First Impressions: SRAM X01

Spoiler alert: it's pretty much the same as XX1, but you should read this anyway.

Photos by: Dan Barham

You may have heard about XX1 by now. The 1×11 drivetrain has made a huge impact on the industry since it was introduced just a year ago, leaving Shimano behind the eight ball on the whole 1x game (an impressive feat in and of itself).

The SRAM boys run us through the new group.

The Sram boys run us through the new group.

Why make such a big deal out of removing chainrings and reducing gear range? Because it’s awesome. Here’s why: It’s simple, it works, it antiquates chain guides, and it opens up bike frame design. There’s no front shifting to worry about, leaving your left hand free for dropper post levers, suspension remotes and pointing at the camera in mid air. Not only is the simplicity great for advanced riders, it’s perfect for beginners as well, who might have difficulty figuring out front shifting. Plus, front shifting is a complex variable when designing frames, especially when you add in suspension design and wheel size. Removing the need to mount a front derailleur on the bike gives engineers more freedom with things like chain stay length and seat tube and pivot placement. On top of all this, SRAM’s 1×11 is versatile as hell. We’ve covered this all before, but it’s worth delving into the big picture again, so here goes.

Dropping in to Whistler's Top of The World Trail

Dropping in to Whistler’s Top of The World Trail

Yes, a triple or double will give you more gear range, but that’s not to say you can’t get a low enough gear. With the available chainring options, you can achieve a gear low enough to challenge a tortoise to a slow bike bike race. You just have to sacrifice a little bit off the top end when you bolt on that 30-tooth ring. But when was the last time you were spun out in your 42-tooth anyway?

Long story short, we’re pretty convinced on the 1x thing, so when we heard there was going to be a trickle-down effect, we were pretty excited. But, X01 isn’t really a trickle down. It’s really not much different than XX1 at all. For around $200 in savings and only about 50 grams weight penalty, X01 offers identical shifting quality, the exact same cassette with a more badass, black coating and some minor changes to, most notably, the crank. The 94-millimeter BCD spider will offer chainrings from 30-38 in two-tooth increments, as opposed to XX1 which offers a bit lower, 28-tooth ring.

Sram X01 Ride Experience-201

The X01 derailleur looks nearly identical to the XX1.

The X01 derailleur looks nearly identical to the XX1.

Sram X01 Ride Experience-215

The feel of the X01 shifter is very similar to XX1, but the low lever angle adjustment is slightly different. While the XX1 shifter uses a wedge to clamp the lever, the X01 uses the traditional X0 pinch bolt. But that's all pretty negligible.

The feel of the X01 shifter is very similar to XX1, but the low lever angle adjustment is slightly different. While the XX1 shifter uses a wedge to clamp the lever, the X01 uses the traditional X0 pinch bolt. But that’s all pretty negligible.

Ride Impressions

X01 doesn’t do anything differently than XX1 does, which is really a good thing. It makes me wonder if SRAM will ever sell another XX1 group after this stuff becomes available. Shifting was crisp and precise and the chain never fell off. With a 32-tooth ring my weak legs and sore knees could get me up nearly anything and I really didn’t find myself needing more gears at the top end, even on wide open trails like Freight Train.

The 10-42 cassette has a wide enough gear range to make a single ring viable.

The 10-42 cassette has a wide enough gear range to make a single ring viable.

Sram X01 Ride Experience-358

Sram X01 Ride Experience-238

The biggest thing to take away from this post is this: If you don’t think you’re strong enough for a single ring, think again. Try it out, you might be surprised. I know I was.

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