Whether you like it or not, 1X drivetrains are the way of the future, just ask Sram. They have engineered and focused on building the best 1X’s for downhill, enduro, and of course cross country for at least the past 5 years. So when they announced the 1×12 earlier this year, there was a lot of excitement, not only in their offices, but throughout the cycling community. Personally, I thought it was a joke, but I’m extremely happy I was wrong. I know there are a lot of you that still run and enjoy 2X, or even 3X drivetrains, mainly because it’s what you have. I can’t blame you, but if you are shopping for a new bike, or already have, you likely have noticed fewer options as far as drivetrains are concerned. That’s because manufacturers have realized that this is the way of the future. We could talk about what gearing and options are best for your intended application for days, but for the sake of time I want to share with you my early thoughts on the Eagle, and how it is beneficial for the bikepacking application. Sram announcing it’s time for change, always remembered, never forgotten, but no longer necessary. Benefits First and foremost, the 1X allows you to get rid of a few moving parts, one of them being the front derailleur and the motions that the chain makes to hop from chain ring to chain ring. The other is the derailleur shifter and shifter cable. Eliminating these parts not only saves a bit of weight, but it also saves the headache of those parts breaking or malfunctioning while out in the field. Yes, you can likely get away with a broken front derailleur and limp out to civilization, but knowing that won’t happen with a 1X drivetrain gives me a calming peace of mind. What Sram has done over the past few years is developed crisp, clean, and concise shifting. Yes, a lot of that has to do with how you set up and tension your rear derailleur and derailleur cable, but for me (not a pro mechanic), setting up any Sram 1X is a breeze. The best part about this is that it makes adjusting your shifting on the fly that much easier, and to be honest, should make you more willing to do so – I know it has for me. Now, with the Eagle, it’s a little more complicated dialing in your b-tension, especially on a full suspension bike, but they truly make it as easy as possible. See this video if you are having trouble setting up your Eagle.Sram Eagle-0282 That leads me to the big cog and the pancake looking cassette. It appears that Sram basically threw on the a 50 tooth cog and kept the cassette range the same from their 11 speed cassette, but not before tightening up each cog to allow a 12th gear, which makes the chain slightly more narrow than an 11-speed chain. The Eagle will allow a 500% range with the added 50 tooth, compared to a 420% range with a 32 tooth Sram 1×11. When I road with my 1×11, I would always have to switch out chainrings depending on what I was doing. If I was going to ride the Colorado or Arizona Trails, I would throw a 28 tooth on. This would leave me completely spun out on descents. If I was riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, I had to be careful with how big of a chain ring I put on, because I was worried how tired my legs would be. But now that the 50 tooth is available, I can run a larger chain ring, and have the peace of mind that I have the “bailout” ring, something that will keep me on the bike and make my riding that much more efficient. Performance So the main question is, how does it perform? I know it’s cliche, but honestly, this is the most efficient drive train I have used. I have used the driver for the past month now both for day rides and overnights. The Sram Eagle XO1 comes stock with a 32 tooth, to me a perfect complement for bikepacking. In fact, I found myself in the 50 ring a lot with my loaded rig this past weekend, it made for easy pedaling up steep grades, yet still kept me going fast enough to remain in control of my bike. If I were to go any slower, I would rather just walk, meaning a 30-50 or 28-50 would just not make sense for me or most people. The jump from 50-42 was not nearly as noticeable as I thought it would be. Considering I’m extremely used to the other 11 speeds, I was very comfortable with the range, and how it could climb in mountain terrain with a 45lb loaded bike. One specific instance that stood out to me a few weeks back was riding the Dyke Trail in Crested Butte, Colorado. There is a significant climb in the middle of the trail, a steep and technical climb that is slow moving. I had the legs to clean it on a 11-42, but it was ugly. When I rode it with the Eagle, I may have been going slower, but it was at a much more efficient and comfortable speed. In the end, I beat my personal time by, believe it or not, going slower and being more efficient through the technical sections.Sram Eagle-0065 I have also gone through some significant mud the past few weeks, and I have been pleasantly surprised with how well the bike continues to shift and perform. After going through puddle after muddy puddle, I did get the inevitable grinding of the chain, but nothing a little lube wouldn’t fix. Whether or not it may have been quieter than my 11 speed chainring, it’s really hard to say. Aside from the gearing, the rest of the drivetrain has some significant upgrades, starting with the cranks set. It is more stiff, lighter, and transfers power extremely well, another potential reason for the efficient uphill pedaling I have noticed. The shifting is also so crisp and clean compared to the XX1, and while I still prefer Shimano’s two-way release shifter, it’s hard to complain about the performance of the Eagle’s shifting. I also didn’t have to adjust the barrel much, which may or may not have to do with Srams provided cable. The chain shifts like a charm. Sram developed the new X-Sync chainring to give the chain better retention ,while also reducing friction which prevents chain wear. It’s too soon to say how long the chain and chainring will last, but I can say that I’m happy that I saved money and went with the XO1 build rather than the gold color scheme that comes with the XX1.Sram Eagle-0123 Bottom Line The big take away here is that the Eagle gives you nearly the same range as most Shimano 2X and Sram 2X’s, with the exception of the Sram GX2x11. It also provides a larger range, by a long shot, than any other 1X system on the market, and after long countless days on the bike, that is exactly what your body wants. Between crisp shifting, the extremely lightweight design, and a stock range that most should be fine with, it’s a winner. That being said, the price point is certainly a turn off, even the XO1 build. But, if you are someone that wants the latest and greatest drivetrain on the market, now is your chance. As time goes on, we will certainly see lower end 1×12’s similar to the progression of the 1×11 a few years back. Thus, if you are not ready to spend top dollar, I would hold off.

