SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed Wireless Road / Gravel Groupset for 1x / 2x

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

“Road riders are going beyond where we’ve ever gone before. We’re going further and faster. And when the road stops, we keep going. One thing hasn’t changed: We want to push those boundaries without any distractions.”

“So we made eTap AXS™ for today’s riders. The result: an intuitive, high-performance groupset that means you can focus on what’s most important—your ride.” – SRAM

SRAM RED eTap AXS is available February 2019.

Always in the Right Gear

“Road bikes are faster and more capable than ever, and riders are expanding what’s possible with drop bar bikes. X-Range™ offers wider range, more useful and smoother gear progression, as well as smarter shift settings—enabled by AXS™.”

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Quiet, Secure and Smooth

“On tarmac or gravel, 1x or 2x, eTap AXS™ gives a quiet, secure, and smooth ride. Thanks to Orbit™ chain management and a unique Flattop™ chain, you’ll ride more confidently and efficiently than ever—no matter the terrain.”

Easily Personalized

“Control. Personalize. Monitor. AXS™—SRAM’s new bike component integration system—takes eTap wireless shifting to the next level. The SRAM AXS™ app allows riders to see battery status, change component behavior, personalize controls, get maintenance reminders, and update firmware.”

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Video Overview

More Tech Details

Before everyone gets excited, there is some bad new. None of the new eTap 12-speed AXS components are compatible with the original 11-speed version of eTap. Pretty much everything has changed in the shifting components; new electronics, an additional cog, a new chain and derailleur geometry. However, there is one significant improvement that will delight gravel cyclist types, more on that later in this article.

SRAM 12-speed eTap Terminology

AXS is the nomenclature SRAM have devised to describe this latest version of eTap. Anything branded with AXS is compatible with similarly branded parts across the brand.

AXS App, aka the software on your phone to customize the system, including helpful metrics such as the remaining battery power, number of shifts, etc.

FlatTop, the name for SRAM’s 12-speed chain. Narrower, and claimed to be stronger, quieter with improved durability.

Orbit Chain Management, aka a newly-designed fluid clutch-like mechanism in the rear derailleur.

X-Range is SRAM’s new gearing concept, more on that below.

XDR, aka the road-going version of SRAM’s XD driver.

Chainrings and Gear Ratios

SRAM have been doing their homework in this department, regardless if you’re a fan of 1x or 2x. Granted, the gaps of 1x are always going to be unpleasant for some, but they become a little less noticeable with the addition of a 12th cog.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

First up is the venerable double chainring. Love it or hate it, they are still a valid choice for gravel cyclists. (our part two survey results confirm this, coming soon I promise!) SRAM have upped the ante significantly with the quality of their direct-mount, one-piece chainrings. I’ve yet to see these in person, but the press release images of the goodies look quite the part. There are six chainring and cassette combinations on offer, which are designed to be paired together for optimal performance.

The traditional roadie type chainrings and cassettes:

  • 53/39 with 11-25 cassette
  • 52/36 with 11-28 cassette
  • 50/34 with 11-32 cassette

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Then there is the “X-Range”, that maintains a 13-tooth difference between the big and small chainrings. Those combinations are more gravel friendly, as follows:

  • 50/37 with 10-26 cassette
  • 48/35 with 10-28 cassette
  • 46/33 with 10-33 cassette

The following chart provided by SRAM explains the gearing a little better.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Furthermore, the next chart details the increased number of one-tooth jumps on SRAM eTap AXS 12-speed versus some of the more standard 11-speed cassettes currently on the market. Much as I love the standard ratio 11-speed 11-32 cassette when riding solo, the gaps in that cassette are annoying when suffering on a fast gravel group ride!

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

As a safety measure for accidental chain pickup to the big chainring, there is a firmware block to prevent you from riding the small chainring and the 10-tooth cog at the same time.

Cranksets

SRAM RED’s 12-speed cranks are available in 1x, 2x and aero variants. Of interest, the aero time trial chainrings are 1x only, namely 48T and 50T. Seems a segment of the triathlon market is good with ditching the front derailleur as well.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

For the 1x crowd, SRAM will offer 36 to 50 tooth counts in two tooth, even number increments. The 1x tooth profile on these cranks is borrowed from the company’s X-Sync mountain bike tech, designed to improved chain retention.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Above, the swanky looking SRAM RED 12-speed crank with one-piece machined 2x chainrings.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

If you’re a power meter user, SRAM and Quarq (a member of the SRAM family) have got you covered, with their neatly integrated power measurement system.

