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Editor’s Note: This is the second and final part of the Singletrack.com review of SRAM’s XX mountain bike group. If you missed it, here’s Part One.
In part-one of Singletrack.com’s review of SRAM’s XX group, we dissected the drivetrain. Today we’ll go over the best of the rest — shifters, derailleurs, brakes.
XX’s gearshifts are accomplished with shifters and derailleurs loosely based on SRAM’s X-0, but made lighter and tighter. The front derailleur comes in myriad of fitment options to accommodate every possible mounting method, tube size, cable-pull, and chainring combination. The rear derailleur is new, with magnesium forgings, a titanium spring, and scaled to fit the 36-tooth large cog.
The shifters are very similar to X-0, but they’re smaller and lighter. What’s fun about the shifter story is their clamp integration with the brake lever mounts. MatchMaker, as you’ll recall, is SRAM and Avid’s addition of a SRAM shifter perch to the Juicy brake lever clamp. The new MatchMaker X fits the XX brake lever clamps and permits almost endless degrees of anatomical variation in placement of the shifters relative to the brake levers.
In use, I don’t notice anything particular about the shift levers, other than the fact they’re exactly where I want them. During install, I was able to position them perfectly, and since then, they’ve given me no trouble.
The XX brakes, essentially the same as Avid’s Elixir CR Mag, are by far the lightest SRAM and Avid have ever made, at a claimed 288 grams for a front, direct mount brake with rotor and the included titanium hardware. The brake features are what you’d expect: steel rotor on an aluminum carrier with titanium hardware; two-piece magnesium calipers; paper light (8 gram!) carbon fiber lever blade; and Avid’s TaperBore master cylinder for power and modulation.
I like the brakes. I think they’re powerful and smooth. I don’t pretend to be a super aggressive rider and I probably don’t push a brake system to its limits. But for the cross-country and light trail riding that I do, I’ve had no problems to report.
Early on, I could get the levers to pump out under extended braking. But bleeding the XX brakes is super easy, and I pulled some air out of the master cylinder end of the system. After bleeding off the air, performance has been rock solid.
The final piece to XX’s puzzle is the slick integration of suspension control to the standard cockpit dashboard. SRAM’s RockShox has always been a step ahead with their cable-actuated fork lockouts, but the new hydraulic Xloc lockout lever takes it to a new level on the three XX-branded fork platforms (SID, Reba, and Revelation). Reba is available for 29ers, and both Reba and Revelation can be had with thru-axles.
Xloc is the smoothest and most reliable lockout lever I’ve yet experienced from RockShox or any other company. It’s just a simple push button, like a ballpoint pen. Two things to note: one, engaging the lockout means the lever is in the “out” position, not pushed in; and two, it requires the XX-specific damper cartridge, which is happily retrofittable to current Rockshox SID, Reba, and Revelation forks (but the Xloc lever only mounts to XX or Elixir CR Mag brakes). Xloc integrates on the handlebar more smoothly than any prior lockout from RockShox. It’s still possible to tune the lockout blowoff or low speed compression damping (a.k.a Floodgate). You can engage the lockout, but set a light blowoff threshold and achieve all-conditions, “set it and forget it” suspension.
I’ve been riding XX on a Trek Fuel EX 9.9 carbon, with the XX-branded 120mm Reba fork. I’ve been a fan of Reba for years, due to what I perceive as killer small-bump sensitivity. Reba’s still a great fork, made even better by Xloc.
What’s “xxtra” cool about XX in general is that it works well not just on anorexic, race-bred cross-country hardtails, but also out on the trail, on my 5-inch full suspension trail bike. With light wheels and tires, my XX-equipped bike weighs in the neighborhood of 24 pounds. I fully intend to take this setup to cross-country start lines when the season kicks off. In the meantime, I can explore half-day high country epics without feeling over-geared, under-braked, or outmatched.
The bottom line
I still haven’t given XX the full beat down that I’d like to. Old Man Winter has been keeping me off the trails more than I care to admit. I had a great test period late last autumn before the snow fell, and then crammed a bunch of rides into a February Tucson trip. For the sake of durability testing, I’ll have to wait on issuing a final report until the end of summer. But from what I’ve experienced so far, I wouldn’t hesitate in telling my friends that this is a sweet group for racing and light trail riding.
The XX group retails for more than $2,400, again excluding suspension, about $700 more than Shimano’s top-rung XTR.
For my needs, it’s a price I’d pay. I come from a road racing background, so the 2-chainring setup feels natural and efficient to me. I like reliability, but I also like light weight. So far, XX is giving me both, and I can’t wait to go racing with it.