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.
There are only few components that have come out recently which have changed the game. One of which can step up your drivetrain dramatically. Our friend McLain shares some thoughts on the SRAM GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit. Check it out!
While I didn’t get into mountain biking until the middle of the pandemic last year (probably like a lot of people reading this blog right now), I’ve been riding road bikes for years. I’ve also worked on my own bikes, and I’ve always hated it. Derailleur adjustment is part black magic and part art form. It’s something I’ve never gotten a taste for. Sometimes after upgrades or tune-ups, I give in and take my bike into a wizard and have them make the final adjustments. I felt the same way with my SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain from the moment I got it last year. The constant fussing and adjustment required have sapped the fun out of too many rides. But $800 to $1,000 for the previous AXS kits were just a little too far out of reach. Enter the SRAM GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit.
I went into this thinking it would only take me a few minutes to install and setting up the system and the hardest part would be pulling the old cables. But I was wrong. While there are no cables to adjust, there are still limit stops (duh), and fine-tuning the shifter action. One upside is that SRAM includes the chain gap adjustment tool, which saves you ten bucks and time waiting for it to be delivered when you realize you forgot it. But after setting the limit screws and chain slack the rest of your adjustments are done electronically, and best done on a trail so you can apply some load. I spent more than a few minutes trying to fine-tune it on the stand but realized as soon as I got on the trail I wasn’t done. BUT! Once I got the final adjustment made, that was it. I don’t need to go back a dozen rides later and adjust the cable tension. It’s set and forget, and it’s great.
Eagle GX AXS are still quite expensive compared to the mechanical GX Eagle. Looking at current prices at World Wide Cyclery the derailleur and shifter are less than $200. Compare that to $600 for the AXS kit, that's quite a premium. So this upgrade kit won’t be for everyone.
If you’re looking for validation here with the money you just spent, you won’t find it here. AXS weighs about 37% more (with no battery) when comparing the derailleurs. Using figures found online it seems that mechanical GX with housing weighs less than GX AXS derailleur alone.
When compared to X01 and XX1 the GX AXS is a great value.
So I’ve spent the last hundred or so words telling you things that are bad about GX AXS. And I knew these things before spending $600. So what the hell? I hinted at my reason for the increased weight and cost in my intro: I hate adjusting derailleurs, and I don’t think I’m alone. I’m more than willing to pay a premium for ease of use, and I got that in spades with the GX AXS Upgrade Kit.
After the initial setup, which was actually a little more time-consuming than I imagined, I finally got out on trail. After a few more adjustments I finally started to get the feel for it. Downshifting is superb. It’s super fast and engaging. Upshifting under load is about the same as the mechanical GX drivetrain, but you lose the feel you get with pulling a lever. While mechanical shifters have detents, you can still feel the whole system in your finger as you depress the lever and pull the derailleur inward. You lose that feel and finesse with an electronic actuator. But what you lose in feel you gain in micro-adjustments, so I call it a wash. I also installed the new controller lever before even getting out on the bike in order to mimic the feel of mechanical GX.
I’ve already gone over the value proposition, whether it’s worth it or not is entirely subjective. You get the same shift action, battery life, and durability as those other two, just with a little more weight. But when compared with a mechanical system, well, that’s really tough. If you’re the type of person to never work on your bike and you have no problem spending a hundred bucks here and there for a tune-up and new cables, then you’ll never see a personal benefit from it, but it may pay off eventually. For me, the amount of time, effort, swearing, and ruined rides will be worth it in the long run. I’m not the type of person to upgrade my bike every year, so I will have my GX Eagle as long as I don’t break it. Now if only SRAM could come out with a cheaper wireless dropper I’d love GX Eagle AXS even more.