SRAM 12-speed X-Range Cassette

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The X-Range cassettes fit 12 cogs into the space of 11, and the new XDR system for mounting is partly responsible.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The cassette is a smidge wider than its 11-speed equivalent, but because the final 10-tooth cog is so small, there is a little more wiggle room near the rear dropout. Naturally, clearance is on a bike by bike basis.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The new one-piece cassette is machined from steel as with the 11-speed RED cassette, although the cogs are thinner. SRAM claims the 12-speed cassette is just as durable and strong as the 11-speed version.

12-speed FlatTop Chain

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Being thinner, the new chain would seemingly lose strength. However, extra material is added at the top of each chain plate which gives the chain its unique look, versus the usual number eight shape we are all used to seeing. Claimed weight is spot on with 11-speed chains. Enhancing durability is the chain’s hard chrome finish treatment, claimed to reduce wear by at least 50%. This should greatly benefit the system’s cassettes and chainrings as well.

12-speed eTap AXS Shifters

Slightly slower shifting speed versus a wired electronic system has long been a complaint of the original eTap. After riding the original eTap system for two years, I eventually noticed the slower shifts.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed
L: Rim brake shift lever, R: Disc brake shift lever.

The shifters have been updated with improved electronics, claimed to execute one’s shift inputs markedly faster. The lever hood shapes for rim and disc brakes remain the same, but with changes to shift paddle shape and size, etc. The location of the CR2032 battery has been shifted to the top of the lever, another solid improvement.

SRAM RED eTap AXS Front Derailleur

Tyre clearance between the front derailleur’s battery has been a huge issue on the original 11-speed eTap, and I’ve complained about it multiple times to SRAM at trade shows (but I’ve always been nice about it).

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The battery of the new front derailleur doesn’t sit quite as inboard as the original, providing an additional 2.5mm of clearance. SRAM state the front derailleur plays nicely with a 700c x 42mm tyre and 415mm chainstays.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Considering a ton of bikes feature 420mm to 425mm chainstays, this is a nice improvement. Kudos SRAM for listening to input from the editor of this article and visitors to GravelCyclist.com! Additionally, improved electronics including the motor units ensure shifts are faster than ever.

SRAM RED eTap AXS Rear Derailleur

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Another area of the groupset that sees a massive improvement is the rear derailleur. Known as “Orbit”, the eTap AXS rear derailleur features a fluid damper, that serves the place of a clutch, but without resorting to a mechanical clutch. In reality, the derailleur features a speed sensitive damping system.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

 

How does the fluid damping work? Inside the fluid compartment, the forces of resistance are at work. There is a vane / aka paddle that moves through the fluid as the derailleur cage is moved forward. A bump would ordinarily cause the chain to jump and pull the derailleur cage forward. But, the resistance of the vane against the fluid prevents that from happening. Very tricky.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

There is just one model of the derailleur available at the moment, and it is more a mid-cage design. The derailleur is compatible with 1x and 2x, and SRAM claims shifting on 1x is a tiny bit faster, as the rear derailleur forgoes the need to check against front derailleur positioning.

Blip Buttons aka Satellite Shifters

Unfortunately, I have no images available of the Blip Buttons, but I understand they remain the same as the originals. Thus, they keep their less than pleasing tactile feel. With all of the improvements elsewhere in the eTap system, SRAM can be granted a pass on this one :mrgreen:

On the positive, the ports for the Blip Buttons on the shifters have undergone some improvements. They are no longer just switches that are tied to the shift levers. Shifting tasks can still be assigned, but other gadgets can be integrated. Think dropper seatpost, perhaps computer integration (similar to what Shimano does with Garmin / Di2 and changing screens).

Hydraulic Brake Calipers

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The brake calipers receive some minor cosmetic tweaks, which in my opinion, are a nice improvement over the original SRAM RED hydraulic brake calipers. Very svelte.

The SRAM AXS Phone App

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Let it be known that you do not need to use the AXS app in order to ride SRAM eTAP AXS. Rather, it is there to configure and enhance your riding experience. I won’t go into great detail here, but there is an “Enhanced Mode” available, that provides two versions of auto-shifting, Sequential and Compensating.

