Review: AXS Rocker Paddle Upgrade Kit

Oct 8, 2020
by Mike Levy  

SRAM's wireless Eagle AXS drivetrain has impressed us with its performance and consistency, but a grumble we've had ourselves and heard from others is the shifter paddle's shape - it just doesn't feel natural. Now there's a second and very different paddle option that's said to provide ''more traditional feeling actuation.''

The new paddle comes with a replacement pivot pin and spring for $20 USD on its own, or you can have it already installed when you buy your $200 AXS shifter.
AXS Rocker Paddle Details

• Replaces stock AXS paddle
• Mimics traditional paddles
• Pivot pin, spring incl.
• MSRP: $20 USD

The original AXS paddle is on the right, with the new rocker paddle on the left with a larger face and added extension.

What's Different?

Being wireless, the AXS paddle obviously doesn't have to pull or release cable like on a traditional shifter. Instead, there are two buttons underneath (and a single spring) that tell the derailleur to shift one way or the other. When your thumb hits the paddle, it's rocking up or down and simply pushing one of those buttons. The shifter's modular design means that as long as the buttons are getting pushed, it doesn't really matter how you're doing it, and SRAM designed and tested a load of different options during the group's development.

Unfortunately, the one they chose for production isn't ideal for some rider's thumbs, including my own.

''With the brake where it needed to be, I found myself pushing on the outer third of the paddle, or just the edge of it, more often than not,'' I said in my review last year. My solution was to run the shifter on its own clamp and nearly right up against the grip where I could essentially bump it with my thumb. That worked well for me, but most people who sat on my bike commented on the unfamiliar ergonomics.

The new paddle is designed to feel much more normal, though, with a completely different shape that includes a new extension intended to mimic the smaller release paddle found on traditional shifters. The paddle's much larger face also gets a textured surface rather than the original's eagle logo.

The new paddle is flatter, larger, and the extension is designed to mimic the release trigger found on normal shifters.

Is It Any Better?

If you can handle a 3mm hex key without losing an eye, you can likely install the new rocker paddle, but be prepared to do some tinkering as you'll probably need to reposition the shifter as well. With the original paddle, I had the shifter on its own clamp and close to the grip. But that same clamp had the new paddle a bit too low from the grip, forcing me to unwrap my thumb too much. The answer was a MatchMaker mount that put the shifter tighter to the grip, making it much easier to reach.

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The new paddle does two things better than the original. First, your thumb ends up pushing on its face, whereas it always felt like you were just touching the edge of the stock paddle when shifting. That worked okay, but the new one feels much more positive and on purpose.

The new paddle's extension will be even more noticeable to most riders, with it being close to where you'd expect the release trigger on a traditional shifter to be. Only, it goes 'vvvvt' instead of 'ka-chung' when you press it, and shifts in the same direction as when you push on the bottom face of the main paddle. I use the AXS app to change the button function on mine, with the bottom of the paddle and trigger both shifting to smaller cogs. The top of the new paddle still shifts to an easier gear, and while I rarely do it on the trail, you can also shift from above with your pointer finger to do the same thing.

The new paddle is an improvement, but you might need to also use a different clamp setup to get the most out of it.

Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesAXS' push-button function leaves room for customization that isn't possible with a traditional shifter that needs to pull and release a steel cable, and the new rocker paddle is likely just the first of many different options we might see in the future, be it from SRAM or other brands. If you're just about to spring for AXS, it's worth spec'ing it with the new rocker paddle. And if you've already bought AXS, it's worth spending another $20 USD for improved ergonomics.Mike Levy

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 148 8
 I won't have AXS for most likely a very long time - I just moved from a 10speed to a 12speed this past Feb (it's pretty nice). You have to appreciate though what kind of technology humans have been able to create over the past 100yrs, 50 yrs, even the past 5. We pull elements from earth, trees, wherever, and then heat, mold, solder, & carve them into these wild-ass shapes and make devices for pure pleasure. And then you look at a digital photo of it from 1,000 miles away and talk mad shit. Hope everybody's having a nice Fall & getting out on yer bike.
  • 94 0
 "wild-ass shapes and make devices for pure pleasure"

*checks to make sure I'm on
  • 7 6
 "It'll go up my bum; that's what counts." As will an spoon, or a candle, or a lipstick. All the same, butt different.
  • 23 3
 As an engineer who works on product design for well-known consumer products, nothing is more frustrating that the internet peanut gallery tearing down stuff they've never used after you and 100 ridiculously smart colleagues spent years meticulously considering every detail and contingency. But... that's the job.
  • 2 0
 @nattyd: It's honestly magical how this works, you've replaced a cable with a television remote somehow.
  • 3 1
 @nattyd: I bet that's so frustrating, haha.

