When I first saw Sram's XX1 leak out onto the forums, I wasn't all that excited about it. My thought was "here we go again... another change". I looked at the massive 42 tooth cog in the back and wondered what Sram was thinking. Over the next few weeks, I read up on it as information started to become available. Needless to say, the thought of not having a front derailleur really intrigued me. Like a few products over time, I simply could not get Sram's XX1 out of my head. The technology sounded exciting and I continued to gain enthusiasm in seeing if this drivetrain really worked. So, I bit the bullet, so to speak. I ordered a drivetrain from Sram. Needless to say, I tracked the UPS package everyday for 4 days until it ended up in my office. The potential for a great ride was sitting right in front of me.
The first thing to tackle was the cassette driver. After all, the new cassette has a 10 tooth cog and that doesn't fit on a regular free hub body. Hope Technology had come to my rescue! I built up a Hope Pro Evo II hub on a Stan's Flow Ex rim. That would do the trick on my Salsa Horsethief with a 142 x 12 rear. It is easy to change cassette drivers and more and more companies are coming through with them. DT Swiss, Hope, White Industries, and American Classic have all come out with the drivers. Mavic isn't far behind, as far as we know, along with others. All I can say is that the initial installation of my XX1 drivetrain was incredibly simple. It took me all of about 5 minutes to put on the cassette and change the chainring. The back side of the chainring is threaded. That means that you only need the outer side of a chainring bolt as it threads right into the chainring. Small things like this make all the difference. The Sram engineers obviously know that working with the back side chainring bolt is difficult, at best. At the end of a 10 hour work day, it made a huge difference to me that this installation was easier than expected. The cassette threads right onto the driver body and a normal cassette lockring tool tightens it (Park FR-5). The cranks were simple to put on, as normal with Sram/Truvativ. Elegant and easy. The rear derailleur bolts on just as any other would. Note: I did have to be careful as the rear derailleur mounting bolt is a T-20 Torx bit. In addition, Sram seems to have removed quite a bit of material on that bolt. So, I was worried I was going to strip out that bolt. I didn't. But, it was a reminder to be careful with this high end bike jewelry. Chain installation was a piece of cake thanks to Sram's Powerlink. And, the most beautiful thing of all: It took me all of 5 minutes to adjust my new drivetrain. No fighting a front derailleur. No cross gears. No chain rub. Just 11 simple gears.
Needless to say, I was a bit nervous heading out on Saturday morning with the normal riding crew. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head: "Is that chain going to stay on?", "Did I get my chain length correct", "I hope I don't have to walk out or single speed it out for some reason.", "Is my gearing choice right?". That last question was probably the biggest. I went with the 28 tooth chainring as we have some steep climbs here in Oregon/Washington. I was happy to see that Sram noticed that not all of us have Pro racer power coming out of our legs. To cut to the chase, I stayed out for 4 hours without a single issue. Yes, it works as good as they say it does (if not better). The rear shifting is fast. As fast as I could ever want. The bike never mis-shifted once. And, I tested it. I "mistakenly" shifted way to late a few times, seeing if the drivetrain would handle shifting under the heaviest load I could put out. No problem at all. I purposely shifted way to often, shifting back and forth and back and forth during the ride just to see if I could find an error. Thankfully, I failed! Not a single mis-shift occurred. I bounced around, taking lines that weren't smooth. I went over logs and bottomed out my suspension on purpose to see if I could get the chain to skip and/or fall off that front ring. No way, not a chance. It never budged. I love riding single speed because of the smoothness of the drivetrain. There is no clickety-clank. There are no chains flying all over. There is no noise! This was like riding single speed, but with 11 gears!! Yes, I was very impressed. The combination of the XX1 Type 2 derailleur and the large chainring teeth keep the entire system as smooth as it could possibly be. The 28 tooth ring in the front gave me perfect gearing. I never needed any gear that I didn't have in 11 simple choices. I climbed everything I had always done and never ended up in the small 10 tooth cog. The gear range is excellent. The system worked flawless.
Sram's XX1 is a game changer, in my opinion. The only thought I have now is how long will this drivetrain last? As it wears in, will the chain want to jump off? With an 11 speed chain (Slightly thinner), will I break a chain at some point? How long will it be until I find a flaw in this drivetrain? Time will tell. With this high end equipment, and our Northwest riding conditions, if I can get a year out of the chain, chainring and cassette, that is worth it. I am confident that the Sram engineers have taken longevity into consideration and am not that worried about it. There are three fantastic things that have come out of this new drivetrain: First, it is lighter than any other drivetrain I have had. Second: No front derailleur! No chainsuck, no front mis-shifts, no dropped chain. This drivetrain is simple, quiet and fast!! Third, and perhaps a bit more subtle, but worth mentioning: My Fox D.O.S.S seat post shift lever is now underneath the bar where the front shifter used to be. It's tucked out of the way and easy to reach. This has lead to the perfect cockpit on my Salsa Horsethief! I will plan to write a follow up, say around the end of August, with a longer term experience on XX1. But, for now, I want it on every bike I have. I want to it trickle down to XO and X.9 so that others can experience this joyful experience!