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CX1 Force: SRAM 1X11 for Cyclocross

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March 11th is certainly not the heart of cross season, but even so, SRAM announced a group today that may significantly influence the way riders approach cross in the future. Called CX1, it is an 1 x 11 drive train for the cross bike. Borrowing much of its technology from both SRAM’s 1×11 mountain drive trains and its road groups, CX1 brings two things to the cross bike any racer will appreciate, simplicity and reliability.

Need to Know

• SRAM CX 1 consists of two levers, a rear derailleur, single chainring crankset, chain and 11 speed cassette. No front derailleur needed and they are compatible with SRAM and AVID mechanical brakes.

• CX1 Force levers are simply Force road levers with new graphics and the shift paddle removed from the left hand lever.

• The CX1 rear derailleur borrows heavily from the XX1 mountain derailleur. The clutch system provides strong tension for chain management with Cage Lock to make wheel changes quick and simple. The derailleur’s movement is called X-Horizon, eliminating the slant parallelogram design, but still providing a consistent gap between upper pulley and the cogs. Simplified cage movement means faster, more precise chain movement. It is also backwards compatible with 10 speed SRAM levers and cassettes for everyone cobbling together a cross bike.

• The CX1 crankset is carbon with a 110 BCD for a single chainring. Chainrings on offer are 38, 40, 42, 44, 46. The chain rings are machined with mud clearing recesses under the teeth. The chain rings are compatible with Quarq power meters.

• With X-SYNC each tooth, rings and pulleys, alternate between wide and narrow, which fill in the wide and narrow spaces of the chain’s interior. The result is essentially no chain slop when it engages the teeth,  combined with the derailleur’s clutch system dropping a chain is supposed to be next to impossible.

• Both the chain and cassette are directly from SRAM’s road family, the 1170. 11 speed cassette options range from an 11-26 to an 11-32.

• Price: Levers – $113 (left) $193 (right), GXP Crank – $207 (No rings or BB included), BB30 Crank – $249 (No rings or BB included), Chain Rings – $126 to $152 (depending on size), Rear Derailleur – $235, Cassette $107 (11-26/28) $118 (11-32)
Chain – $54

• Weights: Levers – 119 grams (left) 175 grams (right), GXP 172.5 mm Crank – 710 grams w/ 42t, BB30 172.5 mm Crank – 542 grams w/ 42t, Rear Derailleur – 261 grams, Cassette 247 grams (11-26), Chain – 242 grams.

While SRAM’s CX1 has been enjoyed by professionals since October, we had only a 25 mile ride on Southern California’s roads to get an initial feel for it. The first, and overriding sensation, is the noise, or total lack of it. CX1 is track bike quiet, perhaps not a big deal on a cow bell infested cross course, but it hints at another feature – chain management. Thanks to the clutch and X-SYNC shaping of the teeth, the drive feels as direct as a track bike as well, where tension is created by sliding the rear wheel back in the dropout. The chain tension that creates this feeling does not inhibit quick shifting. It feels every bit as snappy and precise as SRAM Force does on the road. As far as mud clearance and eliminating chain drops goes, we’ll have to wait for cross season and pray for rain to find out about that.

Our short test loop was quite hilly and while we were very impressed with the gear range we had access to, with many riders using cross bikes as much for big gravel rides as racing that may be a limiting factor. Front rings can easily be swapped and a 38front-32rear combo is very low for steep climbing, but will limit the bike when the road inevitably points down. The pre-production left lever also had a slightly unfinished feel to it, leaving a sizable gap under the hood where the shift paddle had been removed.

CX1 is another example of just how potent the 1×11 concept is. It has spread across the mountain like wildfire and we would imagine the cross scene will be next. There seems little doubt it is simply a better way to race cross. Where will it go from here? Look for a RED version soon, with new 2015 RED hydraulic levers. After that? Maybe an aerodynamic 1×11 time trial group, or an ultra light climbing group. It seems safe to say SRAM and 1×11 are proving drive trains can be as specialized as wheels or frames, or any other component.