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8 reasons why you should try the new SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset

We've spent a couple of weeks using the new road/gravel groupset. Here are our early thoughts along with the information you need to decide whether it's right for you

SRAM has just launched its brand new Rival eTap AXS groupset and we’ve already had the chance to use it for a couple of weeks – not long enough for a full review, but sufficient to form early impressions.

Get all the details on SRAM's new Rival eTap AXS groupset

Here’s are some reasons why you might want to consider it…

It performs as well as SRAM Red and Force eTap AXS out on the road

SRAM Rival eTap AXS performs pretty much as well as the existing Red and Force eTap groupsets, to the point that you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between them in use.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - shifter.jpg

Okay, Red and Force use different materials in some instances – carbon rather than aluminium brake levers, for example – and they’re a little lighter, but unless you were to ride them back to back, you really wouldn’t notice. 

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - shifter inside.jpg

Naturally, there are a few differences in terms of function. You can’t add auxiliary remote shift buttons with Rival, but most people don’t do that with Red or Force anyway. There’s no brake contact point adjustment at the lever either, but Rival shifts and brakes as well as its more highly-priced stablemates, and with slightly smaller hoods that you can wrap your hands around more easily, you might even prefer the shifter/brake units. 

It’s your cheapest route to electronic shifting 

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - front mech.jpg

Going by RRPs (and we always go by RRPs even though you'll often find prices lower than RRP online) SRAM Rival eTap AXS is now the cheapest road groupset from the three major players (Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM) to offer electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes. SRAM classifies Rival eTap AXS as both a road and a gravel groupset, by the way. 

A Rival eTap AXS 1x shift-brake system, disc rotors, crankset, bottom bracket, chain, cassette, rear derailleur, battery, and charger will set you back just north of £1,100 while going for a chainset with an integrated power meter (see below) instead of a standard one would be an extra £202.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - rear mech.jpg

SRAM reckons that we’ll be seeing complete bikes equipped with Rival eTap AXS (without a power meter) priced from about £2,700. If that’s correct, Rival eTap AXS is just about to make a huge impact on the bike market – assuming that supply isn’t an issue.

Oh, and despite the price, our early rides don’t suggest that you’re getting pound shop shifting or braking here. Far from it.

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There’s a cost-effective way to get a power meter

SRAM Rival eTap AXS will initially make its biggest impact on the OE market, meaning that it’ll get specced as componentry on complete bikes. Most of those bikes, SRAM says, won’t be equipped with Rival’s chainset spindle-based Quarq DUB-PWR power meter; they’ll come with a standard chainset instead.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - non drive side crank 3.jpg

However – and here’s the interesting bit – you can buy a Rival AXS Power Meter Upgrade for £230 rather than buying an entire Rival AXS Power Meter which would set you back £322. You just take your non-power left crank arm and spindle off, fix the Rival AXS Power Meter Upgrade in place, and away you go.

Check out our guide to 25 cycling power meters and you’ll see that this is a really cheap (and simple) way to add power measurement.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - non drive side crank 1.jpg

Of course, it’s not a bargain if it doesn’t work well. We’ve not done enough number-crunching alongside figures from other units to make a judgement on the Rival AXS Power Meter yet but early signs are promising. Stay tuned for a full review on soon.

SRAM’s app allows you to customise the shifting

As with SRAM’s Red and Force eTap AXS, the shifting on Rival eTap AXS is customisable.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - shifter front.jpg

Back in ye olden dayes, you operated SRAM’s electronic shifting like this: push the right lever to make it harder; push the left lever to make it easier; push both together to changes the front ring. That was it.

It can still be that simple if you like, but you can also customise things via SRAM’s app. You can move to a smaller cog with the left lever if you want, or you can select a couple of clever modes.

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Sequential mode avoids shifting into gear combinations with redundant ratios while Compensating mode automatically shifts the rear derailleur when you shift the front derailleur to reduce the ratio jump.

It is adaptable

There are several ways in which SRAM Rival eTap AXS is super-adaptable.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - cassette 2.jpg

For a start, you can use the same rear derailleur with cassettes from 10-28T right up to 10-36T (it won’t work with a SRAM Red 10-26T cassette) and with both 1x and 2x systems so if you want different gear ratios you’ll never need to buy a new rear derailleur. You’ll have to raid the Red or Force groupset for a 10-28T cassette, though, because there’s not a Rival one in that size.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - front mech and crank.jpg

Many other parts are cross-compatible between Red, Force, and Rival eTap AXS too: 12-speed Flattop chains, 1x cranksets, 2x cranksets, shifter controls, and power meters. 

SRAM says that Rival eTap AXS is equally at home on gravel as it is on the road. Red and Force eTap AXS rear derailleurs feature SRAM’s Orbit fluid damper system while Rival eTap AXS has a mechanical spring clutch to help keep the chain in place over rough ground and our early rides bear out that it works well.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - chain.jpg

You could also use Rival eTap AXS controls and a 1x crankset with an Eagle (mountain bike) AXS rear derailleur, Eagle AXS 10-50T or even a 10-52T cassette with an Eagle 12-speed chain (Eagle AXS rear derailleurs aren’t compatible with 2x systems).

There’s a large range of gear ratios on offer

If you want a SRAM Rival eTap AXS chainset with a Standard spindle, the gearing options open to you are:

Cranksets 46/33T, 48-35T
Cassettes 10-28T (Force), 10-30T, 10-33T (Force), 10-36T

If you want a SRAM Rival eTap AXS crankset with a Wide spindle, the gearing options open to you are:

Cranksets 43/30T, 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T
Cassettes 10-28T (Force), 10-30T, 10-33T (Force), 10-36T

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - cassette profile.jpg

You could also combine a Rival eTap AXS 1x crankset and controls with Eagle components.

The Rival 43/30T Wide Crankset matched up to a 10-36T cassette gives you a 516% gear range (with ratios from 0.83 to 4.3).

All of the 2x cranksets mentioned here fall within what SRAM calls its X-Range gearing. Go to our other story on SRAM Rival eTap AXS for a full explanation of X-Range

SRAM sees the Rival eTap AXS groupset as being for tarmac, gravel, and anything in between. The gear options on offer allow you to get a setup that's suitable for the terrain you're likely to ride. 

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SRAM Rival eTap AXS Wide gives you more space for wide tyres

SRAM Rival eTap AXS Cranksets, Power Meters, and front derailleurs come in both Standard and Wide versions.

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS power meter D1-DUB-WIDE-1725-40-c-Side.jpeg

As the name suggests, a Wide system offers wider stance arms and chainrings that provide space for larger tyres. The chainline for a Rival Wide spindle crankset is 47.5mm, compare with 45mm for a Standard Rival crankset. This means that the Q factor (distance between the pedal attachment points) is 150.5mm, compared with 145.5mm for a standard Rival crankset.

The Wide chainline is designed for bikes with tyres up to 700c x 45mm or 27.5 x 2.1in, (43/30T chainrings only) – the sort of width you're likely to use for gravel or knackered old roads rather than smooth tarmac.

SRAM is keen not to pigeonhole Rival eTap AXS as either a road or gravel groupset, seeing it as applicable to both, but the Wide components are certainly best-suited to riding more challenging routes. 

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Wireless is super-easy to setup

2021 SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset - rear mech profile.jpg

If you’re buying a complete bike this isn’t a big issue, but if you’re building up a frameset or swapping from a different groupset, the fact that the SRAM Rival eTap AXS shifting is wireless – like SRAM Red and Force eTap AXS – makes life so, so much easier, especially for occasional home mechanics. It’s a revelation!

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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