SRAM XX1 groupset test

Words by Mick Ross | Images by Flowtographer

The not-so-minor details

Product

SRAM XX1 groupset

Contact

Monza Imports
www.sram.com

Price

$1650 standard BB, $1700 BB30

Positives

Game changing performance. Highly desirable and impressively engineered. The lack of chainguide, or front derailleur and left hand shifter is simply refreshing.

Negatives

High cost technology. Expensive cassette. Bulky and vulnerable rear derailleur prone to damage.

Flow scored Australia’s first test on the much-hyped SRAM XX1 drivetrain, lucky us indeed.

After the media launch in Whistler we desperately wanted to have this all to ourselves to test on our own trails, away from the watching eyes of SRAM staff and engineers. We really wanted to find the limits to this unique eleven speed system, and we planned to try our hardest to try and drop the chain off the chainring.

A sweet Yeti SB66 Carbon arrived at Flow equipped with Grip Shift operated XX1, and out we went. We gave it hell, we picked it to pieces and we had it all to ourselves. We discussed the costs, the compatibility and the target user. After a week’s solid riding on Canberra and Sydney trails we serve up our verdict here in this video…and beg SRAM for another longer term test on this impressive product. [private]

Our toughest testing ground serving it rough for our SRAM XX1 bike.

It’ll take some getting used to, XX1 just looks odd. With a small ring up front and a large one on the rear, it’s backwards to what we are accustomed to.

Check out the size of that big sprocket! 42 teeth is massive, especially when we are used to getting around on a 36 tooth cassette. While our test bike had a 36 tooth chainring, most XX1 groupsets will sell with a 32 tooth ring. In that configuration, compared to a 3×10 Shimano drivetrain, you do lose a little bit of top-end speed but you give up surprisingly little in terms of climbing gears (about 7%). When compared to 2×10 drivetrain the differences are even less dramatic. Could XX1 see the 2×10 fall by the wayside? Will it become a battle of 1×11 vs 3×10?

If it were ours, we would happily add around 60g grams to the bike with a lightweight chainguide to secure the chain on top of the ring, just for the security and peace of mind. We only dropped the chain once during testing, albeit from a stick knocking it off, we never managed to bounce it off during any descents or rough riding. But still a chainguide will not add any drag, hardly any weight but you gain a lot of peace of mind. But we can envisage many riders riding without one, it simply looks clean.

The alternating thicknesses in the chain ring teeth sync with the chain in plates to reduce the risk of derailment. No, magnets were not used, just logic and a long prototyping phase! Rings are available in 28-38 tooth sizes in two tooth increments, we’d pick a 32 or 34 for general trail riding. In our minds spinning out on a fast fire road is less of a worry than running out of steam up a steep climb.

This rear derailleur is unlike anything we have seen before. The parallelogram actually sits horizontally, where a standard derailleur sits on an angle. It’s far more stable than a standard SRAM derailleur, plus using the Type 2 arrangement with a clutch resistance to reduce chain slap it is an astonishingly quiet arrangement.

Our test bike came equipped with Grip Shift. Not our cup of tea, and the grip is so long we had to shift our hands inboard each time we shifted gears, but it shifts the gears perfectly. The trigger shifter we do love, and it feels just like an XX unit, just one more nice, positive click.

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