First Look: 2006 SRAM X.0 Drivetrain Componentry

Feb 2, 2005
by Luc 'Acadian' Albert  
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get invited to SRAM’s Ride Camp to get a sneak peak at their new 2006 X.0 component lineup. The camp was held in beautiful Oracle Arizona. Not only did I get to see all of their new stuff, but also got to ride a bike fully decked out with [L=http://www.sram.com]SRAM’[/L]s new 2006 X.0 drivetrain – let me tell ya, it doesn’t get much better than this! I’ll get more into that later, but first let me talk to you about what SRAM has is store for 2006. I can’t show you any pictures, so I’ll do my best to explain in detail what I saw.
SRAM/RockShox base camp - Oracle, AZ

After a nice afternoon ride I sat down with Ron Ritzler, Product Manager at SRAM. He was nice enough to give me a complete overview of the 2006 SRAM X.0 drivetrain componentry.

2006 SRAM X.0 Trigger Shifters

You want to buy the finest jewelry for your bike? Look no further, these new X.0 trigger shifters are it! These fine gems were designed to take triggers to the X.0 level. What X.0 means to SRAM; performance, features, benefits to the rider, quality, craftsmanship, appearance and everything else you would associate with very high quality products. These trigger shifters were mainly designed as a performance competition level product – i.e. racers or serious enthusiast will be more than pleased with these trigger shifters.

The new pods are based on the same principles as the current X.7 and X.9 trigger shifters – so the ergonomics is similar but takes it one step further. Think “adjustable” ergonomics! Heck, almost everything on you’re handlebars are adjustable, except trigger shifters, which for the most part you are stuck with – what gives? This is unless you start getting crafty with the dremel tool, which is not recommended by any manufacturer. If you look at most brakes on the market today - you can adjust the reach and the engagement point of the levers. So whether you have big hands, small hands, long fingers, short fingers – doesn’t matter, you’ll always be able to find the right fit for you. This type of adjustability will be possible with the new SRAM X.0 trigger shifters.

A few things will be adjustable on the 2006 SRAM X.0 trigger shifters. First you can adjust the clamp position – you can move it in or out via a second mounting position. This is simply achieved by removing the clamp bolt and inserting it in a second mounting hole, which is securely protected with a nice button head style screw. This means you can run your shifter pods inboard or outboard, but still have that extra adjustment option. Here is good example of where this came in handy. Most of the time, the first thing I adjust on the bars are the brake levers. I position them where it feels most comfortable to me. Only after will I adjust my shifter pods.

During our first ride the Juicy brake levers were setup perfectly, but I felt like I had to reach too far for the release & pull levers. The trigger shifters were inboard (i.e. between the stem and brake lever) and also as close to the brake levers as they could get. This would be a problem with any other trigger shifters, but with the new adjustable clamp we were able to simply move the shifter pod closer to my grip without having moving the clamp itself, thus achieving perfect positioning of the release & pull levers.

Another adjustment that you can make on the new pods is the pull lever (i.e. longer most bottom lever). Believe it or not, the nicely machined aluminum pull lever has infinite adjustability. All you have to do is released a little 3mm pinch bolt and you can rotate the pull lover to any desired position. So if you ride 4X, DH, XC you will always be able to fine tune the pull lever to a position that feels good to you. The Pods we tested were etched with 60 degrees of adjustability, but Ron said you can pretty much adjust it to any desired position.

The X.0 triggers will be the first trigger shifters on the market to feature zero loss on the pull lever. This means no more slop in the system; always giving you clear precise shifts. You know that few millimeters of play you have before the shifting engages? Well this is a thing of the past with the new X.0 trigger shifters – and trust me, I speak from experience. After two days of hard riding, even when shifting under load, each shift was crisp, precise and effortless; no skipping and no missed shifts. Once they are set to match your riding style, you basically forget that they are even there. Shifting suddenly becomes instinctive and that’s the way it should be - nothing like the feeling of being one with the bike!

Pure carbon fiber was used for the cover, and is easily removed with just a few turns of a knob, which requires no specific tool other than your fingers. Under the cover you will find a big spring and head of the shifting cable – this is how you would replace your shifting cable if needed. Ron suggests using a small pick to grab the head of the cable. All this is easily done with the trigger shifters still on the bike.

The trigger shifter uses 4 sets of precision bearings, two at the top and two at the bottom, which provides very smooth and light action. Visually the X.0 trigger shifters appear thinner and more streamlined than the X.9’s. SRAM engineers took a different approach when designing the X.0 trigger shifters. You could say the X.9 trigger shifters were cups with parts inside of them, as where the X.0 trigger shifters were built on top of a little foundation - but the working principles are very similar.

The carbon fiber cover is nicely molded to create a beautiful profile. Not only is it light and cool looking, but it also adds stiffness and creates a great seal. See, carbon doesn’t deform like some other plastic do – this way you can safely fasten the top retaining knob without the fear of cracking or bending the cover.

The X.0 is geared more towards the performance oriented rider, therefore SRAM decided to do without the gear indication window. I’m sure this will really appeal to the DH crowd – I know for one that I never look at the gear indicator when I ride my DH bike. Take your eyes off the trail for a few seconds and you might end up in a very uncomfortable situation.

