SRAM is making twelve-speed, wireless shifting easier to access for everyone thanks to SRAM Rival AXS. Since the release of SRAM’s flagship Red eTap AXS wireless drivetrain in 2019, the Chicago-based brand released the mid level Force AXS drivetrain shortly after. SRAM continued to innovate further down their product line and for 2021, released a wireless, 12-speed Rival groupset.
Rival has traditionally been SRAM’s entry level drivetrain, comparable to Shimano 105. But SRAM have elevated the entry level series to a new league with the latest shifting tech the brand has to offer. Designed to benefit the enthusiast cyclist rather than the pro SRAM engineered the drivetrain to be more affordable with the trade-off being a few extra grams.
We had the chance to take the Drivetrain out for a couple test rides. We’ll breakdown what’s new and what’s not but there’s a Rival stamped component for nearly everything except the rotors.
Much like they have done so well on the mountain side of things, SRAM’s top-tier tech has trickled down to their entry-level products. Instead of paying the $3600 premium for Red eTap AXS or $2700 for Force AXS, $1420 will get you a Rival AXS 2x setup with wireless shifting that is just as capable. A Quarq Power meter can be added for an additional $250, but more on that later!
The shifter profile has been updated in a couple different ways aside from its all-new black-out aesthetic. The top of the shifter hood has been angled downward and provides a more ergonomic position to place your thumbs and allow for a narrower grip. It’s a welcome change from the Red and Force level shifters which have been the one of the largest shifters in the industry which makes them harder to handle.
The shift paddle design has changed for the better as well, though it’s less noticeable at first glance. The paddle has been extended, giving it a larger contact patch to make a shift. SRAM changed up the texture of the paddle too, giving it a ridged design rather than the diamond pattern on the original AXS shifters.
Instead of the lightweight composite material used on Red and Force brake levers SRAM saves some money and uses alloy levers as the Rival spec.
SRAM claimed the changes to the shifter would not occur in the upper level groups anytime soon. Since there is remote button support offered for Rival, the shape was able to be minimalized. But the new grip position makes a strong case for them to implement a version of the design in the future.
Some tech that is grandfathered in from the original Red release includes the programmable shift modes and connection with the AXS app.
- AXS allows for two optional auto shift modes: Sequential (actuates the front derailleur) and Compensating (actuates the rear derailleur). While both enhanced shift modes are programmed with the phone app, they can be deactivated to return to the neutral mode via small toggle buttons located on each shift levers.
- The AXS app allows riders to not only check battery status and update the firmware. It also allows full personalization, where riders can make the lever shift either the front or rear derailleur in either direction and even actuate the eTap-powered RockShox dropper seatpost.
SRAM continues to use its smaller chainrings which rely on a 13-tooth delta in the chainrings and a 10-tooth cog in the rear for top speed. SRAM’s combo maintains a massive range that maxes out with a 36 tooth easy gear on the cassette. In order to accommodate the 10-tooth cog, an XDR hub body is required. The impressive gear range is unique at this price point considering the wireless shifting tech.
The three most popular 2x chainring options from the prior AXS groups are available in a Rival spec. 48/35, 46/33 alloy chainrings are offered as well as gravel-oriented Wide 43/30 chainrings and 1x 38, 40, 42 tooth chainrings with the SRAM Wide spindle. SRAM updated the aesthetic and paired the chainrings with black alloy cranks which bear the Rival stamp.
An all new silver, steel 10-30 cassette joins the AXS family under the Rival name alongside a 10-36 cassette. As expected all other AXS road cassettes with less than 36 cogs are compatible with the new Rival rear derailleur meaning Rival components are compatible with existing SRAM AXS Wide tech.
There are two new Rival front derailleurs that matched with a single Rival rear derailleur. Each will run for 60 hours on a fully charged SRAM AXS battery.The front options are split to accommodate standard and Wide chainrings. The Wide derailleur is only compatible with the 43/30 chainrings, while the standard will work with the larger options. Charge time is about 1 hour. The batteries of the drivetrain are the same used for the previous system, with the benefit of not only being detachable for easy charging, but they can also be swapped between front and rear derailleurs. SRAM says that depending how much you ride and shift, the derailleur batteries should last about two months while the coin-cell batteries in the shifters are said to last about two years.
All of the Rival components shift with the original flattop 12-speed chain.
POWER TO THE MASSES
The most important upgrade to the Rival name comes in the form of a single-sided, spindle-based Quarq power meter. For $250 more, riders can track their output from their left side crank with a claimed accuracy of +-3 percent with Quarq’s all new DUB PWR unit. SRAM offers the power meter as a stock option and as an add on to 1x and 2x cranksets. Since it’s single-sided adding the unit is fairly simple just order the proper spindle length to accommodate standard AXS or Wide gearing. The Dub PWR power meter is located in the can be added to any Rival Crankset.
Like other single sided power meters, watts are measured only by the output on the left leg and doubled to calculate the estimated total power. This is comparable to other single sided offering a solid option for anyone that is debating whether or not the money spent on a power meter will be worth it. It is Ant+ and Bluetooth compatible allowing for connectivity to nearly every modern head unit and app.
SRAM RIVAL AXS FIRST RIDE
Our test rig was Giant’s 2021 TCR Advanced SL, integrated seatpost and all. The TCR provided a quick handling all-out performance-oriented frame that is typically adorned with higher-end drivetrains. Zipp’s mid-depth 303s carbon wheels kept us rolling. Thanks to it fairly average geometry the TCR serves as a proper test frame that did’t distract or detract from the new drivetrain’s performance.
Our frame is spec’d with a 46/33 crankset with power and a 10-36 cassette. Rival’s top-end 46×10 gearing is similar to compact, 50×11 gearing from Shimano while the Rival’s 33×36 gear is significantly easier than the typical 36×34 gearing Shimano currently offers. This massive range gives SRAM a distinct advantage in terms of usability of the gears focused on the average cyclist rather than the highly trained pro cyclists flagship drivetrains are typically built for. The wider gear range allows riders to be better able to handle a wider range of terrain.
What we noticed most was how rarely we had to shift out of the front chainring. For the most part the 46 tooth chainring was paired with the middle and upper cogs of the rear cassette. But on punchy rollers and long climbs shifting into the small chainring provided more opportunities for us to feel fresh by keeping our cadence high before meeting our limits. We’ve been fans of mid-compact 2x and 1x chainrings for the express purpose of minimizing the need for making front shifts for over 5 years, it just makes riding simpler. The utility and added range of the 46/33 chainring puts SRAM in a league of its own with the AXS system.
SRAM RIVAL AXS GROUPSET PRICING
- 2x with power meter: $1639
- 2x no power meter: $1420
- 1x with power meter: $1409
- 1x no power meter: $1190
A groupset includes: Shift-brake system, rotors, crankset, bottom bracket, chain, cassette, derailleur (front and rear for 2x, rear only for 1x), batteries, charger.
SRAM RIVAL AXS SHIFTERS w/ CONNECTED BRAKE CALIPER (FRONT/REAR) $200 each
SRAM RIVAL CRANKSET 1x /2x $130
SRAM RIVAL CRANKSET 1x /2x w/ POWER $349
SRAM RIVAL NON-DRIVE CRANK w/ POWER SPINDLE $249
SRAM RIVAL FRONT DERAILLEUR (STANDARD, WIDE) $175
SRAM RIVAL REAR DERAILLEUR $255
SRAM RIVAL CASSETTE (10-30, 10-36) $125
SRAM FLATTOP CHAIN $30