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Review: The SRAM XX1 Eagle 1x12 drivetrain

Michael 22. June 2016

Faster, bigger, more! Only superlatives seem to describe the new 12-speed, 10-50, 500 % range SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain – a lot more than simply a 50-tooth cog.

Faster, bigger, more! Only superlatives seem to describe the new 12-speed, 10-50, 500 % range SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain – a lot more than simply a 50-tooth cog.

Why go with the SRAM XX1 Eagle?

After our SRAM rep Tibor returned my Scott Scale hardtail to me, it was outfitted with a prototype of the new XX1 Eagle. I had no idea what I would do with a 10-50 cassette. After all, the 11-speed, 32 x 10-42 that I used before already gave me all the gears I needed. However, a little online research quickly revealed the advantages without having done a single pedal stroke with it myself: The gear range allows for a larger chainring and hence more top speed and the 50 tooth cog a higher cadence for the steepest climbs. That was promising more fun on the bike. Enough theory, I had to go try it out myself!

First-hand experience with the XX1 Eagle – riding and set-up

The first few gear changes without putting much pressure on the pedal feel great. The iconic SRAM “thug” sound from the trigger rings in my ear and the derailleur moves the chain through the gears in a precise fashion, step by step, from smaller to larger cogs, and even skipping a couple of gears. The shift from the 42-tooth cog to the largest 50-tooth cog is as smooth as the ones before.

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Despite the huge range and some rather large steps between cogs (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42-50), one always finds the right gear.

The chainring with the newly developed tooth technology called X-SyncTM 2 almost look like an old, used chainring at first sight (SRAM says it looks like saw teeth), however there is a lot of smart technology behind it. The slightly longer teeth pick up the chain more easily, friction is reduced and hence the chain runs smoother and more quietly than on the 11-speed drivetrains. The new tooth design also increases the tension on the chain, making chain drops even less likely.

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Even though I received the bike with the drivetrain already mounted and ready to go, I could not help but re-do some of the steps of the installation to get a good feel for the product. With the Eagle drivetrain comes a little tool that helps you set-up the derailleur. It speeds up the fine-adjustment a lot, eliminating possible errors. Overall, a very smooth process, not to mention that we don’t have to worry about a front derailleur and two chainrings.

Hammer down – Testing the new XX1 Eagle in competition

Enough theory and shop talk, time to put the drivetrain to a real test. I used the Eagle in two 24h-endurance races. Each lap was a new fight for seconds and best lap times. A real test for the equipment, functionality is a must. Gear changes are inevitably made with pressure on the pedals on short steep climbs and dropping a chain in a technical section could lose you valuable seconds and positions. Non-stop rapid gear changes are the rule during the fight for victory – and it has to be the right gear.

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I have not used a drivetrain that got the job done more precisely and faster than the Eagle. Shifting under pressure never sounds good, this set-up however seems to make it less hurtful for lack of better words. The large, 50-tooth cog made the climbs which felt steeper and steeper with every lap a little more bearable because the cadence stays high. It saved me valuable energy for the 24 hour effort.

My verdict

The new SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain is a true winner. Its performance during training and races was superb, completely reliable, and I never had any trouble finding the right gear. Too bad I had to return the prototype. I will have to put some money away to get my own now, of that I’m certain.

Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.