Best SRAM Mountain Bike Groupset
SRAM’s mountain bike groupsets are big on innovation and even bigger on performance. The American brand was behind the ground-breaking 12-speed Eagle mountain bike groupset that made the single front chainset all but standard on the trails within just a few years.
SRAM MTB Groupsets at a glance:
- SRAM’s groupsets are sought-after for their industry-leading weight-saving properties
- SRAM SX Eagle is the brand’s entry-level groupset
- XX1 Eagle AXS is SRAM’s top-end drivetrain collection, used by many professional riders in elite competition
SRAM is the youngest of the big three component makers, which also includes Shimano and Campagnolo. However, during its relatively short existence, the US company has managed to carve out a niche with its dedication to constant innovation.
The brand was behind the ground-breaking 12-speed Eagle mountain bike groupset and the 1X system that has almost dispensed completely with the double or triple chainring on many trails. Its industry-leading, weight-saving properties, meanwhile, have made it a firm favourite with pro-riders and competitive amateurs.
After establishing its credentials with its standard MTB groupset hierarchy, SRAM created Eagle, a 12-speed option offering the full gear range of double chainrings with a single ring up front. Its popularity led to SRAM’s creation of an new groupset hierarchy off-shoot for Eagle alone, with its entry level SX Eagle completing a full range of affordability and XX1 Eagle soaring high to the top of the company’s food chain.
Well, that was until SRAM AXS came along.
The company’s revolutionary wireless system, released in 2019, made a huge impact on the trails with it’s unique rainbow colourway cassette, interchangeable battery set-up, customisable controls, and a raft of super-light tech.
Both X01 and XX1 Eagle groupsets were brought into AXS family first and now with the launch of their new GX Eagle AXS 2021, the tech has found it’s way down to more affordable component sets.
Here are some of the main components of a typical SRAM groupset with links to the brand’s components on Chain Reaction:
We’ve assembled the SRAM groupset hierarchy below, setting out the various levels on offer for quick reference, from entry level to high performance:
SRAM mechanical groupsets for MTB:
SRAM Eagle mechanical groupsets for MTB:
SRAM electronic groupsets for MTB:
SRAM’s groupset hierarchy in detail
Here’s a guide to each of SRAM’s individual groupsets within their extensive MTB hierarchy.
An entry-level model in SRAM’s drivetrain selection, X5 is by no means one to ignore. It’s inspired by the company’s more race-ready offerings, and delivers smooth and precise shifting to take your off-road riding to the next level. It’s pretty common to find SRAM X5 parts specced entirely or mixed with other parts on many new hardtails and full-suspension bikes.
Things get more serious on X7, with trickle-down technology featuring heavily from higher up in the range. A Type 2 rear derailleur boasts SRAM’s Roller Bearing Clutch and Cage Lock, all complemented by X-Glide shifting – all this translates to a new level of control, precision and reliability whether you’re shredding your local trails or smashing the singletrack on a big mountain adventure.
A more lightweight, stiff and reliable option, X9 is the choice of many when upgrading to something that’ll tick both the performance and price boxes. Clean and crisp shifting is the epitome of X9, which is built to last and will look after you on thigh-busting climbs, technical descents and all day missions in the hills.
Bringing one-by 11-speed shifting to the masses, SRAM NX is the popular choice for riders on a budget who want to take advantage of everything SRAM have learned from their higher range one-by system – trickle-down technology at its finest. SRAM NX promises sharp, dependable shifting every time.
A successor to SRAM’s X7 and X9 component group, SRAM GX brings 1×11 (11-speed) shifting to the masses, using the innovation and engineering lessons learned from the company’s high-end XX1, X01 and X1 groups. It’s a perfect example of trickle-down technology with wide-range 10- and 11-speed 2X versions also available.
At the higher-end of SRAM’s drivetrain collection, X0 offers dependable performance and maintains accurate smooth shifting for hundreds of trouble-free miles. A smattering of carbon, CNC machined aluminium and other weight saving features makes X0 the choice of performance riders. For the more gravity-oriented out there, an ‘X0 DH’, downhill-specific option is available here too – bombproof, lightweight and durable – ready for gnarly rides in the rough.
The X01 adopts the 1×11 gearing setup (single front chainring, no front mech and a large 11-speed cassette at the rear), and promises a similar level of flawless chain management, light weight and precise shifting as the more expensive XX1 group. Because of its versatility and durability, it’s perfect for all riding styles.
One for the weight-conscious cross-country riders, XX is a feature-filled, highly adjustable group which comes with a top end price tag. Shift performance via the company’s X-Glide technology is flawless, with a mix of carbon fibre and CNC-machined lightweight aluminium combining to produce some of the most crisp and dependable gearing you’ve experienced.
Using a 1×11 gearing setup (single front chainring, no front mech and a large 11-speed cassette at the rear) XX1 is the top end of the company’s drivetrain collection. Simpler, lighter and more durable than anything before, XX1 is driven by a cutting-edge, single-ring carbon crank and delivers fast, precise shifting for 100% performance when the going gets rough.
SRAM XX1 uses an X-Horizon rear mech with Type 2 technology alongside a super wide range cassette.
SRAM’s Eagle groupsets offer 12-speeds and 50 teeth, providing a 500% gear ratio matching the capabilities of a double chainring in the front without the hassle or weight disadvantages. SRAM released the first weight-saving, wide gear ratio 1X system back in 2012, sparking an arms race for the creation of bigger rear cassettes. Having developed the tech that started the battle, SRAM finished the war with the 12-speed XX1 Eagle, which has gone on to conquer trails throughout the world and international competition.
