2011 SRAM XO 10 Speed Ridden And In Detail: Initial Impressions

Jun 25, 2010
by Mike Levy  
Last week you saw pictures of the new 2011 SRAM XO group in our coverage of Ashland's 12 Mile Super D race, but inside you'll finally be able to read my initial thoughts on the new 10 speed component group and how it performed throughout the weather challenged time that I spent on it.

Read on...
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Riding Impressions:


When SRAM introduced their top tier XX family last season it displaced XO as the no holds barred component group. While the XX kit is lighter, uses slightly more carbon here and there, as well as ceramic bearings, XO will still be the go-to grouppo for the majority of riders looking for lightweight and functional parts. The engineers at SRAM knew that while XX will be used on XC race and uber-expensive trail bikes, XO needed to be built to handle conditions from XC racing to rigorous All-Mountain riding. While I only had three days to gather my initial thoughts on the 2011 X.O. group, it gave me a good idea of the ins and outs of how it performed. The weather during the first two days was any drivetrain's nightmare, with a mixture of rain and snow that stirred up a gritty stew that managed to find itself into every nook and cranny on the bike, which was very convenient for testing purposes.

The 2011 XO group will be available with blue, red, gold, or black highlights
The 2011 XO group will be available with blue, red, gold, or black highlights

While the XX shifters have a lighter feel and take slightly less thumb effort to move the chain across the cassette, XO retains the positive and tactile solidness at the shifter that many SRAM users are fond of. There is a pronounced "ka-chung" to each shift that leaves no doubt as to how many gears you just dropped. I've always been a fan of this SRAM specific trait and now with an extra cog out back it makes even more sense. Shifting only needed the slightest adjustment to rein in a bit of cable slack as the new housing settled in, but was otherwise flawless despite the nasty trail conditions. For those who are convinced that having 10 cogs out back spells disaster when mud and grime strike, I'd argue that there seemed to be little to no noticeable difference between SRAM's 9 and 10 speed systems shift quality, even when the drivetrain was plastered in gritty mud. In fact, I even managed to bend my bike's derailleur hanger at some point bad enough that it was clear to see when viewing the bike from behind, but shifting performance remained excellent. Very impressive. Shifting to the large 36 tooth cog was as good as moving the chain up to 32 or 34 tooth cogs, quick and seamless. The tighter tolerances of the 10 speed cassette does mean that there is slightly more drivetrain noise than you'd find on a 9 speed cluster when things get dirty, but you have to listen quite hard to notice the difference. My test bike used a HammerSchmidt crankset so I was unable to put any proper trail time on the new XO carbon cranks, but stay tuned for a longer term evaluation of the complete group that will include the entire XO drivetrain and brakes.

A slightly revised cable pull ratio helps to keep the new 10 speed system running smooth
A slightly revised cable pull ratio helps to keep the new 10 speed system running smooth

Three days surely isn't enough time to properly test these parts, but initial impressions are very positive. The new XO level 10 speed kit performed impressively despite the challenging conditions that it faced during the first two days. Although the XO family is no longer the premiere group in SRAM's lineup, it still performed every bit like the components that originally put SRAM on the map. My personal bike is now kitted out with the entire 2011 XO group with intentions of flogging it hard over the coming months. Stay tuned for a longer term review in the future!

Keep reading below for more information on individual parts, as well as some great technical information!



The new carbon XO crankset
The new carbon XO crankset

The sharp looking XO crankset uses new technology that forgoes the aluminum skeleton in favor of a lighter foam core. While the carbon arms have a similar (but different) shape to the premium XX crankset, they are actually an entirely different beast altogether. Despite looking similar, the XO cranks use different materials and manufacturing techniques and are SRAM's first 'spineless' crankset. The new XO arms use a replaceable aluminum spider as opposed to the XX's one piece carbon unit. While this adds a few grams, it will allow riders to swap out the spider to allow the use of SRAM's soon to be released 24 and 36 tooth ring combo. Those who live in places where the trails head straight up, but still want to use the 2 ring system, will appreciate the new lower gearing. It will also be available in a three ring configuration that uses the common 64/104 mm bolt pattern.

