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Dec. 1, 2014 — The singletrack has been broken up by hooves, and loose softball-sized sandstone rocks are everywhere. I’m riding hard, letting the bars dance in my hands as the front tire thumps through the rocks, not really choosing a line, just using the wheels and speed to suck up the impacts. It suddenly occurs to me I can hear the front wheel, the tire itself, hitting the stones. I can hear the rubber of the rear as it hooks up, fighting for traction. That’s weird. My bike is making no noise. That’s the magic of SRAM’s new CX1 Force.
peloton/Balint Hamvas Cyclephotos/SRAM
1×11 is officially here for cyclocross racers and it’s the best thing to happen to ‘cross since the cowbell. It’s two brake levers, a single rear shifter, a rear derailleur, a single ring crankset, a chain and an 11-speed cassette. That’s it. SRAM has CX1 Force levers to run hydro or mechanical brakes and even a 10-speed shifter will work if you have an old SRAM Red lever at the bottom of your toolbox.
The magic comes thanks to the derailleur and the chain ring. The derailleur has a powerful clutch that eliminates chain slack, and with it the typical clattering drivetrain noise associated with rough terrain. The clutch is so powerful that removing the wheel requires a cage lock that is quickly engaged by pulling the derailleur cage back.
The pulleys and chainrings have alternating wide and thin teeth profiles that sync up with the wide and thin spaces in the chain, ensuring the chain is locked in place and won’t drop. And despite consistently trying, we have yet to drop a chain on CX1.
The derailleur’s movement is also subtly different. Instead of a slant, it’s a straight parallelogram, which requires less movement to shift and keeps the gap between cog and pulley consistent. These features add up to the fastest, crispest shifts of any mechanical group anywhere, making quick work of the wide range on our 11-32 cassette.
Gear range was the one factor that limited CX1’s potential as an adventure bike group; 11-32 was the widest range available with the mid-cage version of the CX1 derailleur. But today SRAM announced a new 11-36 cassette compatible with the mid-cage derailleur that offers a 13% lower gear. These four teeth will expand the group’s potential greatly.
SRAM told us in the past it’s a ‘cross group only, but we feel it has huge potential anywhere that simplification is a good thing, which is pretty much everywhere, and the new cassette confirms this.
CX1 Force will shed about 200 grams from 2×11 systems, starts at $851 for mechanical levers with a GXP bottom bracket, and did we mention it’s quiet?
Price/Weight: Crankset (GXP) $207/710grams. Rear Derailleur $235/261grams. Levers (Mechanical) $113/right 158grams, left 119grams. Chainring (38t) $126/68grams. PC 1170 Chain $57/256grams. 1170 Cassette (11-25) $113/231grams.
Check out our video review of CX 1 here (this predates the new cassette offering):