SRAM's XX1 installed on a mountain bikeby Josh Jacquot, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team

Five Weeks, Zero Chain Drops

SRAM's XX1 Still Causes Fits

Live with SRAM XX1, the new 11-speed, single-chainring, slackless drivetrain for five weeks and you're going to have some regrets.

First, you'll find yourself stuck with the urge to burn all front derailleurs. Not just yours, either. Your friends will be beating you away from theirs, too. But that's not all. Oh, no. All your old-school chain-slapping rear derailleurs will be destined for the flames as well.

Truth is, if you ride in a way that's ever made your chain fall off, you'll be riding this stuff inside of 12 months. It's that good. With the switch from a Shimano 2x10 setup I lost both the chain-dropping antics common to clutchless drivetrains (yes, Shimano makes one. No, I didn't have it) and three quarters of a pound from the bike. It was like losing a noisy anchor. Missed it about as much, too.

 

There's much to be gained that might not be immediately obvious. Certainly no one will miss chain slap or stopping mid descent to re-rail their chain. The weight loss is a clear no brainer, too. But there are other, more subtle, benefits. Take, for example, the fact that there's one less shifter, cable and housing on the bike. Might not seem like much until you ride a bit and begin to appreciate the nicely sanitized handlebars. The lack of a front derailleur will suit the mud-riding set nicely as well. It's a benefit we only appreciate a few times annually here in SoCal, but even then it's a nice one. Not having to fish dried mud and debris from the parallelogram of a front derailleur after a short burst through the wet stuff is nice. Now there's just a smooth seat tube to wipe down. Also, did I mention there's no chain slap? Ever.

Shift speed and quality seems to be on par with existing SRAM XX 10-speed. 

Downsides? Few, really. Sweeping the entire cassette can be challenging when it needs to happen in a matter of seconds, but that's what grip shift is for, right? A twist shifter is available and the trigger covers the entire cassette (small gears to big) in two sweeps. Upshifts are still one at a time. The 10-42 range of the cassette yields a range not far from what's available with most 2x10, 11-36 setups. Moving the range up or down via a chainring swap is accomplished without removing the cranks in about 20 minutes so optimizing gearing for your needs is relatively easy. Even the smallest chainring (28 tooth), however, provides adequate top end for riding in the Santa Anas. 

And those regrets? Burning bike parts is expensive.

 

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