Cross section of the XO crankset reveals where the carbon arm meets the aluminum spider
Cross section of the XO crankset reveals where the carbon arm meets the aluminum spider

Just like the XX crankset, the new XO units don't make use of an aluminum skeleton that would add unneeded grams. If you were to cut your XO crankset in two you'd find that it is filled with a stiff and hard foam material. This internal foam unit is what the carbon is laid over as the crank is being manufactured, as well as being keyed at both ends to hold the pedal insert inline with the crank spider.


The aluminum pedal insert is keyed to fit into the stiff foam core
The aluminum pedal insert is keyed to fit into the stiff foam core


SRAM XO crankset details:

• Carbon composite crank arms
• Replaceable aluminum spider
• 2 ring options: 26/39 tooth and 28/42
• 3 ring option: 22/32/44
• BB options: BB30, PF, PF30, GXP
• Available in 170 mm and 175 mm lengths
• Color options: black, red, gold, and blue graphics


The foam core replaces the older versions aluminum skeleton to save grams
The foam core replaces the older versions aluminum skeleton to save grams

The XO crank will be available in BB30
The XO crank will be available in BB30

For 2011 the XO crankset will have bottom brackets to fit pretty much any frame under the sun. Options include BB30, Press Fit and Press Fit 30, and the original GXP external BB. Total weights will range from 728 grams (BB30), to 788 grams for the 3 ring GXP option. In typical SRAM fashion there will be four graphics color schemes to choose from, including black, gold, red, and blue. The two length options will be 170 and 175 mm.


Destructive testing pushing the carbon crankset well past real world conditions. The result is a safe failure of the steel spindle long before the carbon arm or the bond between the two shows signs of giving up
Destructive testing pushing the carbon crankset well past real world conditions. The result is a safe failure of the steel spindle long before the carbon arm or the bond between the two shows signs of giving up

SRAM uses destructive testing to find out not only when a part will fail, but also how it will fail. They know that anything can happen out of the lab and in the real world and knowing exactly how a part will give up is crucial in the design process. This was especially evident when they showed me an XO crankarm and spindle (Pictured above) that had been pushed well past what a rider would be able to do. The crank spindle was clamped in place and enormous amounts of load were applied to the carbon arm. The result was a damaged steel spindle that twisted long before the carbon arm showed any signs of stress or the bond between the spindle and arm failed. The important thing to note about the test is actually how it failed. The mode of failure would not have compromised the rider's ability to control the bike and the part never separated from the bike. This is called a "safe failure", as opposed to a failure that could have resulted in rider injury.

All of SRAM's 2 x 10 chainrings are designed to work specifically with their matched counterpart
All of SRAM's 2 x 10 chainrings are designed to work specifically with their matched counterpart

The chainrings used on the XO crankset are designed to work together with their specifically sized mate. The two combinations available in the dual ring setup are 26/39 and 28/42 and the differences between the small and big rings are no coincidence. The gearing choices allow SRAM to place their ramps and pins in just the right spot to encourage the chain to move from one ring to the next. On top of carefully placed pins and ramps, the larger ring has a beveled inner surface that helps to guide the chain when it's going both up and down. The pictures below show the the large ring in various stages of production.

You can see the shift ramps taking shape on this ring early into it's production
You can see the shift ramps taking shape on this ring early into it's production

Further down the line more material is removed and it begins to take shape
Further down the line more material is removed and it begins to take shape

A nearly finished 2 x 10 chainring with it's ramps and rivets in finished
A nearly finished 2 x 10 chainring with it's ramps and rivets in finished



The new XO rear derailleur features some neat updates over older models
The new XO rear derailleur features some neat updates over older models

The new XO rear derailleur is not just a simple redo of the previous 9 speed version, but incorporates a number of smart updates and changes that will make it more reliable and user friendly. This includes limit screws that thread directly into the metal parallelogram as opposed to the older models plastic inserts that could be easily damaged. Further raising the reliability is SRAM's decision to no loner rely on C-clips to hold the bottom of the parallelogram pins in place. Some riders, especially those who spent a lot of time on tight trails, found that they were clipping the derailleur and dislodging the vulnerable bottom C-clips. This should no longer be an issue. The new 10 speed XO rear derailleur (as well as the XX model) uses slightly revised cable pull ratios to move it across the 10 speed cassette, but this does mean that it is not compatible with previous years 9 speed shifters.

