SRAM has clearly been busy. Less than two months after launching the new RED eTap AXS group to the world, they’re already onto the next. That of course being the new SRAM Force eTap AXS group. As is often the case, the group is extremely similar to RED, but with some key differences that will be significant to many consumers – particularly when it comes to price.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less
Photo c. Road Bike Connection – Tristan Cardew

The newest member of the AXS (access) wireless family, SRAM Force eTap AXS is an electronic drivetrain with wireless shifting and options for either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes. Other than a few very small details, Force is nearly identical in performance to the new RED AXS, with the main differences being materials, construction, and therefore weight. That means that the batteries are the same between the two groups (and older eTap groups as well) which is good news for teams or individuals with multiple bikes. Even the motors and chipsets are the same meaning the shift speed is identical between the two groups. Ultimately, Force ends up about 300g heavier than RED, but it’s also over $1000 less expensive which seems like a worthy trade off.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less
Photos c. Road Bike Connection – Tristan Cardew

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Force also has a completely different look which comes down to a difference in finishes. While forged aluminum parts can be polished to a beautiful shine, cast pieces can’t be polished – which requires a coat of paint. Overall, the finish on Force is less sophisticated which is where SRAM was able to drop some of the price.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

AXS App

Like RED, Force is able to take advantage of the AXS app and component integration system which allows you to monitor and customize the performance of individual components. From checking each battery’s power level to customizing your shift patterns, updating firmware, and more, Force is joining the way of the app-based world.

Also like RED, this is a completely new group, so other than the mechanical rim brakes, none of the new parts will be compatible with older SRAM components – except of course the new SRAM RED eTap AXS. These two groups are completely interchangeable – which is good news for those who were upset by SRAM’s choice to integrate the power meter and chain ring on RED (but for a good reason, more on that below).

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

New gearing options just like RED… mostly

Following right along, gearing is also one of the biggest changes for SRAM Force. Yeah, they’ve gone to 12 speed in the rear, but as usual, it’s about more than just adding another gear. The new X-Range gearing ends up wider on both ends while the added cog results in better gear progression. The addition of the 10t cog allows for an increase in gear range without an increase in overall size of the drivetrain package with SRAM pointing out that smaller drivetrains will be lighter, less costly, and simpler overall.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

In terms of chainring options, Force will see 48/35 and 46/33t double combinations with the largest 50/37t combination only available in RED. By moving to a 13t jump between chainrings, SRAM says this 20% reduction in jump size results in better shift quality and better front shifting overall.SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

To keep the overall range, the rear cassettes move to a 10t at the small end, and up to 26, 28, or 33t as the largest cog with 260, 280, and 330% range respectively. Even the smallest cassette at 10-26 offers a wider range than an 11-28t. Moving the range from the front of the bike to the rear should mean you can stay in that current front chainring longer without having to shift. Obviously, if you’re running 1x, wider range in the rear is also a very good thing. The new cassettes also offer more single-tooth jumps between cogs for better shift progression when you’re moving through the gears.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for lessSRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Cassette options

In terms of construction, the XG-1270 cassette uses a Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome configuration with the first four cogs machined from a steel billet, and the remainder of the cassette using their Pin-Dome technology similar to their GX mountain bike cassettes. Looking at the cassette in profile, Pin-Dome makes more sense as you can see the pins that hold all of the steel cogs together after the first four cogs. The largest cog is aluminum which cuts down on weight and allows for a secure connection between the cassette and the freehub body that won’t dig into the new XDR drivers. The Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome cassette ends up about 50g heavier than a comparable RED cassette.

SRAM XDR XD Road freehub driver body for 12 speed road bikes

XDR Required

The addition of a 12 speed cassette meant that SRAM had to move to the XDR freehub standard like RED, which is just like XD, just 1.85mm longer. The added width is needed for the road since the largest cogs aren’t nearly as big as those on a MTB cassette and can’t be dished over the spokes. It also now matches up with the width of HG 11 speed freehub bodies for road.

