At the official SRAM AXS launch, there was a LOT to learn. A lot to process. Everything from the overall AXS system that would control future wireless components from SRAM, Rockshox and more, to the actual new RED eTap AXS road group and its Eagle mountain bike counterpart. So I wanted to take a minute to process all that before writing my first ride impressions of the new groups. Here they are…

RED eTap AXS Ride Review

sram red etap axs review

For the road test, I was handed a Trek Checkpoint gravel bike equipped with the new eTap AXS parts, Zipp 303 tubeless ready wheels and the bike brand’s sweet vibration damping tech. While there were pavement and gravel riding opportunities, gravel was the right choice to drive home some of the key new features of the group. Namely, the “clutched” rear derailleur.

sram red etap axs review
Riding photos courtesy SRAM.

The roads we used were mostly dirt, looping in and out of Saguaro National Park’s western district (check out our Where To Ride guide for more on this sweet winter training area!). Some were smooth, but there were plenty of riddled washboard sections that would rattle your bones. We captured slo-motion film (watch the road video at that link) of the derailleur working its magic, showing off how it managed the chain even over terrain so rough it had the bike skipping off the ground. Basically, the fluid clutch works amazingly well and, theoretically, shouldn’t sap any extra juice out of the derailleur’s battery.

The lack of chain slap was nice, but as a complete system, the overall quietness of it surprised me. Shifting is as smooth as ever, but just the general running and operation was nearly imperceptible. Sure, it’s all clean and new, but still, it was noticeable.

sram red etap axs review

The other really interesting part of the new AXS group is the sequential and compensating shifting options. Turn them on in the app, and the derailleurs will dance together to keep you at either an optimal cadence* or optimize gear steps. The * means that it’s not actually checking your power and efficiency to optimize cadence for you, personally. Rather, it means that you can set shift points within the app to make it work better for your style of riding and allow the rear derailleur to drop or gain 1-2 gears when you shift the front. This is something most of us do manually anyway, but now SRAM will do it for you. You’re welcome.

The Sequential mode effectively turns it into a big 1x system by automatically shifting the front and rear together all the way up and down the range. Meaning, you no longer have to make front shifts, you simply press one side to go easier and the other side to go harder, then it shifts front and/or rear for you to run through the gears in the most appropriate sequence. Personally, I’d probably not use this option very much, but it’s fun to experiment with. And it’s nice to have options. Once you dial it in, I can see it being a cool thing for beginners or triathletes who don’t want to have to think about doing too many things while riding.

The new sram red etap axs front derailleur battery has more tire clearance

Winning my award for “Most Improved Front Derailleur” category is…drum roll please…the front derailleur! Specifically, the battery. More specifically, the battery’s placement, which is now a couple millimeters further outboard.

does the new sram red etap axs group have more tire clearance for the front derailleur battery

Battery-to-tire clearance was a known issue with the 1st gen eTap group when running anything larger than a 700×40 tire. Now, you should be able to easily clear a 700×45 (frame/rim/tire dependent, of course), which is about as big as most of us are likely to run on a 2x setup.

Beyond these changes, little things like improved texture on the shift paddles and visual refinements add up to a group that offers a drastically improved experience. Which leads me to the last big change: Gearing.

why did SRAM change the chainring sizes and gear combinations on their new RED 12 speed road bike group

SRAM unleashed a whole new concept of gearing and gear ratios as part of the new group, and it will almost certainly inform future products as well. The Force eTap AXS group is slated for April 2019, and while we don’t have tech details on yet, it’s a good bet it, too, will use the revised gearing.

Check out the charts and graphs on the new ratios in our launch coverage for the full story, but here’s the nutshell: Three different front chainring combos all share 13-tooth jumps between small and large rings. Each is designed to work with a specific 12-speed cassette (of which there are also three), but you can mix and match those pairings. This consistency means they only need one rear derailleur cage length, and chainring pairs are all machined as a single piece, so they’re easy to swap in and out thanks to their direct-mount design.

Do they work? Well, I only rode the one bike with the one combo, but yes, I’d say so. Upon reflection, I wasn’t constantly chasing that sweet spot that’s so elusive on something like a 50/34 combo. Even a 52/36 around my local roads seems to frequently leave me cross-chained. So, I do think SRAM is onto something here, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see other chainring manufacturers following suit.