The Sequential mode will automatically shift the front derailleur as you shift gears on the cassette. Think the next biggest or smallest gear in inches and optimizing one’s cadence at the same time.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

The Compensating mode is actuated when the front derailleur is shifted; the rear derailleur will automatically shift one to two shifts in the appropriate direction to help maintain a nice pedaling cadence.

SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed

Both shift settings require you to specify the cassette and chainring combinations inside the app for optimal performance.

As the images above indicate, the app allows you to configure multi-shift (hold down the paddle to fire off multiple shifts), and individual assignment of shifter paddles, etc. The other S company has been at this a while with their electonic shifting system, so it’s pleasing to see SRAM have upped their game for the newest version of eTap.

Hurry up and take my money!

SRAM RED eTap AXS is available now, although it may be a while before you see it trickle through to your local bike shop. SRAM have partnered with several bike brands fitting the groupset as OEM, and I expect a gravel bike or two may make that list. Price on the HRD aka disc brake version of SRAM RED eTap AXS groupset is $US 3,648 – it isn’t cheap.

SRAM is releasing a lower-tier Force version of eTap AXS in April of 2019, likely to coincide with the Sea Otter show in Monterey, California? I’ll be attending that show, so watch this space!

My next question is… how long before the other S company releases their version of 12-speed, mechanical or electronic, and will FSA follow suit with their rarely seen WE system? As we know, Campagnolo were first to the 12-speed party and have mechanical and electronic versions of their drivetrains available now. I just hope 11-speed cassettes (ditto for 10-speed) stick around for a bit longer!

SRAM.com

21 comments on “SRAM RED eTap AXS 12-speed Wireless Road / Gravel Groupset for 1x / 2x

  1. 46/33 with 10-33 cassette – I want this.

    Will be waiting patiently to see that the cost for the full drive train is (no braking) is for this setup and the to be announced. (and if it fits on my Anyroad Advanced – which I think it should).

  2. This all looks pretty impressive, although I find the cranks surprisingly unattractive. If I were to go this route, perhaps an Easton crankset instead for me? I note that Wout van Aert had this setup at World Cup CX races recently, albeit with a 10-36 cassette. Given that Force etap is due to drop in April my guess is that we’ll see a similar role for the new Force that the current one has had – a bit more of a CX emphasis, which should suit gravel just fine, of course.

    1. If I obtain one of these groups, I’m looking forward to tinkering. The Easton 46/30 Adventure crankset could be an interesting little project.

      1. JOM – I look forward to hearing the results of that project. The new SRAM crank/cassette options don’t offer enough gear for north Georgia gravel and I would dare say much of the mountains on the east coast. I’m currently running the Easton crank with 46/30 paired with 11-32 and 11-34. Ultegra 8000 shifting is spot on and the RX der works perfectly. Bottom line is most of us will need more gear for events such as Georgia Gravel Grinduro. I’m guessing e13 has cassettes in the works. We’re moving in the right direction, but don’t think we’ve hit the sweet spot just yet. Who knows, maybe Shimano will surprise us.

        1. Agreed, the ratio is still not there. N GA or Alabama gravel needs gearing less than 1:1. I will wait a year for the long range model, or maybe an Eagle model.

      2. JOM, I just read elsewhere that the 12 speed AXS chain has larger rollers, so it’s not compatible with 11 speed (nor 11 speed chain on the AXS cassette or chainrings). Might not notice this until the chain jumps under full power, which would be ugly.

        I’d like to see the AXS mountain RD and larger cassette tried with the road AXS FD. That is supposed to work.

  3. I like the 46/33 as well, but don’t see the point of a 10 tooth sprocket. 50:11 is way more than I need and so 46:10 is even less useful. I’d like to see the 10-33 12 speed cassette changed by removing the 10 and adding in a 16. This would have the added advantage of being compatible with regular 11 speed freehubs.

    It is interesting that they reduced the chainring jump to 13 at the same time adding automation that makes larger jumps more bearable. I really don’t like the common 16t jump, you have to plan ahead too much for a FD shift. I run much smaller large chainrings to avoid this.

    Jom, I appreciated all the gearing info above. But it won’t really matter to me until they have a Force version.

    1. It occurred to me that having an 11 as a small cog might be what they do with the Force version to make it cheaper and differentiate it from Red. Of course it may only be 11 speed and then we won’t get that 16 on the 11-33. Either way be nice if they skip the 10 with the required XDR freehub.

