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Electronic shifting has arguably been one of the biggest breakthroughs in cycling tech of the last decade. It provides the most precise, consistent shifting on the market, with the added perks of being able to cycle through a cassette quickly, shift under power and add satellite shifting locations. But even after all these years, and with SRAM and Shimano both expanding to two tiers of electronic groupsets, it has remained somewhat of a luxury, only appearing on bikes costing around $5,000 and up. Now, SRAM is opening up road/gravel electronic shifting to more riders with SRAM Rival eTap AXS.
The point of a third-tier groupset is to offer excellent shifting to those on a budget. So, we’ll start off with the answer to the question you’re inevitably wondering: How much is it? Well, that all depends on what kind of group you want and how you ride. SRAM expects Rival eTap AXS to be spec’d on complete bikes in the $3,500 to $4,000 range. Purchased separately, a full 2x group comes in at $1,420, while a 1x group brings the pricing down to $1,190. There is also a power meter option, which we will get into later, which brings the pricing up to $1,639 and $1,409, respectively, for the 2x and 1x groupsets.
Compare that to Force eTap AXS at $1,919 for a 2x group, or an eye-watering $3,610 for RED eTap AXS 2x (both priced without power meters).
Similarities to RED and Force eTap AXS
Functionally, there are many similarities between Rival eTap AXS and RED and Force eTap AXS. First off, the new group is completely wireless and has a 12-speed cassette. The cassettes also use the same XDR driver body that allows for the smallest gear in the cassette to have just 10 teeth.
eTap Shift Logic
Rival uses the same simple eTap shift logic: press the right shifter for a harder gear, the left for an easier gear, or both simultaneously to shift the front derailleur. SRAM claims shift speed and quality should be identical across the three groups.
As part of SRAM’s AXS line of components, Rival eTap AXS parts are interchangeable with other AXS groups, even mountain bike components, allowing for, say, Rival shifters and Force derailleurs on the same bike, or a mountain bike rear derailleur like GX Eagle AXS and a wide-range MTB cassette with a 1x chainring for a “mullet” build, which is popular on gravel bikes. The derailleurs also use the same rechargeable lithium batteries as the other AXS components.
AXS Phone App
Just as with Force and RED, customizability is also possible in Rival through the SRAM AXS phone app. Once your phone is paired with your groupset, you can personalize your shifting, including reversing what the shift buttons control, and deciding how many gears to move at a time when holding down the shift buttons.
Training with power is one of the most effective ways to improve as a cyclist. Now SRAM is bringing that powerful training tool (sorry for the pun) to more people with a Rival eTap AXS power meter crank option. The actual power meter is contained within the spindle and measures left side power only. While it won’t provide the same accuracy as the spider-based Force or RED power meters, for people looking to get into training with power it offers a low barrier to entry. The Rival D1 Quarq Road Power Meter costs $349, and existing eTap AXS cranks can be upgraded by purchasing the left arm/spindle containing the power meter for $249. The power option has another perk: it adds just 40 grams. And with just a single user-replaceable lithium AAA battery, it lasts a claimed 400 hours.
As with any third tier group, one of the biggest tradeoffs with Rival eTap AXS is weight. Part of how that lower price point is reached is through using cheaper, often heavier, materials. In general, that means less carbon and more metals like alloy. While a full 2x RED eTap AXS group weighs in at 2,549 grams, and a comparable Force group at 2,979 grams, Rival eTap AXS 2x comes in at 3,202g. The extra grams shouldn’t be a detriment to shift quality or speed, though; SRAM says those should be the same as Force and RED.
Visually and functionally, some of the biggest differences between Rival and RED/Force are in the shifters. The Rival hood shape is thinner and smaller than Force or RED, which SRAM says makes it optimized for hands of all sizes for more comfortable and controlled braking from any position. For further compatibility across a variety of hand sizes, there is reach adjust for the levers. And textured hoods and shift paddles offer better control as well.
An additional major difference is that the Rival shifters do not have any ports for auxiliary shifters—which allow for additional shift points on the tops or at the drops while sprinting—whereas RED has two, and Force has one.
Rear Derailleur Cassette Compatibility
The Rival eTap AXS rear derailleur is compatible with a wider range of cassettes than the standard Force or RED rear derailleurs. The Rival version can take up to a 10-36T cassette, whereas Force requires a special “Wide” version of the derailleur for that. But like Force and RED rear derailleurs, it comes with a spring clutch mechanism to keep the chain in place.
At the Rival level, there will be two cassettes: 10-30T and 10-36T. Both feature nickel chrome plating and SRAM X-Range gearing, utilizing tight jumps between the 12 gears for a smooth progression. The Rival group is also compatible with 10-28T and 10-33T cassettes from the other eTap AXS groups, providing plenty of gearing options.
You can pair the cassette with either a 48/35T or 46/33T crankset. SRAM’s “wide” shifting also finds its way to the Rival level, with an available 43/30T crankset. In order to accommodate a 2x crankset with wide gravel tires, this option has a wider Q factor, meaning it requires a “wide” front derailleur as well. There are also “wide” 1x cranks, which are made to clear larger tires, available with 38T through 46T direct mount chainrings.
All Rival-level eTap AXS cranks are made of polished aluminum and come in sizes 160mm, 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm. The 2x cranks have an integrated spider, and the 1x cranks have a direct mount chainring. Unlike with RED and Force eTap AXS cranksets, you can’t swap the Rival cranks from 2x to 1x.
There is also a Rival-level chain which is compatible across 12-speed 1x and 2x eTap AXS drivetrains.
Other Things to Know
The writing’s on the wall for rim brakes. Rival AXS eTap will be a hydraulic-disc-brake-only group, continuing the trend away from rim brakes at all price points—a trend that we’re happy about as it leads to better braking across riding conditions, and accommodation for wider tires.
Mechanical Is Sticking Around
Even though it is cheaper than Force and RED, Rival eTap AXS will still be spec’d on bikes outside of many riders’ budgets. Therefore, Rival will continue on in its current form as a mechanical group.
SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupsets are available starting today, though, like for many bike parts right now, there is limited availability due to supply chain issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
More info: sram.com