More affordable 1 x 11 drivetrain, no compromise in performance

The Dolomite Mountains near Lake Garda, Italy provided a stunning backdrop for testing SRAM's new X1 drivetrain. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

Component manufacturer SRAM unveiled a third, more affordable version of their wildly successful 1x mountain drivetrain, dubbed X1, in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy this week. The new group features much of the same performance acumen of their higher-end 11-speed systems, but uses less expensive manufacturing techniques and materials that add a few grams, but saves $400-600 (depending on crank type) from the MSRP of an XX1 drivetrain, and just over $200 from XO1.

At just over $1,000, SRAM's new X1 drivetrain lowers the barrier-of-entry to true 1 x 11 performance. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

A sizable chunk of the $1,066 X1 drivetrain's cost savings comes from the cassette, which employs a hybrid construction technique SRAM calls Mini Cluster. Rather than machining the entire cassette from a single piece of steel billet like it does on the XO1 and XX1 versions, SRAM only machines the smallest three cogs that way. The piece is combined with the largest eight cogs, which are individually made and then pinned together. Like all SRAM's 11-speed groups, an XD driver body on the rear wheel is required to run the wide-range cassette.

By using pinned construction for the X1 cassette's lower gears, SRM was able to save significant cost. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

Other than the cassette, cost savings come from SRAM's traditional means of group differentiation-less polished finishing, and lower-cost material choices that generally have little effect on performance, other than slight weight penalties.

The group features all the same technologies of its more-costly counterparts, but adds a few options that should help make X1 the workhorse spec on a wider-range range of OEM bikes, in addition to the aftermarket throngs clamoring for a legitimate but not-quite-so-spendy 1 x 11 drivetrain.

The aluminum X1 crank, for instance, is offered in two aftermarket levels-the 800g hollow forged X1 1400 and the 850g forged X1 1000, which includes a fat bike option. There's also the forged 830g OEM-only X1 1200, which should make it easier for bike manufacturers to start spec'ing the system on bikes starting at lower price points than we're used to seeing.

The region's changeable weather provided a range of conditions to test the new X1 drivetrain. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

Ride impressions

With the amazing Italian Dolomites as the backdrop, we rode the new X1 drivetrain for a couple days earlier this week. Day one saw typical, moist spring conditions, while day two was a non-stop downpour. Though our rides were brief, they gave us a pretty good idea of how X1 performs in a wide-range of conditions. In a nutshell-just like XX1 and XO1.

Rain was non-stop on day two, but so were we. The rocky trails in the region were actually pretty resilient to the wet conditions. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

X1's shifting felt just as snappy and precise as its pricier counterparts, with neither a hint of hesitation or ghost-shifting. The trigger action might have a slightly different feel than XX1 but shifts are equally crisp and reliable.

Despite the inhospitable treatment of our test bike, it shifted like a champ and didn't drop a single chain. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

Like the other systems, X1 uses SRAM's Type-2 roller bearing clutch and X-Sync narrow/wide chainrings to keep the chain in place. Over the course of two days of riding in crunchy conditions, there wasn't a single dropped chain among our 20 riders. It leads us to believe that, like with XX1 and XO1, you may occasionally have a derailment, but very rarely.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the SRAM X1 11-speed drivetrain and full photo gallery »

Same bang, less bucks

Our first impression of X1 is that it delivers all the performance and technology of XX1 and X01 at a more accessible price point with the only trade-off being a weight penalty of about a half pound-a difference that was undetectable on the trail.

If you're new to the 1 x 11 idea, check out the primer on SRAM's XX1 and XO1 systems here, as they apply to X1 as well:

The riding in the Lake Garda region is multo bene as the locals say. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

1x lines cross-compatible for the most part

The components of the X1, XO1 and XX1 are mostly interchangeable, giving the rider flexibility to use parts from another group when the situation dictates.

If you have a second wheelset, for example, and don't want to fork out $430 for an XX1 cassette, you could go with the $317 X1 cluster instead. Other than a 50g weight penalty, the part works identically. This is also an option when replacing worn cassettes and chains.

The one compatibility curveball is on the crankset-the XX1 crank comes with a smaller, 76 BCD spider that allows the use of a 28-tooth chainring. The 94 BCD spider on XO1 and X1 can only go as low as a 30-tooth chainring. If a rider were desperate to use a 28-tooth ring, they'd need to buy an XX1 crankset. This also means XX1 chainrings are not compatible with XO1 and X1 cranks.

Hot Tip: We checked with product manager Chris Hinton and verified that using a replacement 76 BCD XX1 spider on X1 and XO1 crank would work, as it's much cheaper than a whole crankset to get that 28-tooth front ring mounted.

Good wheels and brakes at the same level

SRAM also released new Rise 40 and Rise 30 wheelsets, that, in combination with their new Guide brakes, create a full suite of complimentary parts at the X1 price and performance level.

The SRAM Guide brakes, which we told you about last month, seek to vanquish the demons of past Avids, bringing power, modulation and reliability to the table at $199, $149 and $129 price points.

The $697 Rise 40s and $497 Rise 30s punch way above their weight-class in terms of performance and round out a very good all-SRAM spec package.

All dolled-up in SRAM X1, this Trek Remedy was a sweet trail bike execution of the X1 idea. The group was equally at home on the Giant Anthem XC bikes we rode. Photo by Adrian Marcoux/SRAM.

Hallelujah, the calls have been answered

In the last couple years, the mountain bike has seemingly taken a quantum leap forward-unfortunately, so have the prices. Many riders want 1x11 drivetrains, but few can afford the $7,000-10,000 bikes they come on. Heck, we jump for joy when we find a 1x11 equipped bike at a great 'value' price of $5,000.

But this new X1 drivetrain and its brake and wheel siblings are here to answer the call. All the technology, performance and durability are there-the only penalty is weight. We wouldn't be surprised to soon see full-suspension, 1x11 bikes down near $3,000-which would be a welcome sight indeed.

SRAM X1 11-Speed Drivetrain

For more information visit