2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

After weighing and installing the SRAM Force CX1 group, I put it through a couple “get to know ya” rides before heading to Asheville for the final race in the AVLCX series at Pisgah Brewing.

With a good bit of rain the day before and a little sprinkling during the race, the course went from a little damp to downright slip-n-slide like during our 45 minute race. Fortunately, the CX1 group held up to the mud, grass and a few slips and spills with zero problems. The bike even sat outside, unwashed and unloved for a few days after the race before getting a bath, but things still worked just fine.

UPDATED: Additional notes on bleed procedure added below.

Here’s how things worked out during my first race week with CX1 and the Force Hydro-RD disc brakes…

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

For the first two rides after install, all that was required was a few turns of the adjustment bezel on the rear mech to take up the usual cable stretch. Everything else worked great from the start and continues to do so.

After the race, the group was covered in mud…

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

…inside and out. Thanks to a last lap spin out while trying to sprint out of a corner, me and the Moots went down on the drive side and slid about 12 feet before stopping. That managed to pack the rear derailleur full of mud. So much mud that it took quite a bit of hose pressure and brush work to get it all out. Yet, the shifting remained flawless for the last bit of the race and my cool down ride. And, despite landing and sliding on the rear derailleur, there’s hardly a scratch on it and it (obviously) didn’t break off. Thankfully, my derailleur hanger is still straight, too!

The pulley wheels were also wrapped and clogged with grass and mud, which also took a fair amount of pulling and scrubbing to remove, but they didn’t seem bogged down while racing. So, bonus points for working well when completely caked and crammed full of crud.

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

Considering the amount of grass clippings and mud that accumulated around the bottom bracket…

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

…it’s surprising that virtually none was stuck in the cassette. Whether it’s the holes in the cogs or just dumb luck, they stayed clean and shifted well throughout the entire race.

The chainring had a bit of grass and crud stuck around the teeth, too, but chain retention remained flawless.

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

Up top, the mud that accumulated on my gloves from sliding out quickly embedded into the textured hood covers. While they remained grippy enough once I wiped the mud from my palms, the Zipp bar tape was dangerously slick. That surprised me because when dry or even in a drizzle, Zipp’s Service Course bar tape has always been plenty tacky. So, I just kept my hands on the hoods most of the time. Even after washing though, the hoods have a dirty look…might need to take a toothbrush to them to get ’em back to black.

While the drivetrain’s performance remained flawless, the shifter did have a tendency to catch a bit when pushing it all the way inward. It feels like it’s catching on the brake lever when trying to return to starting position, so I’ll be adjusting the reach to limit it’s ability to slide forward of the brake lever’s edge when extending inward and hoping that’ll fix the problem. It doesn’t happen every time, but often enough to be annoying by creating a hesitation to return until flicked loose. Honestly, this is my only complaint so far.

As a system, the shifting seems crisper and faster than their Red 22 road group. I suspect it’s because the X-Horizon derailleur’s stronger than their road derailleurs. It’s quite nice, and it achieves this without additional force required at the shift lever.

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

Initial pad break-in took only about 15 low speed stops before feeling fully adequate, and then power continued to improve throughout the first ride. From then on the braking was perfect, as expected. There was no shudder and no squeal, even when things got wet and dirty. If you’ve not yet tried hydraulic brakes, you’re missing out.

The nice thing about SRAM’s hydraulic brakes is it’s fairly easy to adjust the lever feel with a little bleed procedure. SRAM doesn’t list this procedure, it’s just something I’ve figured out after bleeding and rebleeding (and rebleeding and…) Avid’s older XX brakes, but it works: If you want firmer brakes, put the syringe with brake fluid into the top cap on the lever’s master cylinder and push a tiny (TINY!!!) bit more fluid in. Want a bit softer lever feel? Just dab a tiny bit of fluid from the top cap. I’ve got my Red road group’s levers set up a bit firmer this way and the CX1 group a little smoother. It’s kinda sorta like having a pad contact adjust. Sorta.

UPDATE: SRAM responded with this statement: “(Overfilling the reservoir) is not something consumers should do. We only recommend performing bleeds as described in our service manuals. Forcing additional fluid into the system collapses the bladder, thereby reducing negative volume. Negative volume is critical for the proper operation of the brake.”

