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Product Release

SRAM's GX AXS is here (and we've been riding it)

Words Cam McRae
Date Mar 25, 2021
Reading time

You didn’t need to follow Nostradumus on instagram to have known the trickle down of AXS was on the way, and 778 days since the intro of the XO and XO1 versions, GX is here. During that time there have been no mishaps, data leaks or hacked systems as far as I know and AXS has worked as well as SRAM’s very optimistic advertisement. It hasn’t put cable or housing manufacturers out of business, the prohibitive price tag has made sure of that, but AXS has managed to win a legion of fans all the same.

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GX AXS components are compatible with other AXS bits and any SRAM Eagle drivetrain components. Photo - Harookz

Dollars and Grams

If you are already sure you’re keen on SRAM’s AXS drivetrain and you only want to know the difference between the XO1 and GX versions, I’ll make this article very short for you. The answer is the upgrade kits are separated by 64 grams and 200 USD. The GX rear derailleur weighs 64 grams more and the upgrade kit costs 200 USD less (600 USD vs 800 USD). The shifters are identical, aside from the finish and the GX wordmark on this version, so every one of those grams added, and sheckles saved, lives in the rear derailleur. Which is a long-winded way of saying I have yet to notice a single difference in performance between the XO1 and GX versions of AXS. GX works every bit as well as XO1, aside from those 64 grams of unsprung weight at the rear of your bike, and this princess hasn't felt that pea at all.

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Initially AXS was only available as a complete group, for 2000 USD. Now you can purchase an upgrade kit of XO1 or XX1 AXS for 800 USD. Or at least that's the MSRP. Online retailers are asking as much as 1021 USD and as much as 1400 CAD. The GX AXS upgrade kit should be 600 USD, but the market may command higher prices, at least from the outset. The kit includes a battery, charger, the new B-Gap tool, shifter, and derailleur. The cover is available for 20 USD.

On my scale, the GX AXS rear derailleur weighs 454 grams (a full pound) while the XO1 version is 390, both with the battery attached but without the new cover, which weighs all of 10g. The XX1 version is another 15g lighter at 375g but the carbon outer cage isn’t recommended for the rowdier riding most of our audience tends to appreciate. This is certainly a relevant point because smashing an AXS derailleur is an experience I’d only wish upon unrepentant bike thieves.

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It looks the same (aside from finish) and performs the same (so far at least) but it's a little heavier and a little less money. Photo - Harookz

Financial Considerations

If catastrophe srikes near home and you aren’t in a hurry to get back on the trails, the hit will only be a monetary one to the tune of 370 USD. If you are travelling somewhere with your bicycle, like people used to do, you’d better hope you’ve chosen a true mountain biking mecca, because only the biggest and most well-stocked bike shops are going to be able to pull an AXS derailleur, of any level, off the shelf for you.

Part of the financial decision-making process involves calculating how you’ll deal with an unexpected future calamity. It’s not entirely like buying a used Lotus,* where mechanical, hydraulic, and mechanical failures are inevitable, but it’s similar in that any failure that occurs will be expensive and you’ll likely have to special order the replacement parts. You are also unlikely to be able to bodge a fix in the hinterland, and it is likely to be more difficult than patching some part of a conventional cable-actuated system.

*Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

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I haven't had any trouble keeping my battery attached but apparently some riders have lost their batteries because they were clicked on while some debris prevented a solid coupling or because of an impact.

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I'll take a little insurance for a fee of only 10 grams. Losing your battery or having it knocked off by an impact would put a damper on proceedings. It's clearly not a big problem or SRAM would have included it with every derailleur. As it stands it's a 20 USD add on.

Built Tough

A proviso is that my experience with recent SRAM derailleurs, on my bike and those of others, has led me to believe they are likely the strongest rear changers ever made. Give one a tug from the bottom of the cage and you may see what I mean. While my experiences have been good, I don’t have the same impression of Shimano’s 12 spd derailleurs, and I’ve personally witnessed several spectacular impact-related failures. These anecdotal experiences aren’t statistically significant but I’m pretty confident about which brand would win a tug-o-war. Everything can and will break however, and I’d want to be certain I could swallow that hit before investing in an AXS system.

