SRAM Force eTap AXS Review

SRAM has clearly been busy. It didn’t take more than sixty days since the release of the RED eTap AXS group for them to get ready to release their next product. Naturally, this refers to the SRAM Force eTap AXS component group.

In many ways, this collective of individuals is very like RED, however, there are certain aspects which could mean the world to customers – especially when it involves finances.

The latest addition to the AXS family, SRAM Force eTap AXS, offers a wireless electronic drivetrain and you can choose either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes.

The overall performance between Force and RED AXS is roughly the same barring a couple of insignificant details. The two systems differ mostly in their build materials, construction, and weight.

It is positive news for teams and individuals with multiple bikes that batteries in the two groups (as well as the prior eTap groups) are equivalent.

The electric motors and processing chips used are alike, thus the speed while changing gears is analogous for both groups. In the end, Force is around 300g more massive than RED yet it is additionally more than £800 more affordable, which appears to be a beneficial exchange.

The look of Force is entirely distinct from the other options, which can be attributed to a variety of finishes.

While forged aluminium elements can be buffed to a glossy finish, cast ones cannot be polished and therefore need a layer of paint. In conclusion, the ending of Force is less elaborate which allowed SRAM to cut down on the cost.


Force has the same capability as RED to use the AXS app and integration its components, allowing one to keep an eye on and adjust the functioning of its parts.

Force is leading the way in the modern world of applications by evaluating the force of each battery, personalizing your changing schedule, upgrading system software and more.

This new group is similar to RED, but due to its newness, the mechanical rim brakes are the only pieces that can be used with older SRAM parts – excluding SRAM RED eTap AXS, of course.

It is possible to substitute these two groups, which is an advantage for those who were dissatisfied with SRAM’s decision to include a power meter along with the chain ring on the RED version (though there was a rationale behind it, which is discussed further below).

Gearing Options just like RED

Continuing on, there is a significant alteration in the gearing of SRAM Force. Yes, they have upgraded to twelve gears in the back, however, the change is about more than just the extra gear.

The X-Range gearing has become broader in both directions, and the extra cog helps to make the gear progression smoother.

Adding the 10t cog increases the range of gears without having to make the drivetrain larger, according to SRAM. They suggest that smaller systems will be lighter, more affordable, and more straightforward.

The force will have double chainring options of 48/35t as well as 46/33t, with the most elevated combination of 50/37t being restricted to the RED version only.

SRAM has found that by changing the chainrings so they move in 13t jumps instead of 16t, the shift quality and overall front shifting are significantly improved due to the 20% decrease in size.

The back cassettes will have a 10 teeth sprocket as the smallest size and the largest cog of 26, 28, or 33 teeth with respectively 260%, 280%, and 330% ranges.

The 10-26 cassette provides more variety in gearing options than the 11-28t, even though it is the smallest size. You should be able to stay in the same front chainring for a longer period if the range is transferred from the front of the bike to the back.

It is clear that using 1x, having a higher range in the rear is beneficial. The new cassettes permit intervals of one tooth between cogs, which allows for smoother gear changing.

Cassette Options

The XG-1270 cassette has been designed with a Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome set-up. The first four cogs are made of a solid piece of steel while the rest are constructed using the same Pin-Dome mechanism as seen in the GX mountain bike variants.

When viewed from the side, the purpose of the Pin-Dome becomes more evident, as the pins connecting the first four steel cogs become visible.

The biggest cog is made out of aluminium, reducing weight and creating a locking bond between the cassette and the freehub body that won’t damage the freshly-implemented XDR drivers. The Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome cassette weighs approximately 50g more than a similar RED cassette.

XDR Required

Adding a 12-speed cassette necessitated SRAM moving to the XDR freehub standard, which is similar to XD, just having a length of 1.85mm more.

The extra width of the road is required because the biggest cogs on it are not as massive as those on a mountain bike cassette and thus can’t be fitted between the spokes. It is also now compatible with the same width as the freehub bodies of HG 11-speed for the road.

It is important to note that you can make use of cassettes designed for XD freehubs on XDR freehubs if you use a 1.85mm spacer. It is impossible to use cassettes intended for XDR freehubs on XD freehubs.

SRAM stresses that all Zipp wheel models released after April 2015, including 176, 177, Super 9, and Cognition hubs, are already XDR-compatible, allowing for an XDR freehub to be put in place. For a while, the SRAM 900 hub set has had an XDR drive mechanism, even before the demand for it was really there.

One Rear Derailleur to Rule them All

When deciding on which drivetrain to use, you do not need to worry about compatibility with the rear derailleur – whether you’re going for a 1x or 2x system, any chainring and cassette combination can work together.

The new back derailleur has been configured for full compatibility with each cassette setup, no matter the chainring setup. It’s been upgraded with bigger X-Sync pulleys containing steel bearings and features an Orbit fluid damper rather than a mechanical clutch.

The Cage Lock feature no longer exists, however, the Orbit damper has been modified, meaning it does not affect wheel changes.

As opposed to RED, the Force model of rear derailleur has an aluminium derailleur cage and utilises steel components as opposed to titanium and aluminium.

Front Derailleur is Still There, and Better Than Ever

At first glance, the new Force front derailleur looks almost identical to the RED; the only difference is that the RED utilizes a CNC-machined aluminium derailleur cage while the Force has a stamped steel cage.

Cyclists who favour thicker tires will be pleased that the derailleur has been redesigned for improved tire room in the back.

Force gets a Flattop

Completing the gearing is the new FRC-D1 Flattop chain. SRAM has announced that the introduction of this new chain is a big investment they have made in terms of tooling to create the new group.

Although it became thinner to accommodate another gear, there is more to the account, as usual. The form of the chain is determined entirely by its strength testing process; consequently, the highest point of the chain never aligns with a sprocket so it can be made in a way that increases its effective strength.

