Set against the dramatic desert landscape of Tucson in Arizona with all its cactus (honestly, it’s like something out of a film or cartoon), SRAM unveiled its brand new and eagerly anticipated electronic wireless Eagle AXS groupset and Reverb dropper post, which brings eTap style wireless shifting to the off-road world.
That a wireless mountain bike groupset was on the cards was no surprise, the rumour mill had been given a good shove along by sightings of an undisclosed groupset at some World Cup races last season. In fact, since SRAM debuted its first Red eTap wireless groupset on the road side back in 2015 has the question has been when, not if, SRAM would port the tech over to the mountain bike side.
SRAM Eagle and Reverb go wireless! First Look, by off.road.cc
The company admitted at the launch it would have happened sooner had it not been for the decision to focus its resources on developing Eagle, which with hindsight was a good move as there are a huge number of mountain bikes specced with its various levels of 1x technology.
All-new electronic rear mech
The new Eagle AXS groupset, offered in XX1 and X01 flavours, is built around the familiar and proven technology eTap technology that has been extensively tested and raced at the highest level in the road bike market. It features similar motor technology and the same easily removable batteries, and there’s an all-new Trigger Shifter to operate the mech.
It’s an all-new rear mech specifically designed to be driven by motors rather than actuated by cables, it’s no regular Eagle mech with the electronic gubbins bolted on. It has the same one-way clutch mechanism with cage lock, but it’s now joined by the Overload clutch which protects the internal gearbox motor from damage in the event of a crash.
Another difference is a 10mm shorter cage for increased ground clearance, It also sits slightly more inboard with more chain wrap around the cassette. Trim is set at installation to ensure zero rub, and it promises to be near-silent in use. It is also completely waterproof so it should survive the cruddy UK winter conditions. It still moves the chain over the same gargantuan 10-50t cassette.
The battery adds just 25g and is removable, just like on Red eTap, and provides a claimed 20-hours of riding time. Of course, there are many variables that will dictate the actual runtime, but in my experience of Red eTap the battery lasts plenty long enough between charges, and topping up the battery is a doddle (so much easier than Di2) and takes just one hour.
One neat trick is the fact you can swap the Eagle AXS rear mech and Reverb AXS batteries. So if one dies you can easily unclip them and swap them over. That should never happen though, as a press of the button on the rear derailleur will indicate the battery health, from green for a full charge to flashing red for nearly empty. Plus of course you can easily check the battery status from the new app, so you should never have a ride ruined by a flat battery.
Trigger me Shifter
A new rear mech needs a new shifter, and here SRAM has developed an all-new Eagle AXS Trigger Shifter. It’s basically a rocker paddle; slide your thumb up or down to shift to a different gear. What each button does can be totally configured through the new AXS app.
The new Trigger Shifter comprises a simple rocker button that can be customised via the new app. You can choose from three functions: Inboard shift, Outboard shift or Dropper. You can use one of the touch-points to control the electronic Reverb AXSdropper seatpost.
There’s a neat trick up its sleeve though, SRAM has added a “Secret Sprint” paddle on the front-side of the controller that you can operate via your index knuckle when you’re out of the saddle and sprinting, whether it’s in an XC race or an enduro.
To preserve battery life, the controller goes into power save mode when not used, and wakes up after a single touch.
This one's got an app
Yes, there’s now an app. Everything has an app these days doesn’t it? The AXS element of the groupsets name points to a new ecosystem of connected components that can be customised and monitored from a new smartphone app via Bluetooth. Any component wearing the AXS logo, such as the wireless Reverb, can be connected to each other.
Through this app you can do many things, from personalising how the groupset works, what the buttons do, monitor the battery life and much more, and there are future plans to expand the scope of this app. It should also gather useful information on common gear choices to help you make a smarter chainring size selection.
The app isn’t necessary to install and run the groupset, but if you do sign-up no ride data is shared on the cloud as the app doesn’t incorporate ride tracking functionality, to allay any privacy concerns.
Can it be hacked?
No. SRAM put loads of development time into its original Red eTap groupset and basically, it’s a closed and encrypted system and can’t be accessed by nefarious types. Even with this new AXS approach with a companion app that can be paired to the mechs, you need to be able to physically able to touch the mech to pair it with your phone.
You can read a lot more about the concerns of an electronic attack in this article over on road.cc, to save me going over the same ground again. SRAM Red eTap has been in the market for several years and there have been no reports of it being hacked into.
What's the point of electronics? Cables are just fine aren't they?
SRAM says the benefits of electronic shifting include better and faster shifting under load, over the gnarliest terrain, all without having to change your hand position.
Another obvious benefit is the ease of installation. Since there’s no mech cable or dropper post hose, you won’t be cussing when trying to persuade a cable or hose to pass through the frame to the exit port.
