With the all-new SRAM RED eTap AXS, the American brand presents the next generation of its wireless groupset. What good is a 12th gear really and what do the professionals of the KATUSHA ALPECIN team say about it? We’ve got all the info you need.

What can the new groupset do better than the old one?

In a direct comparison to its predecessor, SRAM has given the new RED eTap AXS a number of updates. First of all, we’ve got to mention the 12th gear with the 10T cog. The one-piece cassette offers at least five gear steps with a difference of only one tooth, depending on the gear range. These gradual gear steps ensure that the rider can pedal in their optimal cadence higher speeds and easily get up the steepest climbs.

The design of the front derailleur has been updated and adapted for the new X-RANGE chainrings. The new design has the advantage that there will be more rear tire clearance.
The rear derailleur of the RED eTap AXS is now fully compatible with 1x and 2x drivetrains. It features a built-in hydraulic clutch called Orbit, which promises quiet running and improved chain retention of the drivetrain no matter how bumpy the terrain – similar to the previous clutch mechanism.

Thanks to improved motors, shifting with the new RED eTap AXS is said to be faster than with the 11-speed RED eTap, according to SRAM. The American brand did not reveal any details on how much faster the new groupset will actually shift. We’re itching to find out more and we’ll be sure to have a very close look on our first ride review! We will then be able to tell you whether the increased shifting speed makes a noticeable difference in real-world scenarios.

The chain of the new RED eTap AXS has been completely redesigned and, thanks to the innovative Flattop design, it’s claimed to not only be lighter and narrower but stronger too. A new coating should also reduce wear for a longer service life.

SRAM offers the RED eTap AXS groupset with 1x cranksets for aero and cyclocross bikes and as well as all-purpose 2x cranksets. The simplified installation, reduced weight and the X-SYNC chainring (narrow/wide for 1x setups) promises to offer riders maximum flexibility.
The shifters are still compatible with either hydraulic disc brakes or mechanical rim brakes. The lever reach and shifting sequences are customisable.
The brake rotors have also been fundamentally redesigned for the RED eTap AXS and optimised for the specific requirements of road bikes. The aim of the newly developed Centerline rotors is to vibrate less and run quieter due to the constant friction point. Due to their rounded design, the brake rotors are UCI compliant too.

Together with the RED eTap AXS groupset, SRAM is introducing a new bottom bracket standard called DUB which is compatible with most existing bottom bracket standards such as BSA, BB30, PF30 and PF86.5.
In terms of power meters, SRAM is relying on their in-house relationship with Quarq more holistically than with their RED eTap 11-speed drivetrain by integrating the Quarq DZero Power Meter directly into the chainrings of the new RED eTap AXS. This should result in a cheaper overall package, with easier accessibility to the power meter as well as weight savings. The integrated power meter will be available on both 1x and 2x cranks. The DZero Power Meter platform features a revised version of their strain gauge and promises improved accuracy.
SRAM is also optimising the compatibility with in-house components from different bike disciplines. Thus, an Eagle AXS rear derailleur or a Reverb AXS dropper seat post is compatible with SRAM’s eTap AXS shifters.

“At first I was sceptical when SRAM introduced us to the new drivetrain. But we’ve been riding with the new groupset since December, so we’ve had enough time to get used to the new gearing ratios (50/37 front, 11-28 back). We’ve already been able to compete in our first race with it and I’ve come to a positive initial conclusion: 12-speed cassettes provide an even wider gear range. Above all, the new clutch only offers advantages: the chain has become a lot quieter! We already started riding disc brakes last season but for this season we’ll use them for all races and training rides. Braking power, modulation – it makes a world difference, especially in wet conditions!” Rick Zabel, Team KATUSHA ALPECIN

SRAM RED eTap AXS – gear steps and range

If you compare the gear steps of the new X-RANGE on the RED eTap AXS, you’ll be struck by the unusual combinations. The X-RANGE drivetrain consists of a 50/37 chainring combo and a 10-26T cassette, compared to conventional race gearing with a 53/39 chainring combination and an 11-25T cassette. Things look equally unconventional when compared to a regular compact setup (50/34 chainrings and 11-32T cassette): here, the X-RANGE has a 46/33 chainring combo and a 10-33T cassette. All the while, the X-RANGE drivetrain offers a higher gear range than the previously available models in every possible combination, as shown in the following graphic.

Compared to traditional setups, the RED eTap AXS cassette offers more gear steps with a difference of just one tooth in the smaller cogs. This should make it easier for the rider to find the perfect gear for every situation.

“The gearing ratio (12x, 50/37 – 10-28) was very unfamiliar at first. But I have to say, I like it and you quickly get used to it. With the new clutch, the chain is a lot more stable. In other words, it runs a lot quieter and on our first test or recon rides on the Belgian cobblestones and bad roads of the spring classics, this had a very positive effect on the shifting performance. I also like the look of the machined chainrings. Otherwise, the shifting is fast and reliable, as with the predecessor.” Nils Politt, Team KATUSHA ALPECIN

AXS – what is it exactly and what does the rider benefit?

