Editors’ Choice: SRAM GX AXS One Year Later
After shrugging off some serious abuse, wireless GX proves to be tougher than its mechanical cousin.
When SRAM trickled its AXS wireless shifting technology down to the GX level in March of 2021, we literally couldn’t tell the difference between it and X0 or XX1 when it came to shift performance. As we reported then, the weight difference between the two derailleurs is 65 grams, which is either a little bit or a lot depending on who you are. For some riders, paying $210 for the kit (derailleur, shifter, battery, charger) to save 65 grams might be totally worth it. For me, it’s not. $633 is already a lot for a derailleur and shifter, I think I’m fine with a few extra grams if it saves me that much money.
But what we didn’t know last March was how GX would hold up in the long run. If it would be anything like the mechanical stuff, X0 would prove itself to be the better option over time. The mechanical GX stuff just doesn’t hold up to abuse the way X0 does.
This hasn’t been the case so far with GX AXS. After a year of riding it in every imaginable condition from freezing water and snow, to 100-degree desert heat, to being submerged in creeks and rivers, and swapped between multiple bikes, GX AXS hasn’t skipped a beat. Other than a few battle wounds to show as proof that it’s hit some shit, the derailleur works the same as the day I got it. Even the pulleys are still running perfectly smooth.
Not only can I still not detect any difference between it and X0 AXS, I can’t feel a difference between this beatdown GX kit and a brand new X0 one. And, I’ve come to prefer the original rocker-style shift paddle that still comes on GX over the new one that ships with X0 and XX1. You can swap them out, but it’ll cost you. So, out of the box, it appears that I actually prefer GX AXS. Practically speaking, anyway.
If I’m totally honest, the allure of X0 is still there for me (XX1 not so much because the carbon pulley cage on that derailleur isn’t very durable). I like “nice” things, even when the more expensive thing isn’t really any better, I’m still a sucker for it. For me, I’d spend the extra $200 not because it’s lighter, but because it says X0 on it. But that’s my disease. Don’t be like me. Get GX AXS instead.
Now, if you’re like a lot of people out there, you might still be thinking that wireless shifting is stupid. And, you aren’t wrong. It’s not necessary, but I love it anyway.
I’m sort of predisposed to love it. My dad worked for Mavic when they released Mektronic. I’ve never been much of a road rider, but I’ve always loved neat gadgets, and just thought that stuff was amazing. And despite what the internet will tell you now, Mektronic worked. I rode it, and set it up on bikes, and it was incredibly cool. So of course when wireless shifting finally came to mountain bikes decades later, I had zero hesitation.
But after riding it for the first time and trying to mentally strip away the allure of it all, I couldn’t really make a strong argument to spend a bunch of extra money to go wireless. I still can’t. But I’ve actually come to like it more than I did at first. I now have more bikes with AXS than ones with mechanical shifting, and when I go back to mechanical, I definitely notice. I like the soft touch of wireless. It’s effortless. It doesn’t mess up, it just makes shifts with robotic precision every time. Sure, it’s such a light and easy shift that I do it by accident all the time when I’m hike-a-biking. Or I’ll be resting and the bars will turn and the paddle will hit my knee and make a shift. And sure, I have to make sure the battery is charged.
When it comes down to it, if I get on a bike that has mechanical shifting, I know I’m downgrading a bit. Not a lot. It’s not a ride-ruiner or anything, but for folks that want the best experience on their bike, I’d recommend wireless. Specifically, I’d recommend GX AXS because after a year of riding it I can confidently say the only reason to spend more money is for vanity’s sake.
Photos: Ryan Palmer