February 18, 2010

SRAM XX thoughts

I know, I know, I’m about a year late with this. But I am finally getting serious interest from customers in putting XX on their new bikes, so when Craig asked for my take, I thought I’d type it up and use it as a blog post.

My take is that if the goal is to move away from making lots of front derailleur shifts (which suck) then it’s good – with a 26 or 28 or whatever as your smallest ring, it should be easier to shift up and down, as well as harder to suck the chain, all things being equal, as compared to a 3x drivetrain.

On the other hand, if the goal is to save weight, it’s stupid – replacing a 22t aluminum chainring and 4 bolts (assuming you’re being a weight weenie about it) only saves you maybe 30g. Adding a big fat 36t cog adds at least that much, especially when you consider that you could get the same gear ratio with a 22t in the front and a 28t in the rear. A fancy 11-28 road cassette would be way, way lighter than an 11-36 (especially if you used all the silly machining tricks they’re doing on the XX cassette). Couple that with a 22/32/42 or whatever, and you’ve got a huge range of gears at a very light weight. But you have to shift the front end a lot, which is a bummer.

The direction they’re going, though, which I think is a good one, is eliminating the front derailleur altogether. Lots of racers (and other folks) already run 1×9 with 32t or 34t cassettes – 36t will allow more people to ride without a front derailleur (or shifter) which is a pretty huge weight and performance (no front shifting!) advantage.

Of course, only some folks are fit and/or masochistic enough to want to run a 1x whatever. 36t is not *that* much less gear than the 34t that we’ve got now (about 6%) so it’s not going to convert every weekend warrior to a single front chainring. But it will somewhat increase the capability of the single ring setup, which is great. The price, though…whew! I’m not about to drop 300 clams on a cassette!

I have no particular feedback about the brakes, since I have yet to even see them, and as far as I know, they’re just really nice light standard Avid disc setups. I’m guessing they’re great, but nothing really exciting. Likewise the XX fork lineup.

So bottom line: good stuff and a step forward, but not worth buying until the ideas trickle down to cheaper stuff, unless you’re loaded and have to have the newest thing. I think you’ll see 10speed XX-like versions of XO and X9 next year, that’s what I’d probably get.