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SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD on a Giant Revolt for Old...

Video: Snow-testing SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD at Old Man Winter Rally

Force eTap AXS works quite well for gravel when it's warm and dry. But what about in snow, ice and sub-zero temps?

I’ve been enjoying riding SRAM’s wireless Force eTap AXS HRD group on gravel in recent weeks, and this past weekend I used it for the aborted Old Man Winter Rally.

Here’s a quick video synopsis on how the day went and the group fared in the snow and ice, as three of us decided to continue riding the course after the race was cancelled partway through.

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The short of it is this: SRAM’s eTap AXS wireless drivetrain works like a charm in nasty conditions. Those of you who have ridden mechanical bikes in ice and slush know that shifting can be compromised when cables get gunked up. With a wireless system, that whole situation is removed.

The ice build-up did cause two problems over the course of the day. One, the small chainring would become a frozen block of ice when I kept the chain on the big ring for a while, requiring me to stop and clear the ice off. This would happen on any two-ring system. And two, the Quarq power meter stopped working, not because of the sub-zero temps during the first couple of hours but seemingly because of ice build-up in the final hours. After the ice thawed, functionality resumed.

Stubborn ice occasionally required a, um, ‘manual adjustment.’

Early adopters of SRAM’s HRD system will recall that the first iteration years ago could fail to brake in freezing temperatures. That has long since been resolved. Braking was robust if a bit squeaky at times the way all discs do in the wet.

The eTap AXS shifter paddles are especially cold weather friendly, or, I should say, lobster-mitt glove friendly. With Shimano Di2, you have two shifters close together on each lever, which can be tricky to navigate in thick gloves. With eTap, you just have a single paddle per level. Even numb fingers in huge gloves can handle this. (And yes, you can reprogram Di2 levers to function similarly to eTap, but I’m just referring to the stock configuration.)

No cables here to jam up. The Force eTap derailleur shifted fine all day, despite the frozen muck.

Check out the video above, if for no other reason than to watch a few icy crashes.

Shifting eTap AXS is easy, even with giant lobster mitts on. Also, for the record, Ryan Cross and Jimmy Smith are far superior bike handlers than I am in the snow and ice… Photo: Dane Cronin