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Long Term Review

SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain; Over the Long Haul

Words Cam McRae
Photos Dave Smith (unless noted)
Date Jan 19, 2018

Eagle came in to the same reception most new products get these days; a hail of criticism and cries of "grow some balls" or "if you can't push a 42 get an E bike." This sort of high brow commentary generally stays on Facebook, rather than below our articles, but resistance was strong here as well. The legitimate and understandable anger many riders feel about the continuous wheel size and standard changes mountain bikes have gone through in recent years blinded them (us) to certain realities. Many of those who claimed a 50t was ridiculous missed the fact that you could put on a bigger chainring and get a better top end - you big-legged monsters! Unfortunately logic was no match for fury on social media.  

Eagle group

The first two incarnations of Eagle have surpassed expectations in almost every category. Image - SRAM

But then a funny thing happened; Eagle turned out to be really good. Not really good like SRAM's original 1x drivetrains. Substantially better than the original XX1. It is quieter thanks to an improved chain with flush pins and plates (made in SRAM's facility in Portugal), a new cassette, and a radical new chainring tooth design*. Shifting is smoother and chain retention is better because of a clutch that is 20% stronger, you can now pedal backwards without the chain derailing and the upper pulley is no longer narrow wide so it can't de-sync. The chain also has a stronger quick link (PowerLock in marketing speak) that holds things together better than before 

* Which was not the product of drunken whittling

teeth

GX Eagle shares the intricate narrow-wide tooth design of the other Eagle rings. This may look like voodoo but SRAM tells us this is all engineering designed to preserve performance and keep noise down as chain and ring age. Photo - Cam McRae

SRAM told the world that durability was a design priority, and some people were unhappy with first generation 1x longevity, but many of us have been surprised by how impressively durable and long lasting Eagle has turned out to be. Those who complained that the cage hung down too low missed the fact that it sits at about the same level as a comparable XT lower pulley.*

*we missed that too

The one legitimate complaint many riders had was all about the Benjamins. XX1 and XO1 Eagle are pricy bike bits. An XX1 Eagle cassette alone will sting you for 420 USD while XO1 is 360 USD.  While GX Eagle isn't cheap (195 USD/cassette) it's a comparative bargain, assuming it works as advertised. For some perspective, you can pick up an XTR drivetrain for 410 USD* online depending on your choices. For the same XX1 Eagle components you're looking closer to 1400 USD, XO1 will set you back 1200 USD, while a GX Eagle drivetrain can be had for 495 USD.**

*Currently out of stock in that configuration

**Note that Shimano tolerates the sale of grey market parts that have been purchased through OE channels for much lower prices while SRAM holds all retailers to the price you'd pay in your local bike shop.

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GX Eagle has been mounted on my Yeti SB 5.5 since early in the summer. 

I've put a few months on SRAM's lowest-priced and newest Eagle drivetrain. In fact I've ridden it long enough for the cranks to become obsolete. In the course of testing other bikes, I haven't spent as many hours as I'd hoped on GX Eagle, but it has given me the opportunity to compare it back to back with XO1 Eagle, which is half a step below the top of line XX1 version, on a Santa Cruz Hightower. 

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The GX Eagle Cassette is responsible for the biggest weight gain over the highest priced groups aside from the cranks. The GX version is 447 grams while the XX1 is 360g. Performance however has been indistinguishable. While not cheap, at 195 USD,  It'll save you 165 USD over XO1 and and 225 USD over XX1.

I did have one mishap with GX1. I was riding a particularly loose and loamy trail and a stick caught in my rear wheel preventing the cassette from freewheeling. This caused the chain to yank the derailleur back while pulling the cage forward as the chain became shorter. This was accompanied by the sound of a typewriter being fed into a woodchipper. I feared the worst but a few tugs allowed me to continue my ride with 8 of the twelve cogs still serviced by the bent changer. I was astounded that nothing was broken (kudos also to the hanger on the Yeti) and similarly surprised by how much force it took to bend the derailleur back to 95%. This is an incredibly strong incarnation of Tullio Campagnolo's invention. 

