With 5 months available to knock ourselves out with SRAM’s X0 drivetrain, we can say some things about the components, and how they behaved during the above 1.000 kilometres we put them through.
Firstly, who’s SRAM X0? Naming it the main competitor of Shimano’s XTR is the best clue we can give, and although it lacks its rival’s history, X0 caught up in no time with it regarding technology. The 2013 range particularly leaped thanks to the sprockets and the Type II mechanism of its derailleur.
The whole X0 system works zen-like, nothing but perfect harmony being the terms to describe it. Put side by side with the XTR, it’s a bit more responsive, though noisier in the same time, but at least as accurate. Actually, it’s quite difficult to set things apart in regard of the latter matter since both sets work with an accuracy that would make a watchmaker envious.
A technical difference is present, however, which helps the X0 in muddy conditions. SRAM went for a 1:1 ratio, while Shimano chose a 2:1 one, options translated into common English as the ratio between millimetres of cabble pulled by the lever and millimetres of derailleur movement. This would have to make the X0 derailleur shift faster, but the difference is hardly noticeable.
Both the front and the rear derailleurs perform accordingly to their level. The only mishappening occured in the case of the front one, when the chain fell off the crankset during the shift from the big to the small chainring. The rear derailleur is fitted with the Type II technology, which makes chain slap a thing of the past, at least in most situations. It also helps block the derailleur’s cage in a fix position, unmounting the rear wheel becoming easier. Another difference between the Type II and Shadow Plus technologies is that the first can’t be engaged or disengaged, as it’s integrated in the construction of the X0 derailleur.
Passing on to the crankset, we noticed the carbon arms, which help provide a higher stiffness, but it doesn’t give the X0 the edge over XTR when speaking about weight. Even more, X0 losses the weight war by 130 grams. Otherwise, the stiffness is impressive, and so are the finishing touches of the component which features a 42-teeth and a 28-teeth chainrings. Connected to a 10-speed cassette, which has sprockets running from 11 to 36 teeth, the gear ratios have all you need to climb steep offroad uphills. If you plan to take your mountain bike on the road, don’t expect to reach a high top speed, however.
The shifters have the same glossy looks as the rest of the drivetrain, which is not necessarily the best news because scratching the components is a real danger. Therefore, it’s indicated to use a pair of clipless pedals if you want to avoid ruining your crankset. Coming back to the shifters, they are very easy to actuate, and the display is simply wonderful. The two-way release function would have made them even better, but at least you can adjust the lever so it can always be in reach of your thumb. Further regarding the levers is the fact that shifting to a higher gear is possible only one cog at a time, while shifting to a lower one can be done passing over 4 cogs at a time. Theoretically, you can shift up 5 cogs, but that would require quite a long thumb.
All in all, the SRAM X0 is an interesting alternative to Shimano’s XTR. Despite the fact that it weighs more, it has a nicer look, but this is finally a personal opinion. Edges regarding actual performance include a faster shifting speed, stiffer crank arms, and the Type II technology which blocks the cage and makes the unmounting of the rear wheel easier. So, it’s quite a good option for cross-country racing, and all-mountain rides, and for adrenaline junkies, there is the downhill X0 DH groupset.
System tested: 2×10 speed
Rear derailleur: 233 grams (medium cage)
Front derailleur: 128 grams
Crankset: 675 grams (w/o GXP, with GXP: 760 grams)
Shifters: 223 grams (pair)
GXP: 85 grams
Sprockets not included!