Importantly, you can still run cassettes meant for XD freehubs on XDR freehubs with the addition of a 1.85mm spacer. You can’t however run cassettes meant for XDR freehubs on XD freehubs. SRAM points out that any Zipp wheels post April 2015 (176, 177, Super 9, and Cognition hubs) are XDR ready meaning you can add an XDR freehub. Also, the SRAM 900 hubset has included an XDR drive for awhile now – before you really needed it.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Photo c. SRAM

One Rear Derailleur to Rule them All

When it comes to choosing your drivetrain, you can run any cassette with any chainring combination all with the same rear derailleur – 1x or 2x. The new rear derailleur has been optimized to work with all of the cassette options in either chainring configuration and includes larger X-Sync pulleys with steel bearings, and the Orbit fluid damper in place of a mechanical clutch. Note that there is no longer a Cage Lock feature, but the Orbit damper works a bit differently and doesn’t really affect wheel changes. Compared to RED, the Force rear derailleur uses an aluminum derailleur cage instead of carbon, and steel hardware in place of titanium and aluminum.

SRAM etap Force AXS front derailleur

Front Derailleur is Still There, and Better Than Ever

Up front, the new Force front derailleur is very similar to RED, but it swaps in a stamped steel derailleur cage for the CNC machined aluminum cage on RED. Riders who are pushing larger tires will be happy to hear that the derailleur has been streamlined to offer better tire clearance at the rear as well.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Force gets a Flattop

Completing the gearing is the new FRC-D1 Flattop chain. This new chain style is required for the group with SRAM stating that this chain represents their biggest investment in tooling on their part when it came to the new group. While it did get narrower to fit another cog, there is more to the story as usual. The shape of the chain is purely driven by their strength testing – the top of the chain never rides on a gear, so it can be shaped differently to provide increased strength.

Proportionately, the chain is also narrower to the cog spacing than a comparative 11 speed group which SRAM claims results in a quieter ride overall. The FRC-D1 chain is interchangeable with the SRAM RED chain, with the Force chain using solid pins as the only noticeable difference. Note that Flattop chains require a specific Flattop PowerLock. Also note that you definitely don’t want to run the new chain on 11 speed cassettes (think putting your bike on a direct drive trainer with an 11 speed cassette mounted). Apparently, the new chain will destroy the cassette, which is why companies like Wahoo are quickly working to add XDR driver capabilities to their trainers.

Acronym Glossary

If you haven’t already picked it up from RED, the new SRAM Force group comes with its own lingo, so here’s the breakdown:

  • AXS – Refers to the new digital family of wireless/electronic components that will all work together. Check our AXS overview story for everything you need to know on that. Basically, anything with the AXS logo can communicate with each other.

  • X-Range – The name for this entire new gearing concept.

  • Orbit Chain Management – A new fluid damper system that improves chain retention while still allowing for fast shifting.

  • AXS app – Lets you customize the setup and integrate cross-category components, check riding time, battery level, how many times you’ve shifted, and when you’re due for service.

  • FlatTop – The new, narrower chain that’s also stronger, quieter and more durable. It’s not backwards compatible (nor is any other component), everything here is designed as a system to maximize performance.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force Cranks

With the launch of RED AXS, one of the things that seemed to catch everybody’s attention was the decision to integrate the power meter into the chainring. Yes, this means that when the chainring is dead, so is your power meter. But SRAM stands by the design, and here’s why: SRAM RED is meant to be the highest tier group for pro racers and consumers willing to pay top dollar in exchange for the lightest system possible.

The integration of the power meter into the chainring meant that SRAM could add power to the same crankset at a weight penalty of just 36g. It also ends up with a more accurate power reading because you’ve eliminated one of the connections at the spider/chainring interface. SRAM also claims that the new drivetrain offers much longer chainring and component life than previous groups, with field testing showing a whopping 2-4x increase in longevity – so it should take you much longer to wear out those rings.

Is it wasteful to create a one-time use power meter/chainring? Sort of. But that all depends if you take advantage of the SRAM support program where they take your old power meter/chainring back and recycle it while providing a new one to you supposedly at or near the cost of standard chainrings. That integrated power meter/chainring is starting to sound a lot better all of a sudden.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Change your rings without changing your power meter

BUT… what if none of that matters and you simply want to run power on your SRAM AXS crank without an integrated power meter/chainring?