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The GX Eagle rear changer is about 11g heavier than the XO1. I can vouch for the GX version's strength after a mishap that would have destroyed most derailleurs I've used in the past. 

While I managed to get it to a serviceable state on the stand, I couldn't bend the parallelogram back to perfect so it was replaced by an XO1 for a time. I immediately noticed there was nothing to notice. The 220 USD version was indistinguishable from the 110 USD version on the trail. There is a weight difference of around 12g or the weight of a AAA battery. The XO1 has forged aluminum components and a titanium spring (vs. steel on GX) but my experience has made it clear that the GX version is impressively robust.

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The GX chain has solid pins unlike the more expensive groups. The weight of 258g  for 114 links is about the same as the hollow pin versions. The 30 USD price is however much better (60 for XO1 and 80-85 for XX1).

Shifting is light and precise and responsive even under power. The system is as quiet as higher-priced Eagle drivetrains, and much quieter than Shimano XTR, and it also seems impressively durable. I was talking to a mechanic at a local shop today and he told me that his hard riding boss used to go through 2 or 3 drivetrains a year when he used Shimano but it's been over a year since his swap to Eagle and he's still riding the same bits without issue. Thus far I've experienced no loss in performance and no noise increase after months of use. 

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To date, without too many muddy rides, crank arm rub resistance has been good. 

What to say about the cranks? They aren't DUB so there isn't much I can say because shortly this version will no longer be available. These cranks are available in both 24mm and 30mm axles and I wondered, since I didn't install the cranks, if SRAM had begun supporting 30mm spindles and PF92 bottom brackets. I just pulled them though and they are 24mm and the bottom bracket is spinning smoothly. Stiffness has been good and to my eyes they are decent looking as well. The cranks weigh 610 grams with a 30 tooth chainring and no bottom bracket. 

GX shifter

The shifter performance is indistinguishable from XX1 or XO1. 

Overall GX Eagle weighs about 240g more than XO1 Eagle (before DUB cranks are factored in) and costs less than half as much. Performance however is virtually identical. Like the other Eagle drivetrains, shifting is quiet and precise, the range is all you will ever need and the components are tough and long wearing. If weight is more important to you than cash then stick with XX1. For the rest of us GX1 is the ticket.

Click here for details on the individual components...

Comments

KeithC
+1
Keith Chee  - Jan. 19, 2018, 2:18 a.m.

Me and quite a few of my other friends have been having tons of problems trying to get our Eagle drive trains working properly. Seems like every other ride I start having shifting issues and chain rubbing noises coming up. There’s also never been a point where my drive train was working perfectly.

Did you face any problems getting your Eagle drive train tuned just right?

Reply

grimwood
+1
grimwood  - Jan. 19, 2018, 7:44 a.m.

Hi Keith, yeah, I had the same issue with my eagle. It turned out to be all B-tension related. It just took a little while to get it perfect. But I haven’t had any issues since. I hope this helps.

Reply

MTmtnBiker
+2
MTmtnBiker  - Jan. 19, 2018, 9:05 a.m.

I was having issues that ended up being related to B-tension as well.   

Even after having my LBS check my shifting and adjust the B-tension on an unweighted bike in the shop I would get out on the trail and the shifting wouldn't be great.  At the recommendation of a riding buddy, he helped me adjust the B-tension while I was sitting on the bike and after that my shifting worked great again.   (I'm sure that adjusting B-tension on a sagged bike is standard practice for many, but it wasn't for me until going through this experience)

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1
Cam McRae  - Jan. 19, 2018, 12:56 p.m.

Just what I was going to say. Likely B-tension (adjusted with SRAM tool) and it needs to be set with the bike sagged.

