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If we’re being trustworthy, SRAM’s foray into gravel bike drivetrains has been a bit complicated. Beginning with a hydraulic “clutch” on all of their eTap AXS street bike derailleurs, introducing “Pressure Broad” to accommodate gravel’s bigger tires, and an assortment of derailleurs that just about required a diagram to search out suitable cassettes, it was sufficient to make you look away.

Then, lastly, they launched a whole XPLR group that features Zipp wheels and a Rockshox Rudy fork. If the product has XPLR on it, it really works collectively. Which, in terms of drivetrains, solely actually refers back to the rear derailleur and 10-44 cassette. It’s solely suitable with 1x drivetrains, however you need to use any crankset and 12-speed 1x chainring.

So, whereas every thing can nonetheless be blended and matched, operating an Eagle 12-speed mountain bike derailleur and cassette, paddle or drop bar shifters, and so on., the XPLR “group” optimizes cage size and kit ratios and kit steps for the overwhelming majority of gravel conditions.

And now that I sort that out, maybe it doesn’t actually simplify it, nevertheless it follows in SRAM’s obvious logic of “let’s optimize every part for a particular, comparatively slim gear vary in order that it performs as crisply as doable.” And with that in thoughts, right here’s my overview…

SRAM XPLR drivetrain overview

sram xplr gravel bike group review and closeup drivetrain details

The SRAM XPLR teams provide two cassettes, the top-level 1271 with alloy backing plate proven right here, and a 1251 with absolutely pinned development. Each are 10-44 and use their XDR freehub physique.

The vary actually is the candy spot for gravel. From flat to rolling hills, it presents the suitable unfold, with the flexibility to simply swap their direct-mount chainrings from 38 as much as 46 tooth to accommodate the course du jour. If you happen to’re routinely driving large mountains and want extra vary, simply go for the Eagle AXS setup with a 10-50 as an alternative.

For comparability, the Shimano GRX teams (for now) are designed to work with 11-speed street and mountain bike cassettes, with the latter utilizing MTB derailleurs moderately than the GRX derailleur, identical as SRAM does. The Campagnolo Ekar 13-speed group has 9-36, 9-42, and 10-44, which all add an extra cog for smoother gear steps on the small finish of the cassette, however the identical gear vary on the most important cassette.

So, though SRAM XPLR has a single cassette, the fact is you may combine and match throughout elements for nearly each model, or for Campy, select from quite a lot of cassettes and chainrings to get it the place you want it. Apples to apples, simply possibly Pink Girl to Pink Scrumptious to Honeycrisp.

Oh, and the XPLR derailleurs are additionally suitable with SRAM’s 10-36 cassettes, too, however these aren’t branded XPLR.

Acquired it? Good.

sram xplr gravel bike group review and closeup drivetrain details

The beauties of the SRAM system are the extra trim ranges and the derailleur’s hydraulic Orbit damper that’s not a clutch.

XPLR derailleurs are provided in Rival ($269), Pressure ($369) and RED ($749). Mixed with the 2 cassette choices, there’s one thing for many budgets.

Just like the street bike derailleurs, the Orbit is a fluid damper that merely slows the cage’s motion to forestall wild chain motion over harsh terrain. Not like a spring-loaded clutch, it’s not including pressure to the system (though, like all derailleurs, the cage remains to be spring loaded to keep up applicable chain pressure).

So, technically, it’s not preventing the motor (as a result of all trim ranges are AXS, no mechanical choices provided), however it’s ridiculously good at taming chain slap.

riding SRAM XPLR gravel group for review

Regardless of if it’s root gardens, chunky gravel, drops, or large bunny hops, the chain stays quiet and on monitor.

riding SRAM XPLR gravel group for review

The group can also be actually good at executing shifts beneath energy, even when driving by means of tough stuff. Clean supply, simple shifts, and dependable efficiency are the highlights.

sram xplr gravel bike group review and closeup drivetrain details

The bigger, textured shift paddles make issues simple, even with full finger and winter gloves, and braking ergonomics are fairly good.

Out of the field, the levers are very far ahead, so I like to recommend taking the time to regulate the attain for optimum security and the very best ergonomics. As soon as I had it dialed in, one-finger braking is sufficient for informal stopping, and getting two fingers into place is straightforward sufficient and offers greater than sufficient leverage for many conditions.

I nonetheless favor getting within the drops on quick, aggressive, and steep descents, and having the levers in simple attain (see above suggestion) is essential right here, too. Luckily, SRAM’s drop bar levers have loads of adjustment vary.

riding SRAM XPLR gravel group for review

General, XPLR is a dependable, well-performing group with a cornucopia of choices to suit any fashion of motorcycle or driving.

Rockshox Rudy XPLR & Reverb AXS overview

rockshox rudy xplr gravel bike suspension fork review and closeup details

With virtually each suspension model providing a gravel fork now, the Rockshox Rudy XPLR (notably within the gloss black) has the sleekest appears. It appears slim and petite by comparability, with curves and contours on the dropouts and arch that assist it disappear on the bike. This can be a good factor.