So, let me clarify my tip: Following the SRAM bleed video’s instructions exactly still leaves room for varying amounts of fluid to be in the system. Near the end of the procedure, you’re asked to lightly push fluid into the lever, then remove the syringe and close the system. They warn against pushing too hard, which would collapse the system as mentioned. So, depending on how much you push into the system before closing it off will dictate how firm the levers feel. If you close it and they feel too firm, you can remove the top cap and dab a bit of fluid out or even pull the lever slightly to push a drop or two out. That’s all that should be needed to soften the levers up and provide enough free stroke to make them feel right. By contrast, if your levers feel too soft and/or you’re not getting enough braking force, you probably just need to push a bit more fluid into the system. This has worked for me on several installs and bleeds of SRAM/Avid brakes over the years. As always, if you’re not comfortable doing this, take it to your favorite bike shop.

2015 SRAM Force CX1 first impressions ride review

There was a bit of squeal after washing the bike, but about six complete stops later it was quiet and smooth again.

As a whole, the CX1 group is off to a rock solid start. If you’re not looking to piecemeal your own 1x system together, it’s worth a look. SRAM’s made it easier than ever by making their existing 10- and 11-speed drivetrain parts easily accept the derailleur and chainring, so you’ll only need to upgrade a couple things to make the leap. This CX1 group will be on the bike for the remainder of this season, look for the long term review in the spring.



  1. @CXisFun: You are well enough acquainted with Mr. Benedicts anatomy to presume to know a better, more functional saddle position for him? Once it’s under his rear…what’s it matter? 😉

  2. About the part where you say the shifter “catches” a little when pushing all the way in, I’m pretty sure why, since I have force 22 on my road bike, when you push the lever all the way in, the upper part pushes against the rubber boot and if you’re gripping the hoods too tight or wearing big gloves, you’re actually creating friction between the shift paddle and rubber boot, that prevents it from returning as fast as usual.

    Don’t know if it makes sense, but it used to happen to me, especially on the left shifter, before I found out I was actually the one doing something wrong

  3. I finally got my replacement hydraulic brakes from SRAM and they work amazing. Better than the old versions as they now have significantly more modulation. Before they were sort of on/off brakes. So, I guess I gotta admit, you did good SRAM (still annoyed about the wait though).

  4. @michael actually it does, it shows the frame/stem is too big for him and he wont get as much dampening
    im sure the position is otherwise ok/best for him. 🙂

    maybe thats the only way he could get a moots!

    as for the hydro r brakes, i find the modulation – as the writer explains – is mainly set by how much fluid you put in.
    my replacement brakes were filled to max and felt more on-off because of that. id have liked to have a mechanical setting since fiddling with bleeding isnt fun

  5. @CXisFun @Michael @muf one rough re-mount and those rails will be bent … Also, very interested to see Tyler races with a bidon.

  6. Sweet bike bro, however I like my double for the tarmac and training rides. I can see why the xx1 works for mountain biking that has generally slower speeds, but I think cross demands more gears.

  7. “Bidon”? Also, 45 minutes without water at threshold is stupid. I recognise you all are so badass that your bodies turn pure lactic acid into water and glucose, but still. Maybe I’m fluffy, but I definitely down some water if I even think about getting on a bike. Lastly, Tyler is riding a one-piece bar/stem. . .no chance of a shorter stem there, so even if you all DO know his fit better than he does, he’s kinda stuck with that saddle position. Plus, maybe Moots believes all tall people have stilts for femurs, and maybe he doesn’t. Privilege/burden of free stuff.

  8. @michael: with about 10 years of professionally fitting bikes under my belt, I feel confident in saying that’s a less than ideal position for the saddle. Now, while the contact point might be right for the rider, having their saddle slammed forward on the rails with the nose pointed down seems to indicate some issues that could stand to be addressed.

    My comment stems from this being a handmade frame, that could very easily be sized custom, yet having a 0 setback post with the saddle slammed forward.