Overall, the group offers a not just a refreshing new take on what a road bike drivetrain can be, but also opens the doors for some pretty amazing things in the future. They’ve addressed what few issues the first group had, made it faster and more capable, and it’s better looking than ever. That Trek Checkpoint is now in our offices for long term review, too, so I’ll report on long-term durability and function after many, many more miles…

SRAM RED eTap AXS Actual Weights

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed crankset actual weights

  • Road 2x (48/35 combo) – 419g with powermeter
  • Road 1x (48t X-Sync) – 395g with powermeter
  • Left crank – 156g

sram red etap axs road bike component actual weights

  • Front derailleur – 165g with battery
  • Rear derailleur – 247g with battery

2019 sram red 12-speed cassette actual weight

  • 10-33 Cassette – 211g

sram red etap axs road bike component actual weights

  • Shifters – 233g/234g with coin cell batteries installed
  • Updated Blip Box – 24g

sram red etap axs road bike component actual weights

  • Rear brake caliper – 158g (with spacer, so subtract a couple grams)
  • 160mm rotor – 118g

Where can I get SRAM eTap AXS parts?

what road and gravel bikes have the new sram red etap axs group already

Another smart move SRAM made was ensuring launch day delivery of parts, with a number of brands ready to go with new AXS-equipped models for road, gravel, monstercross and triathlon. Here’s a full list of everything you can buy as of February 2019, and there’s plenty more coming.

Similarly, aftermarket groups should be shipping now, too, and you will need the complete group…sadly, nothing from the original eTap group will work here. The upside is that all new products moving forward (at least for the next couple years) will be built on this platform and be cross compatible.

SRAM.com

53 COMMENTS

    • We’ll learn if that’s true when they offer a Force/Ultegra price-level version (which they have already alluded to). Even the current RED E-Tap is a pretty rare thing to find on a shop floor so it’s difficult for an interested rider to experience. They must be able to deliver the tech at an attainable price point so that the “masses” can taste the experience. Then they’ll be cooking with gas.

      • I love my shimano road group, and when I have sram on one mtb and shimano on the other. I really appreciate the push pull on the trigger for shimano.

      • Why pay to sponsor a team when new product releases like this are still being talked about long after the initial release. Every major publication/website has only talked about AXS since it came out. That type of publicity is infinitely more effective than being the official drive-train sponsor of some random WT team.

      • Three teams are on Campy, two are on Sram. I don’t know why this is relevant besides determining where brands want to put their marketing budget.

        • It is more important for R&D than for marketing. Shimano rarely releases duds while Sram constantly does.
          There are lots of good things about this group but it does nothing that di2 doesnt do. And it certainly looks bulky and clunky even compared to Ultegra di2.

          • Shimano doesn’t release duds and sram does? With the exception of a brake warranty issue (albeit a pretty big one), this is hardly the truth. SO many people ride and love to ride the 1st gen etap. Their mechanical 22 systems are flawless. I could never willingly pay money for shimano’s mehcanical mtb shifting over SRAM’s. And what about XTR 1×12? We’re a year on and availability is still sketchy, and they’ve had to go back to the drawing board one hubs and cranks, after “releasing” them a year ago. Sponsoring teams IS marketing. There isnt an added value for R&D in sponsoring 1000 riders worldwide vs 100 (made up numbers). They’re all going to select a similar number of riders for product testing. Shimano just has a much bigger market share and marketing budget.

  1. FYI – “Here’s a full list of everything you can buy as of February 2019, and there’s plenty more coming.” doesn’t actually have a link connected to it with the list of bikes.

    Also, maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’d LOVE to know when I might be able to get my hands on a Force 24 mechanical group. I rode Force 22 for years before switching to a bike with DA 9150, and I’d swap back to Force in a second. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Dura Ace stuff, but it’s ridiculously expensive and I don’t feel the rear shifting is any better. SRAM’s mechanical groupsets have always been an outstanding value (same functional parts across all levels), so why not save the cash for other fun things, right?

    • You can add me to the 12s mechanical waiting list. Wouldn’t besurprised if we’re waiting a while, they probably need to make some money back on axs.

      • FWIW, I’ve asked several times when the mechanical 12-speed groups are coming and only getting radio silence, so I’m guessing they simply don’t want to spoil the surprise. But with a Force AXS group coming in April, that would be good timing.

        I agree, the mechanical group will really help usher in their new gearing concept to the masses.

  2. > SRAM unleashed a whole new concept of gearing and gear ratios

    A whole new concept? Ummmm no, they just downsized things. But of course the reduction in weight and improvement in aerodynamics comes at the penalty of increased friction, wear, and incompatibility out the wazoo.