XX1 Eagle: $1,417 / £1,173             XO1 Eagle (tested): $1,193 / £1,005

A big thanks to Dave Moe and Jefe Branham of Rock and Roll Sports for ordering and hooking me up with a short term payment plan. You guys rock. 

19 Comments

  1. I wannit! You say it’s expensive but give no price. Ballpark figure?

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I added prices at the bottom of the article. You would be hard pressed to find the groupo under $1,000. Especially considering everything is specific to the Eagle, well except the cranks, but I needed new cranks anyways.
      XX1 Eagle: $1,417 / £1,173 XO1 Eagle (tested): $1,193 / £1,005

  2. $420 for the cassette alone. I can’t see it. There are much better options, 2x and 3x, at much lower price point. Much lower.

  3. Its gears. Its not a revolution for cycling, its a revolution for marketing. Theres less advantage because there’s less gears, at a much MUCH higher price! The weight you lose off the front mech and shifter are just added to the back of the bike in the form of a dinner-plate sized cassette. Its just a way of manufacturers to make bikes more expensive. So please dont try and make out that its some kind of cycling revolution, because its just a different way of getting the same gear ratio.

  4. 1x is the real revolution, but most miss the biggest reason. Maybe not this 1x, or that 1x, but 1x in general.

    The front dereilleur is very bad drivetrain engineering. Attempting to shift a chain on the tension side instead of the slack side is fraught with problems. So, deleting that mechanism, and moving all the duties to the rear is a big win!

    Also weight savings from removing the large front chain rings and simplifying the crankset spider largely offset the enlarged (and largely titanium) cassette.

  5. The poor man version is the new XT 11spd with the OneUp Shark conversion, giving you an 11spd 11-50. Big bonus that you can use a regular freehub body and not the exclusive XD driver. I set this up on my bike and recently did a tour on part the Idaho Hot Springs route and it works great.

  6. Neil,
    Couple of questions:
    1 – Did the chain always stay on when/if you backpedaled?
    2 – Any cross-chaining noise/shifting issues when your chain got dry?
    The price is ridiculous, but as I continue to wear out $35 10-spd cassettes and $25 chains from Merlin and Chain Reaction for my 2X drivetrain, I’m trying to stay open-minded.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Barry,

      No, something I was surprised to see. I certainly have that happen on almost all of my 1×11 setups.
      No real horrendous shifting issues after the chain got dry, the one thing I do noticed is when it gets really dirty, and grimy and wet, it will grind the gears a bit more so much so that you can hear it, but I would say that is expected.
      The durability of my SRAM cassettes has been unmatched, especially compared to shimano, they just last forever, I can only assume the same can be said for the 1×12.

      Thanks for the questions,
      Neil

  7. I will say from personal experience and riding 1×11-everything lasts much, much longer than with a “traditional” 2x or 3x. I ride the snot out of my bikes year round, and have now gotten 3 seasons out of front ring and cogset. Previously i would have to replace the “cheaper” 2x or 3x cogsets EVERY year, despite numerous chain swaps. So, no…not marketing, just progress.

  8. J. D. Kimple

    The front derailleur is honestly not that big a deal. It doesn’t weigh that much, especially compared to the pack weight. So I’m not buying the weight argument. It’s not bad engineering, either. It IS a simple yet effective mechanism. Hell, if your front derailleur cable snaps you can use a stick to do the same thing.

    The 1× system seems to actually have the potential for more problems. First, you need a longer cage rear der, and it will extend lower towards the ground. This makes the rear derailleur more prone to be bent, hit a rock or root, or jammed with mud and broken.

    Second, we are now going to an even narrower chain, and dishing the rear wheel even more? Both seem to be more likely to bend/break.

    I don’t know about you, but when bike packing, I want something that is robust. A double or triple, and rear derailleur that’s not so close to hazards is my choice.

    • Megacyclist

      What about the extra shifter, inner/outer cable, extra cogs. That’s a big saving on weight!!
      This eagle derraileur is not so much longer than the new Shimano RD-8000 derraileur due to offset upper pulley on the Sram. Mud is also not an issue due to the 14 tooth lower pulley.

      The wheel isn’t dished more as it uses the same 11 speed spacing. The cassette is dished here bringi g the 50t cog about 1 mm closer to the spokes. However a good alignment will ensure that the chain never falls of behind the cassette. So no issues there neither.
      Having less parts that can break or damage is always the goal in any kind of engenering. So what’s your point?

      Embrace the good changes in mountain biking and at least try something out before thinking reasons for not to try it out. I upgraded to this groupset which costed me €949 and it’s by far the best upgrade after my suspension upgrade. Really mate…. Just try it out a whole weekend and you’ll see that all your theories and concerns will be wiped and will leave you smiling from ear to ear. This is simply another level of engenering like never before.

  9. With good rear hub the price is comparable with Rohloff which I would still prefer over any derailleur for most uses.

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  11. I think 2x or even 3x will make a comeback once XT Di2 becomes more common, or maybe when an Di2 SLX comes out. You can program Di2 to use one lever and manage the front changes automatically. Then you get finer spacing and more range and 15 ratios.

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  14. I have a 2016 Specialized Epic with a 1×11. Can I update it to the 1×12???

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      You can, but you will need to upgrade most of your components as they are different. Also, you will want to see how big of a chainring you can run on the Epic frame as you will likely want to run a bigger one for a bigger range.

  15. Same argument happens in China, and always no results, so , use whatever feels comfortable 🙂

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