SRAM XO rear derailleur details:

• 10 speed rear derailleur
• Available in short, medium, and long cage
• Exact Actuation Ratio
• Compatible with 36 tooth cassette
• Sealed pulley bearings
• Composite outer cage
• Black, red, gold, blue, graphics option
• 190 grams


SRAM's 10 speed XO cassette
SRAM's 10 speed XO cassette

One of the most exciting bits in SRAM's new 10 speed family is the XG-1080 cassette. While XX's machined steel X-Dome cassette is truly something to behold, the amount of time it takes to make the impressive unit rules it out when cost is factored in. It would be easy to mistake the new 1080 cassette for its more expensive sibling when looking at it from the back because of the unique construction that leaves the innards hollow. The difference is that the XO level cassette uses separate stamped steel cogs that are held together with short steel pins, as opposed to the XX versions nearly single piece construction. The result is a light 260 gram cassette that retails for much less than the XX model. Although it isn't available to the public quite yet, when the time comes you'll be able to choose between both 11-32 and 11-36 options.


The XO cassette uses an aluminum large cog likes it's more expensive sibling, but the remaining cogs are separate stamped steel units as opposed to the XX's slightly lighter one piece design
The XO cassette uses an aluminum large cog likes it's more expensive sibling, but the remaining cogs are separate stamped steel units as opposed to the XX's slightly lighter one piece design


XG-1080 cassette details:

• New 10 speed cassette
• 11-32 and 11-36 options
• Separate stamped steel construction
• Aluminum large cog
• Aluminum lockring
• 260 grams


The new XO brake and shifter
The new XO brake and shifter

Avid XO brake details:

• 333 grams with carbon lever blades
• TaperBore lever with integrated reservoir
• Aluminum lever body and caliper
• Tool free reach adjust
• Tool free Contact Point Adjust
• Black, red, blue, gold graphics option




Visit the SRAM website to see all of their goodies!


Day 1 and 2 at the Ashland Super D
Ashland Super D race coverage
Ross Schnell's trick Trek Remedy at the Ashland Super D