Below - the Overload Clutch in action as well as some well-laid out info from Peter Matthews

AXS Upsides

Despite the doom and gloom, I’m a reasonably big AXS fan. I particularly like the no-brainer element of downshifting (to an easier gear) using the AXS system. Neither the speed with which you hit the button nor the pressure you use has any influence on the outcome of the shift, unlike a cable actuated system. Just click and go. Shifts are fast and precise and simple. I wouldn’t yet say I prefer it to the smooth action of Shimano’s recent 12-spd systems, particularly the XT or XTR versions, but I feel like I’m still getting used to AXS, particularly the shifter paddle, which doesn’t mesh so well with my stubby thumb. It works fine and I make shifts happen easily, but rather than nestling into a comfortable hollow it seems like I’m always shifting with the pointy corner of either the top or bottom of the paddle. I may get on better with the alternate rocker paddle but I haven’t tried one yet.

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Rather than nestle in comfortably or hit a smooth surface, my thumb always seems to hit the top and bottom corners of the AXS controller. It works well enough but it's not reassuring. The XO1 version shown here is attached to the brake lever clamp using SRAM's Matchmaker system, which is what I've been doing as well. Photo - AJ Barlas

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This photo of a GX controller, provided by SRAM shows that this rider has used the stand alone clamp to attach the shifter. Some riders find this option gives improved ergonomics.

There are other elements of AXS I appreciate as well. The overload clutch, which disengages the motor in the event of an impact, allowing it to move more freely, is a bit of brilliance. Beyond protecting the servo that does the shifting, it protects your derailleur and hanger from damage. Immediately afterward it recomposes to the gear it was in pre-impact. The cage is slightly shorter than those found on its cable-actuated cousins for a little more insurance - but only about 5mm by my reckoning. And of course there’s installation. You can easily have an AXS derailleur and shifter ready to ride in less time than it takes to swap your saddle. It’s much less frustrating as well. I don’t use a Garmin or Wahoo device on my rides so I haven’t taken advantage of AXS web but I'd be interested in seeing my shift data out of curiosity. On second thought, I may not like to see how much time I spend n my 52t ring.


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MSRP for the GX AXS upgrade kit is 857 CAD.

My son was peppering me with questions about my preferences just today and I told him if I was voting with my own dollars, I’d likely steer them elsewhere; to suspension, braking or wheel components, where a significant performance boost accompanies increased investment. It looks like you'll be able to get a complete GX drivetrain (cranks, chain, derailleur, shifter and bottom bracket) for a little more than the price of a GX AXS derailleur alone. I would likely point my cash there or to Shimano's smooth shifting but reasonably priced XT group. In the age of $1400 cell phones that are upgraded every couple of years, I'm not surprised by the cost of this wireless shifting system or that there are so many riders keen to step up and experience the magic of AXS. I'm not fully in that camp though. I'll continue to be the guy who buys last year's phone used and scours Craigslist for deals, but given the opportunity to ride AXS, I'm not about to remove it. Even though that's a quick and easy job.

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Comments

rwalters
+5 Cam McRae AJ Barlas IslandLife demo7_rider Angu58
Ryan Walters  - March 25, 2021, 7:20 a.m.

So nice of SRAM to deliver this wonderful present in honour of Shimano's 100 year anniversary! Haha!

On the note of Shimano vs. SRAM derailleur toughness - I have to wholeheartedly agree. I'm astounded how flexy the newer Shimano derailleurs are (including the top end ones). I've had seriously clapped out SRAM units that were still more rigid than brand new Shimano derailleurs. While I'm not into having charge ports on my bike (yet), there are still some clever things going on with AXS, and it's nice to see them offered at a slightly less eye-watering price point.

Reply

sandy-james-oates
0 Lu Kz AverageAdventurer
Sandy James Oates  - March 25, 2021, 9:58 a.m.

In my 35 years of mountain biking I’ve only broken a Sram derailleur. I have had dozens of Shimano derailleurs (exclusively XT) on my bikes over the years.

Reply

KenN
+4 IslandLife Cooper Quinn Dogl0rd AverageAdventurer
KenN  - March 25, 2021, 11:08 a.m.

And in my 30 years of mountain biking, I've had the opposite experience!

Reply

Timmigrant
+6 IslandLife Ryan Walters Cooper Quinn Chad K Dogl0rd AverageAdventurer
Tim Coleman  - March 25, 2021, 1:53 p.m.

Same for me. I haven't had an issue with a SRAM derailleur in years. Granted I only use XO1 derailleurs, but they've been great. I've had more issues with Shimano lately with an explodey XT derailleur.

Reply

AverageAdventurer
+1 Cam McRae
AverageAdventurer  - March 25, 2021, 7:30 a.m.

Hey Cam, solid writeup but I'm hung up trying to figure out what tire is on the back of your bike in that video. Could you help me out?

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+4 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Tim Coleman AverageAdventurer
AJ Barlas  - March 25, 2021, 7:57 a.m.

