SRAM X01 Drivetrain Review (2014)

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After riding a couple of times a bike equipped with the SRAM XX1 drivetrain, it instantly struck me that this is a concept that’s here to stay. But a minor contradiction occured after I tested the X01 drivetrain, more specific what will become of the XX1 now that this option is present on the market? They both are similar in terms of performance, and in terms of weight, but the X01 claims victory by its lower price. So, for which should I go?

That’s a tricky question, to begin with. In a logical prediction of things to come, SRAM will probably further trickle down technology to the point that we might expect a drivetrain like the X91, X9’s one-chainring version. Which will be more clumbsy when put on the weight scale, but which will undoubtedly claim less from your wallet. Anyway, lesser than X01 does. Therefore, this latter drivetrain will fall in the stance of the 150-gram-saving component with carbon arms and, let’s be honest about it, probably a nicer design.

The X01 one-chainring drivetrain reigns supreme on enduro mountain bikes, with the implication that it simplifies the whole process of picking the right gear, doesn’t require as much maintenance, and can work just as well as any other drivetrain without a chainguide. The teeth of the chainring have a special design that keeps the chain stuck to them, regardless of the terrain type you ride on. Really regardless of the terrain you ride on, as I can fully confirm it!

I won’t stress too much the 1×11 drivetrain’s advantages, because we’ve been there before, so I’ll stick to the actual description of SRAM X01’s performance.

Fitted with a 34-tooth chainring, the version I rode represented the middle one. If you’re about to tackle a hilly course, you’d better go for the 32-tooth one and if you’re a rookie and you know it, then the 30-tooth chainring would stand as the best choice for you. For guys and chicks feeling lucky and strong, SRAM prepared the 36- and 38-tooth chainrings, though you’d probably want to thoroughly prepare your legs for them. Anyway, if you intend to switch the chainring, you won’t have to remove the crankarms as well, thus facing a more simple process.

As for the gear ratio, the 32-tooth chainring and the 42-tooth sprocket helped me overcome steeper sections and it’s especially proper for those of you who use the small chainring of a double or triple crankset when climbing such demanding trails. If I were to compare, the 32-42 ratio requires a little more power from you than a 24-36 one.

Shifting works as fast as in the case of the XX1, despite the fact that SRAM claims that XX1 is in fact faster. Actuating the derailleur was a GripShift lever which helps it run up and down the cassette much faster than a regular lever would, but the latter carries the advantage that you won’t risk shifting unintended when crossing different obstacles or when squeezing the handlebar. The rear derailleur works with clockwork precision and determination, and everytime you command it to run on another sprocket, it follows orders like a die-hard trooper. You can feel and hear everytime it moves, thus adding to the feeling of reliability. The Type II technology is here to prevent chain slap and to easen unmounting the rear wheel through the possibility to block the carbon cage in a certain position. Also note that the 2 pulleys have each 12 teeth.

Last, but not least, the sprockets have a similar construction with the XX1 ones, are offered in the 10-42 cassette format, but are 15 grams heavier. If you’re a weight weenie, you’re probably already looking for another cassette, but if you’re a budget-limited weight weenie, the more you inspect it, the more you like it.

Conclusion

SRAM X01’s appearance on the market can’t be named a surprise, no matter how you look at the problem, and neither are its performances. It shifts fast and accurately, doesn’t make any noise, it’s light and it embodies the next step for avid moutainbikers. However, if you’re just taking your first steps onto the mountainbike scene, you’d probably be better off with a 30- or 32-tooth chainring.

Otherwise, the X01 single-chainring drivetrain represents a fine alternative to double-chainring drivetrains, earning extra credit by the simplicity and efficiency of the concept. Differences aren’t so big between the XX1 and X01, namely in terms of price, of 150 euros, and in terms of weight, of 70 grams. Still, compared to a Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain, the X01 is nearly twice as much regarding the financial side, but almost 500 grams lighter than the Japanese rival.

Weight figures:

X01 Crankset: 655 grams
1×11 X01 Rear Derailleur: 252 grams
GripShift Shifter: 91 grams
Sprocket cassette: 275 grams
Chain: 252 grams (114 links)

MSRP: 1.034 euros

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