Coming in at $1,000 less than the high-end Red group, SRAM Force eTap AXS is a promising option for riders seeking wireless shifting on a budget.
That was a quick trickle. SRAM announced its Red eTap AXS group in February, with the promise that the technology would soon trickle down to its lower-priced group, SRAM Force eTap AXS. A mere two months later, the trickle has dripped.
SRAM Force eTap AXS is available for purchase Tuesday and is already available as a standard build on over 150 bikes from various manufacturers.
Like its pro-level sibling, Force eTap AXS is fully wireless and the components can communicate with any other SRAM product with the AXS label. The shifting action is just as quick as the Red group, and the hood ergonomics are identical. In fact, the two groups are largely the same in most performance aspects.
Materially, there are some noteworthy changes that distinguish Force from its big brother. Unlike the Red eTap AXS crankset that integrates a power meter into the chainrings, the Force level system has a more traditional chainring/spider setup. It’s not as light as the integrated system used on Red, but it’s easy to swap out chainrings.
The Force crank is also carbon, but it’s not hollow like the Red level crank. That mostly means it’s slightly heavier. The chain, too, features the flat top profile, but the Force chain does not feature hollow pins like the Red level chain. Again, this mostly affects weight. SRAM says the Force chain is about five grams heavier.
Cassette gearing doesn’t differ from the Red level cassettes (10-26T, 10-28T, and 10-33T options are available), but the Force cassettes are not CNC’d out of a single aluminum block. Instead, the first four cogs are built as one piece, and the rest are pinned. The cassettes still rely on SRAM’s XD-R driver. The rear derailleur functions identically to the Red level, but the inner cage plate is aluminum rather than carbon. That adds a bit of weight but functionally doesn’t alter the derailleur’s operation.
The flat-mount disc brakes feature a non-adjustable banjo that sits closer to the center of the caliper. It’s a two-piece design, unlike the monobloc design of the Red level brakes.
Lever ergonomics are identical to the top-of-the-line Red group. There are cosmetic differences, and while the Red level levers have multiple blip ports, the Force level will only accept one blip per lever for a remote shift button option. You’ll be able to adjust your shifting layout via the AXS app, just like the Red level. And a rim-brake version will be available for both Force and Red.
All totaled, the Force group is about 300 grams heavier than the Red group, but it costs $1,000 less. And while it doesn’t have some of the cosmetic bells and whistles that the Red group flashes, it’s actually a quite attractive assemblage of components.
VeloNews will receive a group for testing, and we’ll do a side-by-side comparison with Red eTap AXS to see how the two groupsets stack up. Is it worth an extra grand for the high-end group, or is Force the drivetrain most of us should be riding? We should know sometime in early summer.