First Impressions: SRAM GX AXS
Wireless shifting for the masses ... sort of.
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Trickle-down is when premium-level technology makes its way into more affordable products. It’s inevitable, expected, a natural part of product development and progress. Ever since the very day SRAM announced the release of its first wireless mountain bike groups two years ago, people have been asking, “When’s it coming to GX?” Welp, the that time has finally come. GX AXS has arrived—a mere days after our member subscribers saw it revealed in our very first print issue.
And it’s better than we could’ve possibly imagined. Kind of. Depending on how you look at it. If you read “GX AXS” and think, “finally, cheap wireless,” well, it ain’t cheap. But also, it ain’t cheap. So, before we dive into the former, let’s talk about the latter, shall we.
GX AXS Ain’t Cheap
I’ve been riding GX AXS for six weeks now, back-to-back with X0 AXS, and I can honestly say that I can’t detect any difference whatsoever. It feels identical in every way, sort of the way XX and X0 AXS feel identical. The shifters (or controllers, as SRAM refers to them) all have the same button feel, and as far as I can tell, the exact same motors drive all three derailleurs. The speed and strength of the shift is the same across them. SRAM didn’t slap a slower, weaker motor into the GX AXS derailleur, it’s just made out of slightly heavier parts, which hasn’t seemed to slow the derailleur down at all. I weighed the new GX AXS derailleur against an X0 AXS one, and the difference is 75 grams. That’s including the nifty new (and optional) battery cover that comes with the GX AXS derailleur, which itself weighs 10 grams, so they’re really 65 grams apart.
It’s possible that those grams could be enough extra weight to put extra strain on the motor, battery, or pivots over time, but that’s entirely theoretical and I’m not an engineer. In reality, I haven’t been able to detect any difference in battery life so far, and to be honest, it’d be a pretty difficult thing to accurately test in the field.
Not enough time has passed to really accurately judge long-term durability, and I haven’t smashed the new derailleur quite as much as the X0 one I have (which by the way has proven to be really tough). There are a couple little dings on the main body that show some contact, but I haven’t had any oh-shit slams yet. And as much as I love all y’all, I’m not about to smoke a perfectly good derailleur like all those dummies on the internet that destroy brand new, thousand-dollar iPhones for click-bait.
I know it’s not much, but that’s really all I’ve got for ride impressions. Pretty boring, I know. But isn’t it also exciting? For a savings of $200 between X0 AXS and GX AXS upgrade kits (derailleur, shifter, battery, charger), you get zero loss in performance. The same cannot be said about their cable-actuated counterparts. I know it’s commonly said that mechanical X0 and GX have the same performance, but that hasn’t been my experience in the stand or on the trail. This wireless stuff, though? So far, same-same. It’s totally possible that I eat my words down the road, but right now I can’t see a practical reason not to opt for GX AXS over X0 AXS.
GX AXS Also Ain’t Cheap:
The GX AXS upgrade kit is $600. That will turn your mechanical Eagle drivetrain (or Shimano 12-speed, though SRAM won’t recommend it for obvious reasons) into a wireless one. The derailleur alone is $370, and the shifter is $150. That’s a 25 percent savings over X0 AXS, which is significant, but also, you know it’s still a lot of dough. And it’s not the same savings that you get on the mechanical side. Over there, you get a 37.5% savings when you go from X0 to GX.
But, the two AXS groups appear to be far closer in performance than the two mechanical ones. I always recommend to folks that they upgrade to X0 on the mechanical side, but I’m not sure that’ll be the case with the AXS stuff. So the savings isn’t as much, but neither is the performance drop-off. GX AXS shifts under load in the same amazing way X0 AXS does, but it’s 25% less expensive. I can’t really put a number on the performance drop-off of mechanical GX, but it’s a lot higher than the 0% I’ve been able to detect so far on the AXS side. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s the deal of a lifetime. One that, by the way, e-bike owners should be particularly interested in because the power and accuracy of the AXS shift is especially beneficial with all those extra watts going through the drivetrain.