The chain of this group is narrower in comparison to an 11-speed group, according to SRAM, which produces a quiet ride altogether. The FRC-D1 chain is compatible with the SRAM RED chain and is only distinguishable due to its use of solid pins instead of the RED chain’s pins.

Note that Flattop chains require a specific Flattop PowerLock. Be sure that you do not use an 11-speed cassette when putting your bike on a trainer with direct drive.

It would appear that the recent chain will do away with cassette, prompting organizations such as Wahoo to promptly accelerate the implementation of XDR pilot aptitudes to their trainers.

SRAM Force eTap AXS Levers and Shifting

The design of the Force eTap AXS HRD levers by SRAM have the same hefty look as the Red model, including large hoods that contain the hydraulic brake power units. The rim brake version is considerably less bulky.

Red obtains carbon lever blades while Force has plastic, resulting in a more economical appearance. The major distinction here is that Red has two outlets to attach Blip external shift buttons, while Force only gets one.

A set-up process is enabled by a tiny button and a LED light inside each gear changer; they are run by CR2032 batteries which SRAM estimates will last almost two years.

No Shifting Drama

eTap AXS shifting works the same way as the other eTap group sets do, with a big paddle on the shifter managing everything.

By its nature, pushing the left lever will provide a lower gear in the back, while holding down the right one will give you a higher gear. Activating both the left and right levers at the same time will change the front derailleur. You can alter the changing configurations through the AXS application to make them work differently.

The levers and derailleurs do not have any physical link, so changing gears have to be done electronically, and it is so easy that not even a remark is necessary. It operates perfectly, with the bike chain shifting up and down the cassette rapidly and precisely.

The shift paddles provide noticeable tactile feedback when pressed and can be held in place while you change multiple gears. You can shift through all the gears in one motion as a default, but if you prefer a limit, you can establish that in the AXS app.

Front shifting with SRAM’s DoubleTap mechanical group sets has not historically been their strong suit, but eTap will do the job well. Force eTap AXS provides an option other than traditional manual shifting with its two enhanced shifting modes.

In a sequential setting, the cyclist just has to adjust their gears either up or down, and the device will take care of switching from one front gear to another at regular intervals.

This design creates an uncomplicated system that removes the need for riders to expend much thought on which gear to use; however, some may not appreciate having their power change between front gears automatically.

In compensation mode, the cyclist changes gear as usual, but when shifting in the front gear, it is automatically supplemented by a rear shift, making the transition between gears more seamless and reducing the size of the typical jump between front shifts.

Battery Life and Practicalities

Force eTap AXS derailleurs do not require wires, as they operate on detachable, rechargeable batteries that are the same ones used for the original Red eTap gearset as well as the current Red eTap AXS.

SRAM asserts that you can expect to get a minimum of about 20 hours of cycling from these, but the amount of time may differ based on environmental factors, for instance, the temperature and how often you change the gears.

SRAM suggests that when transporting the bike, you should take out the batteries and attach the terminal covers provided, because the system has motion activation, thus drawing a small amount of energy even when the bike isn’t being ridden.

It is valuable to still do it as it will decrease the susceptibility of the derailleurs to harm as the covers do not stick out as much as the batteries do.

A benefit of having two batteries is the capacity to exchange them quickly.

For those lengthy rides, having an extra battery is a plus. If you run out of juice midway through, it is easy to quickly switch them out if you use a 2× setup or an AXS dropper that uses the same batteries.

Compatibility and Tech

At the moment, only one Force eTap AXS rear derailleur is available, so you won’t need to worry about compatibility when you’re selecting your components.

Setting up your bike can be a hassle, so it may be helpful to plan ahead. For example, if you currently run a 2x drivetrain but think you might switch to a 1x later, that won’t be too much of an issue.

In other words, the Force rear derailleur is only compatible with a cassette sprocket of up to 33 teeth, while the smallest chainring on a Force 1 is 36 teeth.

Sticking to items exclusively produced by your desired company (not SRAM mountain bikes or anything not produced by them) will yield the smallest possible gear ratio of 36/33, which may not suffice for more daring cyclists.

The back derailleur is equipped with SRAM’s Orbit liquid shock absorber at the rotational junction near the top pulley. The purpose of this is to lower chain noise while not needing a mechanical clutch because the damper won’t hinder slow motions or smaller loads.

The Force eTap AXS front derailleur from SRAM works like their mechanical group sets, with a Yaw feature that allows it to alter its direction of travel so that it remains aligned with the chain.

SRAM Force eTap AXS Crankset

The crankset could be seen as the main attraction of the group set, and how you feel about the overall look of it is probably based mostly on this part. Pointing out that the Force design’s regular chainrings can be swapped out separately at a much cheaper price, so there is some give and take.

When SRAM came out with Red eTap AXS, they introduced a fresh take on gearing named X-Range.

This replaces the previously common double and compact cranksets with closer ratios and places them with wide-range cassettes that open with a small 10-tooth cog rather than the 11 tooth11-tooth many people were used to.

Times Force cranks have chainrings available in tooth sizes ranging from 36 to 48. SRAM is a bit perplexing since they label the crank as Force 1, but it doesn’t match up with the existing Force 1 from their eleven-speed selection.

Force eTap AXS cranks are typically fitted with the updated DUB bottom bracket design from a couple of years ago, which works with the majority of frames.

SRAM provides a 24mm spindle which is designed for Trek BB90 frames and those with 70mm Italian bottom brackets.

SRAM provides Quarq power meters for both double and single-chainring cranks. This power is calculated from the crank arms other than the 48t 1× setup which is designed to be fully integrated and fit a direct mount “aero” chainring.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button