Barry has been putting in the miles on SRAM's latest RED eTap AXS groupset, which brings closely-spaced 12 speed gearing to their flagship wireless electronic gruppo.
Here are his initial impressions after a solid month of riding, in the first of a series of long term reviews:
I have been riding SRAM Red eTap AXS for over a month now and have to say I love it.
Initially I thought it came out similar overall in quality and performance to Di2 - both had their pros and cons... But I have to say as I've put more miles in I get more and more used to it, and I think I prefer it to Di2 now, which is a huge change for me.
Ever since Di2 7970 came out all those years ago I have viewed that as the premier groupset. We have a new king now.
Last week I did a stage race, which was super fast and required a lot of shifting to accommodate the changes in pace. AXS was flawless; if it's any slower shifting than Di2 I can't detect it.
In the heat of battle having shifting as simple as 'right hand is down, left hand is up' is hugely appreciated and took no time to get used to.
Front shifting on the previous generation of eTap felt noticeably slower than Di2. AXS might be a touch slower on paper but it's a massive improvement from before, and is quick enough to be a non-issue in the real world.
above: the shape of the eTap hoods is especially comfortable
The star of the show is the hood position though; for me it's a massively more useful shape than the Shimano one, and gives much more support to push against when in a racing position (forearms parallel to ground, elbows perpendicular).
Being able to check battery levels on your phone is useful as well; it all just seems a modern, well integrated groupset.
below: accurate, reliable Quarq power measurement built neatly into the crank
I love the look of the crank; and think the Quarq integrated powermeter is best in class. It makes my SRM look old hat in comparison.
I'm not a fan of the size of the front and rear mech; they still look most inelegant, especially as modern bikes are getting so sleek. But the lack of wires goes some way to compensating for this.
below: the slightly awkward looking front mech is controlled wirelessly... swings and roundabouts
There is a lot of debate whether SRAM's XDR cassettes will be less mechanically efficient than Shimano because a 10 tooth small cog will have higher drivetrain inefficiency than a bigger 11 tooth one. I can see the logic of that, but the reality is that you're only in the 10 when sprinting or descending and it's barely used. The broader range of gears up to the 33 tooth certainly is...
Initially I did not think I would notice 12 speeds vs 11. Humble pie eaten; I do. I am working hard on increasing my cadence; trying to go from mid 80's to 95-100 (especially so when climbing). The 10-33 cassette on the back makes this much easier and has made long rides much more efficient, as my legs are not so fatigued from pushing too big a gear.
I am building up a new bike for winter and it's highly likely I will go with AXS for that; and that will be the first time in 5 years I have personally chosen something other than Dura-Ace. Times are changing...
below: the 10-33 cassette provides a wide gearing range with minimal gaps between gears
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