    I have a nice spreadsheet analysis, but I can’t post attachments here.

    • I’ve ridden the group and there’s no friction to be found. Also, I’ve already built 3 different bikes with the group and have yet to run into compatibility problems. Not sure where you’re getting your info.

      • > I’ve ridden the group and there’s no friction to be found.

        A geartrain without friction? You are a genius!

        > Also, I’ve already built 3 different bikes with the group
        > and have yet to run into compatibility problems.

        So which other groupsets is SRAM AXS compatible with?

        (deleted)

    • The 13-teeth jumps were first used in their XX MTB gruppo. Then they trickled down to the X9, X7 and X5 dual chainring cranksets. Now they’re just bringing the model to road bikes.

  3. The rest of it looks great but I find the cranks really unattractive. I’ve always avoided putting parts on the bike which make me cringe to look at. If I do go down the AXS path this year, I think an Easton crank might be the way to go.

    • Keep in mind that no one makes a Red AXS chain compatible chainring yet except SRAM, and only for their proprietary BCDs and direct-mount 8-bolt arms. Wolf Tooth is working on one but it’s a little further out.

    • Yes, those crank arms are homely. Most of their parts in general are aesthetically acceptable, with the exception of their crank arms. The only / or last one I can remember that looks decent are the original XX double MTB cranks.

  4. The pics show only the drive side arm crank weighted…so not sure if 395g with powermeter refers to the whole crank or to only one arm (this latter case would make no sense).
    Who has the answer? Many thanks!!

  5. A remote mount for the battery would give even more clearance at the front derailleur. Add contacts to an eTap battery block, pogo pins to an eTap battery cover, wire them together, and secure the battery under your bottle cage or somewhere.

  6. For the crank weight, where is the spindle and left crank arm?

    One thing that isn’t mentioned here is that the powermeter is built into the rings, thus once you wear the rings out, you have to buy a new powermeter. According to srams website, when that happens, they will discount it by 50% but its still seems like added complexity when a spider based system works fine. .

  7. What is the shift speed like? I’ve ridden Red etap and the delay in shifting was quite annoying considering this is supposed to be a top tier group it’s pretty lame that it shifted slower than 105. Any improvement in the new group with a 2×12 set up? Still seems a little rich for my blood especially when ultegra di2 shift groups can be found for 800 bucks new and the replacement parts are cheap for when you crash.

    • Agreed. Every review of axs so far is pure fluff. I’ve come to expect great ideas with mediocre execution from SRAM. I keep waiting for the moment when their reach no longer exceeds their grasp. Why can’t shimano be wireless yet? Shimano is total opposite. Small vision with great execution.

      • Brian, that’s the funny thing about writing up a part that’s really good with no apparent downsides…people assume we’re all paid off. Some folks like to find some little nitpick or make something up just so they sound critical, but not us. If there were something I didn’t like about the group, I’d say so, but it really is that good based on first impressions. Will that luster hold up? Who knows, that’s why we have a long term review bike/group to test.

        I’d only add that if EVERY media outlet is reporting nothing but positives, I’d say it’s a pretty good indication of the group’s merits. Would you question the quality of something if EVERY one of your friends was using it and lauded it?

        I hope that puts it into perspective. If it helps, I’ll try real hard to find something wrong with it during my long term test!

        • Thanks for the thoughtful response. My response was specifically regarding shift speed. Which I have always noted was lacking with etap as did another commenter. Wireless is amazing but the shift speed? Not so much. Di2 is faster and better in my opinion and from a performance standpoint, that matters. Once the bike is configured, wires don’t necessarily matter, though wireless if obviously superior in concept. Most of the downsides with AXS clearly aren’t going to be present with a brand new drivetrain. That doesn’t mean they can’t be easily anticipated or quickly deduced. The fact that the rings are machined together is a huge issue to me. How often do people wear out the big ring and small ring at the exact same rate? That’s something you could have noted. The integrated PM is so wack in my opinion. Arguably a modular PM is much more elegant. Integration for the sake of integration isn’t smart, it’s self indulgent and doesn’t actually serve the end user. You could have mentioned something to that affect.

