2012 Sram X0 10-speed

Photos Morgan Taylor

Test: 2011 Sram X0 10-speed group and 2011 Rockshox Revelation World Cup

Sram’s 2011 X0 10-speed group shows us what technology will be bleeding into the less expensive parts groups over the next couple years. While we often wonder what was wrong with the technology being replaced, manufacturers have to keep pushing the envelope.

I picked up the bike with 17 days to prepare for the Nimby Fifty marathon XC race in Pemberton, BC; this meant I had 6 or 7 rides before the race to dial the bike in and decide whether it was suitable for the race. Since then, I’ve been riding taking the bike out for a decent ride at least once a week for the past 3 months.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  When I picked up the test bike—a 2008 Trek Remedy—the first thing that jumped at me was how light it was. The complete package tips the scales at just over 27.5 pounds, which is about 3 pounds lighter than my steel hardtail.The Sram kit is of low weight considering its intended use—a good match for the Remedy’s mid-travel platform.

The Test Bike
This review is as much about the tuning process a bike goes through under scrutiny as it is about the parts themselves. We strive to eliminate the problems that make you mad at the bike—that do whatever they can to make you hate your bike and spend a day in the shop rather than a day on the trails. Would the X0 group and Revelation World Cup be tuned easily enough that I could race the bike after only a handful of rides, or would I go back to my trusty hardtail?

While the bike itself may not have been ideal for some of the prep riding on Fromme I did with it, that didn’t stop me from riding it on many trails that are usually braved by slacker machines. The point is to ride the bike, and what sense is there in limiting what trails you’ll ride because of the bike when the intention is to push its limits?

The Fork
Rockshox Revelation World Cup Dual Air
150mm of travel on 32mm stanchions, no travel-adjust.

These are the machines that get us up the hills significantly easier than even the majority of bikes 5 years ago… is a 3.4 pound fork part of that equation? Better yet, is THIS fork good to be a part of that equation, and will it stand up to abuse? And is it stiff enough? It weighs almost half a pound less than the competing 32mm forks. Coating marketing is all the rage and here we see the off-white Keronite, apparently good for a 20 gram savings.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  In speaking with Sram about the Revelation World Cup’s characteristics, they recommended more negative air than positive air for a plusher feel. The fork can even be set up with a bit of negative travel if you like. Photo ~ Cam McRae

When I realized the “lockout” knob could be treated like my Fox 32’s low speed compression knob, the fork’s setup solidified itself within a day. The knob has seven detents, the last of which is the lockout position. On top of the knob is a tiny little dial, which is for the adjustable blowoff—a soft lockout to your needs. This allowed me to tune the last detent of the compression adjustment to a level just stiffer than the detent before it. I have an internal hesitation about riding on stiff lockouts, and like my forks (and my shocks) to survive if I happen to blast a run with the switch in the uphill position. For this fork, it makes for a linear continuation of the compression knob in the way my Fox 32’s low speed knob works when turned all the way right.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
The Revelation World Cup is available in many variations. For one, it’s available in all of the standard axle types: 9mm QR, 100×15, and 110×20. Whatever your axle preference, you can ride this fork.

In more than a couple of instances, I’ve heard of Maxle Lites coming loose after a few rides. You can tighten the through-axle as much as you want, but after the surfaces mate you also need to tighten the quick-release lever. The symptom appears as a rattly front wheel, and I was able to catch it before any damage was caused. The solution: the Maxle has to be tightened with a not-so-intuitive—yet easy to find once you know where it is—allen screw under the QR lever when it’s open.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  My riding style is boosty, so smashing the carbon-crowned Revelation raised a few eyebrows. Big hit capability with this fork was better than I was expecting. High speed compression damping is good, and the crown-steerer is super stiff. Photo ~ Cam McRae

Regarding the longevity of carbon: realistically, if you crash your fork badly enough to put a ding in the crown, you have a close look at it and possibly take it to your local service centre for inspection. In this way, I’m not concerned to be riding a carbon crown. (Cue Niner’s video of repeatedly smashing their carbon fork with a hammer… no I’d rather not take the chance with this one!)

