New SRAM Force AXS Wide: Is it wide enough?
Just announced, the new 2×12 SRAM Force AXS “Wide” drivetrain has a lower and wider range of gears, and a wider chainline for fatter tire clearance and 73mm bottom bracket shell compatibility. But is it wide enough? We got a hold of a group for photos, gearing analysis, and actual weights. Find all the details here…
It’s easy to appreciate the precise gear progression that a SRAM’s AXS 2×12 drivetrain offers. With the accuracy of AXS electronic shifting and 12 closely spaced cogs to move between, there are plenty of options to shift into a gear for the ideal cadence. However, as with most road-biased drivetrains, the former Force AXS group didn’t offer nearly enough low-end to shimmy a loaded bike up the steepest of dirt climbs (or even an unloaded one, for that matter). So, when SRAM told us they were updating the Force AXS 2×12 group to add more range and a lower granny gear, we were all ears. But did they go wide and low enough? Here are the details about each component. Plus, scroll down to find detailed analysis of the gearing and a table of prices and actual weights from our scale.
SRAM Force AXS 43/30t Wide Crankset
The new FC-FRC-W-D1 crankset’s most visible update is the option for a compact pair of 43/30 chainrings, but it also got a couple of other tweaks under the hood. Most notably, SRAM added spacing between the chainrings and crank arms. Pushing the chainrings outboard provides a wider chainline and allows more clearance for fatter tires (up to 700c x 45mm or 27.5 x 2.1″). To be specific, the Force eTap AXS 43/40 crankset has a Q-Factor that’s 5mm wider than the current Force eTap AXS cranksets. The change to the width of the crankset comes from the longer crank spindle, which moves the arms outboard by 2.5mm on either side. Because of this, there’s also a 2.5mm change to the chainline of this crankset.
Another benefit form the longer spindle is that the FC-FRC-W-D1 now fits any typical 68mm BB shell or a 73mm shell. And with the tight 13t difference between the small and large chainrings, SRAM says it’s smoother, more accurate, and improves the shifting dependability overall with the new AXS Wide Front Derailleur.
The Force 43/30 crankset works with the following bottom bracket standards, when used with a SRAM DUB bottom bracket bearing:
– PF 86.5
– BB30 68
– BB30 73-A (Cannondale)
– PF30 68
– PF30 79-A (BBRIGHT)
– PF30 73-A (Cannondale)
– T47 85.5
– BSA 73
– BB30 73
– PF30 73
Specs from SRAM
- Requires Force Wide Front Derailleur
- X-Range gearing technology gives you more range and a smoother gear progression
- Crisp and accurate front shifting
- Wide chainline crankset for bikes with up to 700 x 45mm or 27.5 x 2.1″ tire widths (43/30t chainrings only)
- Longer DUB crank spindle accommodates both Road and MTB width frame bottom bracket standards for unmatched cross-compatibility across brands
- DUB bottom bracket adds durability and simplicity
- Chainline 47.5mm
- Chainrings 43/30T
- Weight 692 grams
- Price $420
SRAM Force AXS Wide 11-36t Cassette
At the heart of the new SRAM Force AXS Wide group is the new XG-1270 10-36t cassette (CS-XG-1270-D1). The cassette has 12 tightly spaced cogs (10-11-12-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-36) with a single-tooth jump between the lowest four gears, two between the second four, and a maximum of a four-tooth jump between the highest four.
Specs from SRAM
- Compatible with all 2x and 1x eTap AXS crankset, chainring, and front derailleur options
- X-Range gearing gives you more range and a smoother gear progression, so you’re always in the right gear
- Must be used with 36t max Force eTap AXS rear derailleur
- MINI CLUSTER construction reduces weight and increases durability
- Designed for XDR driver bodies
- All Zipp wheels starting from 2015 are XDR ready
- Cogs 10-11-12-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-36
- Weight 302 grams
- Price $185
SRAM Force AXS Wide Rear Derailleur
As you may have guessed, the SRAM Force eTap AXS Wide rear derailleur (RD-FRC-E-D1) was tweaked to allow a 36t cog limit. Otherwise, it looks nearly identical to the previous Force AXS RD, and even has the same part number (RD-FRC-E-D1). That said, it appears as if the upper casing/linkage is slightly bigger, perhaps to add reach to the short cage body.
