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by Dave Rome
June 12, 2020
Photography by SRAM
As the first 12-speed drivetrain offering on the market, SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain, with its 500% gear range, firmly drove a nail into the coffin of front derailleurs on mountain bikes.
It was more than two years later that Shimano joined the 12-speed MTB game, entering the fray with a 10-51T cassette compared to SRAM’s 10-50T.
Now, SRAM has returned the ball. Introducing the 10-52T cassette.
Boasting a 520% range, the pizza-sized cassettes are available in XX1 (XG-1299), X01 (XG-1295) and GX (XG-1275) configurations.
SRAM’s Eagle AXS derailleurs are already compatible with these new wider cassettes. This means users of SRAM’s AXS Eagle Mullet setup, which sees the AXS drop bar shifters paired with the equivalent MTB rear derailleur, can swap in the new larger cassette (a new, longer chain is likely needed.).
Those with mechanical variants of Eagle groups will likely need to purchase the new version of the XX1, X01 or GX derailleur, something that updates the pulley wheel offset, cage length and body shape to better handle the wider gear range (while offering improved chain wrap and other benefits). The old Eagle derailleurs should work, at least to some compromised level, but it’s not what SRAM recommends. Both the new derailleurs and cassettes earn a “B1” designation within the product code.
Now, the 10-50T was already ridiculously wide, and the 10-52T is even more so. And there are aftermarket solutions with wider ranges yet. In any case, these wider ranges aren’t simply intended to give you a silly-low gear that lets you spin up 30% gradients. Rather, a wider range serves the ability to go up in chainring size, and therefore broaden the highs and lows of 1x shifting.
The lows? Well, the new cassettes offer 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36, 42 and 52-tooth cogs, meaning the only change in spacing is to the largest cog. Someone get that 10-tooth-gap a dentist! On the positive side, cassette weights have barely changed by adding an extra two teeth.
For now, SRAM is only offering these wider Eagle cassette in its XD-driver format, and there’s no sign of cheaper 11-52 cassettes to fit HG freehub bodies. I’m sure such things will happen though.
Available at the low price of US$449, the XX1-level cassette (and matching chain) also earn a new Copper colourway, joining the existing rainbow and gold offerings. I’m mentioning it as it could look rather snazzy on a number of tan-wall-tyre-equipped gravel bikes.
In addition to the new cassettes and derailleurs, SRAM has also announced updated cranksets and colours for its GX group, with a carbon crank now offered alongside the new alloy model. You can learn more about the new GX group over on Pinkbike.
So there you have it. You can now put a 10-52T cassette on your wireless shifting gravel bike. Or on your Eagle-equipped mountain bike when fitted with the updated derailleur. Don’t want to? No worries, SRAM is still offering that cute 10-50T option.
Your move Shimano. 10-53T?