The Revelation World Cup is highly tuneable, but not quite as intuitive as the Fox RLC system that I had spent most of last year on. The RockShox dual air system is actually more tuneable by air pressure than the a single chamber system, but tougher to figure out. Once you get it running well, it’s a nice fork for today’s pedal-up trail bikes, and the weight currently can’t be beat.

The Brakes
X0 with G3CS rotors 203mm front / 185mm rear.
Tool-free pad contact adjustment, tooled lever throw.

My high school shop teacher taught us about brakes before anything else, on the premise that you shouldn’t be moving if you don’t know how to stop. I have spent a reasonable amount of time on a low-end version of the same Avid TaperBore technology. I have been happy with the Elixir 3s on my Fromme bike, and have got a lot of mileage out of them without much maintenance at all. The X0 brakes boast a few features over the Elixir series, so I looked forward to trying them out.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  The Keronite Revelation and X0 brakes make for a tidy package.

How do these brakes improve on previous models; why would you spend more money on them if the cheapies work?
1. pad travel adjust (lack of tool-free adjust is my main complaint about the Elixir 3)
2. when combined with pad travel adjust, lever adjustment screw works significantly better.
3. compatible with MatchMaker integrated clamp system.
4. you sometimes justify upgrades based on weight savings.

The only tool free adjustment on the X0 brakes is the pad contact point, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem once you’ve got the setup dialed to within your preferences. I like to run my brake engagement quite close to the bar, and the X0 brakes were capable of achieving this feel—much better than the Elixir 3s on my other bike.

Tuning a bike over a few rides includes setting up the parts until they work without pissing you off, in all conditions. From home mechanics to shop rats, it’s irritating when we can’t get our brakes to be quiet. It took until the fourth ride – when I finally decided to align the calipers by sight – to get the brakes to shut up and do their job quietly. Some brakes centre themselves immediately and automatically; others are a bit more finicky. Avid brakes tend to fall into the finicky category, and the X0s were no exception.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
The finicky adjustment of Avid calipers is outweighed by their lever feel and performance. It’s just a fact of Avid brakes that they like to be bled, and their “drip free” bleed kit is easy to use.

Along with this finicky adjustment comes the irritating air pockets in the TaperBore cylinders, which can leave you with a flat lever until the bubbles make their way back to the top. I’m scared to turn my bike upside down with Avid brakes on it that haven’t been freshly bled, but I like their levers’ tactile feel and the system’s modulation capability. Avid promises that they’ve sorted out a solution for this on the 2012 groups, with a bleed port on the top of the lever.

So, while Avid brakes have a history of finicky adjustments and the need for careful bleed jobs, I do like the way they work. The lever feel is good, braking power is good and easy to modulate. Everyone has different things that will bother them about particular parts, and Avid brakes are, for me, a part where the positives outweigh the negatives.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  Here on the Shore we really like our brakes. Photo ~ Cam McRae

The Drivetrain
X0 10-speed 24/38 double+bash,
X0 11-36 cassette, chain and derailleurs.
X0 carbon cranks.

The test bike was equipped with a 24/38 double+bash, not the 2×10 specific 26/39 without provision for a bash guard. While the 2×10 crank arrived during the test period, I decided not to switch it out, as I’d already been smashing the bash guard. I also liked having the bail out gear the 36 tooth cog gives with a 24 up front, and would even go to a 22 given the chance.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  Carbon cranks look nice and prove to be durable as well.

The carbon crank arms scuffed up fairly quickly under use with flat pedals. We’re all quite used to the use – wear that our aluminum cranks undergo; I suppose this is an aesthetic price to pay for the weight savings of carbon.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
Sram’s band clamp derailleur is just another factor in the group’s light weight.

Front shifting took a bit of a tweak to the derailleur to find the best performance. With a 14 tooth gap between chainrings, upshifts were not very good until the derailleur alignment and limits were adjusted. After that, though, the front derailleur did exactly what I wanted it to every time. The band clamp derailleur will only go down so far on the seat tube of Trek’s ABP Remedy, but it still seems to shift fine.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  The holy grail of rear gears for those of us who earn our turns with steep climbs, the 10-speed specific 36 tooth cog. I’d really like to see a modestly-priced 9-speed 36 tooth cassette on the market as well.