The success of Eagle prompted SRAM to release more affordable versions, with the GX Eagle and the NX Eagle both added in recent years.
Here’s a look at the range in full.
SRAM SX Eagle
The SX Eagle use similar technology to some of SRAM’s higher end groupsets but the SX is at a much lower price point. Although on the lowest rung of the Eagle drivetrain lineup it still shares technologies most obviously the largest 50T sprocket cassette. The SX Eagle is a more common sight on complete bikes.
SRAM said their Eagle drivetrains are designed to work as complete systems, giving riders the ability to interchange XX1, X01, GX, or NX Eagle components as they desire.
SRAM NX Eagle
NX Eagle shares technologies with its higher-end birds of a feather, making it completely compatible within the Eagle component ecosystem – good news for Eagle riders looking to replace parts for less.
SRAM GX Eagle
GX Eagle was the first affordable bridge to 50t 12-speed from SRAM, and quickly became one of their most popular as a result. Using much of the technology from the top end groupsets without some of the weight-saving advantages of the elite XX1 and X01, GX is a reliable, high-performance groupset worthy of its place on any bike.
SRAM X01 Eagle
Released in 2017, SRAM X01 Eagle swooped to popular acclaim with its tight response, reliability, and sensational performance.
Built with a focus on trail riding, its quality won plaudits throughout the industry, and it remains a regular on top level bikes everywhere.
SRAM XX1 Eagle
The original and still the gold standard, the SRAM XX1 Eagle is the envy of riders everywhere with its gleaming golden chain and cassette. Initially conceived with cross-country riding in mind, the XX1 Eagle offers incredible shifting quality in the toughest settings.
SRAM Eagle AXS
AXS (pronounced ‘access’) is SRAM’s fully electronic component ecosystem. It’s often called an ‘ecosystem’ as the parts from each of the three AXS MTB component sets – Eagle XX1, Eagle X01 and Eagle GX – are fully interchangeable and cross compatible. So you can use the AXS Eagle GX derailleur with the AXS Eagle X01 switcher, for example. In fact, all AXS systems are interchangeable, including the road systems. Want to use an AXS MTB derailleur with your AXS road bike components? Knock yourself out…
SRAM GX EAGLE AXS
When SRAM released their high-end XX1 and XO1 wireless drivetrains, not only were we excited by the new technology but also that it could soon work its way down to SRAM’s more affordable drivetrains.
GX Eagle AXS is the perfect example of that top-end tech trickling down to more accessible pricing levels. In fact, GX Eagle AXS is so close to the top end systems that many people wonder why they should spend more.
Even better, there’s also an upgrade kit that comes with a rear derailleur, battery, controller with clamp, charger and chain gap tool – everything you need to take your cable-tied SRAM Eagle system to the next level without having to splash out on a completely new groupset.
SRAM X01 Eagle AXS
X01 Eagle AXS features that stunning rainbow colourway cassette. It’s designed for cross-country riding using titanium hardware, a carbon derailleur, and is a little lighter overall. It’s also marginally more expensive than XX1 by around £50.
SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
While not the first electronic shifting system for the mountain bike (Shimano XTR Di2 was released in 2015), Eagle AXS is the first completely wireless system for the trail. The XX1 version features a black cassette and is designed for trail and enduro riders. For this reason it uses stainless steel hardware and a tougher, alloy derailleur cage.
SRAM Eagle Transmission
We’ve had to wait until 2023 for someone to come up with a solution to the problem of derailleur hangers. As we’ve all probably discovered at some point, a decent rock strike or falling over a bit can be a ride ender if the hanger gets bent out of shape.
Well, now the solution is finally here and, wouldn’t you know it, it was created by SRAM.
The US brand’s Eagle Transmission groupsets have finally banished that weakest link in the groupset chain to the bin of history (hopefully). In the process, SRAM have created a new standard they claim simplifies, strengthens, and extends the lifespan of their new component groups.
Eagle Transmission derailleurs now attach to the bike using a frame-grabbing ‘full mount’ method, and the system has also done away with fiddley screw adjustments.
We also think it happens to look awesome.
SRAM have so much faith in the robustness of their new system they even had a grown man jump up and down on one of the new derailleurs to show it won’t bend at their launch event. We saw it with our own eyes.
SRAM have launched Eagle Transmission for three groupsets so far: XX SL Eagle Transmission, XX Eagle Transmission, and X0 Eagle Transmission. All three are AXS enabled, offer 10-52 cassettes, and come power meter ready (the actual power meters are not included, by the way). XX and X0 are e-MTB compatible while they have versions of the cranksets that can be slapped onto an e-bike motor.
One question remains though. Will we see the Transmission ‘full mount’ system applied to the rest of SRAM’s hierarchy? Nothing’s been said about that yet, but we’d bet our grannies on it.
While we wait, here’s a look at the new gruppos up close.
XX SL Eagle Transmission
The XX SL version of the three Eagle Transmission groupset is the lightest of the three and built for racing. Its sleek black colour also makes it a great choice for those of you that have gone for a full stealth rig.
XX Eagle Transmission
The XX version prioritises strength above weight, so ideal for gravity and downhill riders. Like the SL version, it has a list of additional features, including full AXS compatibility, a ‘Magic Wheel’ jockey wheel that keeps spinning even if a stone gets lodged in there, and an overload clutch. Unlike the SL, the XX offers replaceable skit plates.
X0 Eagle Transmission
This is the new pinnacle, the best of the best of the best. Light, rugged, shifting perfection. We’re really running out of superlatives at this point. Basically it’s the best bits of the XX SL and XX groupsets dialled from 10.5 all the way up to the full 11.