SRAM Unveils 12-Speed E-Groupset

More than just adding another gear, eTap AXS looks to change the way we shift.

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Today SRAM announced a huge upgrade to its existing wireless electronic groupset—eTap—with the release of eTap AXS. Following Campagnolo’s lead on the “this-one-goes-to-12” train, the big news from SRAM’s gearing jump may not actually be the extra cog, but the way riders will get through them all.

Without getting too far into the minutiae behind SRAM’s revolutionary approach to gearing (check out our sister outlet Velonews for the nitty gritty) and how it applies to triathletes getting to T2 faster and fresher, the basics involve a smaller chainring up front (50/37T, 48/35T, and 46/33T) and cassette ranges with smaller jumps between gears.

One version of the new SRAM eTap AXS cassette, for instance, will have a range that goes from 10t-28t and have seven one-tooth jumps—one-tooth jumps are ideal for shifting. This is compared to Shimano’s similar 11-speed cassette with only four one-tooth jumps. In other words, a big range, but much smoother shifting between each; more than just slapping on another gear.

While the smoother shifting and ease of finding the “right gear” while pounding over a roller in aero is notable, the new groupset has a few other tricks up its sleeve. For starters, the groupset will be available with a power meter option from Quarq that integrates into the chainring. Despite being cheaper and lighter than Quarq’s other offerings, bear in mind that chainrings wear down (five-year lifespan according to SRAM)—but Quarq is also offering a replacement for purchasers at half price.

Also, as nothing techy today is worthwhile without an app, accordingly eTap AXS will have a smartphone app that connects to its shifters allowing users to customize shift patterns, shift layout, and track component wear among other enhanced features.

Of course, all of this doesn’t come cheap as the new complete aero 1x chainring rim brake (available in 2x and disc brake flavors as well) setup runs $2,800 to start and climbs to $3,700 for the 2x chainring disc version with Quarq power meter.

The good news is that for triathletes who already have the eTap setup on their tri rigs, eTap Blips, BlipGrips, and Clics are compatible with the new system—however riders will have to upgrade to a new AXS BlipBox, front and rear derailleur, chain, cassette, and crank.

And much like those surprise album drops of late, SRAM is taking a page out of the music industry by saying its new groupset is available the day of the announcement. This is a major departure from most launches that are often followed by a far later release date. For more on how SRAM pulled off this magic trick, be sure to check out the March issue of our new sister publication, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News for an inside look.

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