In 2016, SRAM shook the mountain bike industry by releasing the very first 1x12 drivetrain. The world would now be open to SRAM Eagle but it was only available in two options: X01 and XX1. As you could imagine, the industry went wild and just about everyone that could make the investment did so immediately. This left a large portion of the market untouched as the prices were not exactly favorable towards a majority of the riding community. Let’s be honest, not everyone has over $1,000 to be dropping on a drivetrain overnight. As months went by, SRAM had been cooking up something good and would release a more affordable version of the Eagle Drivetrain. In June of 2017, SRAM introduced the GX Eagle drivetrain and to no surprise, it took over the market for months to follow. This more affordable drivetrain would only cost $495 with cranks and $375 without cranks. Quite a big difference in price!
Although the introduction of SRAM’s GX Eagle Drivetrain converted a lot of customers from their 2x10 and 1x11 drivetrains, there was still a few issues that held serious problems for many riders. The first problem was the XD freehub body that SRAM has been known to use on their most modern drivetrains. The issue with the XD driver was that not every hub on the market had replacement freehubs that a rider could easily swap out. This was most commonly seen on most stock bikes with generic OEM hubs. Another issue was still the price. Although the cost was almost cut in half when releasing the GX groupset, many people still could not afford it.
As an answer for these problems, SRAM has now released the 4th version of Eagle and introduced the SRAM NX Eagle Drivetrain. This groupset has cut the cost of converting your bike to a 1x12 setup for the cheapest value possible. That is $375 USD for the entire kit and $270 USD excluding the crankset. Aside from sporting a lower cost, the cassette would not require the proprietary XD freehub that had cursed so many riders over the past two years. The SRAM NX Eagle cassette features a standard mount for a 7/8/9/10 speed freehub body. This will make it compatible with nearly every bike on the market. NX will still be compatible with any existing Eagle drivetrain. Yes, that means if you have an XX1, X01 or GX kit on your bike right now, then you can swap out the parts and still have everything work the way it was intended. More importantly, if you want to run Eagle but have been limited to your freehub design, then you can install the NX cassette and any other Eagle components you may want.
With the intention of cutting the price down so drastically, there were a few sacrifices made to the drivetrain. The most notable being the weight, color and overall aesthetics of the product. You won’t see any fancy colors or elaborate machining with any of the SRAM NX Eagle components. With a few small parts being constructed from plastic rather than metal, it is obvious that this groupset is intended to cut cost and really embody the idea of an entry level 12-speed drivetrain.
SRAM’s engineering team has been challenging the standards of the bike industry for a while now and to fill you in on recent changes, SRAM released a new Bottom Bracket Spindle Interface: DUB. Released only a few months ago, DUB has single-handedly shifted everything we know about the mechanics of bottom brackets and spindle sizing. If you are interested in reading about DUB you can click here. To no surprise, SRAM has installed DUB on the NX Eagle crankset. That means no BB30 or GXP options are available as those will soon be discontinued. Moving on from the spindle diameter, we go to the chainring. The NX Eagle chainring will still feature the X-SYNC 2 chainring that has been designed around the Eagle drivetrain to work perfectly. You can still run other branded chainrings but it is highly recommended to stick with the X-SYNC 2 that is designed for this drivetrain. The crankset is also compatible with SRAM’s Direct Mount system that can be seen on all other models of Eagle cranks. This leaves us with the crank arms themselves. These are made out of 6000 series forged aluminum and are available in 165mm, 170mm, and 175mm crank arm lengths. For weighing in at only 705g, this crank is hard to beat when it comes down to price and length options.
The actual part we make contact with held true to SRAM's legacy and has a spitting image of its relative trigger shifters. At first glance, you may not even notice that it is marked as NX. This shifter can be used with every model of Eagle derailleur for a fraction of the price ($42 USD). Eagle has created what many would argue as a smoother and more precise shifting experience backed by its reliability. Even for an entry-level shifter such as the NX series, it holds true to the design. The shifter is also available in an E-MTB specific Eagle™ shifter option, which limits the pull lever to a single engagement. The shifter is also available with the Matchmaker™ X Clamp. Keeping the weight and cost down, the NX shifter features a plastic trigger that resembles the feel and structure of the alloy version in the higher end versions of Eagle. The trigger shifter only weighs in at 112g!
