Just good old boys… At Singletrack we have been kicking dirt around the mountain bike world since… well some of us predate disc brakes, suspension forks, and even the term…
SRAM’s AXS wireless technology has trickled down to GX level spec with the release of the new SRAM GX AXS system.
If you’re a fan of technology or geek out over cool new gadgets, then the launch of the original AXS wireless systems obviously grabbed your attention. AXS did away with the conventional cable shifter arrangement and replaced it with a seamless wireless system. Clicky triggers were replaced with tappy paddles and instead of your thumb doing the leg work, a battery-powered motor at the derailleur end of the system shunts the chain around.
And now SRAM is doing it all again at a more affordable price point with GX AXS! It’s all the same tech, many of the same options and the very same ease of use and integration but wrapped up in GX meaning that it is cheaper, but that’s not to say it’s cheap.
GX AXS (Access if you were wondering) consists of a wireless controller, GX AXS wireless rear mech and the associated batteries and charger. The system is compatible with all current GX, X01 and XX1 systems and is also fully compatible with the larger 520% range cassettes as well as smaller 500% range cassettes. The fact that it’s compatible with any SRAM system makes GX AXS a great upgrade for anyone on X01 or XX1 who wanted wireless shifting but didn’t want to pay a premium, and in the short amount of time I’ve used it, I DO call it an upgrade.
SRAM GX AXS – What’s in the box?
SRAM sent me the GX AXS upgrade kit which includes the rear mech, wireless shifter, and a battery and charger for the rear mech. The GX AXS rear mech also has a protective cage over the battery and the kit ships with red covers to protect the contacts on the battery and mech when disconnected. The red cover for the battery has a useful switch indicator that you can flick between a full or empty icon so you know if your battery has power or not.
SRAM GX AXS – Features
Wireless – Obviously the biggest standout feature is the fact that AXS is wireless. You no longer have to mess about threading cables through your frame. Sticky winter shifting is a thing of the past, and you’ll never have to hunt around the shed for your cable cutters ever again.
Overload Clutch – Even the GX AXS rear mech isn’t cheap and the idea of smashing one to pieces on a rock is enough to scare most people off the idea of buying one. SRAM has thought about this though with the Overload Clutch, a smart system that will move the mech away from an impact to save both the shifting mechanism and the motor.
Accurate shifting – I can’t stress enough how accurate and smooth the shifting of AXS is. Even moving from X01 to GX AXS was a marked improvement. Every shift is perfect! Even under load the setup works and even better than a traditional cable system.
Compatibility – Just as a normal GX shifter will work with an X01 rear mech, so does AXS. So if you were to pick up a GX AXS shifter it will work with a higher level mech or vice versa.
Programable – The AXS system connects with the SRAM AXS app and from there you can program the shifter to work in a number of different ways. For example, you can switch the way your gears up or downshift and you can program the system to either allow for a single shift at a time (for eBikes) or multiple shifts, from the app you can even choose how many gears you shift through at a time.
Data – This isn’t something that really interests me, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to know how often you shift gear, the AXS system can provide this info. But more importantly, the AXS app can tell you which gears you use the most which might come in handy when training, or choosing your next cassette.
Battery Life – SRAM claims you can get around 20 hours of riding from a single charge. So if you were to ride for 2 hours for 10 days in a row you shouldn’t need to charge the battery until the end of day 10. If you’re not sure how much power you have in the system simply press the button on the mech and an LED will indicate the battery level. Green means GO, a steady Red is telling you that you have around half a battery left while a blinking red light means time to charge.
Encryption – While it would be fun to connect to a mate’s bike and mess with their gears as they ride, AXS doesn’t allow this as the connection is fully encrypted once devices are paired.
Adjustment – While GX AXS is pretty much plug and play, you will probably need to micro-adjust your system for optimal shifts. On a normal system, you would use the barrel adjustment, but on AXS the pairing button doubles up as a trim adjuster too.
Chain retention – In addition to the Overload clutch, GX AXS also uses a Type 3 Roller Bearing clutch to keep your chain on through rough terrain.
SRAM GX AXS – First Ride Impressions
While SRAM was great in getting GX AXS to me very early, other reviews and commitments have kept me from thoroughly testing the system, but in all honesty, if I had been able to but more time on the system I wouldn’t be writing a full review now as I want to be able to confidently comment on the reliability and durability of GX AXS.
But I have ridden the system and I have ridden it quite a lot! I decided to fit GX AXS to my Izzo. Out of the box the Pro Race model of the Izzo is fitted with X01 so fitting GX felt a little strange, after all, we don’t normally choose to move down a level when fitting new parts to a bike do we?
Fitting, as you would expect, was a breeze. Once I had removed the unnecessary cable and the old hardware the rear mech and shifter easily bolted in place. I also took the opportunity to fit a GX 10-52t cassette to the Izzo at the same time upping the range from 500% to 520% (while bolting different parts to the Izzo I also bolted on a pair of 150mm Pikes too, but we can save that for another story).
With everything tightened up and a new chain fitted it was just a matter of firing the system up and pairing the shifter to the mech, a simple 2 button process. Even at this stage, GX AXS was able to shift gears well, but not perfectly until I ran the trim adjustment feature a couple of times.
On the trail, the shifting of GX AXS is a marked upgrade over the X01 kit I had removed. Each shift is light and incredibly fast, and the accuracy is so pleasing that I found myself needlessly shifting gears just to experience it over and over again. From the AXS app, I turned on multi shifting and set it to 3 cogs, but you can limit it to 2 or just one. A quick press of the paddle will shift one cog at a time, but hold it down and your chain flicks across the cassette with impressive athleticism even when climbing and under load.
And really there isn’t much else to report. So far GX AXS is a better shifting solution to the cabled system I removed and, so far, I haven’t run into any issues nor have I come to my bike with a flat battery. My experience with GX AXS has been an exciting one, it taps into my inner geek but on the trail, I honestly feel it’s better than any cable system I’ve ridden.
SRAM GX AXS – Cost
So the part you’ve been waiting for, how much is it going to cost you to switch your wired shifter to a new-fangled wireless one? Well, if this is your first foray into AXS you’ll need the GX AXS upgrade kit at the very least which retails for £554. A GX AXS wireless shifter by itself is £139 while the rear mech hits the wallet at £342.
- SRAM GX AXS wireless shifter – £139
- SRAM GX AXS rear mech – £342
- SRAM GX AXS upgrade kit – £554
Would I buy SRAM GX AXS?
It’s a lot of money, and I probably wouldn’t want to spend £342 on something likely to get whacked by a couple of rocks and stumps on every ride.
BUT! A better question is “Would I buy a bike with GX AXS over one with X01?” in this case, the answer would be an unconditional yes! (as long as the rest of the bike met my needs) Sure I still have to deal with the fact I could whack my rear mech at any time, but I haven’t killed a normal mech for some time, and I’d much prefer the performance of AXS, even GX level, to XX1 or X01 level cabled kit. According to SRAM, it won’t cost a bike brand much more to replace X01 with GX AXS, and I think this is where we’re going to see a lot of this wireless tech picked up over the next few months.
I plan to fit GX AXS to a couple more bikes over the coming months, so stay tuned for updates and a long-term review in the future.
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