Specs from SRAM
- Compatible with all 2x and 1x eTap AXS crankset and chainring options
- Max 36t derailleur is compatible with 10-36, 10-33, and 10-28t cassettes
- Orbit chain management technology keeps the drivetrain quiet and secure
- SRAM AXS enabled, allowing easy control personalization
- Large X-SYNC pulleys for durability and efficiency
- Compatible with existing eTap batteries
- Max Cog 36t
- Weight 326 grams (with battery)
- Price $490
SRAM Force AXS Wide Front Derailleur
Designed specifically for the new Force AXS Wide cranksets with wider 43/30t chainrings, the new SRAM Force eTap AXS Wide front derailleur also sits at a slightly wider position on the bike to accommodate fatter tires.
Specs from SRAM
- For wide cranksets with 43/30t chainrings
- Clearance for 700 x 45mm and 27.5 x 2.1″ tires
- Compatible with any frame designed for 2x drivetrains
- Crisp and accurate front shifts
- AXS enabled for easy personalization
- SRAM Yaw trimless cage technology with an optimized cage profile for new chainring combinations
- Compatible with existing eTap batteries
- Weight 181 grams (with battery)
- Price $350
How Low Can You Go?
In a nutshell, the SRAM Force eTap AXS Wide (with the 10-36t cassette and 43/30t chainring option) provides a 516% gear range. That’s 16% higher than 1×12 Eagle, but the real benefit is the close progression of gears that allow riders to dial in the ideal cadence, an attribute that’s particularly interesting to road cyclists, ultra-endurance athletes, and gravel racers. With this, the top-end gearing is great. However, with a max 36T cassette cog and the 30t chainring, I wouldn’t exactly say that the granny gear is ideal for all loaded bikepacking pursuits (at least not for all tire sizes). To illustrate, here are the gear inch calculations for common all-road gravel sizes.
- 700C x 42mm 23.2 Gear Inches
- 700C x 45mm 23.3 Gear Inches
- 650B x 47mm 22.3 Gear Inches
- 27.5 x 2.1″ 22.8 Gear Inches
Generally speaking, these low gears aren’t too bad for this particular range of tire sizes, and would certainly be fine for most gravel bikepacking routes and rides. From my personal experience, I like to have a granny gear for bikepacking with about 18-24 gear inches, depending on the type, length, and scope of the trip. That’s a pretty big variation. As an example, during our recent trip in Colombia, which was full of incredibly steep pitches, I had a granny gear with about 20.1 gear inches. Most of the other riders in our group had 18 or 19. That made a big difference and I suffered a bit, especially at first. Conversely, on a scouting mission last summer for a primarily 50/50 road/gravel route, I had a granny gear of about 28 gear inches, and was generally fine, although I often found myself pedaling out of the saddle during steeper climbs.
All that said, all rides, bikes, loads, and people are different. The Colombia excursion was sizable trip, as was the gear and equipment we brought along (you can read about that here). Had I been using the SRAM Force AXS Wide group on that drop-bar 29er (29 x 2.25″ rear tire), I would have had 24.1 gear inches and found myself pushing my bike a lot. But local weekend or overnight trips require much less equipment, and don’t require such low gearing. Similarly, gravel and paved routes don’t require gearing as low as those on singletrack or rough doubletrack.
Ultimately, if you’re considering the Force AXS 2×12 group for a bikepacking bike, examine how much you pack, your own physiology, and what types of trips you want to use it for. I personally wish SRAM had upped the ante and made the cassette capable of a 40T cassette cog. However, I understand why they didn’t: to keep the system’s close gear progression and accuracy intact. With that in mind, perhaps a better option would be to offer an alternate bikepacking-oriented 26/40T double chainring spider for the crankset. The ability to swap that out via the SRAM road direct mount could be a fantastic option…
- Wider range of gears better suited for gravel, dirt, ultra-bikepacking, and lightweight weekend/gravel trips
- 2×12 mini-cluster offers very close progression of gears for dialing in a proper cadence on long rides
- Clears bigger tires (up to 700c x 45mm or 27.5 x 2.1″ tire widths)
- New crankset spindle length fits a 73mm bottom bracket shell
- Gearing not low enough for larger, steeper bikepacking trips with heavy loads
- AXS is quite expensive
- Wish there was a smaller 26/40T double chainring spider available
The SRAM Force AXS Wide variants will be available for purchase after today in one color option. The current matte finish of the crank arms, rear derailleur outer link, and front derailleur link all change to a gloss finish for the AXS Wide group. Learn more about the new SRAM Force AXS Wide drivetrain over at SRAM.com.