily disabled that setting and configured to the controller to make only single-cog gear changes. After spending a week or so acclimating myself to the AXS drivetrain’s speediness, I re-enabled the multishift option via the AXS app on my iPhone.
After several months’ testing, the highest compliment I can bestow on SRAM’s XX1 Eagle AXS components is they just work. And when I say work, I mean, work flawlessly. Whether exploring dry, dusty trails or commuting on rain-soaked pavement, the wireless XX1 Eagle drivetrain never missed a shift. The system’s absence of cables and housing, however, may have been the most unexpected benefit. By eliminating the cable and housing, the wireless AXS system’s performance remained consistent from day one; all without ever having to tweak a barrel adjuster or replace a worn or dirty cable. In fact, the only maintenance I performed–if you can even call it maintenance–consisted of lubing the chain when necessary and charging the rear derailleur’s battery two-thirds of the way through my test period.
With a suggested retail of nearly $1,500 (not including cranks), XX1 Eagle AXS components are priced well beyond most riders’ means. Spoiled by the XG-1299 cassette’s 500% range, I began to wonder how SRAM’s less costly, XX1 Eagle (mechanical) components’ performance compared to the pricier wireless units. To satisfy my curiosity, I swapped out the Breezer’s AXS controller and derailleur with a SRAM mechanical XX1 Eagle trigger shifter ($167 MSRP) and rear derailleur ($300 MSRP). Reusing the cassette, chain, and crankset, I installed the new shifter and derailleur using Jagwire’s Jagwire 1x Pro Shift Kit. The verdict? SRAM’s XX1 Eagle is probably the best shifting, extended-range (mechanical) drivetrain I’ve used. Sure, it can’t match the lightning-fast gear changes of its wireless counterparts, but shifting across the 12-speed cassette’s 500% range was anything but slow. And while not exactly bargain priced, many of the XX1 Eagle’s features and technology do trickle down to the less costly groups (e.g. GX Eagle, NX Eagle, SX Eagle).
|AXS||weight (grams)||Mechanical||weight (grams)|
|XX1 Eagle AXS r der||374||XX1 Eagle r der||268|
|Eagle AXS controller||70||XX1 trigger shifter||114|
If there’s one takeaway from my time spent testing the SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS drivetrain, it’s that you will be forever spoiled by the system’s speedy, effortless gear changes. That performance certainly doesn’t come cheap, but I won’t be surprised if we see more affordable electronic drivetrains from SRAM (and possibly other manufacturers) in the near future.
Disclosure: SRAM provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.