SRAM’s Rival eTap AXS Shifts Fast, Looks Great, Costs Less

SRAM'S NEWEST, AND CHEAPEST, WIRELESS ELECTRONIC DRIVETRAIN WITH HYDRAULIC DISC BRAKES IS VALUE-PRICED WITH TOP-END PERFORMANCE.


By Matt Phillips |

The Takeaway: SRAM Red eTap AXS performance, Rival price

  • 12-speed drop-bar group with wireless, electronic shifting, hydraulic disc brakes
  • Power meter axle option for cranks
  • Same firmware, motors, and electronics as Red and Force eTap groups
  • Compatible with all other AXS parts
  • 1x and Wide options

Group Prices: TBC for South Africa, but said to be on a par with Ultegra mechanical

Weights: Front derailleur- 180g (with battery), rear derailleur- 366g (with battery), crank- 844g (2x no power), cassette- 282g (10-30), chain- 266g (120 links), shift-brake- 845g (pair, with calipers), rotors- 315g (pair, 160mm Paceline Centerlock)

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SRAM has a new version of its eTap AXS wireless electronic group for drop-bar bikes. Rival eTap AXS is the cheapest version yet, offering a  complete 2×12 wireless electronic shifting, hydraulic disc bake, group with a power meter that sells for less than many top-end power meters.

I rode Rival AXS on one of the new bikes arriving in shops today equipped with the group: A Specialized Aethos Comp Rival AXS.

 

Here, you’ll find a ride review on the new SRAM group, as well as a deep dive into features, gearing, options, and weights.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS – Ride Review

I have a lot of hours on Force AXS and Red AXS, so within a few meters, I immediately noticed a big difference between Rival AXS and the more expensive groups. Rival AXS shifted faster. Or seems to shift faster.

One of the biggest and most consistent knocks against SRAM’s electronic shifting is speed—Red eTap and Force eTap shift a bit slowly compared to Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS. I’ve said so, as have other editors.

But Rival AXS seemed peppier, much more in line with what Shimano and Campy offer. Had SRAM made some change to speed up its shifting? One that might make its way to the other groups?

The Rival 12-speed cassette has a single sound damper ring (in gray) between the largest and second-largest cog.

I checked with SRAM to see if there was some change to the eTap AXS motors or firmware that might account for the change. Nope—same motors, firmware, and batteries as Force and Red AXS. It’s hard to quantify that speed, but another product tester who I respect, James Huang of Cycling Tips, told me he also thinks it shifts faster too. So there you go: two of the most experienced cycling product reviewers in the world think Rival AXS shifts faster than Red/Force AXS.

Given how little time I’ve had with the products so far, I haven’t yet worked through all the possible parts combinations to figure out specifically why Rival shifts faster than Force/Red. Is it the Rival chain, derailleurs, cassette, or chainrings? Does swapping in a Force cassette change Rival’s shifting speed? I don’t know yet, but I am curious to find out. And I really hope SRAM does too so they can make their higher-end AXS groups shift like Rival AXS.

The hoods are smaller diameter than Force/Red disc hoods

Apart from speed, Rival AXS’s shifting, front and rear, was quiet and precise—it’s great. The shift paddles are good-sized but not obtrusively large and have a grippy texture that works well with long-finger gloves. They have the same nicely weighted throw with distinct clicks that I love about Force/Red too.

As a member of the small-hands community, I liked the size of Rival’s hoods. The smaller diameter let me wrap my fingers more completely around the hood, for a more secure grip. Based on my measuring tape, the Rival AXS’s hoods are about 10mm smaller in diameter than the Force/Red disc hoods. Outside of that difference, the shape is largely the same. Rival has lever-reach adjustment like Force/Red, so riders can dial in their preferred position, or adjust based on handlebar shape.

The Rival brake lever is similar to Force/Red, but not identical. The Rival looks a bit wider to me, with a bit more of a forward kick at the tip, but I don’t have a strong preference for either—they both work well and are comfortable to use from the hoods and drops.

Aluminum brake levers

Squeezing the brake lever feels smooth and consistent, with medium-weight action (Shimano’s hydraulic discs feel lighter to me). The brakes lack contact-point adjustment, but I didn’t miss that adjustment—the front and rear brake pads contacted the rotors at the same point. Braking power was superb and modulation was very good also, and I didn’t feel any pulsing either. And the brakes were quiet.

I rode a 2x group with 48/35 rings and the 10-36 cassette. This gave me a sub 1:1 low gear for grinding out long and hard climbs, with a decently high gear (I began to spin out around 45mph or so). The big cassette does have somewhat large jumps between gears, which annoyed me in some situations. For general road bike riding, I’d opt for the 10-30 cassette and its tighter jumps.

The Rival AXS cranks felt plenty stiff even compared to Shimano Dura Ace and SRAM’s Red and Force options, all of which I ride regularly. Based on the design, I’d guess the Rival crank is less stiff than a hollow aluminium crank or a good carbon crank. But if it is, I couldn’t really tell.

Rival AXS is a good-looking group.