With ever more complicated full suspension designs it does offer potential benefits to bike designers to optimise designs around the new groupset and its lack of cable and hose routing, but it might be some time before we see any bike brand take advantage of it in this way.
Installation should also be a breeze. Bolt the new components onto the bike, adjust the three limit screws, press the pairing buttons to sync the mech to the controller, and the Eagle AXS is perfectly trimmed and ready to go.
An added bonus is the fact it removes another two components that could in worst case scenario fail.
One thing that defintiely does not benefit is the price...
Okay, hit me with the price then
Are you sitting down?
XC race-ready specification made from the lightest materials including a carbon fibre mech cage with titanium hardware and a snazzy rainbow colour.
Burlier build for trail and enduro riders with aluminium cage and black/polar colours
Groupsets include rear derailleur with battery, Trigger Shifter with clamp, DUB crankset, Rainbow Chain, Cassette, Chaingap gauge and Charger.
When can I buy it?
This is typically the part of the article when we relay the sad news that you'll have to contain your excitement for several months, but in this case, SRAM has lined up the unveiling with actual availability, so it should be available in February 2019.
Is there a weight penalty?
Nope, it weighs the same as the mechanical Eagle groupset. n fact, SRAM says the XX1 Eagle AXS drivetrain should be about 5g lighter, and X01 should be about 15g lighter.
It's also up to 80g lighter than the first generation 11-speed XX1. That's progress for you!
We'll give SRAM the final word
“Riders haven’t asked for this product, because it was never possible before. We didn’t employ the magic of wireless electronics for effect either. We engineered hardware with a new ergonomic experience based on touching a button rather than pushing a lever. Giving you faster, more consistent shifts. Letting you shift when you want, under load, without ever having to plan around terrain.”
Raise me up - RockShox Reverb AXS launched
Not only has SRAM developed a wireless actuated Eagle derailleur, but it has also developed a wireless RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post.
“Our intention with Reverb AXS™ was inventive and pure: No hoses. No routing. No energy wasted. Not a single thing in the way of the experience. We created a reliable wireless-electronic dropper post and controller that actuates with drastically less effort and zero distraction. Expanding what’s ever possible on a bike, Reverb AXS™ is enabled by SRAM AXS™ technology, a new level of interaction, personalization, and connectivity across all AXS™ enabled components,” explains the company.
For the most part, it’s a familiar Reverb dropper post available with 100 to 170mm of infinite adjustability, four lengths and three diameters. But SRAM has taken this opportunity to upgrade the lower friction floating piston to provide a faster movement with less downward force needed to lower the saddle.
Now with added batteries
Slung off the back of the clamp is the same battery as used on the Eagle AXS derailleur which is activated by a brand new wireless electronic shifter, which itself is powered by a small CR2032 coin cell battery.
SM2_AXS_Arizona_SOTM_R_ReverbAXS_181202_HN_0443_M.jpg, by Dave Arthur
The main battery will last 40-60 hours but that, of course, depends on how much you use the Reverb. It recharges in under an hour and it automatically wakes up when you press the trigger to conserve the battery. There’s also no need to turn it on and off, it’s always ready to go.
SM2_AXS_Arizona_SOTM_R_ReverbAXS_181202_HN_0628_M.jpg, by Dave Arthur
If the battery does run flat, there is no way to manually adjust the height. But with up to 60 hour run time you’d have to be an idiot to let it run flat.
A doddle to setup
And with no hose to route through the frame, installation and setup is a breeze. It’s part of the new AXS ecosystem so it can be easily synced with the Eagle AXS groupset and personalised via the brand new app, which also lets you check on the battery health.
SM2_AXS_Arizona_SOTM_R_ReverbAXS_181202_HN_0395_M.jpg, by Dave Arthur
Also new is the post head, which uses a twin-bolt design to make easy fore-aft and tilt adjustments.
AXS mix and match personalisation
The AXS app also means you can easily sling a Reverb onto a gravel bike with an SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset, which opens up much easier integration of mountain bike and road components for the gravel, adventure and allroad bikes that are popular right now.
Will it survive a British winter?
It should do. The system is completely sealed and water and dust proof to IP7 standards so it should cope with a muddy ride and repeated hose pipe cleaning.
SM2_AXS_Tucson_SM_Lifestyle_181202_Harookz_L_1369.jpg, by Dave Arthur
Brand new is Vent Valve Technology, which lets you more easily service the post with just a few simple steps, saving a complete strip down of the post when air and oil inevitably mix over time. Simply depress the valve, compress the post, and the air is channelled back into the air chamber leave the oil where it needs to be.
Can I adjust the return speed of the post?
No, the speed of the post is fixed at the fastest return speed.
How much is it then?
It ain’t cheap, coming in at a hefty £700, compared to the £270 of a regular Reverb.
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