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Tested - SRAM's Newest Wireless Drivetrain, GX Eagle AXS 12

We put in the miles to see how SRAM's new wireless drivetrain stacks up to the higher-priced Eagle AXS offerings.

Tested - SRAM's Newest Wireless Drivetrain, GX Eagle AXS

Despite its strong on-trail performance, the price tag associated with SRAM's wireless AXS drivetrains has been a hurdle many riders just could not get over. For two years now, the AXS systems have remained items for elite-level builds only. Enter the all-new GX AXS upgrade kit. It is by no means what we would call inexpensive, but it does lower the barrier of entry to the world of electronic, wireless shifting. We've been logging miles on this new drivetrain for some time now. Let's find out what it is, how it performs, and whether it's a viable alternative to SRAM's higher-tiered offerings.

 

Although GX is a name synonymous with a strong value proposition, we are still talking about wireless shifting, for which there will remain a hefty capital outlay when compared to the traditional forms. Is GX AXS what we would deem "affordable"? Not so much. Does it cost less than other wireless options? Yes.

Strengths

  • Shift performance
  • Ease of setup and installation
  • All the advantages and performance of X01 at a lower price
  • Full up and downstream compatibility
  • New battery cover

Weaknesses

  • Shifter ergonomics take some getting used to

Highlights

  • AXS Wireless shift technology
  • Works with all existing SRAM Eagle drivetrains
  • Cross compatible with all AXS products
  • Customizable shifter orientation through SRAM app
  • Overload Clutch
  • Steel derailleur cage
  • Steel pulley bearings
  • Pairs with SRAM app for all the data and customization
  • New battery cover
  • Compatible with 50T and 52T Eagle cassettes
  • 478g derailleur (with battery cage)
  • 70g shifter
  • GX AXS Upgrade Kit (tested) $600 US

What's New

Just over two years ago SRAM launched AXS Eagle. After a year of testing, Vital gave gave it the stamp of approval. At the time of launch, the system was only available as a complete drivetrain setup. For $1,900, riders got a shifter, derailleur, cranks, chain, and cassette, along with all the charging equipment for the XX1 and X01 line. Individual pieces were available for purchase shortly after. Riders seeking to upgrade their existing SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrains could buy the X01 AXS derailleur and shifter for a cool $1,000. Recently, SRAM dropped this price to $800, presumably, in anticipation of GX AXS.

SRAM's new battery cage on our GX AXS derailleur.

SRAM's GX AXS upgrade kit includes the derailleur, shifter, battery, charging base, and a battery protection cage for $600. Any mountain biker with an existing SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrain can purchase the GX AXS upgrade kit and be in the wireless shifting game.

SRAM's GX AXS Upgrade Kit

What is GX AXS, and why does it cost $200 less than X01 and $400 less than XX1?

Externally, there aren’t major differences between these systems. SRAM XX1 AXS is $1,000 for the upgrade kit and features a carbon exterior derailleur cage. Moving to X01 AXS will see that carbon cage swap to aluminum and put 15g on the derailleur and $200 in your pocket. Looking to save more? GX AXS uses a steel cage, adding 64grams.

X01 AXS Derailleur
GX AXS Derailleur

Internally, riders will get all the same technology and features regardless of the model designation. The new GX AXS kit meets all the same water and dust proof standards as X01 and XX1. The same Overload clutch is still present on the derailleur. For the shifter, all the internal components are the same, GX just uses the original shift paddle, which by our account, saves 7grams.

X01 AXS Shifter
GX AXS Shifter

SRAM is already making the individual components of the new GX AXS line available at the following price points:

  • GX AXS Derailleur (battery not included) - $370 US
  • Shifter - $150 US
  • Battery Cover - $20 US
  • AXS Power Pack - $77 US

Initial Impressions

Installing the AXS system is easy. So easy, we’ve done it blindfolded. We spent more time removing our traditional drivetrain system with cables and such than we did bolting on the AXS derailleur, shifter, and pushing the sync buttons. Because our test drivetrain was not yet launched, the GX AXS derailleur would not pair correctly with the SRAM app. We were, however, able to sync up the shifter just fine if we did want to customize the shifting. For this test, we ran the shifter in the stock configuration.