72 Comments

  • 11 3
 a weight weenies dream
  • 2 0
 looks pretty sweet.
  • 10 1
 wet dream more like
  • 10 4
 Very nice but hmmm for the average person making a normal salary...breaking one of those derailleurs would not be nice and also the carbon crank arm nice but the foam inside i would feel if i hit my very expensive crank on a rock the the outcome wouldn't be great...i understand for weight but for the average person is it worth the money
  • 3 2
 yeh obsalecence
  • 5 3
 This is X0 though. It's high end, not budget. The current 9sp X0 and Noir cranks are not exactly cheap either. The 10sp X7 is also available, so the choice is there. And what's an "average" person? What's a "normal" salary? It's all relative. There's lots of people who can afford this stuff.
  • 2 0
 now seriosly, wtf? i'm tired, i might be missing something... which crank arm has the spindle FIXED? drive side? or non-drive side? because different pics tell different stories.
  • 1 0
 the pics with the spindle attached and no ring spider, is with the crank arm without the spider attached, as the spider's are removable
  • 1 0
 Just because it has faom in the middle of it doesn't make it weak. That is a common manufacturing technique for many high end and complex composite parts. In many cases though the foam is removed afterwards with a solvent or left in a add a little bit of strength. You wouldn't be able to remove the foam though unless the arms had an opening somewhere though, but then they wouldn't be as strong and stuctruraly sound as they are
  • 1 0
 at the end of the day for most of the highest products people dont buy them they get them off there sponcers even like wheel sets for 900 whos= buys that?
  • 1 0
 i dont like it. what happened to all the ano colors we used to know and love?
  • 1 0
 Everything is really nice but that derailleur one bad fall and there goes alot of money...The derailleur is the only thing that i dont think is worth it...one rock or something its all gone
  • 1 0
 this is why sram is going to kick shimano's butt...i'm just saying...
  • 3 0
 great job SRAM! I cant wait to get the xo setup on my tracer. To everyone whos bitching about the cost and the strength.......Dont wory, you can still by some hussefelt cranks for like $50. Some of us want hi end and love technology, and unless you have tried how sick the xx shifting is for continuous climb/decend riding stop bitching, because its truly amazing!
  • 4 1
 Hey I weigh 240 lbs and am still riding a SRAM 8 speed system. I stretch the hell out of 9 speed chains in no time. Just think of what I could do to this 10 speed system with its alloy based cassette. I don't ride any Shimano freehubs because I tear the pauls out of the ratch system. 10 speed is a nice idea, and testing to failure is a cool thought. That is, until you bust it 40 km into the backcountry and have to walk it out. As for this Clydesdale I'll stick to the sure shifting world of 8 speed till I can't find parts anymore. It's way cheaper for me to diet than spend my hard earned cash on some light wieght stuff. Unless SRAM wants to pony up a groupo and let me take it out for a couple months and see how it handles being torqued about by 240 lbs of mean muscle and grit.
  • 5 0
 Love the close ups of the parts and especially the cut outs of the cranks!!! Nice article.
  • 2 0
 That deformed spinlde is impressive. Assuming that the force was put via a normal pedal/q-factor width (i.e. not applied directly to the pedal inserts), I would always have thought that a crank would twist before the spindle would deform like that.
  • 1 0
 10 speed setup with 11-36T cassette looks perfect for all-mountain riders!!

a BIG problem with the X-0 brake lever design? - in a crash the brake lever body snaps due to the way the mounting bolt twists / loads the body

I know a guy running the top of the range Elixir Mag brake with the same design body / clamp as the X-0, and he has gone through 3 brakes now, all in minor crashes that would just cause a regular 2-bolt Juicy / Elixir brake to spin on the handlebars
  • 1 0
 Thats whats facinating. Most people have no idea how strong carbon fiber can be. Its super stiff. So as long as its bonded correctly to the aluminum spider your in buisness. Im more and more impressed with these carbon products lately.
  • 1 0
 Looks like some nice kit to be coming out, though it does seem to answer questions that nobody asked hardly like a decent 9 speed groupset with a twin chainring left much to be desired these days. Speaking of 9 speed does this mean they'll no longer produce it cause that'll be a pain for many
  • 1 0
 9 speed gear will still be produced... for the coming year at least.
  • 4 0
 i understand that more gears and shite can help... but what about any one who races 4x/ds? most of us only use 4-5 five gears as it is Blank Stare


i sure hope they keep 9 speed stuff...
  • 1 0
 nice write up, very detailed but I wanna know what's gonna happen to sram 9 spd stuff, are they phasing it out or can we still get the shifters deraillers and cassttes, do we need to buy 10 spd hubs for the new cassette,
  • 1 0
 nope 10 speed cassette just has narrower teeth/ clearances
  • 1 0
 Looks and "blue , red gold etc etc highlights dont make a bike faster , as long as it does the job and i can afford to replace it....!!!!. I prefer my Saint rear Derailluer that came on my DH Supreme...
  • 1 0
 so what's going to happen to the non-grouped components like the stylo and noir now that they have made these grouped sets (x-7, x-9, x-0)?
  • 4 0
 I imagine they're going to become obsolete and probably no longer produced.
  • 1 0
 to me it looks like the noir crank IS the X-O crank. they have a very similar design
  • 2 0
 Noir crank used an aluminum skeleton, X.O and XX cranks use a foam core.
  • 4 1
 who needs 10 speed?
I want a 5 speed X9.

