Hate cable rattle? Are you tired of cable stretch? Annoyed by when attempting to feed cables through internally routed frames? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, and you don’t mind spending the cost of an entry-level full suspension mountain bike on a groupset alone, SRAM’S new Eagle AXS (it’s pronounced “access”) wireless drivetrain setup (1×12) might be for you. The system pairs with the Reverb AXS wireless dropper post, too (that’s an additional $800 or so). It’s cutting edge wireless tech paired with a smartphone app and everything. Though it will run you a cool $2,000 for the convenience of doing away with the cables. Whether or not that’s worth it is of course up to you.
While electronic shifting on mountain bikes has been around in some form or another for a little while, this system, at its simplest, allows the shifter and derailleur to talk with each other wirelessly. At its most complicated, it turns your drivetrain into a computer operated by your smartphone, allowing you to alter the functions of your shifter buttons, record ride data like mileage and shift selections, update you on battery life, even send alerts when you might want to think about lubing your chain or checking tire pressure.
All of this controlled with an app you’ll need to download to your smartphone. You don’t have to use the app to use the AXS system, though, if all you want to do is change gears with the system.
You pair the shifter, derailleur, and the dropper post, if you spring for that too, by pushing activation buttons. Then you’re pretty much good to go. Pairing with the app gives you the ability to change the orientation of which of the three shift buttons do what. Upshifts, downshifts, even which button actuates the dropper are all configurable for a personal touch on your particular rig. You can press with your thumb, or squeeze with an index finger for sprints. All up to you.
SRAM says there’s little chance somebody else could mess with your shifter setup since they’d have to have both your bike and your unlocked phone in their hands at once, if that’s a concern. Still, seems like an area where hijinks could ensue.
Batteries can be swapped among the derailleur and the Reverb dropper post too—they both use the same battery model. So if one of your batteries is a little low on juice, you can exchange it for the other battery. Charging time is reportedly about an hour for the derailleur battery which should last about 25 hours between charges. The shifter battery doesn’t need to be recharged, and can go years before needing replacement.
To protect the expensive derailleur from smashing itself to bit on rocks, the system uses what SRAM calls an Overload Clutch. Bang on the derailleur and at impact it disengages from the shift motor and moves with the force, limiting any damage to the gearbox. Then, it pops back to the previously selected gear. An important consideration when dangling a multi-thousand dollar derailleur off the back of a mountain bike.
According to SRAM, installing the AXS system is easy. Mount the derailleur and the shifters, fit the chain, line up the derailleur, and the rest takes care of itself. Since the derailleur is programmed to know the proper spaces between gears on the cassette, you don’t have to mess with stop screws unless you want. Again, according to SRAM that is. Never a bad idea to be extremely careful with such new and expensive tech.
The AXS is available in two groupsets. The XX1 is the highest of the high end, designed for XC bikes, and is the lightest of the two, though SRAM hasn’t released exact weights yet, saying only that both weigh slightly less than their mechanical versions. The XX1 features titanium hardware and a carbon cage. The X01 is a bit more rugged, with enduro riding in mind, and features an aluminum cage and stainless steel hardware. Both have a 500 percent gear range. Both are also waterproof and mudproof.
Initially, only the groupset will be available and includes cassette, bottom bracket, crank, shifter, chain and rear derailleur. Eventually, individual components will likely be sold. The XX1 is $2,000, the X01 is $1,900. Units should be available at the end of March.
At $2,000 this setup isn’t really aimed at us workaday riders. At least not at that price point. But the price may very well come down in years to come, if the system begins to stick and is copied. A cockpit with only the two brake cables sure does appeal, and the shifting speeds promised by the system are eyebrow-raising. Whether or not you want to consider batteries with your drivetrain is an entirely different question.