          AXS has real innovations that should be lauded. Other aspects? Not so much. SRAM has a history of making products that consumers love but mechanics hate. Shimano takes their sweet ass time but releases a finished product. The difference between Shimano and Sram is that SRAM accepts compromise in order to innovate. Shimano researches products until there is no compromise in performance. SRAM has a great marketing team and some good innovations but I don’t think they respect the end user as much. Some of their mountain drivetrains are so sensitive to cable tension it’s annoying as hell. Get Shimano within a few clicks on the barrel adjuster and it’s good to go. Their products are sexy and light but not on par with their price in my opinion. Their shift ramps are super clunky (not a feature btw as some people suggest). Granted, SRAM is a smaller company than Shimano. That makes them more agile but less capable. The simple fact that quality is considered on par with each other is an exaggeration in my opinion. SRAM for innovation, Shimano for execution. Just don’t pretend that either have been hitting the other’s nail on the head. I just wish a little devils advocacy were present in your review. Whether you agree with me or not, you missed out on addressing my concerns with your review. I’m actually pretty open minded. AXS might be the perfectly executed product to change my mind. But as is, I’ll need someone to assuage my valid concerns about the direction SRAM is taking.

          To be fair, I think the Eagle chainring tooth profile is a mind-blowing innovation that is as well executed as Shimano’s best product. That’s an example of real substance whereas much of their lineup is pure marketing. Gear ratios aren’t a new thing and 10t cogs have been around for a while.The XD driver was a great innovation. I just think they’re an inconsistent company when it comes to quality.

          • I think lots of the coverage is skipping the cost of this new group set. shifters, derailleurs, and calipers are ~$2500. No crank, no cassette, no chain. Dura ace is much cheaper. Plus the cost of consumable parts like the chainrings? Or not being able to use your wheels without swapping out parts on them?

            There is something to be said for just being the best out there and sometimes that requires breaking changes that screw up compatibility. But sometimes people don’t have unlimited budgets

    • While the electronics and all that have been improved to be faster, my experience was that the shifting itself felt the same as prior eTap. There’s a limit as to how fast you can move the chain from one cog to the next and still have it engage the teeth properly, and the multi-shift (holding down the shifter to run up or down multiple cogs at a time) is already pushing that limit. So, the short answer is, it didn’t feel any faster, but I liked the speed of the original eTap (and this new one) just fine.

  8. > What is the shift speed like?

    Warren Rossiter (BikeRadar) has been using it about 2 months, and says in his video on it that it’s maybe a wee bit faster. He didn’t seem very convinced that it was faster.

    • All these sites are paid to promote therefore we can’t expect them to be BRUTALLY honest because that means a blacklist from the sponsors in future. Ive ridden the AXS and the shifting IS slow compared to di2 but fine if you like etap. I dont mind it until Im at race wattage and then its a first world problem because the shifting is noticeably slower than di2 of any gen.

      Ive got 7970 still and it shifts faster than AXS. How is that possible on a decade old groupset?

      • It’s rather odd that sluggish shifting was the biggest complaint that a lot of people had about eTap v1, and it seems like SRAM hasn’t addressed it to any significant degree.

        I don’t think it’s a limitation of wireless. The lag from the wireless protocol should be imperceptible.

  9. The lack of any real critical analysis here is disappointing and lacks any credibility. No mention of the throw-away crankset + power meter when you need or want new rings, no mention of the need to replace your hubs to work with XDR, coin batteries in the shifters, 10 tooth cog….the list goes on. The glaring bias in this review is palpable, I had to check that it wasn’t a sponsored post. Anyone willing to spend thousands on this mess will soon discover that SRAM completely missed any opportunity to develop/refine the many awesome features of ETAP 11. For one, you could put ETAP 11 on basically any frame and an 11 speed wheel set.

    “I wasn’t constantly chasing that sweet spot that’s so elusive on something like a 50/34 combo”. Is this a joke? I ride mile after mile on 50/34 chain rings, and the best part is that I don’t have to throw away my power meter if I want a change.

  10. Enjoyed your comments Tyler. Numerous reviews have been written but none that I have read comment on what is in my opinion, Red’s biggest shortcoming – noticeably slower shift speed relative to Di2 and for that matter mechanical. Shift speed, to me, is a critical determinant in any drivetrain, and Red failed in my view in that regard. In reading each review of VXS, I have waited and waited for any kind of comment on shift speed. Strangely none of the reviewers thought it relevant. Perhaps because they coudn’t say anything positive about it…… Thanks again

    • That’s all they had available at the launch, but I’ve pulled the left arm and cassette off our demo bike and added those weights to the post.

  11. Can anyone talk about how they put a Dub crankset on a BB90 frame? So far the only cranks that fit are 24/22mm ones. Help!?

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