SRAM has unveiled the second generation of its immensely popular Force AXS groupset just under four years since being introduced to the world. Popular as an OEM option and an aftermarket upgrade, the second-tier groupset welcomes a host of upgrades to the entire platform, with the derailleurs, shifters, brakes, cranksets and aesthetics getting updated. There's a bit to chew through here, but never fear, we’ve broken it down, so read on for everything you need to know about the all-new SRAM Force AXS and Force AXS XPLR groupsets.
The biggest update with the new release is in the drivetrain department, with the cranksets seeing a complete overhaul. SRAM claims they had two goals when tackling the updated groupset, improve shifting performance and reduce the mass. The result is a move from a traditional bolt-on spider design to a one-piece machined 2x chainring available with or without an integrated Quarq power meter. The now one-piece crankset is claimed to be both stiffer and 85g lighter than the outgoing model.
Integrating the power meter into the chainring isn’t new for SRAM, with its flagship Red groupset sporting this feature; however, it does mean that chainring replacements will be much more expensive ($735...). SRAM says that end users won’t have to stress too much about chainring wear, with a standard 4-bolt power meter spider also being offered if end users experience charing wear anxiety. The redesigned one-piece chainring will be available for road riders in 50/37T, 48/35T and 46/33T options. On the gravel side, a 43/30T option will also be offered.
Alongside the updated branding and crankset, the third main change with the updated groupset is found at the shifters. The shifters themselves have a noticeably smaller diameter and a more refined shape. The idea behind the change is that the smaller body creates more finger clearance, finger wrap and an easier grip on the hoods. The updated shifters also score a smaller brake reservoir hump, while the levers are closer to the bar, making it easier to brake with one or two fingers, particularly for those with smaller hands.
The size reduction was possible by removing the pad contact adjustment and the auxiliary blip or satellite shifter port. For satellite shifter fans, this doesn’t mean that blips aren’t supported. The Blips themselves are now completely wireless, with up to six blips able to be connected if you want to shift from multiple locations, like on the tops or down in the drops.
The lever blades score an update, too, now manufactured out of carbon. These complement updated shift paddles with a revised texture for added grip and a tapered profile allowing increased bar clearance at maximum travel.
While the derailleur internals remain unchanged from its predecessor, the front and rear derailleurs score minor updates and a sleek new finish. The front derailleur scores a new guide tool to make installation a breeze. The handy setup feature lets you set it directly on the big chainring as you tighten the derailleur to the frame, taking the guesswork out of alignment.
The rear derailleur sees a consolidation of sorts with a single unit able to handle up to a 36T cassette. Internally it's the same story as the front derailleur; no changes save for its updated branding.
The main changes are in the cassette department, with several minor updates consolidated into its four 10/28T, 10/30T, 10/33T, and 10/36T cassette options. This includes a damper ring between the two largest cogs to reduce noise and a chrome nickel finish that runs quieter, shifts smoother, and offers more durability than the all-black finish of the previous iteration.
Updated Braking System
Similar to the other components in the groupset, the brakes have seen a consolidation of several minor adjustments made over the years. The key update is found in the callipers, now a two-piece design; they are said to be stiffer for better feel and control. Internally there’s a claimed improvement to the plumbing, allowing the hydraulic brake fluid to reach the pistons more efficiently. Additionally, the pistons themselves are said to operate smoother thanks to a revised gland around the piston seals. This should make for better pad retraction and less pad rub if the rotors get out of true.
Sitting in the same product family but squarely aimed at adventure and gravel riders, the XPLR group shares much in common with the road group but with a few key tweaks. First off the bat are all-new carbon crank arms that feature an optional spindle-based power meter. The spindle power meter only measures left-sided power; however, it does save 45g over the spider-based power meter and allows riders to easily swap out direct mount chainrings without the added cost associated with the road group.
The Force 1 crankset also utilises a new direct-mount chainring. The crankset scores the same aesthetic update, and the chainrings are available in 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T and 50T options. The 48T and 50T options feature the same aero profile as its predecessor. The XPLR crankset and front derailleur are available in standard and wide configurations. Cranksets and derailleurs carrying the “wide” designation are designed to push the chainline out by 2.5mm to increase tyre clearance.
The XPLR rear derailleur features the same updates as its road-going counterpart and can accept 10-36T up to 10-44T XPLR cassettes.
Price and Availability
The new SRAM Force AXS groupset is priced somewhat competitively compared to its Shimano Ultegra Di2 competition, with a full groupset including the power meter costing $3,650. If you opt to omit the power meter, the groupset will set you back $2,748.
The Force AXS groupset is available in limited quantities from selected SRAM retailers nationwide and will be offered as OEM equipment on a handful of new road bikes over the coming year. Contact your nearest bike store for local availability.
Imagery courtesy of SRAM
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