SRAM had Brandon Semenuk's Raw 100 V5 bike
on display at Whistler, but there was one big difference from the setup he was riding in Utah. Instead of Brandon's customary single speed, the Ticket S at Crankworx was sporting a prototype 7-speed AXS drivetrain.
AXS Eagle was released in February this year as the first wireless shifting system to come to mountain biking. On release, it was a 12 speed only drivetrain available at XX1 and X01 level. The drivetrains employed the same cranks, cassette, and chain as the mechanical version, with the only difference being the 'oil slick' finish (officially called "Rainbow") on the latter two and that appears to be the case here as well. The cassette is their existing 7-speed mini block with a 10-24t range, while the chain appears to have been lifted from an XX1 drivetrain.
The only new bit of tech here is the derailleur. The upper casting appears to be the same as the regular X01 AXS but the parallelogram and lower knuckle appear to be different castings. There is also a shorter cage, as would be expected on a 7 speed derailleur. The technical gubbins are currently hidden by a black plastic cover with five slits in it, which looks a bit bulkier than the current AXS models we've seen. Are the internals are different or is it just different programming with a new bit of plastic to throw people off?
We don't expect many slopestyle bikes to be running this 7 speed set up and Brandon's bike is probably just being used as a way to grab attention here. Instead, we see the real benefits coming for downhill racers as a wireless groupset will make life easier for mechanics who strip-down and rebuild bikes many times a year and an even greater advantage could come from the "Overload clutch" that is already found on AXS derailleurs. The clutch isolates the tiny gearbox from the forces of you smashing the derailleur into a rock and allows it to recover from a potentially damaging impact in a race run, as demonstrated on the XX1 derailleur here:
The system is in SRAM's Blackbox prototyping stage, so it is only available to athletes and details are thin on the ground, but we've been told that there's a chance we'll see it in action on some bikes this weekend. SRAM were very keen to stress that this is only a prototype and wouldn't confirm if it would ever become a production model. We'll let you know any more details as we get them.