After a year of rumors and speculation
, SRAM's new drivetrain has finally appeared out in the wild, installed on several XC race bikes in Les Gets. As we expected, based on a patent that was granted last May, the derailleur uses a direct mount design that places the derailleur body more inboard compared to current SRAM derailleurs. That should help keep it safe from impacts, and the direct mount itself has the potential to add stiffness and stability to the system, improving overall shifting performance.
The design also looks like it would keep the derailleur in a more stationary position, something that would go a long way towards reducing the amount of unnecessary chain movement, and noise.
It's likely that the new derailleur will only be compatible with frames that can run a Universal Derailleur Hanger in order to ensure there's enough room for the mount to sandwich the frame's dropout. If that's the case, it seems like a very smart tactic on SRAM's part. The UDH standard has seen widespread acceptance, making it it easier to find a relatively inexpensive replacement derailleur hanger, and now those UDH-compatible bikes will likely be able to run this system too if riders decide to upgrade, or companies decide to spec it.
The derailleur is wireless and electronic, with the AXS battery tucked in between the two sides of the direct mount, and the power button situated in a recess in what looks like a composite plate on the side of the derailleur. It's hard to say for sure, but the pulley wheels look like they could be aluminum. If that's the case, it'd be a welcome upgrade from the plastic that's currently used.
Interestingly, the chain has the same 'Flattop' design SRAM uses for their road bike chains, which is said to add strength while still allowing for the correct width for a 12-speed cassette. The cassette looks to be all new as well, with the cogs pinned onto a carrier rather than the one-piece design currently used for XX1 cassettes.
There's no review coming tomorrow, but we'll try to get on one of these drivetrains as soon as possible - the potential for a quieter, more reliable shifting system is certainly very intriguing. The fact that SRAM's athletes are racing it at World Champs is typically a sign that it's getting closer to full production; this article will be updated if any release timeline is revealed.