  9. That is a 1 piece bar/stem that looks to be too long for the rider. No adjustment of stem length = 0 setback post and poorly adjusted saddle fore/aft position to make up for it, not ideal.

  10. @cx, my thoughts exactly. I’m guessing he didn’t pay the extra k or so for custom geo, but really should have, and is trying to “fix” the reach with that saddle position. Also, cross bikes really shouldn’t have that much bar drop.

  11. @cxisfun If he had a seat angle 1 degree steeper, and the saddle was clamped in the middle of the rails, but all else was equal, that is – saddle, bars, and pedals were all in the same relative positions, would your opinion be the same?

  12. All – thanks for your concern for my saddle position and overall bike fit, but I assure you it works just fine for me. The Moots frame is stock geometry, not custom. And I do enjoy the occasional sip of OSMO during a 45+ minute race.

    Jaaaaay – The green protective decal is really, really well applied, so much so that at first glance it actually looks like it’s stock color option. I haven’t pulled it off yet, but even SRAM’s tech reps admit that it fools a lot of people. Plus, I like to keep my stuff looking fresh!

  13. New bike parts are cool and all, but if I had my druthers we’d all be watching a 2 minute video of someone rallying that old Camaro in the second pic around a cross track!

  14. If that set up works for Tyler, so be it. As anyone that has worked in bike fit knows, comfort in the end is what riders are looking for, and as long as his knees and pedals are similarly aligned from bike to bike, and that don’t necessarily mean KOPS, but the angles of each lever in the system then there is less chance of injury due to shearing one’s knees to max in a CX race or a 100 mile spin thru the mountains. I don’t get the bottle though…. it just don’t look right. This is CX after all and the bottle has to go no matter how tasty the beverage is. After all doesn’t post race beer taste better as it loosens the mud and mung from the tongue?!

  15. That groupo looks good, but I’m more concerned about what they’re doing with that Z28 in the background. Put some compound on it, that shit’ll buff out!

  16. Compatibility:

    All 11 speed Sram is interchangable with this group – within reason. The right shifter is actually a Force 22 shifter and the left CX1 is just an empty shifterless brake.

    The CX1 rear derailleur can also be run 10 spd for those looking to upgrade without the cost. Just run 10 spd shifters, cassette and chain. You can even upgrade to the Sram S700 10spd hydro if you really, really want to stay 10 spd (maybe you have 2011 Zipp wheels?).

  17. IMHO saddle fore/aft adjustment should never be done in relationship to tt length.

    it’s a matter of knee position relative to pedal to get individual’s best power and comfort combined.

  18. @Ilikeicedtea: that’s exactly my point. A saddle slammed forward on it’s rails isn’t ideal for the saddle itself. Hell, I have no idea how he fits onto the bike, I just know that’s a less-than-ideal setup for the bike itself. Though, I do wonder where his knee falls with the DS crank in the 3 o’clock position…just out of curiosity.

  19. Since when did saddle for and aft have anything at all to do with top tube length??? I am in the same boat. Have to have the seat in the middle to forward on a zero setback post on most of my bikes, yet I know several people that have the complete opposite issue. Everyone is designed differently. Oh yeah, anyone who has raced CX or MTB can appreciate a saddle slightly angled down.

  20. @theothermtbr – Top tube length comes into play with saddle fore and aft when your bars are in a fixed position. So, to create the reach you want, you have to move your saddle. Which is a bad move.

    The problem with having your saddle slammed forward is it puts a ton of stress on the rails. Of course, we’re assuming that the rider’s knee isn’t flying ahead of his foot on the downstroke too, but we of course don’t know that one way or the other.

    Regarding saddle tilt on CX/MTB, I’ve been racing relatively competitively for 10-12 years, I’ve never felt the need to tilt my saddle forward. I’ve spent plenty of time in the pits of pro CX races, and I don’t recall noticing an overwhelming amount of forward saddle tilt.

  21. My saddle tilt has looked like that in the past after a race when the saddle is jammed that far forward on the rails. One remount with all of your force landing on the nose of the saddle and a single bolt, side clamp seatpost, and it’s not unheard of to slip. Very possible that he doesn’t normally run that much tilt.

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