You’re in luck. The Force chainrings and DZero power meter are not one piece, and the Force DZero power meter spider is compatible with SRAM RED crank arms using the same 8 bolt direct mount interface. That means if you buy a SRAM RED AXS crank with power and wear out the chainrings super fast (or just want to upgrade a non-power model), you can purchase a Force power meter spider and the Force AXS asymmetric 107 BCD (same as RED 1x) chainrings to go with it. This also allows for mixing and matching 1x chainrings from the RED group or their aero 1x chainring for TT/Tri bikes.

SRAM Force cranks will be available with or without power meters in 1x or 2x configurations, both of which separate the chainring from the power meter.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Keeping in line with all of the new cranks from SRAM, the Force cranks will include a  DUB spindle option, but they will still offer a GXP version for Trek’s BB90 frames, Pinarellos with Italian threaded BBs, and other frames that require it.

 

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS brake/shift levers

At the controls, Force eTap AXS is all about wireless shifting – though not necessarily about hydraulic brakes. For those keeping the rim brakes alive, the Force eTap AXS group will be available in two versions; wireless shifting with mechanical rim brakes, or wireless shifting with hydraulic disc brakes.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

The hydraulic option uses their Hydro HC platform specifically developed for eTap which means these brake calipers are different than those found on Force 1. The Force group uses a two piece caliper design with steel hardware, and the same brake pad as RED. Also, the Force brakes are flat mount only. Still running a post mount frame? The RED brakes are available in post mount as well as flat mount.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less
Photo c. SRAM

SRAM’s new Centerline XR (CLX-R) rotors are a thing of beauty and are the same rotors that you’ll find with SRAM Red. The rotors use an aluminum carrier and a steel CenterLine braking surface with rounded edges to be UCI-Compliant.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Rim Brakes Still Stop

The new Force group even includes a new mechanical rim brake if you are retrofitting an older bike or just don’t want to switch to disc. The brakes use a dual pivot design that is updated to fit wider rims and tires (up to 28mm), and include Swissstop Platinum Flash Pro pads for carbon or BHP pads for aluminum rims.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Offering independent reach and contact point adjustment, the levers are nearly identical to RED other than they have just one Blip port rather than two on each shifter. You’ll also find a composite lever blade rather than true carbon fiber which makes a negligible difference in weight. While the derailleurs get their own rechargeable batteries (which are the same as all eTap groups), the levers use a CR2032 coin cell battery housed in the bottom of the lever. Since these simply have to power a single button, the batteries should last quite a while. How long? We aim to find out (maybe) in a long term review.

The AXS app offers the same tuneability with this group, letting you switch the way the buttons and levers work the derailleurs, switch shift modes between regular, compensating and sequential, and even pair with a dropper seatpost or whatever else comes down the pipe.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Tri HRD

There’s also a complete 1x TRI HRD group available with hydraulic aero levers for the hydraulic disc brakes and a new, smaller Blip Box. SRAM states that running a 1x drivetrain with a 48t chainring and the 10-33 cassette would give you the same range as a 53/39 with 11-26. That happens to be the most prevalent Ironman gearing combo they see on 11-speed bikes, only now you don’t have a front derailleur to shift, you have a lighter drivetrain, and you still get six 1-tooth gear steps on the cassette.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

Availability, pricing, and actual weights

As much as we love knowing about new products ahead of time, it’s much better when you can go out and buy a new product as soon as you read about it. That’s the case with Force eTap AXS – groups are shipping as of today and you’ll find more than 150 different bike models equipped with the group hitting showroom floors. Initially, Force will only be available as a complete groupset, but in a few months you’ll have the ability to purchase individual parts.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

In the U.S., complete groups will run from $2,078 to $2,678, well under the price of RED.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

We got all of the loose parts we could find on the scale at Road Bike Connection, but because of all the options and things like the fact that the FD and RD didn’t include batteries, SRAM has provided the list of weights above. As mentioned, the group should work out to be about 300g more than SRAM RED eTap AXS.

