Sram AXS - First Look
Sram electronic MTB shifting is here.
We have two words for you — two cables. Thats all you’ll have with the new Sram AXS. Sram just floored us with the new AXS electronic drivetrain and dropper post. We knew it was in the works, but to see it released and to get our hands on it was awesome. We had the chance to give the new X01 Eagle AXS drivetrain and Reverb AXS a try. Read our first impressions below.
Sram AXS Overview
Your frame’s cable ports are about to get lonely. Your cockpit is about to get really clean. Two cables are all you’ll have after switching to Sram’s new AXS system. The completely wireless drivetrain and dropper work with a set of shifters/controllers and receivers built into the respective derailleur and dropper post. The signals are sent over an encrypted wireless network so there will be no hiccups when riding with friends on the same system. It also means no finding room in your frame for awkward junction boxes and batteries. The dropper and rear derailleur run off rechargeable batteries (retail is around $40 if you want to grab a spare or two) while the handlebar mounted controllers use a standard CR2032 coin battery. Battery life is supposed to be around 20 hours of ride time for the derailleur and the dropper should last about 40. That’s quite a bit of time between charges, but you’ll want to make sure you’re good on battery before you head out the door. Sram has an AXS app that allows you to check battery life on individual components as well as program each of the three buttons, two on the shifter and one on the dropper controller, to perform an function you’d like. We swapped ours to downshift on the left trigger, upshift on the lower right and actuate the dropper on the upper right. This lets you use the dropper post with the hidden sprinter shifter without taking your thumb off the grip. Some of us liked it and some of us didn’t. The cool thing is, you can change it to any configuration you’d like.
You’re going to think we are crazy by calling this setup cheap. The XC targeted XX1 drivetrain will run $2000 and the more trail/enduro focused X01 will be $1900. When compared against a GX eagle drivetrain it’s far from cheap. But, when compared to other high end make-your-bike-go systems it’s very competitive, especially when you factor in the ease of use and innovation it offers. For example Shimano’s high-end electronic drivetrain, XTR Di2 will set you back at least $2500. It only offers 11 speed as well. Shimano’s new XTR 12 speed drivetrain runs a cool $2200. So when you take into account that Sram AXS is the most innovative and progressive drivetrain on the market and it still costs less than its competitors, yeah you can call the thing cheap.
The price tag that really hurts is the Reverb AXS. It costs $800. Even at half that price it would still be in the most expensive dropper post category.
X01 Drivetrain Impressions
We had some reservations about a wireless drivetrain. Would it be slow to shift? Would the connection be spotty? Well, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding no. We’ve been pedaling our test bike around for a few days now without a single missed shift. The shifting is snappy and quick. You hit the button, you hear the “bzzzzz” of the tiny motor and boom, you’ve made a clean and precise shift. Now, that’s not to say a mechanical drivetrain is slow and sloppy. When tuned correctly, mechanical shifting is every bit as clean as the new AXS system. The nice thing about AXS, though, is you don’t really have to tune anything. Just install it on the bike, set your limit screws, B tension and you’re done. There’s no cable tension to worry about — no cable slip or stretch after the first few rides, either. You know what doesn’t get gritty and sticky after a few months of riding in dirty, muddy trails? A wireless connection. So another point to AXS with ease of maintenance.
We can’t speak to the longterm reliability of anything at this point. We will keep this post updated as we put more time on our drivetrain. Will we pay close attention to things like battery life and wireless reliability.
Just like the derailleur, the dropper post is quick. Like really quick. The movement needed to actuate the dropper is far less than with a hydraulic plunger or mechanical lever. It’s a small electronic button — all it takes it a light tap with your thumb. Bragging about a smaller movement sounds kinda stupid, until you realize that it requires less time with your thumb off the grip instead of wrapped around the bars providing control. Have you ever come up to a technical feature and not used your dropper until you’re already in the thick of it? You know that uncomfortable feeling when your grip is loose on the handlebar just when you need it the most? Yeah, that’s gone now. A quick (very quick) tap on the controller and the dropper is working. You can even program the dropper to run off the right shifter instead of the left. the right shifter has a small button you can hit with your index finger knuckle. You can leave your thumb firmly planted on the bar and just tap the shifter with your knuckle — super secure.
In the past, we haven’t been the biggest fan of the Reverb. To be fair, it’s been getting better and better with each iteration. The newest, features an air bleed port on the bottom of the post so you can relieve air that’s made it to the wrong side of the IFP. Just a quick procedure and your dropper is no longer squishy. No more lines to bleed or cables to route. In fact, you could use one Reverb across all you bikes now. Just pull it from one bike and put it on the next — easy. We haven’t worked out all the details with pairing the reverb to separate controllers yet. So give us a bit and we will let you know how that works.
Do you need to run out and buy a brand new AXS system today? Maybe… we did.
In all honesty, your current drivetrain is probably just fine. Especially if you’re already running a Sram Eagle 1x12 . An AXS system isn’t going to make you faster or better. It will make all your friends jealous though. If you're the type that likes blingy suspension, carbon wheels and all the coolest accessories, then AXS is the thing you need to take your bike to the next level.