Sram Eagle Review: Do you need 12 speed?

Sram Eagle XO

I have to admit not being overwhelmed with joy upon learning of the new 12 speed Eagle group. I may have even rolled my eyes as 11 speed has only been on my bikes for a little over a year now!   Wait.  Extra wide gearing sounds kinda nice to have in the middle of a trip deep in the STEEP Canadian Rockies where the Eagle landed.

The Sram Eagle Drivetrain adds a massive extra 50 tooth cog to the previous 11 speed 10-42 cassette with an updated derailleur, shifter and chainring.  Rumors of the derailleur hanging quite low and the shifting speed up to the 50 tooth are concerns that have echoed during conversations about the new group.   After nearly 500 miles on the group, neither seem to be a problem though.

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Sram Eagle XO 12 speed
The derailleur cage isn’t really that low in the 50 tooth cog.  Clearance with rocks shouldn’t really be a thing to be concerned about.  There isn’t a mark on this one from a strike yet.

How does it ride? Shifting is as smooth and effortless throughout the range as previous 10 or 11 speed.  No delay in shifting up to or down from the monster 50T cog is noticeable.  There doesn’t seem to be any negative attribute to having 12 speed other than adding a little less than 100 grams.  The drivetrain is quiet, quick and shifts smoothly.

Having the extra range provided by the 50T cog provides a much wider range to tackle the steepest terrain without the need to swap out chainrings.  The 50T should enable most to nearly ride up any wall.  Only problem is traction when things get steep enough to warrant the need of a 50 tooth cog.  Some of the trails with typical late summer dry and loose conditions are just a little too loose to grunt up even with a 50 tooth cog.

My complaints with SRAM clutch derailleurs in the past have always been that they seem to get much noisier (chain slap) as they age.    Maybe things have evolved since I last owned SRAM a couple of years ago, BUT this derailleur remains super quiet after 500ish miles.

Sram Eagle XO 12 Speed

Negatives:  With such a massive gear range I find myself wanting more than ever Shimano’s ability to drop more than one gear at a time.  Unfortunately you still have to stab, stab, stab to get there.  Minor inconvenience.


Do you need 12 speed?  12 speed is nowhere near the revolution of going from 10 to 11 speed with one chainring.  If you’re in the market for a higher end bike, Eagle is highly recommended.  In the steep mountains, Eagle’s ultra wide gear range advantages are definitely greater and should enable one to climb some steep shit provided the traction is there.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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