SRAM is taking the fight to Shimano with a new gravel and adventure-friendly gearing option for Force eTap AXS, its second-tier 12-speed wireless groupset.
The brand has also added support for dropper posts to its mechanical Force 1, Rival 1 and Apex 1 1× groupsets, and launched new brake rotors specifically for road use.
Up until now, Force eTap AXS has essentially been a road groupset, with the lowest official gearing option being a 46/33t crank with a 10-33t cassette. This is low by road standards, but not low enough for the needs of heavy-duty bikepackers, gravel riders and other adventurous cyclists.
While it was already possible to mix in some SRAM Eagle AXS mountain bike components (the AXS wireless system is fully inter-compatible), this new announcement adds some useful options that will appeal to riders looking for properly low gears, and manufacturers who want to spec a fully matching gravel-friendly groupset on next year’s bikes.
The star of the show is a brand new 43/30t Force Wide crank that has a slightly wider chainline than the existing range, and a spindle that’s 5mm longer.
Like current Force and Red cranks, this uses SRAM’s DUB bottom bracket standard, but the new crank is compatible with both 68mm (road) and 73mm (mountain bike) bottom bracket shells rather than just 68mm.
Cranks are available in lengths from 165mm to 177.5mm, and the 175mm cranks we have here weigh 688g on our scales. There isn’t a power meter option.
The new cranks are accompanied by a matching Force eTap AXS front derailleur and, because of the wider chainline, they must be used together and can’t be mixed and matched with other Force and Red components. The front derailleur weighs 158g on our scales, plus 24g for the battery.
Why the chainline change? The key thing is tyre clearance.
Where the current AXS road groupsets don’t officially have clearance at the front derailleur for rear tyres larger than 700 × 42mm, the new model will accommodate 700 × 45mm or 27.5 × 2.1in (650b × 53mm) rubber.
Incidentally, if you’ve noticed that the new cranks seem shinier than those of the current Force range, you’re right.
Force eTap AXS’s relatively muted aesthetics were something I noted when I put the groupset head-to-head with Shimano Ultegra Di2 at the start of the year.
SRAM clearly thinks it can do better, and a new shinier finish is being rolled out across the Force groupset.
New rear derailleur and a bigger cassette
SRAM has added range at the rear too. Where, previously, AXS road cassettes topped out at 33t, there’s now a 10-36t option and it too is accompanied by a ‘medium cage’ derailleur, much like Shimano’s GS models.
As well as more range, the cassette features stealthy vibration damping rubber between the bottom three cogs, a design detail that SRAM tells us will be rolled out across all Force cassettes. It weighs 300g on the nose.
The new Force eTap AXS 36T Max rear derailleur is compatible with all 2× and 1× eTap AXS road cranks and works with 10-28t, 10-33t and 10-36t cassettes.
It gets the same Orbit fluid damper as the current model along with jockey wheels that use SRAM’s X-Sync tooth profile, which claims to offer earlier (and hence better) chain engagement.
We’ve weighed it at 302g, plus 24g for its battery.
More range, more 1-tooth jumps
SRAM is keen to point out that its new gearing options have more total range than the competition, i.e. Shimano GRX.
A drivetrain using the new 43/30t cranks and the 10-36t cassette has a total range of 516 per cent, compared to Shimano’s 478 per cent for its widest range option (48/31t and 11-34t).
SRAM also groups its cogs differently, with more 1-tooth jumps at the higher end of the cassette (i.e. the smaller sprockets) and bigger jumps in the lower gears (i.e. the easier ones).
The first four cogs of the new 10-36t cassette are spaced 1-tooth apart whereas Shimano opts for a more even spread across the ratios.
SRAM Force wide gearing pricing and availability
The new Force components are available now (along with the other components detailed below) and riders will be able to buy a whole groupset featuring them, or individual components.
Pricing is as follows:
- Force Wide 43/30t cranks (BB not included): £390 / $420 / €435
- XG-1270 10-36t 12-speed cassette: £170 / $185 / €190
- Force Wide eTap AXS front derailleur (not including battery): £290 / $350 / €325
- Force eTap AXS Medium Cage rear derailleur (not including battery): £415 / $490 / €465
Dropper support for 1× mechanical groupsets
Plenty of bike builders have already worked out ways to operate a dropper using existing DoubleTap mechanical levers, but SRAM has now made the functionality official with dedicated left levers for bikes with 1× drivetrains.
These are offered for Force 1, Rival 1 and Apex 1 groupsets and they look just like the front shifters SRAM offers for 2× drivetrains, but we’re assuming the mechanicals are slightly different because the two-stage DoubleTap mechanism would be redundant for dropper operation.
If you’re looking to fit a dropper to a SRAM-equipped gravel bike, the new levers should make doing so much easier, and this change brings SRAM’s mechanical offerings up to speed with Shimano GRX, which already supports droppers.
The new left levers ship with flat-mount brakes included and are available in front and rear variants for different countries. Pricing is as follows:
- Force: £273 / $290 / €305
- Rival: £231 / $246 / €259
- Apex: £202 / $215 / €226
New road disc rotors
SRAM has also debuted a range of road-focused rotors that are more affordable than the current Centerline XR design normally bundled with Red and Force AXS groupsets.
The new Paceline rotors are available in 140mm and 160mm diameters, and six-bolt and centerlock variants.
The six bolt options are priced at £40 / $40 / €45 while the centerlock rotors are £50 / $50 / €55.