Finally, I’d say Rival AXS is a great-looking group. On a nice carbon frame like the Specialized Aethos, our test rig, it looks looks fittingly crisp and high quality.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS – Features and Technology

The biggest difference between Rival eTap AXS and SRAM’s other eTap AXS groups (Red eTap AXS and Force eTap AXS ) is materials and finish: Rival uses less expensive and heavier materials—no carbon here—and less fancy finishes.

This means that, functionally, Rival eTap is almost identical to Red and Force. “There are no changes that would result in a change to shifting. The firmware, motors, and electronic updates are applied to all AXS products,” Brook Folwer, SRAM’s road technical marketing coordinator said. On the brakes, “There are no changes to the primary or secondary cylinder designs,” they said.

So, big picture, Rival eTap AXS is heavier and cheaper than Red or Force, but shifting and braking performance should be identical.

Rival AXS derailleurs use the same motors and electronics as Force/Red AXS derialleurs.

Like the other AXS groups, Rival AXS is compatible with SRAM’s AXS smartphone app that allows the rider to customise shifting patter, and push firmware updates to the parts. Rival AXS also pairs to many GPS computers for real-time gear and battery information. Rival AXS is cross-compatible with all AXS ecosystem parts, and Rival AXS derailleurs and cranks may be used with SRAM’s BlipBox for TT/Triathlon bike configurations.

There are a few noteworthy feature differences, however.

• The Rival cassette has a single sound damper ring between the largest and second-largest cog.

• Rival eTap AXS is disc only. Force and Red have a rim-brake option.

• Rival cranks are dedicated to either 1x or 2x and can’t be changed.

• Rival’s hood shape is different from Force/Red AXS. Rival’s is smaller in diameter and with a more angular peak. SRAM’s engineers achieved this by removing the brake-pad contact point adjustment found in the higher-tier groups and removing the Blip/MultiClic remote ports. While I love remote shifters on my bar tops, Fowler says that only five to 10 percent of eTap users add remotes to their drop bar shifters.

• The Rival rear derailleur does have a clutch, but it is a spring clutch and not the Orbit fluid damper used in Force and Red AXS rear derailleurs.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS – Gearing Options

SRAM offers all their greatest gearing hits with Rival AXS. 1x, 2x, Wide, mullet, it’s all here. Here’s the lowdown:

Rival chain says Rival

Rival 2x— Sticking with SRAM’s signature 13-tooth jumps and smaller ring sizes, the standard Rival 2x crankset comes with either a 48/35 or 46/33 ring combination. Out back, there are two Rival (codename XG-1250) cassette options: 10-30 or 10-36. Q-factor for the standard 2x crankset is 145.5mm

The Rival AXS derailleur is compatible with SRAM’s 12-speed 10-28 and 10-33 cassettes as well, though those sizes are, for now, only available in the more expensive Force or Red levels.

You can also run SRAM’s other 12-speed 2x ring options, but there’s a catch: Each of SRAM’s 12-speed cranks uses a different ring-mounting standard, so you can’t upgrade to Force chainrings on your Rival cranks, and you can’t run the Red 50/37 ring combination on the Rival cranks.

Rival Wide 2x— This is a lower-end version of the Force Wide gearing option SRAM launched about a year ago. It uses the same Rival rear derailleur but requires a specific Wide crank with 43/30 rings. The Wide crank has a longer axle, which helps increase tire clearance but also requires a specific Rival Wide front derailleur.

A Rival 1x crank.

Rival 1x— Rival cranks come in 1x options with a 38, 40, or 42 tooth ring. The 1x cranks are dedicated to single-ring use and use the wide axle. This setup runs the Rival rear derailleur. Q-factor for the 1x crankset is 150.5mm

Rival 1x Mullet— With this setup, you would use one of the AXS Eagle mountain bike derailleurs with 10-50 or 10-52 cassette, and a 1x crank. The GX Eagle AXS rear derailleur would be a good option for this build.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS – Power Meter

With the Rival AXS launch comes one of the least-expensive power meters on the market: $349 (SA pricing TBC, but that could equate to R8 000 when compared to other makes’ dollar pricing. Don’t quote us, though, until the official pricing is here) for the  for a complete Rival 2x crankset with power.

The Rival power meter is in the crank axle, which itself is permanently affixed to the left crank arm. SRAM claims this power meter adds just 40 grams to the crankset’s weight. The Rival power meter measures left side power only and doubles for a decent estimate of total rider power–similar to a Stages non-drive crank arm. Power comes from a AAA lithium battery that SRAM claims gives 400 hours of ride time.

SRAM packaged the Rival power meter in the crank axle. It’s powered by a AAA battery.

SRAM sells the complete Rival power meter crank in every chainring option: 2x, 2x Wide, and 1x, and in 160, 165, 170, 172.5, and 175mm lengths. If you already have a non-power Rival AXS crank, you can upgrade to power for $249.

The Rival power meters is only compatible with SRAM’s 12-speed groups, but it is an inexpensive option upgrade option for Red and Force riders.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS – Weights

No surprise that Rival AXS is the heaviest eTap group from SRAM so far. Based on SRAM’s claimed weights for 2x disc brake groups without a power meter, the Rival AXS is 653 grams heavier than Red AXS, and 223 grams heavier than Force AXS. A complete group weight breakdown is below.

SRAM AXS drop-bar groupset weights.

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