SRAM Eagle and Why Your Affection For Front Derailleurs Doesn’t Matter

SRAM officially revealed their new 1×12 XX1 group, named Eagle.

In a nutshell, Eagle XX1 is not so much of a revolution as it is a maturation of the 1x concept. Imagine a 50T bailout gear added to the 10-42T cassette of the original XX1 and a lighter crankset optimized for XC combined with a very sophisticated chain construction. It is a flagship race gruppo that has gearing flexible enough for any sporting rider, not just professionals or people who ride less vertical trails. The direct-mount chainring takes 1x rings to the next level, addressing user complaints about noise and wear with the widely-copied 1st-gen X-Sync narrow-wide rings.

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It is easy to say that SRAM is pushing 1x because they can’t make front derailleurs, but it is more accurate to say that rather than being inept at front shifting, they’ve just always been one step behind Shimano in that arena. With 1x, SRAM is making front derailleurs irrelevant. Sure, we can say that Shimano 2×10 and 2×11 drivetrains work great, and tell ourselves that SRAM is painting themselves in a corner by abandoning MTB front derailleurs. But 1x is the natural corollary to saturating the rear cluster with 12 cogs. Why would drivetrain designers add another cog if they weren’t going to ditch the front derailleur? Don’t try to say we consumers don’t need an additional cog. We probably don’t, but history predicts that we will buy it regardless.

If anything, the real reason for SRAM Eagle is that bike designers don’t want to build bikes with front derailleurs. Without accommodation for front derailleurs, bike manufacturers have a lot more freedom to design fatbikes, plus-size tyre bikes, and rear suspension. Consumers will buy 1x drivetrains because that’s what is going to hang on the new generation of bikes that have more tyre clearance, more travel, and are lighter. You can argue all you want about the virtues of front derailleurs, but that’s a conversation that only lives at bike shop water coolers and online forums, not bike companies.

That ship has already sailed.

XX1 Eagle groupset has a claimed weight of 1456gr and will retail for $1417. X01 Eagle (1502gr) will cost $1193. Expected availability for both groups is this June.