SRAM put the last nail in the front derailleur's coffin last summer with its Eagle technology, which achieved the same gear range as a current double with the simplicity of a single ring. But with an introductory price of nearly $1,200 for X01, Eagle has been nothing more than a 12-speed tease to most riders. Well, Eagle is about to soar a whole lot closer to grasp.
GX Eagle, available this August, becomes SRAM's third and most affordable 12-speed offering yet. And when I say affordable, I mean it. This isn’t a repeat of 2013 when we anxiously anticipated the trickle down of SRAM's first single-ring group, XX1, only to find out X01 saved just $200, the complete group still well over the $1,000 dollar mark.
GX Eagle shaves nearly $200 dollars off the cassette alone, when compared to X01 Eagle. You can have the entire group for just $500, meaning that you could buy two complete GX Eagle drivetrains for the price of a single X01 Eagle group, and still have two Benjamins left over. This time it's more of a gush than a trickle.
It stands to reason that since GX Eagle is less than half the cost of X01 Eagle, it’s a ton heavier, and not nearly as refined. That however, isn’t really the case. There’s extra weight for sure, but only half a pound, or just 15%. Most of that weight is in the cassette and crank, both of which are roughly 100 grams heavier than their X01 counterparts. The derailleur is a mere 14 grams heavier, and the shifter is the same weight. GX's forged aluminum crank arms are the most noticeable difference in appearance when the two groups are sat side-by-side.
SRAM GX Eagle Impressions
With SRAM's 10- and 11-speed groups, there is a fair amount of degradation in shift feel, speed and accuracy in the lower-cost offerings, but not with GX Eagle. If I were blindfolded, I don’t believe I'd be able to tell the difference between X01 Eagle and GX Eagle. Shifting is quick, precise, and consistent, even in and out of the gigantic 50-tooth first cog. A reasonable person would see little reason to spend so much more on X01 for what amounts to virtually undetectable performance gains.
The best thing about this group is its potential to turn more people on to mountain biking. The simplicity of single ring drivetrains is ideal for entry-level riders, but as affordable as SRAM's 11-speed one-by groups have gotten, they still lack the gear range many newcomers require. When the XX1 and X01 Eagle groups came out last year, they served up a gear range that was arguably in more demand at the entry-level. In that way, GX Eagle is kind of radder than its highbrow relatives.
Eagle is about more than just gear range though. Refinements to tooth profiling and construction have made this generation of SRAM drivetrains quieter and longer lasting. Although I don’t have very much time on the new group yet, GX Eagle shares the key recipe that has improved the lifespan of XX1 and X01 Eagle drivetrains.
GX Eagle Component Breakdown
GX Eagle Crank
Made from basic 7000 series forged aluminum, the GX Eagle crank arms aren’t likely to win any innovation awards, but they'll get the job done. More impressive is the cold-forged aluminum direct-mount chainring, which is much more affordable than the high-end CNC'd rings but only about 10 grams heavier.
Weight: 610-662 grams depending on spindle, ring size, and crank arm length
Price: $120-$170 depending on spindle type.
Lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 175mm
GX Eagle Derailleur
The main differences between the X01 Eagle derailleur and the GX: The X01 has a titanium spring, forged alloy cage, alloy b-bolt and fancier finish, while the GX has a steel spring, die-cast aluminum cage, steel b-bolt and less fancy finish. The jockey wheels and clutch are identical between the two.
50-tooth maximum cog
Weight: 290 grams
GX Eagle Shifter
The X01 and GX triggers have a very similar shift feel, despite the fact that the X01 is three times the price. I would say that the X01 feels ever so slightly smoother and crisper, plus the angle of the downshift lever can be adjusted on the X01 shifter, where it is fixed on the GX. I do typically use that feature on the X01, but I would forgo that minor adjustment if on a budget.
Weight: 122 grams
GX Eagle Cassette
If you’re used to spending $60 on a new cassette, $195 may still seem a little steep, but it’s a hell of a lot better than $350. The GX Eagle cassette features the exact same gear ratios as the X01 Eagle, but the first 11 cogs are individually stamped and pinned together rather than CNC'd out of one block of chromoly like the X01 (both cassettes feature an aluminum 50-tooth cog). This results in a 93-gram weight increase—and a significant cost savings. As far as performance goes, there’s no noticeable difference in shift quality.
Weight: 450 grams
Driver Body Style: XD