With the new Apex AXS, SRAM introduce a groupset for those with a small budget and big dreams. The group is tailor-made for gravel bikes, features SRAM’s latest tech, and brings the mullet setup to the masses. In other news, SRAM debut their first mechanical XPLR groupset.

After the recent update of the Force AXS groupset, SRAM continue with the trickle-down process. As such, the latest tech of their high-end RED and Force groupsets penetrates ever further down the ranks, becoming available on their more affordable ranges. Until now, the Rival AXS was the most affordable wireless groupset available and the right choice for frugal riders yearning for electronic shifting, performing well on both gravel and road. But that’s set to change with the introduction of the new SRAM Apex. It’s completely dedicated to the gravel spirit, saying goodbye to the front derailleur, 2x setups, and the mixed XPLR and MTB setup. In doing so, SRAM aren’t just stirring up the AXS segment, but the groupset also promises to be the new top dog of mechanical shifting.

2023 SRAM Apex – Full on gravel

As what is arguably the American brand’s first dedicated gravel groupset, the new 2023 Apex is aimed squarely at price-conscious riders. Complicated front derailleurs and finicky 2x setups are out of place here. Front derailleurs just aren’t reliable, especially on muddy gravel rides. Going to a 1x setup simply makes sense and it hasn’t dominated the mountain bike segment without reason.
The new groupset’s mullet setup also got its inspiration from the world of long-travel bikes. But wait, mullet? What are we talking about? While used to describe a setup with a 29″ front wheel up front and a smaller 650b wheel on the rear of a mountain bike, it also refers to a groupset consisting of a wide-range MTB derailleur and cassette on a gravel bike. In the case of SRAM, this is made up of Eagle components, of course.
A mullet setup offers enormous gear ranges on a 1x setup. 10-52 t cassettes with a 520 % range aren’t uncommon in the MTB segment, making easy work of any climb. That said, it all comes at the expense of fine gearing increments, which is why the well-known XPLR version of the new Apex will still be available. As the cherry on top, the new groupset won’t be exclusive to the AXS interface, i.e. wireless shifting. There will also be a fully analogue offshoot. SRAM had to go back to the drawing board to make this happen, because, unlike the AXS components, there were no existing mechanical 12-speed XPLR components to draw from.

Entirely devoted to the gravel spirit: the new SRAM Apex is exclusively available as a 1x setup.

2023 SRAM Apex AXS – The wireless groupset in detail

First of all, the new 2023 SRAM Apex AXS integrates perfectly into the existing AXS ecosystem and is fully cross compatible, including components from the MTB segment!
The AXS components of the groupset, i.e. rear derailleur and hoods, are based entirely on the components of the Rival AXS and GX Eagle ranges. However, SRAM have adapted some of the materials and finishes, further reducing the price of the Rival’s shifting performance.

Fully electric: the new SRAM Apex AXS consists of familiar components bearing a new name.

SRAM Apex AXS shifter/brakes

The hoods of the new Apex AXS are identical to the Rival AXS models. Here, SRAM rightly rely on what’s been tried and tested as the ergonomics are clearly superior to the flagship RED groupset and were recently carried over to the new Force AXS. The new Apex relies on the same grips with fully adjustable brake levers and the familiar eTap shifting logic.

Rival AXS or Apex AXS? SRAM rely on the proven ergonomics of the Rival groupset.
The new Apex AXS hoods with the matching branding.

SRAM Apex XPLR AXS derailleur

The XPLR derailleur also comes from the higher-end Rival groupset and is 1x specific, according to SRAM. Typical XPLR, the rear derailleur is compatible with cassettes from 10–36 t to 10–44 t. Like all AXS components, the Apex APX groupset is powered by removable and rechargeable batteries. Furthermore, the rear derailleur works with SRAM’s Flattop chains, though it doesn’t have the Cage Lock function, unfortunately.

SRAM’s gravel setup has already proven its mettle on the higher end groupsets.
Here, too, you get an Apex XPLR AXS derailleur with Apex branding, matching the remaining components of the groupset.

X1-Eagle AXS derailleur

Of course, there’s one thing a mullet setup can’t do without, which is a huge dinner-plate cassette with an enormous derailleur. With the Apex groupset, this is taken care of by a rear derailleur based on the GX-Eagle AXS in the Apex guise. The derailleur is compatible with up to 52 tooth cassettes, offering a maximum gear range of 520 %, but it doesn’t work with Flattop chains, requiring a matching Eagle chain instead.

2023 SRAM Apex – The mechanical groupset in detail

The mechanical Apex groupset features the more innovative of the newly presented components, though not available as yet.

SRAM Apex AXS shifter/brakes

Since SRAM haven’t had a mechanical 12-speed XPLR groupset in their portfolio to date, there was a lot of ground-up development required to make this happen. Crammed into the small hoods resembling the AXS variant, you won’t just find the master cylinders of the hydraulic disc brakes, but also the mechanical actuation mechanism of the rear derailleur. The hoods rely on the well-known shifting logic of SRAM’s mechanical groupsets. Pressing lightly shifts down, and pressing hard shifts up. Since the Apex has no front derailleur, it’s only the right-side control that contains a shifting mechanism. The left side functions as a brake only.

