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SRAM unveils 1x drivetrains for the road

SRAM has announced its Force CX1 drivetrain will be called Force 1 henceforth, and in addition to its presence on the cyclocross course, SRAM will be opening up the drivetrain’s versatility by widening its gear range.

Force 1 is joined by the Rival 1 drivetrain, which uses a forged aluminum crankset rather than the carbon arms of the Force 1 crankset. The Rival 1 crankset will only be available in a compact spider, just like the Rival 22 crankset, which the Rival 1 crank is borrowed from, and rebranded. The Rival 1 rear derailleur and shifters also shed the lightweight carbon parts of the Force 1 model for alloy, and of course, the Rival 1 group is considerably less expensive.

Both the Force 1 and Rival 1 rear derailleurs are now available in medium- and long-cage models. The medium-cage rear derailleur can accommodate up to a 11-36 cassette, while the long-cage rear derailleur will accommodate the new 10-42 cassettes that are compatible with SRAM XD driver bodies.

The Force 1-level XG-1180 cassette is SRAM’s X1-level mountain bike cassette. The heavier XG-1150 is borrowed from the budget-friendly GX mountain bike group. Both the XG-1180 and XG-1150 need a SRAM XD Driver cassette body, which SRAM has available in the aftermarket for the Zipp 202 and 303 Firecrest Disc wheels and the latest 30 Course aluminum wheels. For riders not wanting the massive range the XG cassettes offer, SRAM has released an 11-36 model of its Force-level 1170 cassette and the Rival-level 1130.

There are also four new Force 1 chainrings, intended for the road racing and gravel racing crowds. A 48 and 50-tooth chainring will be available for compact cranksets, while 52- and 54-tooth chainrings will be available for standard cranksets. The crank spiders are removable on Force 1 and Rival 1 cranks, so riders can purchase a second spider if they wish to swap between chainrings.

First ride

I spent some time on the new Rival 1 group at the launch in California, riding hilly dirt roads outside of San Luis Obispo. The feel of the shifting is as good as Force CX1. There is a positive feel with each shift, as the chain moves across the cassette.

My test bike was equipped with a Rival 40-tooth chainring and an 11-36 cassette. The drivetrain is extremely quiet, as Force 1 is, because of the clutch-equipped rear derailleur. I never felt like I did not have an easy enough gear, but very quickly on descents I felt under-geared.

The chain stayed on the X-Sync chainring and never skipped. Overall, I forgot I was riding a brand new group, which could be attributed to the fact that it’s not a completely new group. It is a new cassette and a longer-cage rear derailleur, but it’s practically the same group as Force CX1, albeit the Rival 1 group is heavier.

Where’s the battery?

When I received the invite for this product launch with SRAM, I had expected it would be for the new electronic drivetrain that we first spotted almost a year ago. Of course, there in the invite, it very plainly said, “this launch will not include SRAM electronic.”

SRAM had no comment when asked about the electronic drivetrain, but frame manufacturers are starting to talk about it. One frame manufacturer told VeloNews SRAM is inviting brands to ride the new electronic drivetrain during the Sea Otter Classic. Another brand told VeloNews they’ve been testing the electronic group for months.

So how much longer before SRAM’s wireless electronic group hits the market? Tough to say, but you can be sure the company wants to bring its group to market before FSA unveils its group.

Bottom line

Overall, the single chainring drivetrain is a very limited market and SRAM acknowledges that, stating it’s not looking to replace double-chainring drivetrains. So who benefits from it?

Cyclocross racers are the clear winners and now have less expensive 1x components to select from SRAM. Triathletes and road racers could benefit from the technology if they race mostly on flat courses, but training year-round on a single-chainring could be problematic if there are climbs.

Gravel riders could also use the single-chainring drivetrain, but is it an advantage? The single-chainring setup is quieter but cuts out many gear combinations, and for riders doing events like Dirty Kanza, having more gears can be advantageous, especially when dealing with strong winds and climbs 150 miles into the race.

We look forward to putting Rival 1 and Force 1 through their paces on familiar roads and paths.

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