Bicycle Drivetrain Launches: An Overview of SRAM Rival eTap AXS
Bicycle drivetrain launches typically follow a specific format. First, a top-tier group is released with new technology. Then, a lower tier is introduced with similar performance but a more affordable price. Finally, an entry-level group is announced, making modern performance accessible to most riders. This is where the new SRAM Rival eTap AXS falls. While SRAM still offers more affordable drivetrains than Rival, this is now the entry point to their eTap AXS wireless shifting, which is quite impressive. SRAM introduced their RED eTap AXS 12-speed group two years ago, and the technology has already trickled down to the Rival level. But how does Rival eTap AXS compare to RED and Force? Very favorably, especially for those with smaller hands.
Impressive Shift Performance
SRAM’s goal in bringing wireless shifting to the Rival level was to provide an entry-level drivetrain that offers a great ride experience. And they have succeeded. Most riders wouldn’t be able to feel any difference in the actual shift performance between Rival and RED. While there are noticeable differences in the hoods, Rival’s performance is remarkable. While eTap may not be the fastest shifting platform available, riders quickly adapt to the shift speed. Overall, Rival eTap AXS offers more than adequate shift speed and accurate shifts.
SRAM eTap AXS offers different shift modes. The standard mode requires pressing the right paddle to shift down the cassette and the left paddle to shift up. Pressing both paddles simultaneously shifts the front derailleur. Sequential shift mode automatically shifts the front derailleur as you press the right paddle for a harder gear or the left paddle for an easier gear. Compensating mode automatically shifts the rear derailleur after a front shift to maintain cadence. These modes can be customized using the AXS app.
No Blips Option
One drawback of Rival eTap AXS is the lack of compatibility with Blips or Clics, which are remote shifter buttons that some riders prefer. This is something to consider when choosing Rival eTap AXS.
Smaller Hoods for Better Grip
The shape of the shift/brake hoods is another important factor to consider. SRAM made the Rival hoods physically smaller by eliminating the connection point for Blips. While this allows for more finger wrap and a more secure grip for those with smaller hands, riders with average to large hands may find the shorter length of the hood less comfortable than those of Force or RED.
Battery Life and Easy Charging
The eTap AXS drivetrain relies on four batteries – one in each derailleur and one coin cell battery in each shifter. Charging the batteries is convenient and quick, taking about 60 minutes or less per battery. On average, a single charge lasts 3-6 months, depending on usage. The easily replaceable CR2032 coin cell batteries in the shifters are even longer lasting. Overall, the eTap AXS system is easy to live with and requires minimal charging.
The SRAM Rival eTap AXS offers a variety of gearing options, including different cassette sizes and crank options. This allows riders to choose the right combination for their needs, whether it’s climbing steep grades or maintaining high speeds.
Rival Flattop Chain
Like other groups in the eTap AXS family, Rival uses a Flattop chain. However, the Rival chain is more affordable, featuring only hard-chromed pins and rollers. It will be interesting to see how the Rival Flattop chains hold up over time.