The part of this drivetrain that had me the most excited as the 10-speed specific cogset. On a bike that regularly gets pedaled up fire roads in the Fraser Valley and Old Buck on Mt. Seymour, the easier the gears the better. As it turns out, a 24/36 gear is actually more difficult to push than a 22/34. However, once combined with a 22 tooth 10-speed front, the 36 tooth cog should prove useful.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  The X0 levers and shift pods have good looks, but more importantly, good ergonomics and tactile feel.

I had to put an extra spacer under the stem in order to have the levers and shifter pods clear the top tube. This matters in the event of a crash, though it was a difference of 5mm from how the bike came to me, so no big deal.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  Durability where you need it, light-weight where you don’t: aluminum cable pull lever, plastic cable release.

Rear shifting worked quite well out of the box, which seems to be a trait of Sram rear derailleurs in my experience. Set the limits and the rest will go for many hours after a couple quick turns of the barrel adjuster.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  Bits of carbon on derailleurs do concern me somewhat, but this one hasn’t been a problem over the riding season.

Bottom line, a drivetrain must shift when you tell it to. This includes not getting into an easy enough cog at the beginning of a climb, or needing to drop to the granny under load. The X0 10-speed group does this impeccably, as long as the chain is oiled. If the chain is dry, a bit more coaxing is required than my 9-speed setups.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
   I’ve been enjoying smashing the X0 stuff all over the Lower Mainland. Photo ~ Steve Sheldon

Bonus Tech
One of the coolest things about this group tech-wise is Sram’s MatchMaker: the brake, shifter, and one more control per side is integrated into a single bar clamp. Having heard many complaints recently about seatpost and suspension controls resulting in too many clamps on the bars, Sram’s integrated clamp an answer to that complaint. Having everything on a single clamp—including your Reverb post and (Sram-friendly) suspension lockout if you so choose—really cleans up the cockpit while saving some weight at the same time.

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  Matchmaker is Sram’s name for integrated clamps, and it really cleans up the cockpit. The shifter is adjustable independently from the brake lever, so you can dial the angle of each to your preferences.

The Race
When I think about the times when perfectly-tuned equipment really matters, there isn’t a much better test than a race situation. When your body is totally done and running on autopilot, when you have to make decisions – often poor ones at that – on the fly. These are the times where you depend on your equipment to do more than just look pretty.

At race pace, you make mistakes. Wrong gear choice on climbs, bad line choices both up and down. The true test of equipment is what it can do under such uncontrolled conditions. Not to say that I wouldn’t have chosen to ride this bike off the numerous rock faces and craggy chutes I did in the race, but at race pace you decide on the fly and I had the confidence to throw myself into anything the Nimby offered – without crashing. The X0 kit performed excellent, shifting when I asked it to even under load, braking well on many of the steeper-than-XC descents.

The Nimby Fifty is no walk in the park. The Big Nimby climb, with 101 switchbacks, is an amazing way to get up the mountain. The climb is so long that you go through numerous different ecosystems along the way. In racing, something to look at beyond someone’s rear wheel on a fire road is an awesome way to get up the hill. Every time I race XC I end up cursing myself for getting into the situation where I can’t just stop and enjoy the amazing views along the way. Fortunately, the Nimby introduced me to trails I would love to go back and ride again—and next time to stop and enjoy the view…

Sram X0 2011 nsmb whistler product review test 10-speed morgan taylor
  The face of pain and suffering at the Nimby Fifty, with no time to stop and enjoy the views. Photo ~ Matthew Mallory

Final Thoughts
Since doing the primary testing for this review, I’ve ridden the Remedy all summer and the X0 group is still running excellently. The brakes work very well, especially after a fresh bleed, but the calipers do take some effort to align. I do need to remind myself that the chain likes to be lubed more often than my 9-speed bikes to maintain shifting performance.

The 2011 RockShox Revelation World Cup and Sram X0 10-speed group do look pretty. They are among the lightest on the market, with a number of race-ready features. With carbon all over the place and solid graphic design, these parts stand out. For the pedalable, lightweight 6″ bikes that are still rising in popularity, this group and fork are right in line with our expectations.

Are you on the 10-speed bandwagon yet? Have you ridden the new XO group? Do you envy Morgan’s chin fur? Speak here…


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