Check out our first ride review straight from Girona, next!

sram.com

33 COMMENTS

    • Hopefully there will be a new mechanical Force group soon, but not sure I would expect Red mechanical to resurface at all. Quoted from CyclingTips article on Force AXS:

      “One question left unanswered from the launch of the Red eTap AXS groupset was the fate of SRAM’s mechanical groupsets; SRAM declined to comment on the issue at the time. Since then, however, we’ve confirmed that SRAM is moving wholeheartedly in the electronic direction, at least on the road side, and at least at the upper end of the market.”

      https://cyclingtips.com/2019/04/sram-force-etap-wireless-electronic-groupset-details-weights-prices/

  1. Still no 10-42 (or ideally 10-44) cassette? Where is the 1x gravel love? My dreams was that Force would be where they actually had some gravel solutions! Not to many gravel grinders that I know want to run a 10-50 out back. In the 2x, there is no 30t small chaining option so that’s not gonna help either. I guess I’ll have to run 11 speed until Sunrace makes a midsize cassette.

    • I’d argue that a 10 tooth cog on gravel is pretty dumb. If you’re running a 46×10 combo and a 700×40 or 650bx47 tire that means you’re going 38mph when pedaling 100rpm. Even a 46×13 combo being pedaled at just 80 rpm is a speed of over 22 mph. Maybe Ted King can cruise at that kind of speed on gravel but few other people can so it’s pretty dumb IMO to have 1/4 of your gears only be usable when going downhill. I switched my bike over to a custom made cassette with a 14 tooth end cog. Combined with my 650bx47 tires and a 46t big ring and that gives me a top speed of 26 mph when pedaling at 100 rpm and 21 mph at 80 rpm. On the flats I can comfortably cruise along in the 16t third position cog. This means I actually use all of my gears without having to resort to cross training. For gravel end position cogs of 10 and 11 teeth simply make little sense unless you’re an elite level racer (or pretending to be one).

      • I have a 42 chainring with a 10-42 Rival setup on my gravel bike. I’d argue the 10 is perfect for my gravel setup. I have a 1-to-1 for my low and the 10 gives me a decent high end for gravel unless I’m bombing down a hill. Obviously a 10 on a bigger chainring would be dumb for most people.

        • There is a lot of drag on small cogs. While a 10T might by ok for soft-pedaling downhill, if you’re putting any power to it, you’ll get more from your legs to the wheels with a larger ring/cog combination.

          With the 46/33 and 10-33 cassette, that’s a 1×1 low gear. I expect it won’t be long before there are aftermarket cranks (FSA?) with smaller inner rings. I agree, it’s a bit strange that the new SRAM cranks result in less range than existing legacy sizes. I get why they did it, I just don’t think riders are really going to value it.

      • Why does everyone leave out the chainring piece of the gearing equation? Individual cog sizes are irrelevant. What matters is overall gearing, which means you have to consider the front chainring.

        36×10 is pretty close to a 46×13.

        The SRAM gearing would put you around 23.5mph at 80rpm
        The 46×13 would put you around 21.5mph.

        • I’m running 38×10-42 today. I need the 38×42 for climbing some of the hills around here (especially the singletrack variety) and upgraded from a 11×42 to a 10×42 for those times when I’d spin out on a 38×11 (like mateo pointed out, a 42×11 is almost the same top end as 38×10 but has a better climbing gear). If they had a 10×44, I would go with a 40 crank and that would keep me out of the 10 in the back a little bit more often.

          • From the first ride article:

            “I do think that for it to be a true contender for a gravel group lower gearing may be desired, but SRAM is coyly hinting at more mix and match “Beyond Road” options later this summer.”

            So about the time that you can buy Force in a mix/match strategy, they may have something in the 10xforty-something range. All hope is not lost.

    • Seconded. Am kind of skeptical of electronic shifting for adventure riding but a 10-42 or 10-44 cassette (for use with a 40 or 42t chainring, not the 46 Chris assumes above) would have had me considering it for the smaller steps. 42×10 is a perfect high gear for my riding and a 42×42 or 44 low is just right too and would iron out a couple of the bigger jumps in 11 speed Force1.

