SRAM Launches RED eTap AXS 12-speed Wireless Road Bike Groupset

With the all-new SRAM RED eTap AXS, the American brand presents the next generation of its wireless groupset. The mechanical SRAM RED groupset appears to be dead, long live wireless eTap.

Since the launch of RED eTap in the summer of 2015, SRAM has remained fairly quiet on the product front. So quiet, that some began to wonder if eTap’s original promise of a wireless world might go unfulfilled. For four years there have been no updates allowing customization of shifting inputs or speeds, not even a single firmware update. And for more budget minded folks, there was no second tier Force eTap group. But it would appear SRAM’s been busy, and they’re breaking their silence. SRAM RED eTap AXS is here, so lets take a look. Starting with some quick and dirty bullet points before we dive in a little deeper.

SRAM RED eTAP AXS Rundown

  • SRAM Red eTap AXS wirelessly shifts a 12 speed cassette in a 2x or 1x configuration.
  • It’s part of a new AXS (access) family which includes a new MTB Eagle AXS 1x group as well as a RockShox AXS dropper post.
  • Everything works together thanks to the new AXS smartphone app.
  • SRAM RED eTap AXS uses its 12 cogs and 10t small cog to offer more low range. It’s called X-Range.
  • A new fluid damper in the rear derailleur manages chain tension instead of a mechanical clutch.
  • You’re going to need new wheels, or at least a new hub body. RED eTap uses a new XDR driver.
  • The AXS app allows users to customize shifting inputs and shifting patterns.
  • The groupset is disc brake and rim brake compatible
  • There does not appear to be a mechanical 12 speed group in the works or planned.
  • A new SRAM Force eTap AXS is in the works and details will be coming in April!

SRAM Force eTap AXS

I’m going to start with the last bullet point before I get into the new groupset details. Many of us having been wondering when the hell a Force eTap groupset would finally show up. Looks like the wait is finally over (almost). SRAM has a Force eTap AXS groupset in development and currently is targeting a release date for more details in April. No details, spy shots, specs or anything else yet. But that’s great news.

What can the new RED eTap AXS groupset do better than its predecessor?

Compared to its predecessor, SRAM has given the new RED eTap AXS a number of updates. First and foremost, there’s a 12th gear that has been added into the mix. You’ll now find a 10-tooth cog on the RED X-Range cassette. The one-piece cassette offers at least five gear steps with a difference of only one tooth, depending on gear range. The more gradual steps allow riders to pedal at optimal cadence over varied terrain.

The cassette also switches to SRAM’s XDR mounting design which means you’ll either need new wheels or if available a new hub body to accommodate. Tooth profiles are refined for the new cassette, but the overall manufacturing process stays the same. Like its predecessor the new cassette keeps the elastomer Stealth Rings between cogs to silence shifts.

To fit 12 cogs into the same space as 11, a few interesting design tweaks were made. First, the cogs themselves are thinner, but SRAM says they are as strong and durable as the 11 speed cogs. Second, the actual overall width of the cassette is just slightly wider thanks to the smallest cog only having 10 teeth. Combined with a thinner chain, there’s just enough room for that extra cog.

SRAM RED eTap AXS offers 10-26, 10-28 and 10-33 cassettes. In 2x set ups, chain rings max out at just 50t, with a 50/37, 48/35 and 46/33 options. That chain ring may sound small, but in terms of gear inches, a 50×10 combo delivers a bigger gear – 131.5” – than a 53×11 combo – 126.76”. At the other end the 37×26 is lower than a 39×26 combo – 37.4” inches versus 39.45”. The result is more range in addition to more efficiency in the middle. It’s also worth noting that a 50t front ring allows you to stay in the big ring in more situations.

While the new app, customized shifting and the other updates will get a lot of attention, it’s these gear ranges that will have the most real world impact. These are gears will finally allow many riders to drop their ‘Frankenstien’ builds for a cohesive groupset.

SRAM FlatTop Chain

To accommodate the new gears in the system, SRAM had to make a thinner chain. Thinner chains raise questions about strength. By adding material back to the top of the chain plate they gained back any strength that was lost to reducing the chain width. It doesn’t look like a standard eight chain, but it’s the same weight as the prior 11-speed chains.

The chain also gets a hard chrome finish treatment, which is said to improve its life by reducing wear by at least 50%. In other words it should last about 50% longer. This treatment also helps the chain reduce wear on the cassette.