less weight and less money!
  • 1 0
 yessss now there a good idea say for 4x riders or something
  • 1 0
 An 11-36 cas with a 22/32/44 crankset , is all I'll need in the Whistler valley. Already know where it's going to help me, just waiting to buy.
  • 1 0
 I think it's safe to say we are all excited about SRAM's new products, but when are the new 10 speed products going to be available?
  • 2 0
 Great I can't even get 2 out of the nine gears I already have to work, so more gear to mess with seems like more bull.
  • 1 0
 poor chain line ?
  • 1 0
 poor mech... never mind...
  • 1 0
 Gotta figure it out somehow
  • 1 0
 N all my bikes with SRAM work flawless
  • 1 0
 Are they still going to make 9 speed or will it be like the Avid Elixir make both for one year and then only make the Elixir.
so could next year be the last for sram 9 speed?
  • 1 0
 Can you put a chainguide on the cranks and still have the 2 chain rings? I was thinking of getting the cranks with an E13 LG1+ if it would work...
  • 1 0
 will the 3x9 x9 and x0 groups be replaced by the 2x10 or will they still be made?
  • 1 0
 I found that to be really pretty cool. Nice stuff from the SRAM camp. Keep it up.
  • 1 0
 I don't understand how it's actuation ratio can be different from the 2:1 of it's predecessor and still be compatible...?
  • 1 0
 The predecessior was 1:1, not 2:1.
The new 2X10 X7, X9, X.0 and XX use Exact Actuation, the same technology used on their Red, Force, Rival and Apex road groups.
9 speed parts are NOT compatible with 10 speed parts at all.
  • 1 0
 The rear mechs are.
  • 1 0
 No they are not... 10 speed rear derailleur use Exact Actuation and 9 speed ones use 1:1 actuation... different technologies and non compatible!
  • 1 0
 exact and 1:1 is same thing isn't it.... so it can be compatible, only thing that is different the trigger has 10 gears, and chain with cassette is different narower and sproket spasin is narrower too...

sory for mu bad english...
  • 1 0
 No it´s not the same thing!
  • 1 0
 So why my friend uses Force deraileur with exact actuation and XO shifter with 1:1 actuation and everything works like Swiss watch? Man I'm a professional mechanic with 6 years of experience. Try someone else...
  • 1 0
 A Professional mechanic that don´t read the product intructions... very nice! Wink
  • 1 0
 Why I need instructions when it works? It is simple thing, mounting a deraileur on bike. Do you always read manual if you do that? If there would be any problems then I would start to think what is wrong and why it doesn't work but until it does work, who need the instructions Smile
  • 1 0
 A 1:1 replica is an exact copy therefore by definition a 1:1 ratio is EXACT, go read a dictionary.
  • 1 0
 At least somebody understands me.....
  • 1 0
 Could you run a XX front Der with a 2 ring XO crank and 10spd XO cassette with XO shifters?
  • 1 0
 yes, they will be compatible
  • 1 0
 so which is the best combo for around here? ( north shore/squamish/whistler).
  • 1 0
 How much is this all going to cost?
  • 5 0
 alot.....
  • 4 0
 Probably a crapload of a lot. But if I valued a hardcore bling drivetrain and I didn't switch to SS a while ago, I'd be lining right up.
  • 2 1
 SSSSSSSSSSSWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT Smile
  • 1 0
 this looks good, really good ! Smile
  • 1 0
 BUT!... I gotta say that video was ultra disappointing~
  • 2 0
 not a fan at all
  • 1 0
 Niiiiice
  • 1 0
 Oh YEAH !!
  • 1 0
 supply design Mad
  • 1 0
 all sick
  • 1 0
 very sick!!!!
  • 1 0
 Sicker then a Bulimic on a roller coaster !!
  • 1 0
 Me likey a lot!
  • 1 0
 i like blue
  • 2 4
 I want 10 speed shimano.

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