|Same Technology, Less Money|
SRAM's XX1 group certainly had its doubters when the single-ring drive train was released around this time last year. Skeptics questioned its gearing range, saying that it wouldn't be wide enough for all but the fittest riders, while also scoffing at SRAM's proposal of riders using it without any sort of chain guide. Some quick math, along with a year's worth of testing, has us believing in the gearing - so long as you are honest with yourself regarding what chain ring size you should be using - and it took only a few rides until we were convinced of the group's chain retention abilities. After years of riders struggling with chain guide setup and reliability, it admittedly felt oh so wrong to suddenly be told that we no longer needed to use one, even on rugged terrain. The proof is in the pudding, though, as XX1 was, without a doubt, our top gear pick for last season. How can SRAM top it? Offering the same technology at a lower price would be a good start, wouldn't it?
• Single-ring, 11spd group
• 10 - 42t cassette
• X-Sync thick/thin chain ring tooth profile
• X-Horizon clutch-equipped rear derailleur
• Optional chain ring guard
• 94mm crank BCD
• Smallest chain ring available: 30 tooth
• Carbon crank (al. version to come)
• MSRP: $1,273 USD (starting price)
Although the group carries a starting price of $1,273 USD, you can expect the street price for X01 to be slightly lower, even if its MSRP is is still just a few hundred dollars less than that of XX1. With consumers asking for a much more affordable single-ring, eleven speed group, why is there such a small relative cost difference between the two groups? The answer lies in what bike manufacturers pay for the components when they are spec'ing next year's models, with the cost difference at the original equipment level being much, much greater than what we see in the aftermarket. And although no one is willing to discuss how much manufacturers pay for XX1 and X01, it likely isn't out of line to assume that it could translate to $400 or more on the price of a bike. Given that the two groups appear to be so closely related, how was SRAM able to offer cut costs? The answer lies in streamlined manufacturing processes that save time, and we all know that time is money. Small machining and finishing details throughout the group add up to only the slightest of weight penalties, with the cassette weighing just fifteen grams more, the derailleur ten grams, and the cranks only five. All told, there is only 30 - 40 gram difference between the two groups. So, while it may seem that X01 isn't much different than XX1 when it comes to price and weight, the real story is how SRAM has been able to bring the system's technology as a whole to a much lower priced complete bike on the showroom floor. Yes, we'd likely spring for XX1 if we were to buy a complete groupset, that much is pretty clear, but we would choose an X01-spec rig if buying a complete bike as it would either cost much less or feature upgraded components elsewhere.X01 On The Trail
Last year, nearly to the very day, we put our first ride in on the debuting XX1 group. That ride began from the top of Whistler and took us down part of the freshly built Top of the World trail before ducking into the trees to sample Khyber, Business Time, and everything in between. Not coincidentally, we kicked off our time on the new X01 group on the very same Top of the World trail after a long ride in the gondola before a short hop on the final chairlift to the summit. Our route back down to the valley floor would include a much rougher than expected Top of the World (the Enduro World Series race went down it the day before... twice!
), the natural roots and rocks of No Joke, into Too Tight, Angry Pirate, and finishing it off with Heart of Darkness. Not only was it pretty much the same course that the EWS took down the mountain, it was also a muddy and rough first date with X01. Just the way we like it.
One ride, regardless of how rough the terrain is, can't possibly prove a component's durability to us, but it certainly can serve as an intro that can give us enough information to report back. And although a "First Ride" impressions piece can sometimes come off as a bit banal and inconclusive, there are certainly nuggets of information that can be gleaned from a single proper ride. In this case, that bit of info is that X01 performs very much like XX1 in the short-term, so much so that we would be hard pressed to tell the difference in a back to back blind test. While this might be a let down to some who were hoping for a night and day difference between the two component groups, it really shouldn't come as a surprise as both XX1 and X01 share the same design ethos and technology. That means that the shifting feels the same - tactile and positive, and that chain slap noise was near non-existent. XX1's incredible chain retention abilities are also found on X01, with the clutch derailleur and the ring's X-Sync tooth shaping keeping the chain on the ring regardless of how rough the trails were, despite our 150mm travel Lapierre bike not running any sort of chain guide. And with Top of the World in much more rugged shape than last season - check the photo at right - it is no small feat that the system as a whole is able to perform so well.
The bottom line is that, at least at this early introductory stage, X01 performs every bit as well as XX1. Its shifting feels as precise, the system can boast of the same chain retention abilities, and it weighs in at just 30 - 40 grams more when both groups use their respective carbon cranksets. Comparing MSRP pricing reveals just $176 USD between the two groups at the retail level, and we would have a hard time not convincing ourselves to splurge a bit for XX1 over X01 if building a bike up from scratch, especially due to the ceramic bottom bracket that comes stock with the more expensive group. As we've stated both earlier in this piece and in a previous article explaining X01, the strength of the group lies in its lower cost at the original equipment level, largely thanks to more efficient manufacturing techniques. This means that consumers will be able to purchase a 2014 model year bike with an X01 group for much less than if that bike had come with XX1, simply because the savings at the OE level are multiplied by the time the bike reaches the showroom floor. Said bike could be hundreds of dollars
cheaper, or it might come with a dropper post in place of a standard post, or maybe even upgraded wheels, but in the end we are getting XX1 technology for less money. The next step will be for us to put some serious miles in on our X01 test group to see if the components perform as well over the long haul as they did during out first ride on them.