SRAM Apex Shift/Brake Lever [Rider Review]

Our "Rider Review" article series features the honest reviews from verified purchasers of Worldwide Cyclery. They contain the photos, thoughts, feedback & overall review you are looking for.

With gravel bikes becoming more and more popular, SRAM drivetrains have become a go to for integrating a MTB drivetrain with drop bar levers. Not only are you getting the classic drop bar positions, you're also getting the mountain bike gearing. See what this customer thinks about their SRAM Apex setup!


In preparation for my upcoming retirement in early 2024, I started a project to build a new bikepacking rig from the ground up in December 2023. After a lot of gravel riding, I was convinced that a drop-bar bike was for me, but the mountain biker in me told me I wanted modern mountain bike standard equipment: boost spacing, 29” inch wheels, and most importantly, a mountain bike 1x12 drivetrain with a wide-range 50 or 52t cassette for hauling my gear (and rear) up epic climbs!

After a lot of research, I settled upon the Salsa Cutthroat frame, which has been a favorite of Tour Divide riders for some time. I ordered the frameset, and it arrived just before Christmas, and the selection of components began! Having a great deal of firsthand experience with SRAM Eagle on other bikes I own, both mechanical and AXS, I was convinced that I wanted to go with Eagle on the backend of my new rig.

I struggled a bit with the decision to go mechanical vs. AXS, but the thought of being out in the boonies and having an electrical issue that I could do nothing about led me eventually to gravitate to mechanical. With that decision made, I next started researching the drop bar shifters and soon realized that I was entering the mystical realm of the so-called “mullet drivetrain.”

For the uninitiated, “mullet” in this usage refers to a hybrid groupset that combines a mountain bike derailleur and wide-range cassette with road bike shifters. It works in the same way as a regular road/gravel or mountain bike drivetrain, but only if the cable pull ratios of road shifters and mountain bike derailleurs are the same… Easy enough, right?

Well, it turns out that getting the cable pull ratio in a road shifter to match what the Eagle derailleur needs was not so easy, not so long ago. In fact, there was enough demand for these types of configurations, with no support from the likes of SRAM and Shimano as the gravel craze that resulted in the XPLR and GRX gravel-specific groupsets unfolded, that enterprising companies were producing and selling “conversion kits” consisting of a derailleur cage upgrade and 12s shifter ratchet replacement for SRAM 1 x 11 drivetrains, making them compatible with SRAM Eagle 12-speed cassettes.

That seemed a little dark and scary to me. I have had for years a very capable gravel bike with SRAM Rival 1 x 11s that has worked flawlessly, but the Frankenstein approach did not appeal. My experience with Eagle 12s cassettes and derailleurs had me convinced that there must be a better path.

Enter the latest iteration of the SRAM Apex Shift/Brake Levers! What is new and different about these is 12-speed for use with Apex XPLR and Eagle mechanical derailleurs—precisely what I was seeking in an off-the-shelf solution! I reached out to the good folks at Worldwide Cyclery for some confirmation and a little advice on the front end of the drivetrain (crankset), which presented its own technical challenges, and of course got a same-day detailed response (thanks Aidan!) and I was off and running, placing an order for left and right shifters with the included hydraulic brakes to complement the RaceFace Turbine crankset that I selected for my 40t chainring up front.

As usual, Worldwide had them in stock at the best price, and the shipping was fast. Installation of the SRAM Apex Shifter with the Eagle GX 12-speed derailleur and SRAM XG-1275 GX Eagle 12-Speed Cassette, 10-50T was a breeze, and immediately I found the DoubleTap, zero-loss shifting was as smooth as the Eagle mechanical and AXS I had on my flat-bar mountain bikes.

I also really liked the changes to the hood shape and overall ergonomics of the Apex versus the older Rival system I have on the gravel bike. I have larger hands, and the Apex definitely accommodates that and provides more options for hand positions.

Final Thoughts

I could not be happier with the choice of the new SRAM Apex shift-brake system on my new rig! Since the build was finished a few weeks ago, I have taken her on a few rides with differing degrees of technical terrain, and I am ecstatic with the performance of the Mullet drivetrain. Looking forward to a lot of bikepacking adventures to come.


April 04, 2024

Apex › brake lever › Drivetrain › Gravel Bike › Rider › SRAM ›

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