2017 SRAM Eagle X01 Drivetrain – Long Term Review

Words Tim Coleman
Photos Dave Smith, Tim Coleman and Cam McRae
Date Jan 5, 2017

In March 2016 SRAM launched Eagle, its new 12-speed drivetrain named. This single chainring drivetrain is aimed squarely at high-end mountain bikes with the express purpose of exceeding the gear ratio of old double chainring drivetrains.

SRAM Eagle

All the speeds. Photo – Dave Smith

More and more bikes have followed suit with the single chainring drivetrain. SRAM has been actively working to reduce the primary negative associated with single chainring drivetrains; gear ratio range. SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain has moved to 12 speeds to accommodate a wider 10-50 tooth cassette. This gives a 500% gear range ratio, which is wider than a standard double chainring system with less weight and complexity. To accommodate the wider range there is a new dedicated shifter, derailleur, cassette and chain.

SRAM Eagle

A crazy new tooth profile is present on the Eagle X-Sync 2 chain ring. According to SRAM, this chain ring is designed to ”work perfectly with the new Eagle™ chain to increase chain retention and overall pedaling efficiency, while decreasing friction, noise and wear.” Photo – Dave Smith

In the summer we offered the chance to test a Transition Patrol Carbon with an Eagle drivetrain. I’ve been giving it a thorough thrashing through our wet fall, and it seems like the right time for an update on the longer term performance.

SRAM Eagle

What a pretty bike it is too. Photo – Dave Smith

Initial reactions to Eagle have been positive. I like that the cassette integrates with the now readily available XD driver. I haven’t had to retighten the derailleur bolt once; great applause! I haven’t dropped a chain with the Eagle drive train, and have no chain guide installed. I’m not sure if that’s due to the suspension kinematics of the Patrol or improved chain retention with the Eagle X-Sync 2 chain ring, but I would have dropped a chain a few times with the 1×11 drivetrain on my personal bike. With Eagle I can backpedal without dropping a chain or derailing too! Given the wider ratio, and bigger overall spacing with Eagle I had assumed the backpedalling issue would have been worse on Eagle than 1×11. SRAM must have tweaked the cassette and chain profile, and the results are great. The drivetrain seems quieter and smoother than my 1×11 drivetrain, especially in the wet. It’s obvious that SRAM has been listening to common complaints regarding 1×11, and slayed all of them. The Eagle drivetrain is a polished product.

SRAM Eagle

It’s been this wet and dirty this year. Here’s Rebecca Rusch’s bike (with XX1) on her ride from Rome to Riva on Eagle.

In total I’ve put in over 300 km of riding, plus some smashing under other folks here at NSMB. Most of these miles have been in horrendously wet conditions. The shifting action is light, and the shifts seem smoother than my 1×11 drivetrain. I like the increased ratio, and I can run a bigger chainring without dying on the climbs. We rarely get a long way down the cassette here on the Shore, but it’s certainly been a benefit riding in places with faster trails. Eagle seems to be less crunchy than 1×11 in the wet, and since we had one of the wettest falls on record around these parts I’ve had plenty of soggy test time. I normally get 450 km on my 1×11 drivetrains before needing to change the chain. I’d normally get 2 chains on a chain ring, and maybe 3 chains to a cassette. So far it seems the Eagle drivetrain is wearing more slowly than 1×11 drivetrains (based on my experience). I don’t have much to substantiate that at the moment, but the chain still feels tight, and I’m seeing little wear to the cassette and chainring.

SRAM Eagle

After more than 300 km of abuse in crappy conditions the chain still feels tight. You can see where the chainring contacts the chain, and there doesn’t appear to be much change in shape. Photo – Tim Coleman

I’m a bit thin on downsides, but I’ve come up with a few. First off, to pull enough chain to accommodate the large 10-50 tooth range, the derailleur cage is correspondingly longer. This means ground clearance to the derailleur in gears 3 and 4 is reduced to 110 mm. I measure this as 40 mm less than a 1×11 drivetrain, which is a significant reduction. The clutch with the Eagle drive train appears to be a non-adjustable Type 3 derailleur, and it doesn’t feel like it has a ton of resistance. That said I haven’t had issues dropping chains, and the chain doesn’t slap about in an uncontrolled manner. The total system weight of Eagle 1×12 is about 50 grams heavier than a comparable 1×11 drivetrain. However, I think the benefits mentioned above are well worth the 50 grams.