      Looks good for road, especially 46×10-33 being like a 50×11-36 with finer steps. Maybe there’s a cx1 AXS coming with eagle chain and cassette spacing for mud?

    • Give it another week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a variant of this groupset, with more gravel/cyclocross friendly cassettes, introduced at Sea Otter.

    • Folks complaining about the lack of wide range cassettes… It is compatible/interchangeable with the mountain bike cassettes and RD…

      • Brian,

        There’s a big jump between a 10-30 and 10-50t cassette. As others have suggested it’s probably in the works, but gravel/adventure people (myself included) seem generally happy with the Force 1 range but would appreciate smaller steps between gears. In terms of steps and range, the Eagle 10-50 cassettes you are picturing are basically the 11s 10-42 with a 50 tacked on.

        And while those road/mountain AXS combinations are possible, they’re not something that shops can purchase- groups are shipping as a bundle for the time being.

        We’ve ordered a few 1x and 2x Force AXS groups for road builds but for gravel will probably steer folks towards 11s Force Mechanical for now. It will be interesting to see the “Beyond Road” when they materialize- in a lot of ways it makes sense to create more difference between categories.

    • @david
      Two years ago did you think 10-42 was a viable option on a gravel bike? Now you can run 10-50…because why not? Run the road levers with the mountain cassette and voila! an awesome gravel bike the gets you 500% range!

  2. Jeez, I just want a light 1 X 12 mechanical group with a simple crank, clutch-like rear derailleur and great shifters and brakes. A 10-40 cassette or similar would be pretty nice.

  3. They really dropped the ball when it comes to 1x options. No 1x cassette options. You are eaither stuck with 10-33 or have to get a eagle axs rear derailluer and 10-50 cassette? Gtfoh

  4. SRAM need to release components better suited to gravel. DUB seems OK as it fits both 24mm and 30mm BBs, but 46-30 is needed. Also it needs to be mechanical. I go to the backcountry using the most simple and reliable gear I can find, that means avoiding electronics or hydraulics if possible.

  5. Agree that it would be nice to see a 12 spd 10-42 for 1x with this line. I run a 1x with 40-10/42 and it’s perfect for WVa hills, but I’d like a bit closer ratio that a 12spd could help with. Assume that would require a long cage version of axs derailleur, and also would need xdr driver for my hunt wheels, and those don’t appear to be available yet anyway. Maybe by Christmas?

  6. As I understand it, there is no way to use the new Force eTap 12 speed with my existing SRAM Red 11 speed cranks and cassette bodies. I was hoping to upgrade to electronic shifting without paying the high price of Red eTap. Guess I’ll be sticking with mechanical or wait for a clearance of the 11 speed Red eTap.

    • Agree. I wonder how much $$$$ is split to R&D, Marketing, Team Sponsorship, etc …. for these expensive products. There’s a tipping point for supply and demand. AXS is a dud for me. Over the past few decades, I’ve owned Campy, Shimano, and SRAM. Microshift is looking very attractive nowadays and I can just cut some weight in other areas.

  7. More cassette choices, and a non proprietary chain/cassette/chainring arrangement and they would have been onto a winner, but this just feels like a miss. A better range of cassettes and a normal chain/chainring and I bet loads of people would be jumping to upgrade their 1x road/gravel/cx bikes to 12 speed, but the idea of having to buy an expensive new chainset with proprietary rings and chain feels like a bit of a con, No cross compatibility whatsoever, feels like SRAM is quickly becoming the apple of the bike world.

    • Agreed. I never use 11t cogs as is. I stopped buying them because I can’t push them. I can’t Imagine trying to use a 10t cog with road/cross chainrings

    • No doubt. Even with a 48 or 46 ring, that’s massive. If you can push that, you’re probably better off with 53×11 anyway.

  8. Their emphasis on five consecutive one tooth jumps for a gravel bike doesn’t make sense. I’d much rather have a tighter range in the middle of the cassette with somewhat wider gaps at the top and bottom, like with Shimano’s 11-34T cassette.

    I guess when the best range you can manage with your front derailleurs is a 13T chainring difference, you have to take what you can get?

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