New Wide-Range Electronic Drivetrain Options for Gravel Bikes
You say you want more?
Ever since the release of SRAM's AXS wireless electronic 12-speed drivetrains, we've wanted for something a bit more. You see, the original AXS gearing options were clearly oriented toward road riding. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the gearing on these fantastic groups was really too tall and not nearly wide enough for gravel and adventure bikes. With the release of "Force Wider Gearing" SRAM has 2x drivetrain with the sort range that had only been available on Shimano GRX gravel and SRAM Mullet mountain/road drivetrains.
Force Wider Gearing brings a 36/30t crankset and 10-36t 12-speed cassette to the table, providing a bit more range than Shimano GRX 815 Di2 (and its GRX 810 mechanical variant) and a slightly lower low gear. How do they stack up? Well that's what we're here for:
Basically, Force AXS Wider Gearing provides the widest range of any readily-available drop bar group. Does that extra 16% above the Force/Red Mullet's 500% make a difference? Only at the high end: at 90rpm in the 43:10 top gear you'd be 0.7mph faster than the 40:10 our Mullet Builds provide. GRX isn't far off at 479% with slightly taller, more road-biased ratios.
But range is only part of the equation. With the simplicity and reduced weight of a 1x12 drivetrain comes bigger steps between gears: 14% vs. 11%. In practical terms that means that a typical upshift will result in a cadence change from 90rpm to 79rpm on the Mullet vs. 90rpm to 81rpm on Shimano GRX or Force AXS Wide. Will that be noticeable? In some situations certainly- but it tends to bother riders with a road background more than mountain bikers who are used to adjusting their cadence.
Looking at the progression through the gears, the new 10-36t Force AXS 12-speed cassette has a bit of a lump several cogs in, around 25mph at 90rpm. But that 13% 13-15t jump only stands out in contrast to the 8-9% steps surrounding it. For perspective that's still a smaller step than the 10-50t cassette average and, as is usually the case, will be more noticeable on paper than on the road.
Is Force AXS Wider Gearing the best group available for gravel?
Of course not: every rider is different, much like where they ride, and there can be no one best group. For a lot of us, bikes are how we unplug, and the idea of having to keep another gadget charged isn't appealing in the least. For people who travel with their bikes, wireless groups mean two less cables to fight with in a hotel room. Still others will enjoy diving into the AXS app modify their shift points, enable sequential shifting, or use the shifters to control a wireless dropper post. And let's face it: wireless builds just look clean.
The good news is that it all works really, really well. With the breadth of options and price points on the market, the reality is that there's never been a better time to have to choose. With our broad experience and ability to do custom builds, let us us help you create the best gravel or adventure bike for you and where you ride.