      Obviously it would be better if it went to 11 instead of 10 ?

  4. This being RED I get the gearing, RED is for racers and the very strong, top 5% of group riders, IMO. I have poured over the Force 12 speed info and don’t see any difference in gearing over RED and that is a huge freakin bummer. The cassette shown for 12 speed Force is just a cheaper 10- 33 and the lowest 2X ring size is same as RED at 33t. Ridiculous for dirt riding, maybe road is still king and when you run out of gearing you ‘can’ stand up and smash it. But that is not possible for most riders in the dirt, by far the biggest % of dirt riders need lower gearing, unless they are approaching mtb level lows, most need much lower to ride the dirt. Lack of traction, and regularly steeper pitches quickly sap the cassette range and power of the rider, to stand and slug away at the cranks is not an option for most on slippery/steep dirt. This means us dirt road/trail riders will need to pair the 1X crank with the AXS Eagle mtb rear mech and 10-50 cassette. Which is fine for rough dirt roads / light trail 100% of the time, but get on the pavement and the gaps suck, even with big tires the gaps are clunky. I am not one of those going off % gaps and assuming what they will feel like, I have actually ridden 1x and 2x extensively in western states dirt. A wider range 2X would be nice for mixed surface experience as I have ridden it, but due to lack of options I ride mtb cassette with 1X so I can get the well under 1:1 needed for rough dirt road and moderate trail riding that comes with what gravel cycling is to me. The other way to look at all this is that neither RED nor Force is intended to dirt road riding, and I am a chicken legged whiner.

    Ron, there are no 12 spd SRAM cassettes yet listed with 36t, if that is what Wout was racing, SRAM custom machined him something, if so I hope they bring it to production! That is only 3t greater than the 33t listed on all 12speed Force and RED data, so their derailers would probably do just fine. A double crank with 30t low, paired with a 10-36 would be a decent low for the dirt. As an aging Cat 1 XC racer, 6t under is a min, especially with 45mm+ tires, but 10t would be better for long days and rough western dirt roads. Maybe next year…… maybe e13? They came thru with some cool options on mtb? Lets all ping them asking for a 38 or 40t 12 speed that will fit on XD and XDr. haha

    1. Agreed, I don’t even know if those gears are for the 5%. I’m a cat 1 gravel racer and I still have trouble with gearing that is less than 1:1 at 160 lbs. Correct this still is not a gravel setup. I will keep waiting.

  5. I wonder what folks think the price discount will be for the Force AXS released in April? For the mechanical version right now, appears that the Force is about 40% less than the Red.

  6. The gearing was actually a big disappointment for me. For Gravel/Adventure cycling, the 1:1 ratio in the 2x groupset is nothing new, especially at such an eye-watering price. I’m not ready to run a 1x mtb group on my gravel bike yet. maybe they’ll release a real *gravel* groupset next year. Until then *shrug*.

  7. As a long time eTap gravel user, I’m delighted with every aspect of the new eTap system except the total incompatibility with the old eTap system and cost. Unless the promised trickle down to much lower cost SRAM groups, I can’t imagine shelling out that much for the upgrade. Frankly, I’m done with SRAM. If I upgrade, I’m definitely going Di2. Wireless just isn’t worth the cost.

  8. Interesting Tech, but they just don’t get the needs of gravel… Especially for the weekend warrior market. I see MANY climbs that warrant more than a 1:1. I really don’t see why they cannot go to a 30 rather than a 33. The only way I’ve seen to get there is the AB Oval, and I’m not that fond of the oval.

    1. If I’m able to procure one of these groupsets, I’m very keen to try a non-sanctioned 46/30 setup, say with the Easton SL Adventure crank.

  9. I’m curious to see how much more Ft Der clearance they’ve achieved. Still seems that 650b in 1.9 or 50+ mm width is going to be an issue. I run GravelKing SK 650b which measure out to 51mm when mounted on Velocity Blunt SS rims which have a 26.6mm inner bead dia.

    Would love to hear if someone has had a chance to mount a wider 650b tire and can report a real world finding. As we know SRAM were conservative with the original etap clearance figures and some applications allowed for up to 38 or even 40mm. Really hoping we still have this same fudge factor. JOM, please post up results as soon as you find out more on this.

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