Until the recent announcement of SRAM’s new (and even cheaper) NX transmission, GX was the US gearing giant’s entry-level 11-speed offering – and in its 1×11 configuration its fourth ultra-wide range 11-speed transmission.
Take a glance at GX 1×11 and, colours aside, those who aren’t in the know would find it hard to distinguish from X1, X01 and XX1. That’s no coincidence either; after all trickling down technology is what drivetrain manufacturers have been doing for years. Ultimately that means that GX isn’t all-new; it’s an evolution – albeit a simplified one, of components that have now been proven for years.
With almost a year of dust (and in our case, mud) now properly settled, how has this reasonably priced drivetrain held up after miles and miles of abuse?
Hop straight onto a GX-equipped bike and anyone – like us – who is already familiar with SRAM’s 1x systems will feel right at home. More impressively, anyone who hasn’t used it should also feel comfortable.
That’s because an oft-overlooked advantage to the 1x groupset is its simplicity, particularly for beginner riders. Taking away the front derailleur and the left hand shifter means riders only have two buttons to contend with – up and down.
Chain security is as good as you’re going to get without using a chain device: Chain security is as good as you’re going to get without using a chain device SRAM/Christoph Laue
Chain security is as good as you’re going to get without using a chain device
Experienced riders meanwhile can instead embrace the space saved at the handlebar and the additional clearance at the frame’s seat tube. Better still, GX uses its clever X-SYNC tooth profiles at the front ring and derailleur, which make for exemplary chain management and, just like with SRAM’s other 1x groups, mean chain devices will be reserved for the most extreme riders only.
The 1×11 version of GX (there are 2×10 and 2×11 options too) comprises a hollow-armed crankset fitted with a narrow/wide X-SYNC chainring, a 10-42t cassette, a clutch-equipped rear derailleur and an 11-speed trigger shifter (or GripShift unit) and chain. The cassette requires a rear hub fitted with SRAM’s XD Driver body to accommodate the smallest cog.
We got our hands on the GX kit in June 2015 and have been running it throughout one of the grimiest English summers, autumns and winters we’ve ever experienced. Using a 32-tooth chainring (30-38t available), we never felt like we lacked gears on the climbs, and certainly couldn’t spin out on off-road descents in 11th gear.
After months of hard use the drivetrain is still shifting flawlessly despite us hammering the chain up and down the cassette with little sympathy or finesse in a cocktail of some of the filthiest, grittiest grinding paste mud around.
The cranks held up to a beating without complaint, though are a bit less shiny than they were: The cranks held up to a beating without complaint, though are a bit less shiny than they were Russell Burton
The cranks held up to a beating without complaint, though are a bit less shiny than they were
In feel alone, all of BikeRadar‘s testers agree that GX’s is hard to determine from that of SRAM’s other 1×11 groups. Compared with Shimano equipment at a similar price point we found GX offered a more precise feel at the lever – it’s light, snappy and positive – but a marginally harsher shift feel overall. That said, even with tension on the chain it still runs up and down the cassette without too much fuss.
The derailleur has developed remarkably little play in its riveted pivots considering how much abuse we’ve thrown at it. The cassette isn’t showing any real signs of wear and the chain is still in good condition too. Mud and water ingress into the shifter and cable housing has been minimal, even after serious neglect and clumsy hosing.
We did experience chain suck in really muddy and wet conditions, but only once the chainring and chain had clocked near 1,000 miles (1,610km) of wear . We also experienced creaking from the cassette but torquing it up tight cured this issue. The cranks resisted rub and rock strike damage well initially, though they are now looking pretty tatty.