For those looking to upgrade to 12-speed but want something other than the traditional SRAM or Shimano, e*thirteen should be high on your list. The e*thirteen TRSr 11 speed cassette not only weighs less than XX1, but gives you 11% more range! A pretty solid option for sure, check out this customers review to learn more.
I built up my 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower about a month before SRAM released their Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and have always had a bit of gear-range envy since then. Running a SRAM 10-42 11-speed cassette, I've occasionally wished for both a slightly lower bail-out gear on super-steep climbs and a slightly taller top gear for some of the wide open, fast descents we've got here in the Rockies. But replacing my entire drivetrain with X01 Eagle would cost too much, while GX Eagle would weigh quite a bit more than my current setup. Plus, either one would force me to give up my beloved Shimano 11-speed shifter, whose action and ergonomics I like much better than SRAM's triggers.
So when e*thirteen came out with their TRS 9-46 cassettes, it got my attention. I could keep my 11-speed derailleur and shifter, get even MORE range than Eagle, and actually come out weighing less than if I switched to SRAM's top-of-the-line Eagle group. Score! After patiently waiting for my old cassette to finally wear out (I have to say, SRAM's cassettes are pretty freakin' durable), I finally pulled the trigger on the TRSr cassette a month ago. Worldwide Cyclery's price was great, delivery was fast, and hey, they sponsor the MTBPodcast too. What's not to like?
And what do I think of the e*thirteen TRSr 11 speed cassette, now that I've got one?
Having a 511% gear range is awesome! I'm running it with a 30t Absolute Black oval chainring up front, which gives me low enough gearing to climb up just about anything and a tall enough high gear to not spin out on fast descents (yeah, I'm one of those guys that likes to go fast - I pedal on the downs).
While I'm not a weight weenie, I believe in saving weight when it doesn't compromise durability. The TRSr comes in 50g lighter than a top-of-the-line XX1 Eagle cassette. 'Nuf said.
The initial install took me a little while, just because I wanted to read the instructions, have a good look at everything, and be extra careful to make sure the parts seated correctly. I received the older lockring-based cassette rather than their newer pinch-bolt design, but I don't think that part makes a big difference one way or the other. If you're not familiar with e*thirteen's design, the cassette comes in two pieces - you first install a cluster of the largest 3 cogs and cinch that down onto your SRAM SD freehub, then the second 8-cog cluster locks onto that via some slots and tabs between the two. Greasing the tabs and slots where they connect is important (both for assembly and to keep it from creaking), then you just make sure everything's lined up and give it a twist with a chain whip. It's a bit unnerving the first time you put a bunch of force on it to get it to click together - no one wants to bend some little metal tab on a $300 cassette - but it's designed well and machined to pretty tight tolerances, so it fits together just fine. I've had to remove it and reinstall it twice since then to swap wheels due to a broken rim, and that only took a few minutes each time.
On my first ride, I was a little disappointed with the shifting - it wasn't as smooth as my old SRAM XX1 cassette. Not terrible, mind you, just a little clunky. After a few rides, however, that pretty much went away. I'm not sure if the chain and cassette "bedded in" to fit together better, or if the different ramping of the cogs just requires that you let off the power at a slightly different point and I've gotten accustomed to that. Either way, the shifting is now very good. I do still get a clunky shift somewhere in the middle of the cassette every once in a while, but that's very rare.
So far, so good. I've had no issues, and everything runs quietly and shifts well. I expect I'll have to replace the large 3-cog cluster as the big cog wears down, but at least e*thirteen sells that separately so you don't have to buy a whole new cassette. It's just a question of how many miles I'll get from it before that happens.
For those that are wondering about fiddly details, I'm running the TRSr cassette with a Shimano XTR RD-M9000 SG derailleur and XTR SL-M9000 shifter. My buddy has one running with SRAM XX1 11-speed components and has been happy with its performance too. Getting a 511% gear range just by buying a new cassette is a fantastic upgrade! And if you don't want to drop the coin on the TRSr, the TRS+ is cheaper, has the same range and is still lighter than the Eagle XX1 cassette!