The tire on the bike in the video is a Specialized Eliminator. There are more shots of it in the full GX release vid, which is an entertaining watch thanks to Pete and Shawn’s interactions. Haha.

Edit: Which is now in our post. :)

Reply

Ripmoslow
+2 4Runner1 shapethings
Ripmoslow  - March 25, 2021, 7:41 a.m.

Strange they are using a steel cage on a $600 derailleur package. This kind of stuff drives me nuts. Good to see the trickle down, but I have enough to charge these days.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 IslandLife Dan Tjaard Breeuwer
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 8:17 a.m.

Gotta save costs somewhere, and there's probably no way to change a lot of the AXS internals.

Reply

FlipFantasia
+4 Luix Jan shapethings Lu Kz jaydubmah Dogl0rd
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 7:41 a.m.

I can't say I was impressed with my regular cable GX der, turned into a sloppy mess in a couple months that required incessant adjustment, ended up ditching for 12spd shimano and was much happier. Overload clutch notwithstanding,  are the pivots/bushings similar to the regular version?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+4 Dan MuscogeeMasher AverageAdventurer Spencer Nelson
Cam McRae  - March 25, 2021, 8:39 a.m.

I can't say I've had that experience but I'll see what I can find out. Did you have the most recent, post-refresh GX Eagle derailleur that came along with the 52 tooth cassette or the original one from 2017?

Reply

FlipFantasia
+2 Jan Dan
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 8:56 a.m.

late 2019 12spd, absolute junkshow

Reply

rwalters
+1 Lu Kz
Ryan Walters  - March 25, 2021, 9:30 a.m.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention this in my comment above - don't even bother with GX. The construction and materials used in X01 and up are orders of magnitude better than GX and down. GX derailleurs seems like ok value until you realize you're blowing up 8 of them in the time it takes to finish off an X01!

Not sure how the GX AXS compares.

Reply

FlipFantasia
+3 Mammal jaydubmah Timer
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 10:14 a.m.

yeah well, when they spec them on $7000 bikes.....I don't deny that XO1 is better, but GX is already too much for what it is and XO1 is another big jump up.

Reply

mammal
+2 Todd Hellinga Cooper Quinn
Mammal  - March 25, 2021, 2:25 p.m.

Yeah, a lot of riders just live in a different reality. So many "I only ride X01/XTR, so I wouldn't know about the lower specs". That's great for those who get free stuff, or money isn't an issue, but that's not the bread and butter of the industry. I'm floored by the amount of people that ride around on $2000+ worth of drive train. Different universe.

Reply

rwalters
+3 FatBear Luix Chad K
Ryan Walters  - March 25, 2021, 3:06 p.m.

I live in this universe, I pay for my stuff. I am currently running a 6-year-old 11spd X01. I can’t speak to whatever bikes might come spec’d with them, but the X01 derailleur has been really good value for me. When it finally dies, I have a NOS X01 waiting in my toolbox.

Now, if I had a dollar for every GX I've seen explode out in the wild - I could afford to bury myself in AXS. Haha!

Reply

FlipFantasia
0
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 3:51 p.m.

11spd is a world apart from the 12 from what I've seen, and experienced.

NotMeAtAll
0
NotMeAtAll  - April 27, 2021, 4:47 a.m.

And then there is shimano people using deore derailleur with XT shifter because there is basically no difference in feel or function. I believe the light "slopiness" of the shimanos derailleurs is because they are too confident on the cassete and chain doing90% of the hard work.

Reply

slimshady76
+2 Todd Hellinga Dan
Luix  - March 25, 2021, 9:39 a.m.

This was the very first comment I got from a friend who is a bike shop mechanic, when I showed him the leaked pics a couple of weeks ago: "are they going to fix the pivot sloppiness, or are they just throwing a motor and a controller on top of it?" I guess time will tell...

Reply

JVP
+1 Chad K
JVP  - March 25, 2021, 4:14 p.m.

You can throw the better B-bolt from an XO1 on your GX, they're readily available and just pop right in. The GX is metal-on-metal so wears the derailleur body against the bolt as we hit 10 million little bumps out riding. Just don't wait too long to do it!

Now it would be darn nice of SRAM to just include a B-bolt with proper bushing on GX. Maybe they've improved this on the current GX derailleurs? I heard they made some updates, just not sure what.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+8 Todd Hellinga Ryan Walters Dan Chad K Cooper Quinn Luix Pete Roggeman Tjaard Breeuwer
Cam McRae  - March 25, 2021, 11:37 a.m.

