In this review, customer Richard Jacob goes into detail about his experiences receiving the Sram XO1 Eagle drivetrain from Worldwide Cyclery, installation of the complete groupset, first ride impressions, and long term review. Sram continues to push the limit of value and performance with their drivetrain systems and the XO1 Eagle groupset seems to do just that. Let's check out Richard's review!
About me: I’ve been riding for 30 years, starting with a steel Jamis Dakota with a steel fork, currently splitting my time between an Evil Insurgent and an Intense Tracer. I ride 20 to 40 miles a week, depending on my work schedule. I build my own bikes, because the shops here are not well equipped for bespoke assembly to my tastes, but, more importantly, because I like doing it and derive satisfaction and peace from the process.
This is a review of the new SRAM X01 Eagle 11 speed drivetrain, which includes the cassette, rear derailleur, single shifter, and chain. Everything arrived quickly and intact. The install was done on a new 2016 Evil Insurgent frame. Installation required the SRAM XD driver freehub body. The cassette went on first - nothing special here, although it is lovingly machined and pleasantly light despite being as big as a dinner plate. It slid right on, and tightened up with a standard cassette tool. The shifter and derailleur went on just as quickly. I visited an online tutorial from SRAM on setup (YouTube) to get a quick refresher, since I’ve been a devoted Shimano user for the last 20 years, and set out to install the chain and tune everything up. If you are unsure if SRAM Eagle will work on your bike, I recommend checking out the blog "Will SRAM Eagle Work on Your Bike."
A quick note here: SRAM has foregone any instructions in the box, and just includes a link to their website, which is pretty busy and has a whole bunch of PDFs and technical information. I easily found a YouTube video for the setup. Second note: derailleur setup has gotten incrementally easier over the last couple decades. When I started tinkering and building my own bikes years ago, it was akin to voodoo, and often took weeks of jiggling barrel nuts and fussing with cables to get everything to shift just right. More recently, the process has been simplified, and shifting has really improved with the last two generations of Shimano XT, with a nice bonus of requiring very little fine tuning to keep it running smoothly for months or even years at a time. With the new 12 speed, I decided to shift my corporate loyalties to SRAM for a while and see what they’ve been up to for the last few years.
I’m glad I did. First, I had everything tuned in roughly 15 minutes. Click shifter to highest gear, set upper limit to match the 10 tooth cog, install cable, trim it, install chain, set inner limit, and set the B screw with the little red plastic guide. The only real negative was the consistently irritating habit every corporation has of excluding one key piece of the puzzle, in this case, the little aluminum ferrule that you put on the trimmed cable to keep it from fraying. Seriously, SRAM, it’s probably less than a penny to throw one of those in there, and that’s just cheap, especially after you put everything in those nice boxes and charged a hefty premium for it all. Otherwise, there’s little to complain about. The whole process took maybe an hour and a half, and I wasn’t in any tearing hurry. Obviously, it helps to have a work stand and the appropriate metric hex keys, and you need to make sure that you have a way to mount the shifter on the bars (it’s just the pod, but if you have guide brakes or the appropriate match-maker thingy, it should pop right on - I have guide brakes, and there’s a single screw to mount it to a little tab on the bracket).
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, or, in this case, the test ride, so off I went for an 11 mile loop. I brought my multi-tool, but it turned out I didn’t need it. I made a 1/2 turn adjustment of the barrel nut (out, to improve up-shifting which was just a tiny bit sluggish) about halfway through the ride, but otherwise, I just cleaned the sticky lube off the chain and put White Lightning on it before I rode. The shifting is phenomenal - it’s as good as anything either of our corporate overlords at SRAMano have come up with in the last decade. It’s different than the competition, in that it requires a tiny bit more effort to activate the shifter, and, of course, it’s all thumb (up and down shift levers go the same direction, and are activated with the thumb, versus up-shifting with the index finger). That extra effort is rewarded with a very distinct tactile noise reassuring you that you got it just right. The transition was seamless and I quickly became a fan. It’s very hard to lazily half-shift a gear, causing what I’ve heard called a ‘ghost shift’ a few seconds later (not really a good practice to blame a spirit for your own slothful digits, but whatever). Every shift was positive, immediate, and largely unaffected by load or chain tension. The range is exceptional, and if you haven’t ridden the 12 speed, you owe it to yourself to give it a try if you are in the market for a new drivetrain - it’s not just the extra gear, although the 50 tooth big ring feels like it could climb a tree, but the spacing is really optimized, with very subtle graduations between each gear lending the whole thing a very smooth and polished feel. It feels expensive (which is, I guess, a good thing, because it really is kind of pricey), and there seems to be a lot of quality and serious engineering going on in here.
I now have over 500 miles on this drivetrain, and have not touched it since the shakedown cruise. It shifts as close to perfectly as anything I’ve ever driven or ridden (including cars). I have, on at least two occasions and with minimal prompting, started extolling loquaciously about its virtues at the trailside. So, in summary, it’s expensive, but it shifts fabulously, stays tuned, appears durable, and it’s a distinct improvement over its predecessors, so it’s worth a look and test ride if you are in the market for a new drivetrain. Stay tuned for more reviews on the carbon Descendant crank and NEXT 35mm handlebars.