SRAM Eagle

Trails around these parts are not renowned for being smooth. Having not dropped a single chain in months of riding is a testament to the Eagle drivetrain improvements. Photo – Cam McRae

That leaves us with cost. According to the SRAM website comparable XX1 Eagle components arepriced similarly to XX1 1×11 components. X01 Eagle components are actually cheaper than X01 1×11 components. So while upgrading to SRAM Eagle is expensive for an entire groupset, one can expect Eagle to be specified on many 2017 mountain bikes.

SRAM Eagle

Eagle proved to be a smoother drive train, allowing me to focus on the trail. Photo – Cam McRae

I’ve been very impressed with the Eagle drivetrain. I’ve experienced no failures, no dropped chains, and no miss shifts. Eagle is a much more polished product than SRAM’s existing 1×11 drivetrain. Highlights are increased gear range, compatibility with existing frames/wheels, improved drivetrain performance, improved durability and equivalent cost. The only legitimate negative I have found is reduced ground clearance to the derailleur.

All in all SRAM’s new Eagle drive train is excellent, two thumbs up from me.


Considering 1×12?

Comments

0
qduffy  - Jan. 7, 2017, 11:36 a.m.

I kinda want.

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Neil Carnegie  - Jan. 6, 2017, 3:59 a.m.

Nice out of the box summary, but 300km is about 8-9 days riding for me. I'd hope my £1000+ drivetrain is still working after the first month! I know a few fast SRAM supported riders who are very wary of Eagle, precisely because of concerns over increased chain and cage length and clutch / mech durability. Time will tell if it does last I guess. Also, part replacement costs are still ferocious over here in the UK too, so if you damage your pre-equipped Eagle bike then better brace for a big bill..

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Cooper  - Jan. 6, 2017, 9:18 a.m.

Problem is… Tim lives on the shore. If you were going to ride 300km…

Thanks to the sorcery of GPS, I can say rides here average roughly 10% for climbs. And there really isn't any traversing; its up, then down. And assuming you finish where you started, EVERY ride is exactly as much climbing as descending.

So if you were going to ride 300km, that's 150km of climbing, and 15,000 vertical meters of climbing.

That's an aggressive few days.

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Neil Carnegie  - Jan. 7, 2017, 1:25 a.m.

Well, on a "normal" day riding at home, I'd do about 30km ish and maybe 15-1600m vertical height gain and drop so my 9 days out is not so terribly different I think. Home for me is the Tweed Valley in Scotland, so steep and muddy is what we have too. Someone posted a video of one of our (my) trails on here a few weeks ago titled something like "north shore in Scotland" in fact. I think I'll stand by my assertion that 300km should not be considered a long time for a top end drivetrain but f you disagree, fair enough.

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Andrea  - Jan. 6, 2017, 12:19 p.m.

I think you are kidding! My chain on 1×11 has 4'000 km and 150'000 meter of positive ascent, most of which achieved on the Alps or on quite sandy terrain. And it is still ok according to my wear gauge. With a rate of 450 km a chain I'd rather change bike rather than the drivetrain.

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Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 7, 2017, 6:38 a.m.

I live on Van Isle. Mileage here is lower as we also have steep techy terrain, but I don't think that means 12km riding here = 30kms riding drivetrain wear elsewhere necessarily. I would expect any top shelf drivetrain to be running swell after 300kms whether it's coastal BC or the Alps or Utah. A 300km review is far better than a 1 ride review at I-Bike. Just keep the reviews coming as you pile miles onto that test bike.

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krebeljm  - Jan. 6, 2017, 12:36 a.m.

300km? You call this a long term review? Is this a joke?
450 for a new chain- do you even lube it before replacing it?
I put over 2k on my cx chain, over 1.5k on my trail mtb and > 5k on my road bike chains, so I found your results funny at best.

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Tim Coleman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 8:19 a.m.

Let's go ride bud! Maybe you guys are riding places where you can easily cover more distance than here on the shore. Most folks here run 28 or 30 tooth chain rings, its tough pushing, and it's not often we get in to the second half of the cassette. A tough non-stop pinned 2 hour ride, with a 1000 m of vert, on the shore would get you 16 km, probably less in Whistler. On 1×11 top tier chains I would replace chains at 450 - 500 km, they'd be completely worn out. So far I've seen better wear with Eagle 1×12 in comparison. Your mileage may vary.

