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We all know it's pretty fancy to have electrictronic shifting. However, SRAM's GX AXS doesn't have the fancy price all while keeping the same performance. Our customer has been running the GX AXS setup. See what they think!
Mission-critical electronics on bikes: the concept either enrages you, thrills you, or for most people, generates some keen interest with a healthy level of skepticism. I fall into this third camp, and after seeing a screaming deal on Worldwide Cyclery for the GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit, I took the plunge into this electronic future. I’m super excited to have the promise of no cable to adjust on my derailleur, but I know if I ever find myself with a miscommunicating shifter or a dead battery, I’m going to feel like a big a**hole. Such is life.
I’ve used a combination of Shimano and SRAM derailleurs over the years on my mountain bikes. I consider myself capable when working on my bikes, and am confident in my ability to tune up a traditional cable derailleur to proper shift indexing. That being said, over time, I always end up faffing with my barrel adjuster at some point. Whether it’s the cold / hot weather swings of New England riding, natural cable stretch, or things getting bonked around after crashing scrambling up chunky rocks, my derailleur inevitably falls out of alignment. Using mental capacity on rides wondering if my cable needs more or less slack is a consistent frustration of mine. The best bike components are the ones you never think about, and at times my shifter / derailleur combo has fallen short of that.
In the pursuit of drivetrain Nirvana, I sought out the GX AXS upgrade kit to replace my existing cable GX Derailleur and GX shifter. I am currently riding on the 10-50 tooth GX Eagle Cassette as well, so the upgrade fit in easily. The GX AXS derailleur works with 10-50 or 10-52 tooth Eagle cassettes for reference. I picked up the derailleur + shifter upgrade for < $400, a big discount from the original launch price. Also included is 1 AXS battery for the mech, a 2032 shifter battery, a shifter mount, AXS battery charger, micro-USB cable, a full multitool (why?), and some red plastic battery covers.
There are many educational YouTube videos on installing Eagle AXS components, so I’ll spare you the redundancy. What I will say is that installing this kit is easy to the point of complete delight. I ride a Stumpjumper Evo Alloy with internal routing that isn’t always a treat to work on, so yanking out the housing and cable with blatant disregard was cathartic. You have to fact-check yourself after you screw in the derailleur bolt that you are indeed done and ready to move on to the shifter. Dialing in the indexing with the small buttons on these components was dead simple as well. The install and adjustment experience is a total paradigm shift for folks who are used to working on traditional set ups.
After you’re dialed in and ride around the driveway for some initial shifts, the difference in shift lever feel is what you notice next. Downshifts and upshifts in any gear require the same effort - this feels significantly more different than I anticipated. I really like the Multishift feature configurable in the app - this lets you hold the up or downshift button to shift to the easier or harder side of the cassette continuously until the button is released. Around New England we ride a lot of undulating but steep up and downs, so being able to dump into the easiest gear quickly is valuable to me. It’s nice to have the overload clutch mechanism to help with rock strikes as well. This feature moves the derailleur inboard on impact, and returns outboard about 1 second later. I’ll take the insurance policy for those inevitable rock scrapers and crashes.
As for the shift paddle, I’ve heard mixed things from people, but I like the included paddle. You can use your thumb to shift in either direction, or use your index finger to hit the back of the paddle if you like. I don’t feel a need to experiment with the add-on rocker-style paddle right now. I use integrated clamps for my dropper and this shifter with my Magura brakes, and my cockpit looks extra clean with 1 less cable, which I love. Bike aesthetics don’t really matter when you’re riding, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending to improve the look of your rig. At worst it is money not wisely spent, and at best it could motivate you to ride more and look sick doing it.
This drivetrain setup is shifting faster, easier, and significantly quieter than my all-GX setup of old. The ease of engagement at the shift paddle magnifies the smoothness here. I’m very happy with the feel of shifting with this system; it’s as advertised. I’m curious to see how long my batteries hold up across a season of riding, but my experience so far aligns with expectations of a few rides for the derailleur battery to deplete, and a new shifter battery every season.
Is this drivetrain upgrade the answer to my desire for components to disappear while riding? That’s to be determined. It’s winter in MA, and the trails around my area are iced over for now. I’m excited to put this setup through its paces when things thaw out. Inherently, I’ll have to stay on top of charging batteries, so this is not a “set and forget” solution in the truest sense. Folks should budget for a spare battery, I shoved one in my bike’s downtube storage, so I’m hopeful I won’t be riding out to the car stuck in my hardest gear…
The shifts thus far for me have been snappy, predictable, and crisp every time, and barring a dead battery or a bent derailleur hanger, I anticipate that will continue on the trail. Realistically I will need to return to this first-impression at the end of the season to update how the system fared in that time, but at first blush, I’m very happy to have ditched a cable, and with the improvement in shift quality. Two thumbs up from me.
This is for you if:
You’re a gadget head that wants to see how electronics can help you maximize shifting
You’re organized enough to not slip on charging
You like the look of internal cable routing but hate dealing with it
This isn’t for you if:
Weight is paramount to you: mechanical setups are marginally lighter, even with the cable and housing
The idea of charging your battery before you can go on a ride repulses you
You destroy derailleurs on a quasi-regular basis