Published Somedays

SRAM XX1 ... It goes to 11 ... It's one easier

(updated: Aug 9, 2013)

So I upgraded to SRAM XX1 (11-speed) from SRAM XX (10-speed). Why?

Well, that's because most blokes, you know, will be climbing at 10. You're on 10 here, climbing all the way up, all the way up, all the way up the mountain, you're on 10 on your bike. Where can you go from there? Where? Nowhere. Exactly. What SRAM did was, if you need that extra push up the mountain, you know what you do? Put it up to eleven. One easier.

Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

Seriously. I love 11-speed. I'll tell you why ... For one thing, you can get grip shift. This alone is a big improvement over trigger shifters. Twist your wrist and you can run up and down the cogs faster than any trigger shifter. I don't know why they still make trigger shifters for mountain bikes. Trigger shifters are for road bikes and people that ride bike paths. Grip shift is super quick to get it into an easy gear for those unexpected short steep climbs.

It's like a throttle for your bike. Ever hear of a trigger throttle on a motorcycle?
Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

Another thing is that you get the speed of a big ring with the climbing torque of a small ring. The range on the cassette is a huge spanning 10 to 42 teeth. The cassette is now massive with its 42 tooth Aluminum "cog" in the back, the result of a SRAM employee's simple and brilliant solution: let's take the chainring from the crank arm, and move it to the back of our 10 speed cassette.

Holy hill climbing, batman! We're going vertical. 1000 feet of vert in 1000 feet.
Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

No individual cogs here. SRAM X cassettes are machined from a single piece of billet steel:
Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

Another benefit is that you no longer need a front derailleur, or a chain guide. Front derailleurs are a big pain in the ass for bike designers. That's why there are so many different types to accommodate different full suspension frame designs, and now, chainring sizes.

Ever try to order one? Top pull, bottom mount, top swing, direct mount, bottom mount, S3, e-type, chainring specific top bottom swing this, that, blah, blah, blah seat tube diameter. Holy crap! It's worse than bottom bracket standards. I hate front derailleurs. I hate them so much I don't even run one on my Masi road bike even though I have two front chainrings. People ask how I change gears. I tell them manually. Yes, I reach down and shift using my fingers. Fuck it. Get rid of it. It's about time someone did.

Good riddance. No derailleur. And no, that is not a crack in the frame, just the paint, from the stress of the front fucking derailleur operation.
Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

The 11-speed chainring is designed with alternating fat and skinny teeth. The fatter teeth have bumps on them on either side, which hold the chain on. I have had no chain drops even from repeated jumps and drops on my bike. And with a single chainring, you're not cross-chaining and weakening the chain, so there should be less chain breaks and it should last longer.

Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

The derailleur now has a clutch mechanism on it so chain slap on rough terrain is eliminated. This is a great feature. Though I will say that the derailleur kinda looks like one of those cheap ones you see on Wal-Mart bikes with the huge pulleys.

Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

Altus-style. You decide.

Back to the new cassette ... If you put this giant spinning wheel of teeth on your 29er wheel, it actually looks better proportioned than 10 or 9-speed cassettes given the size of the wheel. But if you put this cassette on a 26 in wheel, it looks ridiculous. Then you add in the bigger Wal-mart size derailleur, and you've got yourself an overpriced clown bike.

It's like 11-speed is the soulmate for the 29er bike.
Jet 9 RDO with SRAM XX1

It's come full circle .. 11-speed has made 26 inch the new clown wheels.

So now for the weight weenies ... how does it compare weight-wise to the 10-speed setup. Bottom line, you're going to save over 1/2 a pound by going to 11 speed. By getting rid of the front derailleur, chainring, a larger crank spider, shifter and associated cable, you shed grams faster than a roadie with a blank check. The cassette and derailleur weigh more, but not nearly enough to offset the parts you get rid of.

Here is my actual data:

So I think I'll be sticking with this setup for a long, long time. While I liked 10-speed, it sucked that there were so little choices out there in terms of different chainring sizes or shifters, including SRAM. And if you're still running 9-speed, which I think is still better than 10-speed simply because of all the choices that are available, there is no reason to go to 10-speed now. Just go to 11. One easier.

And finally here is the "These go to 11" clip from the movie Spinal Tap:


Filed Under: Product Reviews > North Carolina > Wilmington


1. Michael said...

I like the idea of ditching the front derailleur and simplifying the geared drivetrain. I agree with your opinion of grip shifters too, they have always been super reliable and they give me more precise shifts. On a somber note though, my Marshall amp only goes up to 10!

Aug 12, 2013 @ 7:10 PM

2. Jeff said...

You left out the part about ease of changing front ring. Kind of pricy but really easy. Also works great on single speed.

Aug 14, 2013 @ 5:59 PM

3. Robin said...

Just got back from riding Dupont and walking my bike up Black Mountain. Those XX1 drivetrains are everywhere. And also noticed a few 27.5 inch wheels rolling around.

Aug 16, 2013 @ 1:12 PM


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