The SRAM XX1 12-speed rear derailleur is my first foray into SRAM’s world of high-end mountain bike components. I’ve owned Shimano XTR components exclusively since its inception in 1991, and have installed many newer incarnations of XTR on my bikes. I’ve been extremely satisfied with the functioning of my beloved XTR components; they shift under pressure while climbing with relative ease, and are easy to adjust on the fly. However, I’ve heard and read an endless stream of informative and ‘sales-pitched fanfare’ that proclaimed SRAM as the new “king-of-the-trails.” After protracted contemplation, I decided to purchase part of SRAM’s XX1 Eagle drivetrain, install it on a Yeti SB6, then take it for a whirl ‘round the rocky trails outside Phoenix.
Before I record my ride impressions, first, allow me to describe my drivetrain as it’s not exclusively SRAM Eagle.
• Crank arms: Race Face SIXC 170mm. 451.1 grams incl. spindle
• Chainring: Race Face Narrow Wide Cinch Direct Mount 32T. 69 grams
• Chain: SRAM PC XX1 Eagle HollowPin, 12 speed. 261.2 grams
• Cassette: SRAM Eagle XG-1299 XX1, 10-50T. 363.9 grams
• Rear derailleur shifter/trigger: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12 speed trigger shifter
113.4 grams incl. wires, clamp with bolt
• Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12 speed, gold. 274 grams
In terms of design execution, the SRAM XX1 Eagle is a piece of artwork conveying the finest in construction materials. The outer cage of the derailleur is carbon fiber, while the inner is aluminum. The spring is titanium and the bearings are stainless steel. SRAM incorporated a larger, 14-toothed lower pulley wheel to handle the larger cassette cog diameters, while promoting efficient operation, and it’s super easy to remove a day’s worth of caked-on crud with a brush. SRAM designed a new clutch called the Type-3 roller bearing clutch that they claim is stronger, 20% versus prior models, and stiffer so smooth, precise shifting is experienced. This derailleur shifts smoothly and effortlessly, and you’d demand that from its hefty price tag.
I was skeptical about running a 50T cog (Mega-Granny) on the rear cassette but that concern proved unfounded. In fact, it served handily when climbing steep, 22%, trail gradients as well as long climbs with average inclines. I found myself climbing routes “clean”, which I never accomplished previously without a few ground touches from my trusty foot. Yes, it was that big of a difference. The 10-50T cassette is extremely well designed in terms of functionality. I discovered the graduated cog diameters served as a perfect complement to my riding technique; I never experienced the feeling of wishing I had more, or less gearing ratios available at any given point along the climbs. SRAM’s engineering claims of having afforded riders with a 500% range of gearing coverage appears well-argued.
In terms of shifting performance, I believe the SRAM XX1 Eagle is marginally smoother than XTR when subjected to shifting under climbing loads. The XTR worked very well on its own accord, yet the Eagle was slightly smoother and shifted precisely, yet with some hesitation, to date. The days of running 2x on my mountain bikes is long gone as I killed off front derailleurs on my full suspension and fat bikes in early 2016. Furthermore, SRAM’s XX1 12 speed rear derailleur seals the front derailleur’s coffin airtight; I’m sold on 1x systems, which offer greater simplicity and weight savings versus their 2x brethren. Long Live SRAM’s Golden Eagle, the XX1. IT ROCKS MY WORLD. The Eagle Soars!