Technically the new X.0 trigger shifters are fully rebuildable, although Ron prefers to say “serviceable”. Let’s say a spring goes bad or for some reason the shifter gets sticky, you can take it apart and fully service them. You can pretty much strip the pod down to the 20+ some parts, which will fit in your hand, then put it all back together. Ron wasn’t sure to what extent, but he said you will be able to get some aftermarket parts from SRAM. You will definitely be able to get replacement pull levers and maybe some of the internal parts. Considering how durable the X.0’s were designed to be, SRAM doesn’t foresee the need for many replacement parts.

The release lever is made of high strength Grilon® that is painted with soft touch black paint for added tactility.

Production trigger shifters will most likely have a few subtle changes, but for the most part should be pretty much the same as the prototype ones I got to try. Don’t think they’re simply X.9 trigger shifter with a cool carbon fiber cover! These new puppies were pretty much designed from the ground up, while using the same great SRAM features as the X.9. The X.0 trigger shifters have been in development for the past 18 months and have even been used by some top DH racers last fall. SRAM is pretty confident about their integrity.

Ron estimates the weight of the X.0 pod to be in the 110g-115g range, compared to 130g for the current X.9 pod. So not only will the X.0 be stronger and smoother, but it will also be lighter than the current offering.

Estimated retail price: $225 US for a set

2006 SRAM rear derailleurs

After a successful season of racing we’ll finally get to see the BlackBox X.0 derailleurs make it to production. The new X.0 rear derailleurs will now support a nifty carbon fiber cage and will be offered in the “mini” version – yay! Over the past season, team riders have indicated that the mini carbon cage derailleur lasts longer, is lighter, shifts better and doesn’t rattle the cage as much.

The 2006 X.0 chassis will retain the same great features as the current X.0 derailleur. Only visible chassis changes are: 1) Paint on the knuckle section - which went from a carbon look alike paint to black. 2) The outer links have been polished 3) New graphics 4) and might have a nice red extension spring.

X.0 cage options for 2006 will be: Mini carbon cage assembly, Medium carbon cage assembly, and Large CNC cage assembly. The mini cage will work with cassettes up to 32T and is primarily designed for chainguide type applications, however if you are really good about avoiding cross shifting, you could easily use it on bikes with 3 rings up front.

By using a carbon cage, SRAM was able to bring the weight of the X.0 down from 204g to 185g (for the Mini cage) and approximately 195g for the Medium cage. Pretty substantial weight savings if you ask me! SRAM is also using a thin layer of alternate composite, which also contains carbon fiber but a little bit less, on the edge and inside of the cage. This thin layer acts as a bushing and protects the carbon from premature wear caused by chain rub. It’s still a one piece design thought; the bushing protects the carbon and the carbon re-enforces the bushing – SRAM calls this process; Carbon Cross Composite (aka C3 Composite).

The pulley lengths: 55mm for the Mini, 75mm for the Medium and 93mm for the long cage.

In the future SRAM is looking at possibly using a different retaining option for the main parallelogram, doing way with those c-clips. The pins are made of such a super strong metal that they cannot be riveted. They prefer the current process, which facilitates assembly while keeping an incredible tolerance.

Estimated retail price: $225 US

2006 SRAM Mountain Bike Cassettes

You will see two new mountain bike cassettes, the PG-980 and PG-990. Both are full alloy spider cassettes, which focuses on improving stiffness of the product and offer better shifting - They were designed to be light weight and incredibly stiff.

The PG 990 has nice, SRAM red, full spider while the PG 980 has a few black mini spiders. Both will options of either 11-32T or 11-34T. I would also like to point out that SRAM also revised the gear ration on the 11-34T cassette - the last jump was pretty big (i.e. 28T to 34T) but now is 30T to 34T.


SRAM Chains

SRAM will have a few new chains based off their PC-990 platform. PC-950, PC-970 and PC-990 are said to be stronger.

The PC-991 9 speed chain has been updated for enhanced chaining pickup and compatibility.

Impressions

I was literally flabbergasted by how well the new X.0 drivetrain worked. After riding on an X-Gen drivetrain for the past year, I didn’t think derailleur derivetrains could get any better. Well SRAM stepped it up a notch with their 2006 SRAM X.0 components.

I got to ride a 2006 X.0 equipped trail bike for two days on this nice prime loop, which had everything from steep technical climbs to flowy singletrack to rough/rocky descents. I pretty much tried every combo possible, even under load (like while climbing and in sprints) I wasn’t able to get the chain to skip. Every single lever actuation gave me the smoothest and most precise shifts.

Upon your first shift, you’ll immediately notice the zero loss of the pull lever – it’s hard to explain unless you try it first hand, but the shifting is instantaneous. I’m sure some of you have already experience that feeling of having to force that pull lever in order to upshift? Especially if your drivetrain is pretty dry and getting sticky. With the new X.0 drivetrain shifting remains smooth throughout the gearing ratio. Pretty amazing!

I can’t really comment on how it works under extreme conditions since, for the most part; the Oracle trails were pretty dry. But I have no doubts the performance will be on par with what I’ve experienced.

Conclusion

Starting this spring, plan on seeing SRAM sponsored racers using the new 2006 SRAM X.0 componentry. I’m telling you – start saving your pennies now because you’ll want some once they become available. Did I mention how sexy the new trigger shifter look? Heck, they are so nice I’d wear one around my neck! ;o)

Big thanks to Michael Zellmann of SRAM for giving me the opportunity to attend SRAM’s Ride Camp this year! I literally felt like a kid in a candy store, but even better, I got to taste most of it!! Also had a great time ripping trails with the legendary Greg Herbold, who doesn’t seem to have lost any of his skills – still tearing it up!

Thumbs up from Michael Zellmann & Greg Herbold



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