FIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS: SRAM EAGLE TRANSMISSION & STEALTH BRAKES
After a few sneak peeks with its sponsored team racers and industry hints with the “future-proofed” UHD derailleur hanger designs, SRAM has officially introduced its Eagle Transmission drivetrain and Stealth brakes. SRAM says the new components are purpose-built to change the way we experience riding. They learned from their athletes and test team to create a system that erases mistakes, simplifies setup, and extends the system’s lifespan. The new Eagle Transmission drivetrain components are offered in three levels: XXSL, XX, and XO.
At the heart of the Eagle Transmission system is the all-new T-Type rear derailleur design with a hangerless Full Mount interface. Any bike with a UHD derailleur hanger is compatible with this new system—in other words, pretty much all new bikes. SRAM says that using this universal constant, it removes all variances and allows for perfect shifting by creating a single holistic system. Gone are all adjustment screws – there are no B-tension, high or low limit adjustment screws because they are no longer needed. The hangerless interface eliminates tolerances between the derailleur and cassette for what SRAM says is a much more reliable shifting performance.
At first glance from behind the bike, the T-Type derailleur cage looks bent because it’s designed to follow a yaw angle that aligns the upper pulley with the 10-tooth and 52-tooth cogs as it moves across the span. It is also designed to keep the lower pulley at the optimum angle with the front chainring to reduce wear. The lower pulley is called the Magic Pulley because it can rotate even when the wheel becomes jammed preventing catastrophic damage.
Another benefit to the new derailleur design is that it’s rebuildable. According to SRAM, the mounting bolt hardware outer parallelogram link, inline cage, damper assembly, and Magic Wheel are all replaceable. Price ranges from $650 for the XXSL to $550 for the XO version.
The new T-Type cassette is designed to perform under pressure. According to SRAM, the harder you pedal, the smoother it shifts. To create continuous chain engagement and uninterrupted power transfer, SRAM claims the derailleurs firmware references a uniquely timed shift sequence to align with the releasing/receiving cogs – engaging chain rollers on the desired cassette teeth when a shift is made. In other words, SRAM’s X-Sync technology on the cassette combined with retimed shift routes offers improved shift quality under a load. Pricing ranges from $600 for the XS-1299 to $400 for the XG-1295.
An all-new flat-top style chain is designed to maximize shifting performance and robustness while adding style points at the same time. The XXSL version features outer plate cut-outs to save weight and is not eMTB approved. The hard chrome finished XX version is SRAM’s strongest chain ever made. And so is the X0 version and because it has solid pins, it’s also eMTB approved. These chains are not inexpensive. An XXSL runs $150 while the XO model costs $100.
New pod-style shift controllers are now ambidextrous – they can be mounted on either side of the bar. This allows for left or right-side mounting which allows you to also mount an AXS Reverb remote on the right side if you want. An all-new Bridge Clamp allows for placement of the pods inboard or outboard of the brake lever clamps and they have a greater adjustment range compared to the previous Matchmaker X clamp too. According to SRAM, the POD electronic controllers can be used with Eagle Transmission, as can any other two-button SRAM AXS electronic controller. Eagle Transmission is also compatible with eTap AXS Wireless Blips. The Ultimate version of this shifter costs $200 while the standard one runs $150.
SRAM is offering a wide range of cranks to go with this drivetrain ranging from the ultra-lightweight carbon-armed XX SL Eagle model to the more robust aluminum-armed X0 version with removable bash guards at the top and bottom of the chainring. There is also a power meter crankset with a very unique thread-on style chainring mounting system as well as more standard-issue Quarq models with the power meter in the spindle. SRAM will also offer eMTB-specific carbon fiber and aluminum crank arms for Brose and Bosch motors. Pricing ranges from $1,050 for the Powermeter XX SL crank to $150 for XO ISIS eMTB aluminum crank arms.
SRAM offers an app that helps not just with setup and adjustment, but offers videos and can guide you on bike-specific chain length setups.
The latest SRAM MTB brakes come equipped with all new Stealth lever assemblies. These newly designed lever bodies bring the brake hose closer to the handlebar. The levers combined with stem-mounted hose clips resulted in a streamlined and contemporary look. Everything from the brake hose down to the caliper as well as the brake lever’s master cylinder interals is the same as with current SRAM brake models. The simplified line-up includes Level and Code options, and the levers bring aesthetics that complement the Eagle Transmission. Pricing ranges from $300 for the Code Ultimate Stealth (per wheel) to $185 for the Level two piston model (per wheel).
SRAM sent us a test bike with their redesigned product line installed for us to test out and see what these new parts are all about. Once we got the bike built up it was a relatively simple task setting up the rest, though it did take a bit of time. We got the AXS app out and began tuning the suspension, power meter, and drivetrain to run to our preferences. We were able to get the drivetrain shifting smoothly and the brakes bedded in, in a short period.
We were provided with the new SRAM Code Ultimate Stealth brakes which have the master cylinders closely hugging the bars. Now the release of these was no surprise to us as we have mentioned the potentiality of their existence in a previous magazine article talking about headset cable routing. The performance of these brakes was unsurprisingly no different from the previous versions and we do like the way they look. We didn’t have to bleed them out of the gate as we have with some SRAM systems, so that was a good start. Overall, the brake feel and predictability were on par with what we’ve come to expect from an SRAM Code brake, and are happy to report that there is no difference based on our brief first-ride experience.
With only one wet rainy weekend on the new parts, there is still a lot to learn. We will be spending much more time getting acquainted with the new drivetrain and brakes so stay tuned for ride impression updates and for a full long-term review.DERAILLEURCASSETTECHAINSHIFTERCRANKSAPPBRAKESFIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS:BRAKES