From SRAM: "Bushings and structure on the GX AXS are the same as XX1 and XO1 AXS."

Reply

FlipFantasia
+4 Dan Cam McRae Chad K Luix
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 11:54 a.m.

thanks Cam, sounds more promising then.

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Chad K Luix
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 5:33 p.m.

It has more in common with XO1 AXS than mechanical GX Eagle. Also thus the pricing.

Reply

Timer
+5 Todd Hellinga Chad K Luix Ryan Walters Tjaard Breeuwer
Timer  - March 26, 2021, 6:20 a.m.

Would be sad if it wasn't. I don't see much point in paying for expensive electronics, if the underlying mechanics are the weak link.

Reply

hotlapz
+1 Cam McRae
hotlapz  - March 25, 2021, 8:05 a.m.

Does it shift under load?

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Chad K
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 8:16 a.m.

Yes.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+6 Pete Roggeman IslandLife Mammal Andrew Major Perry Schebel Tremeer023
Jerry Willows  - March 25, 2021, 8:42 a.m.

I would like to see more options for wireless droppers personally....  I hate dealing with the cabling.  Shifting cables, not a big deal.  Current Reverb AXS pricing is too high and only 170mm option.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 IslandLife
Pete Roggeman  - March 25, 2021, 9:10 a.m.

Agree with you there, Jerry. We can only assume that if not a GX AXS post, certainly a ~200mm one must be coming soon (that is purely speculation).

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - March 25, 2021, 11:31 a.m.

I'm waiting for a 200mm as well. Love the convenience and hassle free actuation of AXS Reverb but I'm now addicted to at least that much drop.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+1 Cooper Quinn
Jerry Willows  - March 25, 2021, 3:50 p.m.

the ability to swap between bikes is nice as well and like Andrew Major,  I'm usually in 1 of 3 gears for climbing and a couple of dh so electronic shifting is really just fluff for me.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Jerry Willows
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 9:15 p.m.

When AXS Reverbs launched and the ability to swap it around across bikes was touted as a benefit I thought it was insane. 

Now that I have an AXS post... yeah. Totally doable. Just make sure your bikes have the same size seat tube, and/or you get the smaller size and a shim for the bigger bike. 

The post is irritatingly good, and all seatposts should have similar tilt adjustment.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+2 Todd Hellinga Ryan Walters
Jerry Willows  - March 26, 2021, 8:23 a.m.

probably cost savings for you with your n+5 bikes.

Reply

rigidjunkie
0
Allen Lloyd  - March 25, 2021, 9:12 a.m.

Now what to do with all the cable ports, they look so odd without cables.

Reply

craw
+1 Cooper Quinn
Cr4w  - March 25, 2021, 11:15 a.m.

Buy a new frame in 2024 when they become available with all new standards.

Reply

cooperquinn
+4 Chad K Timer Spencer Nelson Tjaard Breeuwer
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 5:33 p.m.

If you haven't put a deposit down on your 2024 frame already, you're in trouble.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - March 25, 2021, 11:33 a.m.

I just covered mine with some leftover ridewrap film. Worked great and it looks okay. I actually had some leftover vinyl from a customization project so I laid down a little colour before putting the clear overtop. I was stymied at first for sure though.

Reply

Timmigrant
+3 IslandLife Ryan Walters Chad K
Tim Coleman  - March 25, 2021, 1:50 p.m.

I used a small piece of Mastik tape (3M 2228) cut and placed over the ports. It's black and semi-moldable to make a clean covering for the ports. I use the same stuff to my chain / seat stays to reduce chain slap.

Reply

rwalters
+1 Chad K
Ryan Walters  - March 25, 2021, 3:46 p.m.

That stuff solves everything.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Ryan Walters
Pete Roggeman  - March 26, 2021, 8:01 a.m.

Doob tube(s).

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Cam McRae
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 9:14 a.m.

If you run SRAM, the new white b-tension tool is so. much. better. 

Find one. Be happy.

Reply

Timmigrant
+1 Cam McRae
Tim Coleman  - March 25, 2021, 10:55 a.m.

I've been on X01 AXS for a couple months now. I'm a die hard analog, mechanical guy. I love mechanical watches and clutch pedals. So upgrading to AXS on my new bike was because cables suck, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. And as much as I hate to admit it, AXS is awesome. It shifts brilliant, I've thwacked the derailleur a few times, and just heard it pop back into place a second or two later. I've micro-adjusted it once since installing. Shifting while rallying through rough sections is easier than a mechanical setup. Multi gear up and down is great too. Stoked GX AXS is here, and hopefully more folks get to enjoy the blissful world of no cables.

