SRAM GX Long Term Review: A Budget Conscious 1x Groupset

The latest 1x drivetrain from SRAM is aimed at more budget conscious riders. With the introduction of the GX line, they have brought the quality of their higher tiered groupset, XX1, to the masses in a much more affordable package. At this point, 1x drivetrains are ubiquitous, with many higher end bikes being specc’d with 1x offerings from SRAM and now Shimano. With the advent of 11 speed and the wider range cassettes, you can get essentially the same gearing as a traditional 2 or 3 ring set up, with less complexity, weight and headache. A single front ring allows you to focus more on riding, rather than shifting. Plus, it clears up space on your handlebars for other nifty gadgets, like a dropper post, remote suspension lock out, or rubber duckies. I was wanting to try a 1x setup, and with the release of SRAM GX, the price was right to try the plunge. I’ve now been using the groupset for about 4 months and have ridden it very hard. It has held up to just about all the abuse I have thrown at it. Herein lies my SRAM GX long term review.

Sram GX boxes
Oooh, pretty boxes.

Setup/Installation

Everything came shipped in boxes, wrapped and protected as expected. Set up should be fairly simple, but it was more difficult than I anticipated. Most of that was my fault, as I ran into a few unforeseen compatibility issues and the rear derailleur needed a little massaging to work properly, which I will get to in a second.

In order to use the SRAM 11 speed cassette, you must use a special freehub body, which they call an “XD Driver“. Many hub manufacturers now have after market XD bodies available, and hubs now come with an XD driver out of the box. The driver typically runs around $100, and installation is simple. Remove the old freehub, replace with the XD driver and use supplied end caps for your rear axle type.

Sram XD Driver
Free hub body removed.
Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro XD Driver
The XD Driver. Oooh, fancy.
Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro XD Driver
The freehub body slides on, then twist counterclockwise to lock in place.
Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro XD Driver
Good to go.

The shifter ergonomics are a bit different than Shimano, and took a little bit of getting used to, but after one or two rides it became second nature, and I now prefer. There are two thumb buttons rather than a thumb button and a trigger, making it simpler to operate in my mind. The only downside is that you can’t drop two gears at a time like you can with XT and XTR shifters, but the action is so smooth and quick, so you don’t really miss that capability.

SRAM cranksets are a breeze to install, but they are not compatible with Shimano bottom brackets, you must use a GXP, which I didn’t realize. Once I got a GXP bottom bracket, everything was fine. Unfortunately, the location of my lower pivot makes it impossible to use the bottom bracket tool I own, so it was a bit more of a challenge than usual to swap the BB out.

Sram GX 1400 Crankset
GX 1400 Crankset
Scott Spark Elite pivot
Pulling the main pivot to get to the bottom bracket. Fun times.
Sram GX long term review
Once all the hard stuff is done, it’s easy!

The rear derailleur cage would not move out of the box, so I had to loosen the bolt that holds it onto the main derailleur body to allow it to swing. A minor thing, but worth noting. It took a little bit to get everything dialed in, but once I did, the shifting has been quick and precise.

The shifter and derailleur have a plastic finish on them, which doesn’t have that bling factor that the higher end groupsets have. I don’t really care about looks and I am not easy on my equipment, so I want it to last. They are also heavier than their higher end counterparts, but not by much.

Ride Impressions

Probably the best thing that I can say is that I don’t even notice it. I really like the shifter ergonomics, they are intuitive and easy to adjust to, and the shifting action is crisp and satisfying. There is occasionally a slight delay when shifting to the 42, but  it is not particularly noticeable. I’ve gotten a few hundred miles of riding in, and haven’t had a single dropped chain, and that includes plenty of super chunky, rocky, technical terrain. The narrow wide ring simply works, the chain mates extremely well with the ring, as well as the derailleur pulleys. There hasn’t been any loss in shifting performance during this time period either. Really, it seems the only difference with GX and the higher end componentry is weight and finish. My biggest concern is durability, mostly with the 11 speed chain and cassette. There is already a little bit of wear showing on the cassette, but I expect that it should last quite a bit longer, and the GX cassette is significantly cheaper than the XX1. I will update this post once I get in more miles.

UPDATE (11/11/15)

After a few more months of riding, the shifting performance has continued to impress. The chain and cassette are holding up well to the abuse. I used the bike during the Xterra World Championship, which has lots of sustained climbing, as well as quick ups and downs requiring fast shifting, and the groupset was up to the task.

On the downside, the shifter paddle bent after a crash where the bike landed on some rocks. It was bad enough to also bend the derailleur hanger as well. I have not as of yet attempted to straighten the paddle, and am nervous to try since it is plastic. The shifting is not affected unless I try to shift 4 gears up, so for now I am content with letting it ride..

Final Verdict

This is a great product at a solid value. The shifting performance is great and the chain retention is excellent. The only major downside is the required XD Driver. Shimano’s recent 1x XT groupset does not require a different freehub. I tend to prefer SRAM shifting performance, so for me, it is worth it.

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1 Comment

  1. The German Enduro Magazine published a long-term test about the SRAM 11 drivetrain.

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