Also probably responsible for keeping technological advancement chugging ahead at the fastest possible pace. We're never satisfied and will highlight ANYTHING we perceive to be a flaw, no matter how small. The internet comment section is like the worst boss ever.
  • 4 0
 @rickybobby18: Actually I mind the internet comment sections a lot less than the "professional" tech reviewers who don't do their homework. I worked on one product where after a year, I finally watched the announcement live. After the announcement, I went went to lunch. By the time I sat down to eat, a writer at Popular Mechanics (who had never used the product) had written an article about how the product was a terrible idea and would be a failure. It went on to be a giant hit.
  • 64 2
 I still wish that SRAM chose to make 3 buttons on the AXS shifter controller so you could actuate both a derailleur and a dropper from the same controller... I think that is a huge missed opportunity.
  • 10 2
 I would even settle for a change in the app where holding the paddle down activated the dropper instead of it optionally shifting through multiple gears.
  • 18 0
 I'm sure it'll come. First they want you to buy this one though Smile
  • 9 0
 That’d be way to likely to be incorrectly pressed for me. Especially during racing.
  • 1 0
 you can have the right hand shifter actuate the dropper but it means the left hand axs paddle has to be used for shifting in one direction. But I get what you're saying, if it had 3 buttons you could do away with the left hand paddle.
  • 2 0
 @badbadleroybrown: You simply have to use the Konami Code on the right shifter to trigger the wireless dropper post.
  • 1 0
 @Cmolway: hi, you meant it can be done ? Kindly elaborate. Tks.
  • 1 0
 @richardloh: he was making a joke... the Konami cheat code is an old video game thing from the days of the SNES. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A... if only it were that easy.
  • 41 1
 $20 (USD) to upgrade a running change is really affordable on a $2400 (CAD) groupset. Clearly they want all of their current customers to upgrade to this paddle given how they've priced it. Good on them for making this back-wards compatible and not forcing an all-new shifter purchase.
  • 34 0
 LOL - a piece of AXS I can afford.
  • 10 0
 Yeah, right? Like an upgraded glove compartment button for a Ferrari.
  • 15 1
 When I initially switched to AXS, the paddle was noticeably terrible... at this point, it's tolerable but it's great to see SRAM listen to ride feedback and make an easy change to resolve a glaring shortcoming.
  • 4 1
 Honestly the best way to learn to make the original AXS controller paddles work is to forget how to use a regular shifter. After my second bike with AXS I finally got used to it.
  • 2 5
 @seraph: I agree with you and also there is nothing wrong with the original AXS paddle that someone intelligent enough to be earning enough to afford AXS cannot figure out and adapt to. That said I have modified the paddle so that my natural thumb extension movement does not catch on the edge of the rocker and I have added grip tape to where I usually tap it for better (albeit light) contact.
  • 2 0
 @seraph: yeah, I agree... it's really only lacking anything when you're approaching it with the expectation of it matching up with mechanical action you're accustomed to. I have mine flipped in the app so the bottom of the paddle goes down the cassette and I've never missed a shift or accidentally shifted or had any issues, it's just that initial "this is different" feeling that gets you.

@andrewbikeguide: I like the grip tape idea, I might have to steal that.
  • 2 0
 @seraph: I have this issue with DI2 on my road bike. After years of muscle memory using manual shifters, it has been a struggle.
  • 2 0
 @seraph: what this guy said. After just 2 rides on my hardtail with AXS, any other bike I jump on I'm trying to shift like it's also got AXS.

Also I couldn't bring myself to buy and AXS kit but now that I got a bike with it already installed.......I can't go back. Ditto with AXS reverb.
  • 12 1
 Holding out for the Gripshift version.
  • 1 0
 I am as well. Not pulling a cable would make the gripshift version so smooth. Not holding my breath though, SRAM hasn't put much effort into gripshift lately.
  • 7 0
 to their credit a $20 upgrade isn't too bad, in the past everyone would likely have to buy the complete controller!
  • 7 0
 I wish Shimano came up with the wireless option, though I probably couldn't afford that either....
  • 3 2
 Apparently there's going to be a "semi wireless" Dura Ace group launching mid-late next season so one would assume there would be an XTR equivalent after that.

No clue what "semi wireless" means.

This hot tip is second hand info from a shimano rep.

I would be surprised if Shimano launches their XTR at the same time as SRAM did with AXS road & mtb.