SRAM Apex XPLR derailleur

Along with the shifter/brakes, the mechanical XPLR derailleur is where you’ll find the real innovation. The first mechanical 12-speed gravel derailleur from the US brand is compatible with up to 44 tooth cassettes, but it won’t work with compact 10-36 t cassettes. As usual with XPLR components, the derailleur works with Flattop chains and features the integrated Cage Lock for easy installation and removal of the rear wheel. The rear derailleur can also be paired with mechanical Eagle triggers from the mountain bike segment.

SRAM Apex Eagle derailleur

Like the AXS variant, the mechanical Apex Eagle derailleur is based on its mechanical GX Eagle counterpart. The Apex model has adopted all the functions, including the Cage Lock and Roller Bearing Clutch. Its compatibility with 50 and 52 tooth cassettes also allows for the ultimate mullet setup.

From the ground up: the real highlight of the new groupset is the all-new, fully mechanical SRAM XPLR option!
The proven GX Eagle derailleur in the Apex look.

Cranks, chainrings, cassette – What’s new on the 2023 SRAM Apex groupset?

In addition to those already mentioned, the 2023 SRAM Apex introduces more components that are compatible with this specific groupset, including both the AXS and mechanical variants.

SRAM Apex 1

The Apex crankset is the same one you’ll be familiar with from the Rival groupset. By dispensing with the polished finish, the 1x crankset is slightly more affordable while delivering the same performance as the Rival option. Like its big brother, the 2x crankset is designed according to the DUB axle standard and is available in the Wide version to accommodate wider gravel tires.

Same shape and same performance: it’s only the look that distinguishes it from the more expensive Rival crankset.


Like the cranks, you’ll be familiar with the Apex chainrings from the Rival groupset, though featuring a different finish and a narrow-wide tooth configuration for improved chain retention. There will also be more affordable steel chainrings available to OEM suppliers. Both chainring variants are compatible with Flattop and Eagle chains.

Narrow-wide chainrings should prevent the chain from coming off.

SRAM Apex chain

The SRAM Apex Flattop chain is based on the current chains of the higher-priced groupsets, but it’s made of a less durable material, which makes the chain a bit more susceptible to wear and tear. The chain is compatible with all XPLR rear derailleurs and matching cassettes. For Eagle cassettes and derailleurs, however, you’ll need to use an Eagle chain.

As with their flagship groupsets, SRAM place their bets on the fast and eye-catching Flattop chain, seen here in the Apex variant.

SRAM XPLR PG-12331 cassette

The Apex-specific XPLR cassette with a 11–44 t range will fit on classic HG 11-speed freehub bodies, offering increased flexibility. As a result, riders have a significantly wider range of wheels to choose from, especially in the entry-level segment, and it also makes the groupset much more attractive as an upgrade on existing bikes.

Silver and shiny: the SRAM XPLR cassette of the new Apex groupset still looking new and clean.

SRAM Apex brakes

The brakes of the 2023 Apex groupset are based on the well-established Level models from the mountain bike sector. Optimised for gravel, they rely on the flat-mount standard and deliver the same braking performance as those of the higher-end groupsets. SRAM have even thought of all the flat bar enthusiasts with the SRAM S300 brake levers, providing a suitable, Apex branded model. In that case, however, you could just go with a full MTB groupset.

Light and easy to modulate: the Apex brakes offer reliable and confidence-inspiring stopping power.

Power meter ready – For all the data hungry privateers

Analogues to the SRAM Rival, the Apex groupset gives you the option of installing a compatible power meter. The unit promises proven Quarq power meter technology, though it only takes measurements on the left crank arm. The weight penalty of installing the power meter is minimal at less than 40 g, and it also measures the cadence.

Reliable and neatly integrated – SRAM offer performance tracking on a budget.

Prices and weights of the 2023 SRAM Apex groupset

In terms of price, every configuration of the SRAM Apex groupset ranks significantly lower than its higher-end siblings. For that, you get shifting performance at Rival level with a slight weight penalty and a different look. The real highlight, however, are the mechanical options, which is much easier on your wallet than the AXS equivalent and weighs less.

Prices for complete SRAM Apex groupsets without bottom bracket:

  • AXS XPLR – € 1,371/2,900 g
  • Apex AXS Eagle – € 1,456/3,191 g
  • Apex XPLR – € 1,095/2,882 g
  • Apex Eagle – € 1,270/3,072 g
A real bargain for the price.

First ride review of the 2023 SRAM Apex AXS

Our test bike with the 2023 SRAM Apex AXS groupset delivered the same shifting performance as the equivalent Rival setup. In other words, clean shifting and the proven ergonomics of the Rival controls. The shifting logic is easy to understand, too, and ingrained in your muscle memory before you know it. By dispensing with a front derailleur, SRAM have cleverly bypassed the biggest problem of road bike groupsets. Thanks to the 1x drivetrain, the chain doesn’t jump off and stays securely on the chainring even through rough terrain.
Unfortunately, we haven’t yet had a chance to test the mechanical or Eagle version of the groupset. But thanks to our experience with SRAM’s MTB components, we expect reliable shifting here, too, though with a slight increase in weight.

Our conclusion on the 2023 SRAM Apex

SRAM offer a high shifting performance at a low price with the 2023 Apex groupset. The AXS components, which are largely based on the higher-end Rival models, deliver tried and trusted performance. SRAM have also integrated Eagle components for maximum gear range and a mechanical mullet setup. In fact, the real innovations can be found on the analogue side: a newly developed rear derailleur and matching controls expand the portfolio with some exciting components in the lower-priced segment.

Find out more at sram.com

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Words: Calvin Zajac Photos: Julian Schwede