Reply

badIuck
+1
badIuck  - Jan. 19, 2018, 2:26 p.m.

Also all of the 11 and 12spd groups are kind of sensitive to even only slightly bent derailleur hangers, so you might want to check that and maybe have it straightened by your local shop.

Reply

KeithC
0
Keith Chee  - Jan. 20, 2018, 6:47 a.m.

Thanks guys! I’ll ask a riding buddy to help me adjust the b-tension on my bike when it’s sagged.

Reply

Vikb
+1
Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 19, 2018, 7:01 a.m.

I got in a long demo on an Eagle equipped bike last summer [I can't recall which spec level]. I was impressed by how quiet it was and how well it shifted.

I spec'd GX Eagle less the SRAM cranks on my new 29er. I have been pretty happy with a 42T big cog on my 275ers, but I figured with the bigger wheel it would be nice to have the lower gear and still be able to use the same size chainring.

Reply

davetolnai
+2
Dave Tolnai  - Jan. 19, 2018, 7:21 a.m.

I know SRAM is pushing this "it's a system" thing pretty hard, but my only problem with Eagle is that all of this could have been accomplished with 11 speeds.  This would have maintained some compatibility, allowed people to slowly upgrade, etc. etc.  I think SRAM's biggest issues could be solved by hiring a VP of Change Management.

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Jan. 19, 2018, 7:52 a.m.

yep. i'd love to have seen the eagle gear range implemented in 11spd.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 19, 2018, 9:07 a.m.

The one bugaboo with an 11 speed version with that much range would be larger steps between gears. For many of us, that wouldn't be a big problem, but when you consider that Eagle is used by both top XC racers and EWS riders, it's another reminder of how impressive the technology is. In the past, groups were distinguished by intended user. Eagle covers everyone but DH racers. Had they introduced it at 11 speeds, the XC race crowd would not have adopted it universally.

Reply

davetolnai
+1
Dave Tolnai  - Jan. 19, 2018, 11:22 a.m.

Ya, maybe...but...I don't know.  That's kind of like Ford saying "Our desert racers don't really use windshields, so we haven't included them in our new models of trucks."  I mean, it's kind of great that we largely ride the same gear as the best racers in the world, but I don't really care all that much what is best for them (especially the XC guys), I'm more concerned about what is best for me.  They could have easily made it 98% as good by just having a few slightly larger jumps on the granny end of the cassette spectrum.

I'll also say that the change from 11 to 12 isn't all that big of a deal, when you get right down to it.  It's more how the change was done.  I talked about this in depth when it first came out.  We had just gotten our heads wrapped around 11 speed and been told that it was so much better and then all of a sudden SRAM swoops in (zing!) and it's "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!  That old stuff was crap!  This new stuff is soooooo good!"  Well...get your shit together and figure out how to give us the good stuff without having to make a wholesale change to everything every couple of years.  Like I said...terrible change management.

Same things with Elixirs.  "These new taperbore brakes are the best ever!  This new reservoir design is sooooooo good!  Okay...You guys all bought your new brakes?  Everybody forked out their cash?  Oops!  Sorry!  We're back to the old design.  It's soooooooo good!"

Reply

natbrown
0
natbrown  - Jan. 19, 2018, 1:13 p.m.

I recall reading somewhere that the introduction of 11 speed was introduced as a stepping stone to 12 speed because Sram thought the market wouldn't tolerate how different Eagle was. Take that with a grain of salt since I don't have the citation, but I recall it was with one or more people from the design team based in Europe (Germany??). Assuming my memory is vaguely correct, I think there is some merit to making that judgement call, cynical though it may be. I'd still make the call to go straight to 12 speed since it respects those who make up the market.

Reply

esteban
0
Esteban  - Jan. 19, 2018, 4:07 p.m.

I read somewhere that most riders ride what their sponsors shove in their bikes, so SRAM is obviously giving them these systems.

