SRAM eTap AXS 12 Speed

SRAM eTap AXS 12 Speed

 Since SRAM first announced their original Red eTap groupset in August 2015, they have revolutionised shifting on road bikes. For the first time an electronic groupset was fully wireless and this could be considered as SRAM’s breakthrough product line to give people a reason to purchase over the market leaders Shimano. With both derailleurs having detachable rechargeable batteries that could be interchanged between the mechs and coin cell batteries in the levers, a clean, sleek set up could be achieved with only brake cables appearing from the handlebars. This design also allowed users to charge the batteries when they were away from the derailleurs, rather than having to bring the whole bike to a charging point as with Shimano DI2 and Campagnolo EPS. These design features gave SRAM an edge, essentially telling Shimano and Campagnolo to move aside for the new generation as SRAM had only been in the road groupset market since 2006.

 After the success of the first iteration of their eTap shifting system, SRAM were at it again with a new release in 2019. For the first time in their road range, SRAM made the jump to 12 speed with Red eTap AXS. But this was more than just an extra sprocket at the back, with SRAM developing a whole new attitude to gear range and ratios. This came mostly from the 10T sprocket on the cassette which allowed the chainset ratios to be lowered at the front end, with a 48/10 ratio being just under a 53/11. With these lowered chainring sizes, it meant that a greater range of gear ratios could be achieved whilst still having smaller jumps between sprockets at the low end of the cassette for smaller cadence adjustments. The new chainset options arrived in 50/37, 48/35 and 46/33 disrupting the normal and giving people another reason to switch. Accompanied with a 10-26T, 10-28T, 10-30T or 10-33T cassette, a wide variety of combinations was offered so that the perfect range and ratio for any rider could be found. The chain was also redesigned to the Flattop design, with claims that narrowing the chain links and moving the material to the top of the chain improved lateral strength and chain wear. SRAM also made use of the same batteries as the 11 speed version, keeping things simple for existing eTap customers. In 2020, the technology trickled down to the Force tier as Force eTap AXS was released featuring all of the same features as Red but with a lower price tag and a 300g weight increase. Rival eTap AXS was then announced in April 2021, bringing all the features of Red down to an even more affordable price level, allowing for more people than ever before to access electronic shifting.

 AXS is pronounced “Access”, with SRAM saying that this means All-Access across its groupset ranges. Essentially, both road and MTB AXS groupsets are cross-compatible with each other which allows for great creativity and customisation. A road groupset paired with an Eagle rear derailleur and cassette makes what SRAM labels a Mullet groupset, business at the front and party at the back. Utilising the 10-52T Eagle cassette with drop bar shifters makes the set-up appealing for those who want to adventure, with their bikes loaded to the brim. All AXS groupsets also make use of the AXS mobile app which helps you to get the most out of your SRAM experience, allowing customisation and gear usage breakdown. Battery levels can also be seen from the app as well as on the components themselves, with the web app sending you notifications on when to charge batteries or update software. To update the software onboard the components, it’s very simple with it all being done with a few touches through the mobile app. Overall I think SRAM have done a great job in keeping the wireless system simple and easy to use, with lots of support readily accessible.

 I first moved to SRAM in 2019, when I purchased a bike with Force 22. This groupset made use of the DoubleTap shift technology which was a strange jump at first, but after the first ride it was actually very easy and intuitive to use. The static brake lever gave some security when I was putting the power down out of the saddle, with the single shift paddle allowing multiple shifts up the cassette when the going got tough quickly. This design also allows for a lighter lever than competitors as there are less parts to the shifter body. I soon felt that I had moved sides from Shimano to SRAM as I prefer the design of the levers and chainset, along with the other functional features. The Yaw design of the front derailleur is clever, which removes the need for a trim-shift when towards the extremes of the cassette. I kept my Ultegra direct-mount brakes, as SRAM did not offer a Force equivalent and I was happy with the performance of the Shimano direct-mount system.

 In February of this year I decided to upgrade my Force 22 to its AXS equivalent on my Trek Emonda ALR. Similar to the Force 22 upgrade, a bit of a leap of faith. When the AXS boxes arrived, I knew that I had made a good choice to choose SRAM again. The classy, sleek packaging gives you the impression of style and good quality right off the bat. Upon install, the process was very easy with SRAM’s Youtube channel having guides on every step to help you install the groupset to your bike correctly. The drivetrain setup took about half an hour with very little hassle. With the AXS mobile app, customisation was quick and easy to get the gears to work to my liking. Multi-shifts can be capped at 2 or 3, but if you like then you could traverse the whole way up or down the cassette with one hold of a button. Fine tuning the rear derailleur adjustments was simple, using the micro-adjustments by pressing buttons on both the shifter and the rear mech. Once installed on the bike the components looked even more elegant. Force has a slightly darker appearance than Red with the latter making use of more chrome finishing in places, but the matte grey and black matches perfectly with the Trek. 

 I was eager to get out on my first ride with the AXS to try out the new tech. I took a quick test ride out of the workshop after the install. Wow. I was very impressed, to say the least. The shifting was incredibly crisp, with the drivetrain running stealthily silent with the rear derailleur barely making any sound during a shift. Paddle presses at the lever are clear with prominent presses needed to actuate the buttons, with the front derailleur making a satisfying short electrical buzz when moving. During the first ride, more of the same. A great experience with very little to criticise, the ride was almost silent with the occasional buzz when I shifted between the chainrings. I opted for the 46/33T chainset option with a 10-33T cassette as I ride with a cadence of roughly 90-100RPM, this ratio has been perfect for me with a 1:1 at the low end. I’m excited to try this out in the mountains of the French Alps hopefully this summer. From the data pulled from the SRAM web app I noticed that I spend most of my time in the 46/17T gear when rolling round the Suffolk lanes, in some of my most recent rides I’ve only been using the 46T chainring as the range in the cassette allows me to do so. The gear usage analysis is interesting to read into post-ride, a nice touch. AXS connects to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt for live gear reading on the move which is a really good feature, I’ve found, stopping me from looking down to see my chainline throughout the ride. 


 After my upgrade, I realised that more people need to feel this experience that SRAM has produced. Especially with the launch of their Rival AXS groupset, electronic shifting is now available to more people than ever. With all of the features of Red and Force this makes it very difficult to find a flaw with the Rival tier, the only hardware difference between Rival and its bigger brothers is that it is only available for disc brakes. Of course you get the increased weight at this lower price point, but at the end of the day if weight is the main concern then stick to a mechanical groupset with rim brakes! Rival AXS can be found on our store here, with more SRAM products coming to the lineup soon so make sure to keep an eye out on our social media pages for the latest info. If you need any help or information about SRAM AXS then feel free to get in touch with us as we are happy to answer your questions.



SRAM eTap AXS 12 Speed Force wireless rear derailleur mech SRAM eTap AXS 12 Speed Force wireless shifter lever SRAM eTap AXS 12 Speed Force wireless chainset DUB front derailleur mech

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