Three years ago SRAM instigated the move to 10 – speed shifting on mountain bikes. At the same time they also eliminated one front chainring to produce the first mass – produced 2X10 drivechain on their range topping XX groupset. While its roots lay with elite – level cross – country racing, many consumers liked the simplicity of the wide – range two chainring drivechain. Since then, 2X10 has spread through the entire SRAM range.
For the 2011 model year 2X10 appeared on all of their mid – range group sets —X.7, X.9 and X.O. Now for 2012 the metamorphosis is complete with the introduction of 2X10 on their entry – level X.5 MTB group. For 2012 youll see X.5 appearing on hardtails in the $900 to $2,000 area as well as many base level dual suspension bikes.
Features – wise, X.5 closely follows the design cues of the more upmarket SRAM component groups. SRAM utilises the same Exact Actuation cable pull ratio in the derailleurs, which ensures cross – compatibility with their other 2X10 MTB parts and should lead to good shifting consistency in dirty off – road riding conditions.
The front chainrings use X – Glide shift ramps and chain pick – up points, just like the XX and X.O groups. All of the important components – front derailleur, triggers and so on – have been optimised to suit the 2X10 chainring format.
Interestingly, SRAM offers the X.5
cranks for both traditional 24mm spindle GXP style bottom brackets, as well as the oversized BB30/Press – Fit 30 bottom bracket systems. Press – Fit 30 and BB30 used to be limited to high – end bike frames but it is now seeing use in more affordable bikes. With X.5 cranks being offered with a 30mm spindle, its likely that well be seeing an even broader range of bikes utilising Press – Fit 30 and BB30 systems. The bigger bearings claim to improve durability while the fatter spindle increases crank stiffness. On some bikes the larger shell can also give the frame builder more meat for the down tube/seat tube/bottom bracket junction.
With all the features at an entry – level price, where does the X.5 lose out compared to the more expensive SRAM groups? Many parts lose very little in terms of function but you will find cheaper materials, more weight and less all – round precision when compared to the more up – market parts. The cranks look very tidy with their one – piece spider but they lack the versatility of the interchangeable spider used on X.7, X.9 and X.O. The built – in clamp on the trigger shifters lacks Match Maker compatibility, so it cant be mounted directly to Avid brake levers like the more up – market shifting options.
Gearing Options
Despite having one less chainring, SRAMs 2X10 system has always provided a broad spread of gear ratios. With a 11/36 cassette, the commonly used 26/39 chainrings offer a low gear that comes close to matching that of a standard triple drivechain. Still, mountain bikers who regularly tackle ultra steep and long climbs have asked for lower gearing. With this in mind, SRAM has expanded their gearing options. Every group from the X.5 up to X.O is offered with 22/36 and 24/38 chainring options. With its XC race focus, XX is the only level that misses out on the new lower gearing options. The lower ratios will prove particularly handy on 29ers, as the bigger wheels increase the effective gear size and the new options will compensate nicely for this. SRAM will also make bash – guards to suit the 36 and 38 – tooth chainrings for all – mountain applications.
From X.5 through to X.O SRAM will continue to offer triple chainring cranks as an option, and youll see them coming as original equipment on many bikes. Unlike the commonly seen Shimano triples, SRAM uses a 22/33/44 chainring format. This produces the broadest overall gear spread and retains SRAMs X – Glide shifting system.
Streamlined Colours
For 2012 SRAM has released the X.O group with a new ultra – shiny silver finish but for the most part, they have cut back on the range of colour options offered in their main groupsets. X.O is now available in silver, red or black; X.9 is either white or grey and the rest are single – colour groupsets. While this should make it easier to source a replacement part at your local bike shop, youll still encounter some model – specific colour schemes as original equipment on certain brands.
Better Brakes
Beyond the introduction of the new X.5 2X10 component group, the biggest news from SRAM would be the updates to their brakes. For 2012, the Elixir XX, Elixir 9 and Elixir 7 models get an updated version of their TaperBore master cylinder that is said to be easier to bleed. This should lead to more consistent and trouble – free brake performance. Across the board, youll also find new HS brake rotors which should produce a smoother, quieter braking action. The rotor sizes have also been brought inline with industry standards, now coming in 140, 160, 180 and 200mm sizes.
X.O Downhill
When X.O was revamped in 2011, it was touted as their most versatile component group —light enough for serious XC racing but strong enough for all – mountain or even downhill applications. For 2012 we see SRAMs first concerted effort to capitalise on this. The new X.O DH group uses the same parts with modifications in key areas to suit the needs of gravity focused riders.
While the cranks use the same carbon arms, fitted with stronger pedal lugs, a sturdy single ring specific spider and chainring, as well as beefed – up bottom bracket spindles to suit most modern downhill frames. These cranks can be paired with the X.O labelled chain guide.
The DH rear derailleur is simply an X.O rear mech fitted with a very short cage. It is designed to provide optimal shifting and reduced chain slap with smaller cassettes. These X.O DH parts can then be paired with the standard X.O brakes or one of Avids high powered Code models.
Ancillary Additions
Throughout the broad range of brands under the SRAM banner, youll find numerous other updates and changes. Theres now a number of new RockShox forks aimed at the 29er market; these include a 29er version of their 100mm travel SID XC race fork as well as longer travel options such as the Revelation. Also under the RockShox name, youll find a new version of their Reverb height adjustable seatpost, now with internally routed hydraulic lines for a tidier overall appearance. SRAM recently acquired the Quarq brand of power meters, so we will also see a broader range of Truvativ cranks with built – in power measuring devices.
Grip Shift Returns
We may not see them as standard spec on 2012 bikes but SRAM is working on an XX level 10 – speed twist shifter. SRAM let Grip Shift slip by the wayside when off – road 10 – speed was launched, and many twist – shift fans were disappointed. As of late 2011 the new Grip Shift was still in the testing and prototype stage, but it should reach production sometime in 2012 —expect them to be an aftermarket option to start with. With XX twisters on the way, its a fairly safe bet that more affordable X.9 and X.7 models will follow, maybe for 2013 model bikes.
Most of the changes for 2012 have been on an aesthetic front, with SRAM taking an if it aint broke, dont fix it approach. Their top – end Red groupset will now come in a polished alloy finish as well as all – black. You may also encounter Red in a limited edition yellow version that was released to highlight their victories in the Tour de France. At the other end of the price spectrum, their Apex group will now be offered in white as well as the traditional black colour scheme. In terms of function and features, the main groupsets all remain unchanged from 2011.