I'm not saying they're bad systems, just that we have to consider that.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Jan. 19, 2018, 9:35 a.m.

SRAM wanted to make a home run style statement with Eagle.... it had to be"radically" different and assert themselves as dominant over Shimano.  Yes, it didn't have to be 12 speed but no one can come up with a valid argument that it isn't superior.... (at least IMHO)... and yes, I do run it.    Was not a SRAM drivetrain fan at all before Eagle BTW.

Reply

davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - Jan. 19, 2018, 11:04 a.m.

Oh, I totally agree.  But then it's really about SRAM foisting a massive change on consumers in order to stick it to Shimano and make a statement.  As a consumer, I can point out that that kind of sucks and I don't totally agree with it.  And SRAM needs to become better at anticipating backlash and dealing with it ahead of time.  It seems like they did a better job of it with this whole DUB change, but I think they're still relying a bit too much on journalists and the like to sell their changes for them.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Jan. 19, 2018, 11:24 a.m.

Yes, agree on the marketing...

Reply

legbacon
+1
legbacon  - Jan. 19, 2018, 1:55 p.m.

Yes, I would love to see SRAM come out with 11 speed GX cassettes in 10-44, and 10-46.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
+1
Merwinn  - Jan. 19, 2018, 9:40 a.m.

Solid write-up. Thanks Cam.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Jan. 19, 2018, 11:16 a.m.

It's amazing stuff. But a $400+ cassette is insanity. I go through drivetrains parts often and just can't get my head around that kind of pricing for a part I wear out once or twice a year. I get that the durability is good and that it's a very sophisticated bit of engineering but still.

Reply

kperras
+2
Kenneth Perras  - Jan. 19, 2018, 12:02 p.m.

My Eagle XX1 cassette is approaching 2 years of use with 3 chains. The finish on those two components are far more durable that what sold in the past. My GX Eagle cassette is on it's 2nd chain after a year and it's not looking like it will need a replacement once a 3rd chain gets thrown on. I have multiple drivetrains, but I also ride almost every day.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Jan. 19, 2018, 2:29 p.m.

That's reassuring to hear. I don't tend to wreck derailleurs. I just grind through Shimano cassettes and chains fairly often. If I could be confident that the SRAM cassettes would last the better part of two seasons then I'd have little to complain about price-wise. 

Anyone previous-Shimano-cassette-destroyers out there who switched to Eagle and can report multi-season durability?

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 19, 2018, 3:55 p.m.

Yep. I was running XXO 11 speed but those derailleur had issues with creaking and coming off unless you used a lot of locktite and the clutch required service more often then it should so I took it off once it was worn and replaced with XTR derailleur and shifter and XT q1 speed cassette. The 42 on the XT wore fast for me. Went through two cassettes in 2016 and multiple chains and rings. It sounded as though the derailleur issues with 11 speed were addressed with eagle and I had a large gift certificate from retirement to spend so I did. Last summer I went through a chain and a ring. Although the chain measured good I decided to replace it because it had lots of rides and the ring looked done. I am very impressed with durability. If. IF. If DUB works out to be as durable I will be doubly impressed. 

One issue I have is shifting. It doesn’t drop into higher gears mid cassette and higher which I attribute to cable friction. The cable routing on my Bronson is a bit circuitous and a polymer Shimano cable helps a lot. I may try fiddling with b tension more too after reading other people’s issues.

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
0
AJ Barlas  - Jan. 19, 2018, 6:23 p.m.

A $400 cassette is crazy, sure, but the GX is 195, 495 for the whole drivetrain, and it’s as good as the super high-end stuff. While still not “cheap” that’s still pretty sweet.

Reply

Barrett
0
Barrett Hoover  - Jan. 20, 2018, 7:17 a.m.

My wife's bike is on her 3rd or 4th chain and the X01 cassette is still going strong.  She's replaced the chainring once and we've bent the derailleur back into shape.  Around 3,000 or so miles of real singletrack riding, so it seems to hold up amazingly well.  I was definitely skeptical beforehand.  I'm on my 2nd Shimano cassette in the past 6 months...