Photo

With our bike in the work stand, it seemed as though there was some lag between pushing the button on the shifter and the derailleur moving, otherwise known as shifting. For the hype surrounding electronic shifting, and based on our experience with X01 AXS, we had some immediate concerns here. Not knowing anything about the GX AXS system at the time, we thought maybe this was the compromise for the lower price. It was not until after a couple weeks of riding GX AXS that we would receive any technical information from SRAM.

Photo

Though the logo on our derailleur says GX, it may as well be XX1 when your eyes are on the trail.

On the Trail

Putting our test bike on the trail painted a very different picture. With an expectation of average-at-best shifting, the immediacy of our gear changes was a shock. From the moment we put rubber to the ground, the GX AXS shifting was fast, precise, and extremely smooth. We made haste for the nearest grind of an uphill and started pushing buttons like an impatient child to see what would happen. Our GX AXS derailleur pushed and pulled the chain up and down the cassette with nary a complaint and with the expediency of any high-end cable system.

In the course of our testing, the GX AXS system never faltered once or had a missed shift. Regardless of when we chose to shift, our drivetrain complied. Though the logo on our derailleur says GX, it may as well be XX1 when your eyes are on the trail.

Photo

The ergonomics of the AXS shifter are a matter of opinion. The face of the paddle can toggle at the top and bottom. There is also a smaller location on the backside of the paddle which rocks it, "up" or downshifts as the default. We did find it more intuitive and comfortable to use this backside with our thumb to shift, rather than swing it up to push the top paddle. But hey, that is why those buttons exist. It is also worth noting that just like the other AXS shifters, these controls can be configured through the AXS app on your paired smartphone.

A sample of the user interface with the GX AXS shift adjustment.

After several rides with the GX AXS system, we had one nagging question, and it was rather problematic. In the realm of wireless shifting, why would anyone ever choose XX1 or X01 over the GX AXS system? The weight savings are negligible and riders still get all the real-world performance.

...while Overload will save your derailleur, it will not save your hanger.

Durability

GX AXS meets all the same water and dust-proof standards as XX1 and X01 AXS. It is reasonable to expect GX AXS to be every bit as robust as the higher-priced offerings. We logged our share of miles on the GX AXS system and had zero issues from installation, to set up and beyond. For filming, we punched the derailleur over and over again to show off the Overload clutch. What we learned was that while Overload will save your derailleur, it will not save your hanger. The hanger on our Scout became ever-so-bent and caused shifting issues in the easier gears.

Photo

After installing our new hanger, there was still some fine-tuning to be done. After resetting the limit screws, we used the trim function to fine-tune our shifting. This is done by holding the bottom button on the shifter (the one for pairing) and then using the shift paddle to toggle the derailleur up or down. There is a small learning curve but after we did it once, it proved far simpler and more precise than the traditional barrel adjuster on a cable system.

What's the Bottom Line?

Here's the fast math: the GX AXS upgrade kit runs $55 more than a complete traditional GX drivetrain which includes cranks, chain, and a cassette, too. To put it another way, you could have three GX derailleurs and three GX shifters for less than the cost of one GX AXS derailleur and shifter. Honestly, though, is that the math SRAM should be expecting customers to perform? We are in the AXS ecosystem, and the GX line has long been about offering the performance of higher-end products at a more attainable price.

Time and again, reviewers have praised the GX name for its ability to deliver reliable performance with little compromise at a lower price than higher-end offerings. It would seem SRAM has been successful in repeating that feat in the wireless world and leaves us wondering what more could be coming down the line.

Head to SRAM.com for more information on the new GX AXS line.

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Enter to win a GX Eagle AXS drivetrain HERE



About the Tester

Brad Howell- Age: 41 // Years Riding: 26 // Height: 5'9" (1.75m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was large, and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to fix those bikes. Fortunate enough to have dug at six Rampages and become friends with some of the sport’s biggest talents, Brad has a broad perspective of what bikes can do and what it means to be a good rider. The past few years Brad worked in the bike industry and got to see the man behind the curtain. These days, though, he just likes riding his bike in the woods with friends.


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