New RED eTAP AXS Chainset / Chainrings / Power meter

Another big update in the SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset is the chainset. You won’t find any chainring bolts here. Instead, its new design is one piece with the inner and outer rings made from a single piece of aluminium. The chainrings are attached to the chainset via eight internal bolts.

SRAM claims the new chainrings last around 50 percent longer than the previous version. We’ll see how they keep up with all those circles you’ll be pedalling thanks to the smaller chainring.

The chainset is also where the power meter is housed. With the chainring bolts effectively being eliminated, I have concerns here. Having to replace the power meter when you replace the chainrings is a scary endeavor. SRAM has addressed those fears by launching a power meter replacement program with this setup. If and when things get worn out, they’ll recycle the old one and offer a half price replacement. Depending on replacement cycles, that could still get extremely expensive.

New Electronics for Faster Shifting

First off, what hasn’t changed. The same batteries are used from the old Red eTap groupset, SRAM didn’t see any room for improvement. Additionally, the components of the new groupset will not be backwards compatible.

In terms of the performance, the new SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset is twice as fast as previous versions.

SRAM RED eTap AXS Front Derailleur

The original eTAP front derailleur placed the battery pretty far inboard which limited tire size. In the new groupset clearance has been improved by 2.5mm, which allows for an additional 5mm of tire. SRAM says the new system will allow for a 700×42 tire with 415mm chainstays. If you want to go bigger you’ll have to increase chainstay length or gy 1x.

SRAM RED eTap AXS Rear Derailleur

Similar to the first version of wireless SRAM RED eTAP, the new AXS system uses the read derailleur as the hub for all components to join to. This system allows the single derailleur to run one-by and two-by systems.

The rear derailleur has new tech called ‘Orbit technology,’ there’s no clutch per se, rather a fluid dampener. The system is lighter and doesn’t place unnecessary resistance on the spring when under slow or light movement which improves shifting accuracy.

The system also reduces chain bounce for hard hitting impacts. It will never need servicing and a mineral oil is used inside. The new rear derailleur will use larger ‘X-Sync’ pulleys and ceramic bearings for increased durability and efficiency.

There’s only one model now, no short- or long-cage options. Because the tooth count jumps are the same between all three chainring combos at launch, it will work regardless of which cassette you pair it with.

New AXS Smartphone App

A major promise of the new groupset is personalisation. To deliver this SRAM links all the wireless components via its new AXS smartphone app.

This app allows you to have full control of all the buttons, enhanced functions and allows you to save settings and apply them to bikes you own or bike you rent or borrow. You do not, however, need the AXS app to use the new SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset.

The new app allows for a lot of customization. You can do things like customize add-ons like the blip buttons or change how many gears a continuous press of the button changes: two, three, or the whole run.

The new app also offers an enhanced mode. In basic terms this system shifts the front chainring based on the gear position at the back.

The compensation mode can be personalized to one or two cog jumps at the rear. Shift the front up and the rear will shift up. Shift down and it’ll do the same at the rear. This again can be switched off on the app or at the lever.

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Versions

Power Meter / Cranksets:

  • 2X: 50/37 48/35 46/33
  • 1X: 50 (Aero) 48 (Aero) 46 44 42 40 38 36
  • Cassettes: 10-26 10-28 10-33
  • Derailleur: One derailleur for all chainring and cassette combinations
  • Front mech: One front mech for all chainring and cassette combinations
  • Disc caliper: Flat mount and post mount for 160mm or 140mm rotors
  • Brake rotors 140 or 160 mm, CenterLock or 6-bolt mount

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Weight

Groupsets 2X with power meter 2x power meter 1x aero
RED eTap AXS road disc brake 2518 g +36 g 2553 g 2103 g
RED eTap AXS road rim brake 2254 g +36 g 2290 g 2070 g
RED eTap AXS aero disc brake 2343 g +36 g 2379 g 2159 g
RED eTap AXS aero rim brake 2052 g +36 g 2088 g 1868 g

SRAM RED eTap AXS – Price

Groupsets listed below contain the following components: rear derailleur, front derailleur (if required), shifters, callipers, brake rotor (if required), crankset/power meter, bottom bracket, cassette, chain, battery(s) and charger.

Groupsets Road USD
2x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter $4,158
2x hydraulic road bike disc brake $3,648
2x rim brake with power meter $3,998
2x rim brake $3,488
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter $3,708
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake $3,198
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake with power meter $4,354
1x hydraulic road bike disc brake $3,713
1x rim brake aero with power meter $3,891
1x rim brake aero $3,314

 

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