Reply

vincentaedwards
0
Vincent Edwards  - Jan. 20, 2018, 9:14 a.m.

The cassette tested is $199

The lighter 1295 cassette is the one that’s nearly $400- but if you run that with gx, you get halfway to the weight savings of xo1 and still save $500

Reply

toodles
0
Trent Blucher  - Jan. 19, 2018, 12:59 p.m.

I hate being 'that guy' whinging about components, but the GX Eagle on my two month old Kona Process hasn't been that great.  Sure it clicks along fine in dry, dusty conditions - but in muddy conditions it skips and crunches far more than my old SRAM 11spd ever did.  I also had a rear mech destroy itself when the chain got jammed beside the lower jockey wheel while I was standing up and pedalling.  The jam caused the deraileur to twist backwards and up ruining the mech body.  I bought a replacement mech to keep the bike running but I've been waiting a month for warranty response and a quick google search shows that this is far from an isolated incident.

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
0
AJ Barlas  - Jan. 19, 2018, 6:26 p.m.

That sucks to hear your experience isn’t going super well. As someone else posted here, it’s likely your b-tension. Eagle can be a finicky sob, but once setup 100%, i don’t think you’ll feel like switching it out.

Reply

toodles
0
Trent Blucher  - Jan. 19, 2018, 8:25 p.m.

The B-tension was set using red plastic jig thingy at the shop.  The pulley wheel jamming isn't an uncommon failure either by the sounds of the forums - they're really soft and actually seem to be narrow-wide so they do some funny stuff.  I admit it is perfectly functional in good conditions, but it seems finicky and susceptible to  conditions too much.  I jsut hope SRAM warranty my old Eagle mech so I can sell up and get the 11spd replacement running.

Reply

DBone95
0
Darryl Chereshkoff  - Jan. 19, 2018, 1:26 p.m.

11 speed with an E13 9-46 cassette is the way I go.

Reply

toodles
0
Trent Blucher  - Jan. 19, 2018, 3:37 p.m.

I'm changing back to a 11-46 XT 11spd cassette with SRAM shifting gear.  I was tempted by the e.13 and Hope offerings, as well as the OneUp 45T option for SRAM 11-42 cassettes, but the XT price was excellent.  It's a hassle changing pretty much a whole groupset, but I can't risk having another mech stuff up when I'm on some backcountry trail or away for races.

Reply

esteban
+1
Esteban  - Jan. 19, 2018, 4:06 p.m.

> I've ridden it long enough for the cranks to become obsolete

Cranks becoming obsolete? Truly we have seen it all.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 19, 2018, 8:29 p.m.

Particularly when you consider they are less than a year old.

Reply

niels@nsmb.com
+2
Niels  - Jan. 20, 2018, 3:25 a.m.

Obsolete is a big word. It's not like GXP cranks suddenly stopped working. As long as GXP bottom brackets remain available, they will continue to work for those who are happy with them.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 21, 2018, 10:34 a.m.

In this case I'm using a PF92 BB with a GX 24mm crank that will be discontinued. At this point the PF92 SRAM BB for this crank isn't actually listed as being available so, while this isn't confirmed, that big word may be accurate for my set up.

Reply

niels@nsmb.com
0
Niels  - Jan. 21, 2018, 11:56 p.m.

I'd be really surprised if SRAM stopped selling PF92 GXP BBs. There must be hundreds of thousands of people (myself included) running that BB/crank combination to whom they can sell that BB for years to come without any effort other than continuing to produce it.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 22, 2018, 12:10 p.m.

They have said they will stop selling these parts within three years so obsolete may have been hyperbole. 