The acronym AXS represents a novel integrative platform that enables electronic and wireless components and software to communicate directly with each other. The platform will be available with SRAM’s disc and rim brake groupsets and will combine their proprietary eTap AXS protocol (SRAM to SRAM), BLE protocol (bike to smartphone) and ANT+ protocol (bike to GPS device). This holistic approach allows the rider to use his smartphone to configure the drivetrain and personalise the assigned commands. The AXS platform is also able to combine road bike and mountain bike drivetrain components: if you want to, you can use a SRAM Eagle AXS rear derailleur on your gravel bike, for example. Also worth mentioning is the ability to operate the Reverb AXS dropper seat post via the RED eTap AXS shifters. Dropper post on your gravel bike? Check!
The already mentioned AXS smartphone app is available for all iOS and Android devices. Besides using it to adjust the drivetrain to your personal preference, you can also use it to update the operating systems, check the battery level and – if available – read and export the data from the power meter.

AXS also offers riders the option of shifting either completely manually or using one of the enhanced shifting modes: sequential and compensating. In sequential mode, AXS will automatically operate the front mech depending on the position of the rear derailleur. The rider can manually override the mech’s automatic shifting at any time. In compensating mode, AXS compensates for manual shifts on the mech by automatically shifting the rear derailleur. Depending on the size of the gear jump, the rear derailleur automatically shifts up or down one or two gears. Once programmed in the app, the rider can choose between manual mode or one of the two enhanced modes directly on the shifter.
SRAM claims to be preparing for the future with the AXS platform. We’re very curious to find out what other innovations await us following this first launch.

Compatibility

Regarding compatibility, there is only one thing to keep in mind with the new SRAM Red eTap AXS: to install the groupset on an existing bike with an 8-, 9-, 10- or 11-speed drivetrain, all you need is an XDR freewheel on the rear hub, which will allow you to instal the new SRAM RED XG-1290 12-speed cassette. Since the freewheel on the hubs of most manufacturers can be replaced relatively easily, this shouldn’t be a major hurdle.
Unfortunately, anyone who already owns an 11-speed SRAM RED eTap groupset will not benefit from the new AXS technology: the SRAM AXS platform is not compatible with its predecessor. Not all is lost, however, as the new RED eTap AXS derailleurs and mechs are compatible with existing batteries.

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Versions

Power Meter / Cranksets:

  • 2X: 50/37 48/35 46/33
  • 1X: 50 (Aero) 48 (Aero) 46 44 42 40 38 36

Cassettes: 10-26 10-28 10-33
Derailleur: One derailleur for all chainring and cassette combinations
Front mech: One front mech for all chainring and cassette combinations
Disc caliper: Flat mount and post mount for 160mm or 140mm rotors
Brake rotors 140 or 160 mm, CenterLock or 6-bolt mount

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Weight

Groupsets 2X with power meter 2x power meter 1x aero
RED eTap AXS road disc brake 2518 g +36 g 2553 g 2103 g
RED eTap AXS road rim brake 2254 g +36 g 2290 g 2070 g
RED eTap AXS aero disc brake 2343 g +36 g 2379 g 2159 g
RED eTap AXS aero rim brake 2052 g +36 g 2088 g 1868 g

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Price

When looking at the price list, it should be noted that a groupset consists of the following components: rear derailleur, front mech (if required), shifters, callipers, brake rotor (if required), crankset/power meter, bottom bracket, cassette, chain, battery (s) and charger.

Groupsets Road RRP in € incl. Taxes
2x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter € 4,118
2x hydraulic road bike disc brake € 3,618
2x rim brake with power meter € 4,018
2x rim brake € 3,518
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter € 3,668
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake € 3,168
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter € 3,764
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake € 3,264
1x rim brake aero with power meter € 3,368
1x rim brake aero € 2,868

According to SRAM, the brand new RED eTap AXS groupset is now available in stores and on the first production bikes. How SRAM’s latest sprout performs in practice, you will learn here shortly.

For more info visit sram.com


P.S. Do not worry: The Trek Madone show bike has nothing to do with the KATUSHA ALPECIN team. Those guys will still be racing on Canyon.

Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Kathrin Schafbauer, SRAM

About the author

Benjamin Topf

Leonberg based GRAN FONDO editor Ben is a dedicated pre-afterparty-event reporter and wannabe whisky aficionado.
Talking bikes since Kindergarten and sourcing experience from his cycling industry PR & social media background; Ben takes on sophisticated multi-clause sentences without avoiding a purely subjective judgement. Sarcasm is not his thing.