When SRAM released their 12 speed Eagle group in both XX1 and X01 formats, emotions, forces, and opinions from across the globe were awakened. For better or worse? It’s for you to decide, but should you need further persuasion or want your opinion heard (and have about 57 minutes of time to spare), you can look at the seemingly unending stream of comments that follow Eagle’s release article on Pinkbike. My favorite, which pretty much sums it all up is “I’m just here for the comments.” This article, however, is not about opinion. If you want our opinion about Eagle, it can be found HERE. If you want facts, they’re outlined below.
- The Eagle 10-50 tooth cassette has a 500% range
- SRAM will no longer produce front derailleurs for their mountain groups
- Eagle drivetrains are not backwards compatible in any way (the exception being SRAM’s direct mount cranksets, which will still require a new Eagle chainring)
- XX1 and X01 drivetrains are functionally the exact same (the differences are in minimal weight gains and finishes)
- XX1 is designed to be SRAM’s flagship XC drivetrain, whereas X01 is aimed at more aggressive gravity riders.
What does having a “wide range” even mean and is it for me?
Put simply, having a “wide range” means that you can have both a really hard gear AND a really easy gear (including everything in between). Not only will you be able to pedal your bike to speeds above 30 miles per hour, you’ll also be able to ride your bike up a wall should you choose to. Previously, SRAM’s 11 speed drivetrains consisted of a 10-42 tooth cassette (420% range). In moving to the Eagle groupset, another gear has been added to make it a 12 speed cassette that goes from 10-50 teeth (a 500% range).
Regardless of what drivetrain you’re currently on, SRAM‘s new Eagle group hosts a range that’s bigger than any other 1x system on the market. Though it doesn’t have more range than the bigger 2x systems, it comes incredibly close—so close in fact that it’s less than a single gear jump on a 2x setup. 8 speed superfans and many other folks have used “I have a bigger range with my current non-1x setup” as an excuse for not going to a 1x system. No longer is this a valid excuse, especially when considering that 1x is becoming THE standard on mountain bikes and is also making considerable headway in the road department.
A quick perusal of any online forum reveals a staggering amount of bikes that “work just fine,” as if that was reason to stop the wheels of progress and remain happy with what we have instead of creating an even better riding experience. After all, hardtails and elastomer suspension “worked just fine” once. And now, without an argument against the range of a 1x system, it’s time to move forward.
The question that likely still needs answering: Why go 12 speed?!
Switching from your 2x or 3x system accomplishes a number of things:
- Saves the weight of front derailleurs, extra chainrings, and heavier cranksets
- Ultra simple, with only one shifter and derailleur
- Bigger range than any other 1x system (incredibly comparable to bigger 2x drivetrains)
- Cleaner bike aesthetics
Compatibility notes about previous 1x and 2x systems:
The new SRAM Eagle drivetrain is NOT backwards compatible with any previous SRAM groups (i.e. SRAM NX, GX, X1, X0, X01, or XX1), but here are some things to consider.
For those who currently have a SRAM 1x drivetrain, the Eagle system can still utilize a couple of bits from your current setup. You know that XD driver you already have on your wheelset? The good news is that Eagle still utilizes an XD driver to mount its cassette—no new standards here. And if you’re not already on an XD driver (aka Shimano customers), getting an XD driver for your current wheelset is not nearly as hard or expensive as you might think.
If you’re already running an 11 speed SRAM direct mount crankset, then you can retrofit your same 11 speed crankset with a 12 speed Eagle chainring to work with your new Eagle system. Doing this will save you the cost of buying a new Eagle crankset, requiring only an Eagle chainring purchase instead. SRAM 11 speed X-Sync chainrings will not work with Eagle’s 1×12 drivetrain, but an Eagle 12 speed chainring will work with an 11 speed setup.
The future looks different:
SRAM is ditching the front derailleur completely. Even if 1x doesn’t become the true industry standard, it will be a major consideration moving forward. This means that frame designers are now (nearly) free to push beyond the boundaries of designing frames AROUND a front derailleur. On top of that, with the introduction of metric rear shocks, frame manufacturers are now relatively unfettered in their design processes moving forward! What this looks like we’re not quite sure. Nobody really is. But there are certainly options, some of them including shorter chainstays, lighter and stiffer frames, and suspension designs that are more relevant to a 1x drivetrain and certainly more efficient.
We know it can be hard to keep up with the industry, thanks to the likes of Boost, 1x, metric-spaced shocks, 27.5+, blah blah blaaaaah. However, it’s not a bad thing. Nowadays, 5″ travel 29ers are doing more incredible things than 8″+ travel downhill bikes were doing 5 years ago. Not only is 1x here to stay, but we believe that it’s for the best.