I'm sure it will be pricey as hell. However, it should all trickle down over the following years. You can get electronic 105 road groups now which is essentially the SLX equivalent on the road side.
  • 3 1
 I didn't find the DI2 hard to set up. Everyone seems to whine about it though.
  • 3 0
 @MRwillP: there is no 105 di2 - it stops at ultegra. A semi wireless group set likely means the derailleurs are attached to one battery with wires and the shifters are wireless. I believe this is how fsa does there kforce we group set.
  • 1 1

you're right. a buddy I ride with has a mixed Ultegra/105 group and I know it's Di2... must be just the brakes and cranks that are 105.
  • 2 0
 @MRwillP: based on the Shimano setup my guess is RD wired to the battery with the connection from the shifter to the RD wireless.
  • 2 1
 @salespunk: The Di2 battery does have an advantage of being a "once every 3-6 months charging option" rather than a once every 1-2 weeks with the AXS battery. Neither one was or is an issue and I have got some impressive hours out of an AXS battery (especially as I shift a lot) in fact normally 25% more hours than advertised.
  • 1 0
 @andrewbikeguide: agreed Shimano definitely has the advantage on battery life. I run AXS on three bikes and get about 4-6 weeks from a single charge.
  • 4 0
 @salespunk: i got more than a year from my battery. Maybe i should ride more than once every six months?
  • 5 0
 I like the paddle the way it is...took a while to get used to but now no problems...I can see how going from traditional to AXS would be weird...only 1 way to solve taht...AXS on everything!
  • 1 0
  • 2 0
 Reversed my matchmaker mounts left to right and everything works so much better!
I now have Tons more clearance.
Didn't think of that before your article.
I think the pics of the shifter on top of your grip made me think "damn that looks wrong".
Thank you!
  • 2 0
 I did the same thing. The left matchmaker mounted on the right for AXS works well for me. I'm a bit shocked at how well AXS shifts and works. I wish I had purchased it sooner. The install was super easy and it has been great on the bike. I'll probably try this lever since it is only $20.
  • 2 0
 I've been keeping up with the BKXC 50 state shred, and the shifter battery issues he has been having don't make me want to dive into AXS. I'm super intrigued, but needing to keep a spare battery for my derailleur seems like one more thing to worry about.
  • 1 1
 It seems like on every other video, Brian has to stop mid-ride to change batteries on something.
  • 2 0
 I wonder why an electronic shifter needs a thumb paddle this big and also why so many people position the paddles over the grip so far. It forces riding with thumb on shifter rather than around the grip. The same people usually position brake levers so close they have to use two fingers, then they only have 2 weakest fingers holding the bar .
  • 10 7
 Until SRAM figures out a way to make the clutch on their derailleurs from loosening up after a year of use, I think buying AXS is just a waste of money..
  • 2 2
 Nobody has reported this as an issue in the long term AXS reviews
  • 2 1
 @wilbersk: nobody writing a long term review rides things for more than maybe 8-10 months TOPS. Generally speaking drivetrains are usually ridden for less as they’re often pulled off to test a different one.
  • 4 0
 @connerkuhns: the Vital MTB long term AXS review for the drivetrain and post was 1 year
  • 1 0
 I had the same issue, and it's not serviceable like my kids Shimano clutch.
  • 1 0
 Well shit. I just bought the redesigned paddle and it can't be used with my grips. Using ODI rogue grips, you can't push the paddle in enough to actuate the button because the paddle runs into the grip. This will be true for any grip that isn't a tiny diameter. The ODI grips aren't huge but they are on the larger side of normal. I'm not happy with SRAM today. They should have publicized that it is only compatible with small diameter grips.
  • 3 0
 Yeah nice to see the new paddle for the shiffer available but what about the same paddle look for the Axs seatpost ?
  • 4 0
 @sram: 7 speed DH please!!!
  • 4 0
 Now if there was just someplace to buy it....
  • 1 0
 Yeah, right? A review on a $20 item is really lacking if the item isn't for sale.
  • 3 0
 Had my local shop call them to order it. Had to back order cuz I guess there arent any in the U.S until 11/5.
  • 1 0
 "Released" and yet not available anywhere for at least 6 weeks. Bloody annoying, hope someone else brings out something sooner and better so i can buy that instead!
  • 1 0
 You know, I find it strange they don't put multiple buttons on these things so you can have your dropper and shifter paired to different buttons on one module. Could help give a cleaner cockpit..
  • 2 1
 That would add space to have another lever for like a second gear but on your chain wheel to give you even more range.
  • 2 2
 What I miss is a trigger that you can press in further for multiple shifts instead of pressing it longer. Would be great for up and down shifts like the XTR I had a few years ago.
  • 1 0
 This! The current solution to multishift on AXS just doesn't cut it. I'm faster pushing the button 2 or 3 times to get to where I want to be than how long you have to press and hold to initiate a multishift.
  • 1 0
 Just got mine mounted I can't believe they didn't designed it this way in the first place. feels much more natural to anyone who has used a newer shifter before
  • 2 0
 Still waiting for GX AXS...
  • 1 0
 Pfft, call me when SX AXS is a thing
  • 3 0
 you knew! Big Grin
  • 2 1
 now make a clamp that does not fuck up my carbon bar...
  • 2 0
 Was a u
  • 1 0
 Still not available anywhere >o(
  • 2 3
 $2K+ drivertrain, still needs "upgraded" $20 part purchased separately. I guess it's a drop in the bucket at that point..
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