SRAM have been ﬁguring out what would make your riding experience sweeter, and they believe that switching from three chainrings to two and downsizing them – as with this 2011 X7 hollow forged alloy crankset – is the answer.
Combining the 39/26T rings with a new super-wide (11-36T) cassette gives you pretty much the same low gear extremes as you’ve been used to on full-size triple cranks, with only a slight decrease in top-end ﬁrepower – and we rarely had the old 44T big ring spinning ﬂat-out off-road anyway.
This 2x10 system gives more usable gears in the range where most people spend most of their time. More of your riding can be done in the big ring, as you can fully cross the chain and use the complete range of 10 rear sprockets.
Although this move to two chainrings was spawned by racers who didn’t want their cadence interrupted, we think it's perfect for everyday trail riders. For the hard to please, triple ring 22/33/44T versions are available, but to mess with the compact double concept is to miss the proverbial boat.
Weighing 890g (with GXP bottom bracket), the X7 crankset isn't astonishingly lightweight – about 100g more than the carbon SRAM XO and 30g or so more than a 2010 Shimano Deore XT triple. But it does feel substantial when you’re driving your weight into it; it’s not ﬂex-free (no cranks are) but it does convert effort into drive efﬁciently.
We’ve been riding this gear system for well over a year, and the X7 speciﬁcally for three months, and we’re sold on the concept. Pedalling is still hard work – it’s no magic pill for getting up hills – but ﬁnding a gear to suit the moment/terrain/energy levels is easier. Front shifting is reduced, and when it’s required it’s pin sharp in both directions thanks to some extensive ramp and pin architecture on the back of the outer ring.
We dished out some harsh treatment to our X7 cranks: we ﬁtted them to a burly all-mountain rig and sent them out onto the roughest trails to take their punishment. We struck rocks hard enough to stall the bike from 10 miles an hour, tried buzz-sawing over logs (cough) and a few rocks, and while we gained a few tasty gouges and scratches, we didn’t bend a tooth.
The chunky four-arm spider shrugged off everything we threw at it. While it doesn’t have the sex appeal of its big brothers, the XO and XX carbon models, this one has a certain stripped-down appeal that we’re more than happy to live with.