|So, now that we've put eight months worth of riding on a single X01 drivetrain, as well as a countless miles on test bikes that are spec'd with SRAM's lower priced 11 speed group, it's fair to say that we've got a good understanding of how the system performs. The time has shown that it would be quite difficult, maybe even near impossible, to tell the difference between XX1 and X01 in a blind test. ''Lever action is crisp and positive, just as we've come to expect from SRAM, with a very tactile feel to the shifter that leaves no doubt as to what just happened at the back of the bike,'' were our exact words in the May, 2013, review of XX1, and those also ring very true with X01. Shift action feels identical to our thumbs, as does shift speed across the cassette, and reliability has also been up to par. Having said that, we did have an X01 derailleur's clutch fail on a test bike, but our go-to drivetrain for review purposes has given us nary a hint of trouble. Chain retention has been impressive, with just two dropped chains over the last eight months that we put down to excessively muddy conditions and insanely sticky goop that managed to pack into every nook and cranny - we would have likely had to stop to clean out the mud from any drivetrain, it was that bad. The basis for getting the most from both XX1 and X01 will be choosing the correct chain ring to use - be honest with your abilities while picking a chain ring size that makes sense for both how you ride and the terrain that you spend most of their time on. Too big of a ring will result in tired legs, but going too small will have you spinning circles while you go nowhere slowly.|
Given how close XX1 and X01 are when talking details, it's no surprise that the few complaints that we have about the higher priced group are also present with X01. This includes how the X-Sync tooth profile used on both the chain ring and the pulley wheels is prone to picking up more trail debris than a traditional design, and it wasn't uncommon to see more gunk than usual packed onto on both during a wet ride. We also experienced the same odd popping noise that would occur intermittently and only during high torque scenarios, once or twice a ride at most. The sound only occurs when the chain is on the large 42 tooth cog and while powering up a steep incline, something that has us thinking that it's a result of the chain interfacing with the thicker and heavily stepped X-Sync chain ring teeth while at the acute range of the chain line. There were, however, no mechanical issues related to it. While the previous two complaints are minor in the grand scheme of things, we also had issues with the chain staying in time with derailleur's X-Sync upper pulley, and the result of its alternating narrow and wide teeth not meshing with the chain being a rough, grinding feeling through the pedals. The reason for this isn't 100 percent clear, but the size of the gap between the upper pulley and the cassette is likely a factor, as is how a bike's suspension reacts to inputs, but the bottom line is that we had it happen to us on the large majority of both XX1 and X01 equipped machines. It's a quick fix: shifting to a smaller cog and then back up to an easier gear solves the issue in a few seconds, but it's strange nonetheless.
SRAM's 11 speed XX1 and X01 groups are, as of right, the only purpose built single chain ring groups on the market, and the two drivetrains do a lot of things very well. As we talked about above, it's vital to choose the chain ring that best suits your fitness, terrain, and riding style, and doing that will allow you to climb and descend pretty much anything with ease. The bottom line is that X01 works every bit as well as XX1, and while it might only appear to be only marginally less expensive on paper, you have to remember that the newest 11 speed group is really intended to save money at the manufacturing level, which is then hopefully passed on to the consumer in the form of either a lower price tag on the complete bike or add-ons like a dropper seat post or nicer wheels.- Mike Levy
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