As well they do not currently list PF92 as an option for non DUB GX - (only these - BB30/PF30-68/73mm, GXP 100mm/PF GXP 121mm, GXP/PF GXP 68/73mm). But it seems to me you are correct and a PF GXP should work just fine. Odd that it's not listed as an option.

alexdi
0
Alex D  - Jan. 19, 2018, 9:49 p.m.

I've demoed GX Eagle on two bikes. I can't get on with the shifter. Compared to the original XX1 (also on two bikes), it's stiffer with noticeably higher thumb effort. Feels like XT. Do you know if the X01 or XX1 Eagle shifters are any better?

I'm tempted to mix and match. 11S X01 cassette, X01 DUB cranks, GX Eagle derailleur, and X01/XX1 11S shifters. Even the lightest Eagle cassette is 100g over the 11S predecessor. If 10-42 wasn't enough, I'd be more likely to try Garbaruk's 11S 10-50: same range, same construction, but 40g and $150 under Eagle XX1.

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 20, 2018, 9:03 a.m.

Oh. Tullio Campagnolo is famous for inventing the quick release. Derailleurs were invented by others. He had a flat in a cold snowy race and was not able to undo the wing nuts due to having cold frozen hands. Thus the qr was born.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 21, 2018, 9:59 a.m.

You're right, but you're also wrong:

Inventions

Tullio Campagnolo was one of the greatest legends in bicycle component invention and manufacture. During his life Tullio Campagnolo applied for many patents, and many design registrations (some of these were not in the field of bicycles, or bicycle parts). His designs were extremely influential, and very widely copied. Several companies produced items that were nearly identical in design, but consumers preferred the original as a status symbol, and as a guarantee of quality. In 1930, he patented the cam mechanism quick-release skewer that became the standard for the industry, a design still used today. In 1933, the first quick release hubs were produced by Campagnolo. Also in 1933, he patented the sliding hub, dual seatstay rod-operated, back-pedal derailleur, ultimately known as the 'Cambio Corsa'. In 1949, he introduced the 'Gran Sport' twin-cable, parallelogram rear derailleur at the Milan trade show, the first modern derailleur.

Campagnolo was also an innovator in materials engineering for bicycle component design. In 1961, Campagnolo was the first to produce components using low-pressure magnesium casting and he used new aluminum alloys and titanium. In 1966 he patented the Campagnolo self-centering wine-bottle opener.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tullio_Campagnolo

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 21, 2018, 8:14 p.m.

I did my homework Andy! I am wearing this shirt right now in fact. 

Reply

amrskipro
+1
AndrewR  - Jan. 20, 2018, 4:23 p.m.

I spent part of the summer on Eagle XO1 (on a loaner) and whilst it was a big step better than the 11 speed XX1 I used to have it does not come anywhere close to encouraging me to change away from XT or XTR.

The B-tension issue is slightly less finicky than with the 11 speed but it is still extremely sensitive. I also struggled to remember how many times in the last twenty years I have had to stop due to having a stick sucked into the lower derailleur pulley but it seemed like a 3-4 times every ride event with the Eagle derailleur.

I also witnessed several Eagle drivetrains suffer quite bad damage from relatively minor offs where one would not expect the chain to get twisted and damage the other parts of the drivetrain.

I do like the light weight machined cassettes and the weight saving there gained, they also wear really well, easily surviving a year of guide level kilometres.  There is a large, slow jump from the 42T to the 50T (but the jump from the 37T to the 46T on the XT M8000 cassette is almost as slow).

I just wish someone would make a consumer 11 speed 14-48T cassette that kept a nice even spacing between each gear. I cannot remember the last time I made it onto the 10T or 12 T other than down a hill, on a road, on the way to the shops.

Reply

skooks
+1
Skooks  - Jan. 20, 2018, 7:49 p.m.

I just installed an 11 speed XT shifter and derailleur with a Sunrace 11-46 cassette. The Gear spacing is better than the XT version and the quality looks comparable. Hopefully it stands the test of time.

Reply

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