Reply

mammal
+1 Greg Bly
Mammal  - March 25, 2021, 2:27 p.m.

Did/would you pay for it, Tim?

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Chad K Tim Coleman
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 5:05 p.m.

I've been on GX AXS for a few months. I would say its 100% a worthwhile upgrade, especially if you're already running Eagle. 

Its... almost annoyingly good.

Reply

neologisticzand
+1 Cooper Quinn
Chad K  - March 25, 2021, 5:37 p.m.

That makes me happy to hear given that I just pulled the trigger on GX AXS today. Very excited try AXS longterm given how much I love Etap on one of my other bikes.

It's also good timing given that my current rear mech has been giving me some trouble after smacking it "real good" on a tree stump.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Chad K
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 7:29 p.m.

Given the pricepoint here, and that I have a spare cassette, I'm strongly contemplating upgrading my gravel bike to a 50t GX AXS. The mtb/road/groad stuff plays nice together, and some of the (stupid) places I take my gravel bike around here would seem less stupid with lower gears.

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - March 28, 2021, 12:31 p.m.

I'm with you. Being a lover of mechanical things I wanted to hate AXS. But I have to admit it's really good, and I thoroughly enjoy it being on my bike.

Reply

Timmigrant
+1 Chad K
Tim Coleman  - March 28, 2021, 12:30 p.m.

I paid for the XO1 AXS on my bike yes. I haven't had my hands on GX AXS yet, but it looks like it gives up very little in performance / durability for the more compelling price.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - March 25, 2021, 11:39 a.m.

The article has been updated with Canadian pricing: MSRP for the GX AXS upgrade kit is 857 CAD.

Reply

FlipFantasia
+2 Lu Kz Mammal
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 11:57 a.m.

I certainly like the idea of wireless shifting, but probably won't be getting into it anytime soon at that price.

Reply

DaveSmith
+5 Lu Kz Ryan Walters IslandLife Pete Roggeman Mark
Dave Smith  - March 25, 2021, 12:36 p.m.

This sounds like the numerous discussions I've had about Vancouver real estate over the years.

Reply

FlipFantasia
0
Todd Hellinga  - March 25, 2021, 12:48 p.m.

good luck seeing the type of appreciation lower mainland real estate has had with a bike derailleur! ha

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Todd Hellinga Timer
Cooper Quinn  - March 25, 2021, 5:06 p.m.

Have you seen the state of the bike industry & parts availability these days? 

I'm gonna buy a house this summer when I cash in my tire stash.

Reply

Jotegir
+4 Velocipedestrian Cam McRae Poz Todd Hellinga
Lu Kz  - March 25, 2021, 12:40 p.m.

GX AXS is still too rich for my blood for something that I'd still consider a higher risk although not quite a disposable item. I'll continue my trend of really nice shifter and midgrade derailleurs. Nice shifters tend not to grenade out of warranty and can make any average derailleur feel like the baller counterpart

Reply

andy-eunson
+2 Chad K Cam McRae
Andy Eunson  - March 25, 2021, 2:29 p.m.

Every time I change the internal shift cable and housing on my Remedy, I think I should get wireless shifting. This infernal insipid internal routing is a conspiracy I say.  SRAM paid off the manufacturers to make us buy wireless shifters and such. Like ski jacket manufacturer paid Apple to make iPhones too big to fit the old pockets.

Reply

1994canucks
0
Brett Watkins  - March 26, 2021, 7:57 a.m.

A prototype bike is spotted in the wild and a picture gets posted on NSMB. But a part or ebike that is lent to NSMB for testing before a launch isn’t? 

Moral of the story lend NSMB the bike or part to keep their mouth shut?

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Chad K Luix
Cooper Quinn  - March 26, 2021, 8:53 a.m.

Bikes and components sent to media for review before launch come with embargos, and sometimes NDA's.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Todd Hellinga
Pete Roggeman  - March 26, 2021, 11:13 a.m.

Gonna need more details here to understand what you are talking about, b/c at this point it feels like you've got things a bit muxed ip.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Ryan Walters Luix
Cam McRae  - March 26, 2021, 2:24 p.m.

You may have us confused with someone else, which is actually awesome.

Reply

slimshady76
+2 Cam McRae NotMeAtAll
Luix  - March 28, 2021, 6:01 a.m.

Hey, it's your fault for using an acronym as brand. NSMB, NSFW, IMBA, MAGA, they all sound similar...

[/sarcasm]

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