BikeRadar Battle: SRAM Eagle vs Shimano Eagle

The drivetrain shootout nobody asked for

SRAM’s latest mountain bike drivetrain cranks the volume past 11 all the way to 12 — because 12 is one more than 11 and more is always better, right? Not so fast, jive turkey. Long before SRAM launched its 12-speed Eagle drivetrain, Shimano was equipping 10-speeds with its own Eagle derailleurs.

Here’s how these two components that would never, ever, be bolted to the same bicycle stack up against each other in BikeRadar’s bird battle royale!

Features

In comparing these two derailleurs, it’s amazing how little the rear derailleur has changed in forty years.

SRAM and Shimano Eagle derailleurs share many of the same features, they rely on barrel adjusters to fine-tune cable tension (well... SRAM's is at the shifter), limit screws to control the range of movement, B-tension screws to adjust the orientation of the derailleur cage in relation to the freewheel/cassette, and a pair of jockey wheels through which the chain travels.

There are, of course, some striking differences.

SRAM Eagle builds on the success of SRAM’s clutch-equipped Type II derailleurs with a “Type 3” clutch that is said to be stronger as well as smoother.

Shimano Eagle has no clutch mechanism, but it does have a built in bashguard. Does this make Shimano Eagle suitable for enduro-ing? Probably not.

SRAM eagle weighs much less than shimano eagle and costs many, many times more
SRAM eagle weighs much less than shimano eagle and costs many, many times more

Winner: SRAM Eagle

Durability

The SRAM Eagle rear derailleur is constructed from a mix of carbon and alloy components.

Shimano Eagle is constructed from chrome-plated steel — and lots of it.

In the words of the late, great Sheldon Brown, Shimano Eagle was "Probably the strongest derailer [sic] ever made before the 21st century models such as Saint."

Since SRAM Eagle isn’t due to land until this summer, its durability is unknown.

After forty years, there are still thousands of Shimano Eagle derailleurs changing gears on cheap steel road and touring bikes around the world.  

Shimano eagle is made from chrome-plated steel and features a built-in bashguard to protect the derailleur body:
Shimano eagle is made from chrome-plated steel and features a built-in bashguard to protect the derailleur body:

Winner: Shimano Eagle

Shifting performance

SRAM Eagle uses the company’s X-Actuation to fire off precise shifts with a positive lever feel. Shimano Eagle, on the other hand, was designed to work with friction shifters.

Much like teenage lovers in a basement bedroom, basking under the glow of a lava lamp with the soft, soulful crooning of Isaac Hayes playing in the background, shifting in the 1970s was a “grind it until you find it” affair.

SRAM Eagle may have precision, but Shimano Eagle has soul.

Another factor to ponder: the XX1 version of SRAM Eagle is black with a gold chain, and Isaac Hayes was black and often wore gold chains. 

Despite the revolutionary new chain design and updated narrow/wide tooth profile designed to reduce wear and to make the drivetrain perform better at extreme chain angles, SRAM Eagle will never be as smooth as Isaac Hayes. 

Despite the revolutionary new chain design and updated narrow/wide tooth profile designed to reduce wear and to make the drivetrain perform better at extreme chain angles, sram eagle will ever be as smooth as isaac hayes
Despite the revolutionary new chain design and updated narrow/wide tooth profile designed to reduce wear and to make the drivetrain perform better at extreme chain angles, sram eagle will ever be as smooth as isaac hayes

Winner: Isaac Hayes

Check out www.disraeligears.co.uk for info and images of derailleurs from days gone by. 

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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