SRAM introduces a completely new rear derailleur that will still feature their proven 1x-specific X-HORIZON™ design to better accommodate the 11t cog featured on the new cassette. A 14-tooth lower pulley easily facilitates 11- to 50- and 10- to 50-tooth cassette capacity, and also adds to NX Eagle’s overall smooth-pedaling feeling you experience while riding. No shortcut was taken and the derailleur has been designed to match its predecessors with the Type-3 ROLLER BEARING CLUTCH™ that provides quiet, consistent performance, and durability. This NX Eagle derailleur will also feature the notorious Cage Lock™ design SRAM has become so popular for incorporating into their derailleurs. Not bad for such a cost-efficient derailleur that weighs 339g.
Causing the biggest issue when upgrading to Eagle was the XD freehub design. SRAM has introduced the NX Eagle cassette as being the first 12-speed cassette they have to offer that does not feature the XD freehub. Instead, the PG-1230 will feature the standard 7/8/9/10 speed freehub body, or Shimano freehub as many know it by. With the XD freehub body not featured, it would have been nearly impossible and almost impractical to feature a 10t small cog. Instead, the cassette will have an 11t small cog and still top out at 50t, giving you that dinner plate that everybody loves. It won’t make you scream in terror looking at the scale either. The cassette only weighs 615g. With the idea of E-Bikes becoming more popular, the PG-1230 cassette was built tough and ready to take some abuse.
What good is a drivetrain without a chain? No good. No good at all. The NX Eagle chain is completely compatible with all other versions of Eagle and will continue to provide smooth and efficient shifting. Eagle™ PowerLock® chain connector with FLOW LINK™ technology provides better chain-guiding and increased longevity. The NX Eagle chain only weighs 278g. Matched with an eagle chainring, you bet this puppy will last you a while.
Yes, SRAM has now trickled down their 12-speed technology into a very price friendly, entry-level option. First released was XX1, followed by X01, then GX released last year, and now NX Eagle. Fully backwards and forwards compatible with all other Eagle drivetrains, the NX Eagle really makes 12-speed affordable for all mountain bikes. The biggest difference between NX and the other Eagle groupsets is the cassette, which follows the NX 11-speed trend of using an 8/9/10 freehub body. This makes it very compatible with lots of bikes on the market. An 11-50t cassette still gives you the massive range of Eagle, but with the ability to set it up on a larger number of wheels already out there.
From the shifter to the derailleur and everything in between, the technology stays the same from XX1 down to NX. This means you will get the same awesome performance you expect from a SRAM Eagle drivetrain.
NX Eagle Shifter: $42 USD
NX Eagle Rear Derailleur: $107 USD
NX Eagle Cassette: $100 USD
NX Eagle Chain: $26 USD
NX Eagle Crankset: $105 USD
NX Eagle 5 pc group: $375 USD
NX Eagle 4 pc group (without crank): $270 USD
The NX four-piece group is a great way to upgrade your bike to 12-speed. With lots of companies making a 12-speed compatible chainring, you can give your bike one or two more speeds without putting a dent on your wallet.
Installation followed suit with all other Eagle groups, easy and smooth, as every part is designed to be used as a package. While our shifter came with a band style mounting option, there will also be a MatchMaker version as well.
At first, when riding it around the parking lot, the shifting actuation is as smooth as can be. Without looking down, it would be hard to tell if you are on GX or NX. In fact, it’s very close to the way X01 and XX1 feel, just with an aluminum shift paddle.
Once on the trail, NX Eagle performed flawlessly. Not once did I have any money shifts (the ones that sound like they cost you money), nor did I notice the 11t cog vs. the 10t cog in the cassette on other Eagle drivetrains. I’m sure in certain situations that would be noticeable but with my local trails the 11-50t range was perfect. One thing to note is how quiet the drivetrain is. It carries the familiar Type 3 clutch on the rear derailleur (same as other Eagle family) and the X-Sync 2 chainring, so it keeps the chain and derailleur smooth and quiet.
The first impressions are good, as a matter of fact, they are great! For a drivetrain that is so affordable, you are really getting high-end technology. I would be hard-pressed to notice the difference between the levels in the Eagle family. And the best part is they are all interchangeable. You can now run a GX group but with an NX cassette to fit on your 8/9/10 freehub. Or if you want an XX1 crank and chain, but NX shifter and derailleur, you can do that!
I often invest a little more money in a shifter and to save some money for a more value-driven derailleur as I tend to rip those off. Now NX Eagle is a great option to replace a derailleur or chain when that time comes.
I can't wait to get more time on this group and really push it for a long-term test. It's looking like a real winner in my book!