First look, first ride and first race on SRAM XX1

by Tom Hoppe

We finally got our XX1 drivetrain in here at Bike198. I’ve been dying to try it out after hearing all the ravings about it, missing a couple of the recent bike Expos, and not being able to ride it until now. Also came right on time, as one of bigger races of the year, the 6 hours of Warrior Creek is this weekend. As soon as the kit got here, I pulled the XX 2×10 drivetrain off the Trek Superfly 100 and threw on the brand new, shiny, and lighter XX1. I didn’t weigh all the components before the install as there are plenty of places online that have detailed exact weights down to the gram.

Ever since I tried 1×10 on my Trek Remedy, I knew that XX1 was going to be the perfect drivetrain for me. The 1×10 was missing “just that little bit” of gearing and needed a chain guide to prevent drops, and the XX1 fixes both of those problems with seemingly no compromises. With a 32T front ring, 32×10 on the fast end and 32×42 on the granny side gives me pretty much the same gearing as my old 2×10 setup. The only thing I really give up is the 39×11 fastest gear and I’ve never used that during any races. If I’m ever going that fast down something I can go a bit faster by stopping pedaling and tucking. One of the great things about XX1 as well is the interchangeable front ring. If we are going somewhere super hilly I can put a 30T on the front and have a nice granny gear, but if I’m going to be riding a lot on Florida, I can throw the 34T or even 36T on the front and go fast.

XX1 shifter and housing

XX1 shifter came with all the housing and ferrules necessary for install

The drivetrain came with absolutely everything needed to install including the cable housing, ferrules, and even had grease applied at all the right spots. Made for a very easy install. I went ahead and pulled off my old cable housings and used them as a guide to cut the brand new ones. Swapping out the freehub on my NoTubes Crest wheelset was also simple. The old freehub popped right off and on with the new one. Easy peasy. The setup of the rear derailleur was a touch different than the 10 speed stuff as the B screw adjuster distances are a little bigger, but the SRAM manual is pretty clear about it, and the install was straightforward. What surprised me was how effective the front ring really is at holding the chain on. If you get pull up on the chain while it’s directly over one of the “grabber” teeth, it’s hard to pull the chain of the ring by hand. No wonder this drivetrain doesn’t need to come with a chain retention device.

XX1 crank

XX1 crank and interchangeable front ring

I got to take the drivetrain for it’s first shakedown on our local trail system at Blankets creek in Woodstock, GA. The trails are a mix of fun intermediate easy riding, with a nice technical rocky trail, along with some fast and swoopy bermed sections. The drivetrain passed with absolute flying colors. The whole system sort of makes itself “invisible” on the bike. It’s a bit hard to describe, but it’s quiet, smooth, and just like the 1×10, just frees your mind from having to worry about front shifting. That in itself lets me enjoy the ride so much more. Just a couple of clicks with the my right thumb and I’m either flying or climbing with a high cadence.

Now that I’m truly in love with the drivetrain, I’ll be testing it further this weekend during the 6 hours of Warrior Creek. It’s looking to a beautiful weekend and the bike and myself will get a pretty good workout. It’s also crunch time for Cohutta 100 training and I’ll be getting a lot of seat time over the next 3 weeks in preparation, so the drivetrain is going to get put through it’s paces very quickly. I’ll report back on how it handled the races and how it’s doing with all the trail riding. After this first bit of racing, the drivetrain will move over to my Remedy to see how it handles Pisgah. Can’t wait!

XX1 rear derailleur installed

XX1 rear derailleur and cassette. The giant 42T ring looks right at home on a 29er.

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