My testing up to now has been on the 30mm journey model, which helps spotlight the Zipp wheels (maintain studying), however in all actually, simply get the 40mm journey model. Except you completely must maintain the bottom doable entrance finish, there’s no cause to not have a bit extra journey.

rockshox rudy xplr gravel bike suspension fork review and closeup details

Clearance for 700x50mm tires offers all of the room anybody would want earlier than simply utilizing a mountain bike. Software-free cable administration appears clear and means no stress over dropping a component or stripping out a tiny screw.

rockshox rudy xplr gravel bike suspension fork review and closeup details

Controls are easy, simply flip the knob to regulate the Race Day damper’s compression damping from open to closed. Full vary rebound adjustment is on the underside with a detachable knob.

rockshox rudy xplr gravel bike suspension fork review and closeup details

Fender mounts behind the arch work with a customized Rockshox fender, however there are additionally hidden mounts beneath the dropout for attaching a full protection fender from different manufacturers.

rockshox rudy xplr gravel bike suspension fork review and closeup details

Flat mount brakes come from their street bikes, no XPLR particular brakesets are provided. The Rudy locations the calipers in place for 160mm rotors with no adapters; they’re suitable with 180mm rotors with an adapter.

riding the rockshox rudy suspension fork on rough trails

Driving the Rudy felt managed, and its 30mm journey labored nicely with the Zipp Moto wheel’s capacity to mould to the terrain (maintain studying). The very best phrase I may consider is “supportive” whereas nonetheless opening up the bike (and me) to extra aggressive terrain.

I trip this drop-in rather a lot on all my gravel bikes, however the management supplied with this setup let me go quicker with extra confidence. As a substitute of selecting fastidiously round every root, I may simply roll by means of them, focusing extra on the exit.

With such a small quantity of journey, I didn’t miss any additional compression damping controls and simply left it open on a regular basis. There’s minimal motion beneath spirited standing efforts as a result of, nicely, there’s minimal journey, and Rockshox’s newest damper designs and air springs do a terrific job of offering mid-stroke help. And all of it seems like “mid stroke” on such a brief journey fork.

Rebound changes are ample, and a pleasant characteristic. The air spring will be tuned with quantity spacers, which is certainly value twiddling with even right here.

What in regards to the Reverb AXS XPLR?

The Reverb AXS might be the very best factor to occur to dropper posts…for mountain bikes. The easy activation is the very best use for wi-fi, and it’s most likely tripled my dropper utilization.

For gravel, I like the concept of it higher than the execution, for 2 causes. First, it’s extra cumbersome than it appears to press each left and proper shift paddles concurrently, which is how the XPLR mannequin is actuated. It requires simply sufficient fingers-off-the-brakes to make it really feel uncomfortable at greatest and unsafe at worst.

I discovered myself having to both anticipate utilization nicely prematurely, or gradual excessively earlier than utilizing it whereas on a descent. Conventional, mechanical dropper levers positioned mid-bend on the handlebar really feel extra intuitive and cozy for me on this use case, and that they can be utilized one-handed is even higher. I really feel like SRAM can resolve this, and I hope they do, as a result of the operate of the Reverb itself is implausible.

Second, although, the “suspension” characteristic is tough to make use of. It requires the put up to be dropped into its journey, at the same time as little as 1mm, in an effort to provide some cushioning. Appears sensible, however getting it to drop only a couple millimeters such that it doesn’t alter your seated place an excessive amount of is all however not possible throughout regular driving. Once more, I really feel like that is one thing SRAM can discover a higher resolution for, hopefully with a firmware replace, however as is, the characteristic is simply actually arduous to make use of efficiently.

ZIPP 101 XPLR gravel wheels overview

zipp moto xplr gravel bike wheels review

The Zipp 101 XPLR gravel wheels are a narrower model of their 3 Zero MOTO mountain bike wheels, that are wonderful. They’ve the identical ground-taming profit, and the identical weight detriment, making them a wheelset that’s devastatingly efficient…with a reasonably slim use case.

Just like the MTB wheels, they use a single-wall design with “ankle flex”, primarily letting them twist alongside the spoke mattress’s airplane to adapt to the bottom beneath. The impact isn’t as dramatic because the MTB wheels as a result of they aren’t as vast (so, much less leverage from the bottom), nevertheless it’s there.

Mixed with the fork, there was a sure one thing about driving this bike that was arduous to place a finger on, nevertheless it was simply uncannily in a position to monitor the bottom. Roots? Rocks? Crunchy corners? No drawback. Traction, even with the pretty low-profile Zipp tires, was subsequent degree. It gave the bike a brand new persona that made the identical previous trails and roads extra attention-grabbing, and let me push a bit tougher.

The caveat is, they’re heavier than another high-end gravel wheel, so I’d solely pull these out for the suitable races. Suppose Grinduro, the place it’s virtually extra mountain bike race than gravel. Gnarly terrain is the place they shine, and the place they’re value the additional grams.

Last ideas?

Any certainly one of these elements, save (and I’m pained to say this) for the Reverb AXS XPLR, are nice on their very own. Put all of them collectively (particularly the Rudy and 101 Motos) and the sum is bigger than the elements. The flexibility of their drivetrain elements to be blended and matched is bigger than both of their rivals’ collections, even when they do typically take somewhat additional analysis to type out.

I’ve been driving all of those on and off (I’ve quite a lot of bikes) for a bit over a yr, in moist, dry, chilly, and scorching circumstances and so they’ve held up admirably. Usually I’ve had no undue sturdiness points with any of the SRAM stuff I’ve examined and suspect these will proceed to trip robust for years to come back.



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