SRAM’s AXS wireless technology trickled down to GX level spec with the release of the SRAM GX Eagle AXS system. We like it. A lot.
This product was selected for our Editors’ Choice Awards 2022, as published in Singletrack Magazine Issue 146. Below is an updated version of our review from 2021.
Benji: “I don’t know how I feel about using the term ‘game changer’ here but… it’s a close call. I’m not massively passionate about anything else electronic-y on a mountain bike. Shimano Di2 never did it for me. Fox Live Valve is not something I want on my own bike. Heck, even RockShox Flight Attendant – even the AXS Reverb dropper – are not things I miss when I don’t have them. But AXS wireless shifting is simply leagues better than anything else. It’s not about saving weight, nor having cleaner lines, nor doing away with cable maintenance (although all three of those benefits are real). It’s about an innovation that actually improves my riding experience. It reminds me of the move from clipless to flats. It feels liberating. The enjoyment levels go up. You suddenly realise how much of a distraction cable gearing was.”
SRAM GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit
- Price: £554
- From: SRAM
If you’re a fan of technology or geek out over cool new gadgets, then the launch of the original AXS wireless systems probably 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 then SRAM did 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 (said “access”, by the way) 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 Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit – What’s in the box?
The Upgrade Kit 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 – We 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 a lot of folk, 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.
We will confess to running out of battery power on a couple of occasions. Which is testament to how long the battery does last; you just take it for granted… until you endure a couple of rides when it does die. After that, you get in the habit of quickly checking its power status at the end of a ride and putting it on charge if the light is red. You can actually do a couple of rides whilst it is on red, so don’t worry too much when you see the red LED. And the battery does charge up impressively quickly, should you see the red light on the morning before going out on a ride.
P.S. if your battery does die on a ride you can still manually change gear. You don’t have to stay in the gear that you were in when the battery died. Stop, dismount, grab hold of the mech body and force the indexing into a suitable gear. It’s not ideal but it’s a workable solution if you just need an ‘uphill’ and a ‘downhill/flat’ gear!
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 Eagle AXS – How does it ride?
Fitting the stuff to the bike is a breeze. Once we had removed the unnecessary cable and the old hardware the rear mech and shifter easily bolted in place.
With everything tightened up and a new chain fitted it’s then a matter of firing the system up and pairing the shifter to the mech, a two button process. Even at this stage, SRAM GX Eagle AXS was able to shift gears well, but sometimes not perfectly until we ran the trim adjustment feature a couple of times.
On the trail, the shifting of GX Eagle AXS was always a marked upgrade whatever wired system we had used previously. Each shift is light and incredibly fast, and the accuracy is so pleasing that initially you may find yourself needlessly shifting gears just to experience it over and over again. From the AXS app, we turned on multi shifting and set it to three cogs, but you can limit it to two 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. SRAM GX Eagle AXS is a better shifting solution to cabled systems and we haven’t run into any significant issues. Our experience with GX AXS has been an exciting one, it taps into inner geek modes (if that’s your bag) but the main thing is that, on the trail, it’s better than any cable system we’ve ridden.
Addressing the ‘issue’ of having something (GX Eagle AXS rear mech) costing £342 dangling off the back of your bike, all we can say is that our setup is still ticking along just fine despite being dragged over/across/through all kinds of rocks/reeds/ruts. In fact, we’ve had a few instances where we would expect to have been straightening mech hangers afterwards… but we haven’t had to. Anecdotal it maybe but we’re still impressed.
What about the issue of ‘bouncing’ rear mech? This is where the lack of a section of gear outer allows the rear mech to pivot backwards and forwards easier than if there was the gear outer there. Well, wireless AXS rear mechs do bounce around more than cable rear mechs. Which, on some frames, can lead to increased chainslappy noise and theoretically more chance of the chain dropping off the chainring. Our experience is that the pros of the whole system outweigh these cons. Noise can be quelled with canny chainstay protection. And chain retention guides exist if you find yourself dropping chains more (we haven’t).
Editor’s Choice Awards
In the Editors’ Choice Awards we highlight our standout bikes and products from the past year. These are the bikes that we’d like to have in our sheds. These are the components and clothing that we still use long after the nominal test period has expired. Only 15 products and six bikes made the grade this year. This is the good stuff.
To make the cut, each thing must have proven itself out on the trails. They’ve got to have been reliable and ride-enhancing. We don’t do technology for technology’s sake. Nor are we overly swayed by showy, high price tags and bling materials. That said, we don’t prioritise anything solely because it’s cheaper than its rivals. Nor do we penalise a genuinely great product if it is conspicuously expensive. Performance is what matters in Editor’s Choice.
While you’re here…
|Product:||GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit|
|Tested:||by Benji for 18 months|
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