By Vernon Felton
By now, you probably know that SRAM is rolling out an 11-speed, single-ring group called XX1. If not, check out this story.
Today, SRAM revealed a few more details about the new group, which they believe will appeal to both enduro and cross-country racing types.
If you're still grappling with the whole birth of 10-speed/death of the triple-crankset phenomenon, you might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would even want or need an 11-speed cassette?
SRAM representatives are adamant on this point: this new group isn't designed to replace 10-speed drivetrains. Double cranksets and 10-speeds are here to stay. Instead, XX1 is aimed at riders who want a simpler drivetrain. Of course, killing off the front derailleur and its shifter also cuts serious grams from the equation. So, yeah, it's lighter too. Oh, and SRAM says that its more durable to boot.
Simpler, lighter and more durable? Everyone benefits from those things, right? Bear in mind, XX1 doesn't boast as wide a gear range as a 2×10 system. You need to be pretty fit to run this set up. XX1 is going to appeal most to that growing contingent of riders who are already running single-ring 10 speed set-ups.
SUPER WIDE CASSETTE
As we speculated in both the March issue of Bike and our first web post, the SRAM XX1 utilizes an 11-speed cassette with a massive 10×42 spread (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42).
In short, you're getting an extra high gear and a much lower "low" gear than what's currently available on today's standard 10-speed, 11×36 cassette.
How low is low? Well, if you were running a 36/22 double crankset (the lowest gearing currently available from a SRAM double) with a 11×36 cassette and a 26-inch wheel/2.35-inch tire combo, you're looking at 15.95 gear inches in your easiest gear, which is quite low.
XX1 can actually come pretty darn close here; if you run the same wheel and tire size and opt for the tiny 28-tooth chainring (the smallest of six available and interchangeable XX1 chainrings), you get 17.40 gear inches out of that monstrous 42-tooth cog. In other words, it's a bit tougher to pedal up a monster climb with XX1 (than with the 36/22 double), but only a bit. Of course, the actual gear range isn't as wide as what you'd get out of a double-crankset, but it is a whole lot wider than anything available to single-ring riders today.
The cassette itself is a marvel of machining--a single unit that, given the amount of CNC'ing on display here (it starts life as a single hunk of billet steel), it will likely cost a bundle. The unique cassette also requires a new cassette driver body, which SRAM is calling "XD" (there was no way that SRAM could squeeze that tiny 10-tooth cog onto a conventional freehub body). At this point in time only SRAM and DT Swiss offer the new driver body; fortunately it meshes with existing hubs so additional manufacturers will likely be on board soon and there'll be no new axle standards to deal with.
PLENTY OF CHAINRING OPTIONS
I've already noted that a 28-tooth chainring is available for riders seeking the lowest gearing possible. There are, however, six "X-SYNC" chainrings (28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38-teeth) in the offering. Each X-SYNC chainring fits a single, universal spider--allowing you to change rings without removing the crank arm. Between those six chainrings, there's a lot of gearing options available here.
The chainrings also sport unique teeth that have been shaped (alternating from thick to thin...check out the photo) with the express purpose of keeping your chain from flying off in rough terrain. Conventional chainrings feature tooth profiling, by contrast, that's designed to help the chain slide off the chainring.
GOODBYE TO GHOST SHIFTS?
Every widget in SRAM's new drivetrain system has been re-thought and engineered, and that’s clearly evident with the new rear derailleur. As you can see in the photo, it sports the new TYPE-2 Roller Bearing Clutch™ technology, which minimizes derailleur bounce and chain slap, and along with those new chainring teeth, should help reduce dropped chains.
Moreover, the XX1 derailleur eschews the basic slant parallelogram design invented by SunTour and utilized by every other manufacturer since the 80s. According to SRAM, their new X-Horizon™ "straight parallelogram" design limits the derailleurs movement to the horizontal axis, which they claim makes ghost shifts impossible and reduces the amount of force required to bang off shifts. Naturally, the XX1 derailleur will only work with this single-ring set up. Eleven-speed, XX1 trigger and twist shifters are also part of the family--think of the current 10-speed offerings and add another click.
LOOK FOR IT IN OCTOBER
At this point, very few people in the media have actually pedaled around on XX1. That'll change soon as the press launch season hits its full stride and we begin sampling 2013 bike models in earnest. SRAM, however, predicts that this new group will hit bike shops as soon as October.
Pricing? XX1 ain’t cheap. Listed price for the XX1 group is $1,449.00
It’s worth noting, however, that this price tag is less than that of SRAM’s XX group, which is impressive when you consider that this new group sports a cassette, which, like the one in the XX group, is exceptionally time intensive to make. Furthermore, SRAM has clearly sunk an impressive amount of R&D into this project and the top shelf materials on display here don’t come cheap; it’s no surprise then, that XX1 fits most easily within a caviar-and-cristal budget. Will it merit the boutique price tag? Only time and testing will tell.
Personally speaking, I’m excited to see a group that isn’t just lighter and blingier than thou: SRAM is clearly attempting something novel and worthwhile here.
XX1 has the potential to appeal to a wider demographic than the typical “race-specific” components that you normally find at the high end of the market. A component group that could excel on both a World Cup cross-country course and at Megavalanche? You don’t see that every day. You can, however, expect to see a long-term test of XX1 in a future issue of BIKE Magazine