Sunday, February 27, 2011

(My) Sram XX 10 speed review...

Pushing the 12/28, flawless operation at White Tanks...
Been riding the Sram XX for well over a hundred hours now, so I feel qualified to give my opinion on the super light top end XC race group. My 2011 S-works Stumpjumper hardtail came equipped with the group. Much like the Stumpy, the Sram group is meant for "race day only" use. Dark Horse has hooked me up royally when it comes to equipment, but believe it or not, I only have one Stumpy. I don't believe in jumping from one bike to another so I end up training on my race bike quite a bit. Hard on equipment, I've been called or as Gerry says it "You can break anything".

Rocking the 140...

I'll start by reviewing the XX disk brakes. My bike came with the super tricked out XX carbon levers that are integrated with the shifters. Very clean looking the way the brake lever and shifter pod mount together on the handlebar. The braking power is good considering I have a 140 rotor in the rear. No fade or chatter is detected at all. The XX rotors are still true, even after being crammed into a bike box and shipped across the country. I believe this is due to the fact this is a two piece design, much like the XTR rotor with a aluminum core. After leaving the bike alone for a few weeks I did notice the front lever was a little low, a quick adjustment on the little red knob under the lever brought that back even with the rear. This adjustment required no tools, but cannot be completed on the fly, due to the awkward position of the barrel adjuster under the lever.

The front derailleur and shifter pod work flawlessly from the first day I rode the bike. I've not even needed to adjust for cable stretch. One of the nicer features is being able to shift under load on the front chainring. Not full on sprint type load, but you don't need to back off much to complete the shift. The chainrings have held up well. Until recently (when I changed the cassette to a 12x28) I would mostly stay in the big ring (pretty much all the time), so the big is showing some wear. I'll change that soon.

I really liked the crispness of the Sram 9 speed stuff. Either the XO or the X9, both were borderline harsh, Snap! Shifts went off without a hitch. You knew you changed gears, even at a hundred and eighty beats per minute.
The XX seems to have adopted a lighter (Shimano type) touch. To shift to a harder gear is crisp enough, but the thumb paddle to go easier has a soft feel. Sometimes I, over (or under) shift, it's a little annoyance I thought I had gotten used to until I jumped back on my other bike with the XO group. To me, a night and day difference, maybe not a deal breaker, but worth a mention. The rear derailleur looks fragile but other then a cracked jockey pulley hasn't given me any issues... I do wish Sram would make a short cage option so I could shorten the chain a bit, avoiding annoying chain slap and getting it further off the ground to avoid rocks and sticks and stuff. Important in the Northeast.

The cassette is where this group really falls short for me. It's super light, it's super expensive, it's super fragile. It worked flawlessly for about a week, then it started to make noise (first sign of wear). I don't know anyone who has XX, and after a very short time hasn't replaced the cassette, most likely with a XT. Aluminum doesn't work on a cassette, it's just not a good place to save weight and at close to three hundred bucks, Naaaa.
I replaced my cassette with an 12x28 Ultegra, This gives me the most usable combinations for my fitness level, the gearing is tighter and the shifts are better. I actually use the inner ring now, but the low gear isn't gonna climb up the side of the empire state building. If your looking for that, get a triple. For me, if it's that steep, it's quicker to run.
This is a race bike, ya know...

So to sum it up....
Brakes: 4 out of 5
Front shifter and derailleur: 5 out of 5
Rear shifter and derailleur: 3 out of 5. note: I'd give XO a 5 and XTR a 3
Cassette, 11/36: Pffffft...Forget about it...


  1. With the double crank, 26" wheels and your motor, I'd think the 12/28 would be a perfect combo. I've been experimenting with gears myself. I have a 1x8 setup on my Swift. My low is a 33fx32r and I can spin up crazy steep stuff with it.

  2. Yeah the 36t was too easy, The funny thing is I used it often. I sometimes would say to myself "I used to climb this on a single, why am I having so much trouble on gears?" The answer is tension. I need some tension on the chain and this forces me to keep it. I was gonnna take it off when I got home (put a 36 back on) but now I might experiment some more...

  3. Just hoping you could shed some light for me. I race SS rigid 29er up in Canada in the Elites, and fare quite well.. I am also thinking of going back to 26 geared hardtail.. just wondering why you chose the smaller wheels over the wagons, and if you think it still is the right choice?

    Only have so much coin to try stuff...


  4. Hey Greg, I too cut my teeth on a rigid ss in the elites.
    The reason I went to gears was because I got tired of losing races I thought I had the fitness to win. The 26in thing came about because I had borrowed my girlfriends bike and I loved the quicker handling. Throwing a 26er into lines that aren't available to a 29er (with total confidence at race speeds) took time to get used to but I can honestly say that I like it better and wouldn't go back. There is not a day that I ride the 26er that I don't say to myself "I couldn't do that on a 29er" at least once. The 26er isn't for everyone but if your up for the challenge and a little ridicule I'm sure you can make it work to you advantage. I'll follow you on blogger to see what you choose and see if the transition was as tough for you as it was for me.-Mike

    Oh, I would like to try a fully....

  5. Thanks For the thoughts Mike. As for following me, I shut down my real blog last month, so I'll let you know in your comments if I change back, and how it goes.. if you don't mind.

    Gearing for courses is what drives me crazy with SS.

    Once again, Thanks.

  6. Thom ran XX last year. You can chat with him.

    Charlie... You need a 36 up front. I run a 36f and a 12-34r 9spd cassette on my cannondale 29er. Its pretty cool to pedal around and shift gears sometimes but I really dislike the 9spd gear ratios. It does not have the same ratio as my favorite SS gear so I'm constantly somewhere I shouldn't be. Or should? hmm..