You always have to taste twice a certain meal to see if you like it or not, the same thing goes for bikes. I first tested the new Sram XX1 Eagle transmission at Riva del Garda, the official Sram presentation, but also at Merida where I had the opportunity of riding a bike equipped with Eagle. So, I will try my best to describe the experience I had with the new Eagle, the transmission that killed the front derailleur and that will revolutionize this segment.
Generally, from what I’ve seen, when it comes to bikes people are thrilled with big objects. Whether it is about fat bikes and their tires or by the 27+ bikes or by the huge cassettes, the blog posts have an instant public success and gather hundreds or even thousands of likes. When I first published a photo of the new Eagle transmission system, the rule confirmed and the second photo, in which I was holding a cassette right in front of my face, the result was the same.
It is true that the first thing you notice at this transmission is the cassette which is big, really big, A 50-tooth cog, bigger that the chainring of a 3x crankset or almost bigger than the first two chainrings put together. On the other hand, the gold color seems to be really catchy as Sram representative told me. The golden cogs and chain, together with other elements of design on the lever and shifter, complete the aspect of the bike. So, visually the new transmission is a success. But, what does it have to offer on track?
First of all, you have to know that the 12 cogs came more of a necessity than a luxury. Many of the beginners complained by the fact that 1×11 transmission did not offer sufficient gear range on climbs. The pros, said that they did not rich enough speed on flat track or downhill. So, Sram created the 12 speed cassette (XG-1299), processed by CNC (yes, it is build from a single ring that is why it costs almost 450 euros to buy separately) that has a 50-tooth cog for climbings and a 10-tooth cog for speed. So, we have the same range as in the case of a 2×10 transmission, but minus a lever and a shifter.
The chain is slimmer and the chainline is really scary when seen from the above. Sram producers say that it’s positioning on a diagonal, when using the big cog, is perfectly normal and won’t lead to a premature wear of the chain.
The derailleur is really solid, has a robust construction. The 14-tooth lower pulley is necessary for greater stability and for matching the 50-tooth cassette. A new Type-3 roller bearing clutch was integrated in its construction.
If in the case of the shifter an upgrade was made so to fit with the 12 speed, in the case of the chainring a new, robust construction was made. The client can opt for a 30, 32, 34, or 38-tooth chainring. In this case, each can estimate the range of gears needed.
The crankset that completes the transmission is light and very rigid. Carbon is also present and the weight is surprisingly small.
In both cases, I had the opportunity of testing the prototypes of these transmission systems and Sram producers warned us of possible errors. Basically, the new Eagle transmission is very stable, changes gears extremely fast, is silent and extremely precise. I had some problems (ghost shifts) on the big cog, but this was due to the fact stated above. For those that need to change gears really fast I strongly recommend Grip Shift. With a 34-tooth chainring, the range of gears are enough both for speed and climbings, even though I have to admit that the track I used was not so abrupt. Shortly, a nice anticipated experience. The front derailleur is no longer necessary, it’s been 4 years since I used one, so for people like me life is much easier with the new Eagle. Also, for riders that used a 2×10 transmission is easier to replace it with a 1×12. You get a totally different feeling from a 34-tooth chainring connected to a 50-tooth cog than from a 24-tooth chainring connected to a 36-tooth cog.
Regarding the price, this will be around 1.500 euros, but we have to mention that you can choose Sram X01 Eagle which is 400 euros cheaper, but 50 grams heavier.