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Mike  - Jan. 6, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

I live in Nelson, so similar deal here - I run a 28 and am spun out about twice a year. Your comment also makes me wonder how badly we need this massive range on the coast/whistler and the Kootenay's.

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DrewM  - Jan. 6, 2017, 9:12 a.m.

Don't let it get you down Tim. It's hard to explain to folks that haven't ridden places like the Shore-To-Sky-&-Valley how steep and mean the riding is here.

On my single speeds I run 32:20 and 32:21 and in SS groups online it's crazy how often I've been told to harden up by guys riding a 2:1 ratios and talking about 70km days.

Yet I eat chains, rings, and cogs two, or three, or five, or ? times faster on a per hour basis covering maybe 1/4 the distance.

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Tim Coleman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 9:24 a.m.

I don't let it get me down at all, it's a unique place here! On the topic I had a funny conversation with a SRAM wrench at Crankworx a few summers ago. Buddy (who was overweight) was calling me out for running a 1×11 30 tooth chainring, which was worn out after 400 km. He said I was soft and I needed at least a 36 tooth chainring. I invited him to go for a ride, he never did take me up on that offer …

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Tim Coleman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 9:26 a.m.

The additional range on Eagle and cassettes like e13 TRS are certainly welcomed around these parts! That said I only ever use the small cogs when riding / racing in other locales or on the road to / from riding spots.

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earle.b  - Jan. 6, 2017, 10:22 a.m.

SRAM even designed and makes a ring for around here. The steel X-Sync ring. A pet project of Morland's

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Cooper  - Jan. 6, 2017, 10:50 a.m.

HARDEN UP ANDREW.

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Cooper  - Jan. 6, 2017, 11:27 a.m.

36t is great in the park.

But I'd like to see someone other than Nino pedal up to Howler with one.

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Mike  - Jan. 6, 2017, 12:29 p.m.

I'm with you - I'm just not sure it's the first, second or third thing I'd upgrade on my bike… I'd rather spend that money on a better fork, or a trip somewhere.

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Cooper  - Jan. 6, 2017, 12:54 p.m.

Wait, you'd rather have experiences instead of things?

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gg  - Jan. 6, 2017, 1:40 p.m.

Yeah the Shore will hand it to you in more ways than one.
Ridden there a few times on a bike of the same name.
Many "Oh Sh&T moments …" and kissed the ground at the end of every day.
Once bitten and lovin' it !!

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Mike  - Jan. 6, 2017, 5:19 p.m.

haha, realistically, I want it all, but yeah, if pressed I'd take an experience… Some people have more money than time, and some just like bling. I won't fault them for that…

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paulc  - Jan. 6, 2017, 7:25 p.m.

I used to ride 32×21 but have settled on 32×23 for long hilly rides in Cumberland, Campbell River and Quadra. I'm not pedalling much going down, there's not much road and I'm faster on the climbs. Makes 30+km days feasible.

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Merwinn  - Jan. 6, 2017, 10 a.m.

You aren't from around these parts are you?

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LiquidSpin  - Jan. 6, 2017, 10:13 a.m.

Please, PLEASE take Tim up on his offer to ride with him in the North Shore. I'd love to hear about it on this site 🙂

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Cooper  - Jan. 6, 2017, 10:50 a.m.

Its remarkable how flat and easy Empress appears in that photo…

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Tim Coleman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 11:45 a.m.

LOL, agreed, especially doubling over that little hole riders left of the sissy line.

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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 6:44 p.m.

He's not slow.

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Cooper  - Jan. 8, 2017, 3:39 p.m.

Fat, yes. Slow, no.

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Tim Coleman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 12:11 p.m.

For what it's worth, I also average 5,000 km on my road bike chains. And yes I do use chain lube … before every ride even!

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Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 6, 2017, 6:44 p.m.

You have to realize that we can head out for two hours and cover 12 kms. It's nothing like the riding anywhere else. And the conditions put wear into components here at a far, far greater rate. So while Tim's mileage count sounds low, I can assure you if he lived somewhere else, you could be multiplying that by a factor of 4-5, plus whatever additional factor you'd like to add for the mud and moisture we have here in the fall - especially this fall which is one of the wettest we've had in decades.

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