SRAM Transmission Review

RRP $3000 NZD

Like many people, I watched the launch of the new SRAM transmission drivetrain and immediately thought, “TAKE MY MONEY!”

The marketing headline suggested that with this drivetrain, you could shift under load, even on an eBike.

As I’m a bit of a gear head, and I know many of you will be interested in this review too, I shelled out the $3000 NZD to get the new drivetrain (I mean transmission!?) to find out if it really lives up to its marketing hype.

I’ve been riding my 2022 Specialized Turbo Levo Expert on the older GX AXS drivetrain for over a year now and while it has been great with lightning fast shifts, shifting under load typically results in a cacophony of bangs, cracks and crunches as the chain is unceremoniously shoved on to a new gear under the extreme loads of the eBike motor. It’s not as easy to modulate pedal power for shifting on an eBike, so this happened more frequently than I’d like to admit.

About the new SRAM XO Transmission

There are several different versions of the transmission kit, from the expensive XX to the slightly cheaper XO and an SL (Super light) option. I opted for the cheaper XO version and due to availability issues I ended up with the full SRAM XO Eagle T-Type Brose 160mm Transmission Groupset… What a mouthful!

Note: compatibility for the new transmission is limited to bikes with the UDC hanger standard.

The groupset included a cassette, chain, derailleur, cranks, chainring, battery and charger, pod ultimate shifter, a chainring guard (which went straight in the bin) and stickers.

The build quality of the transmission is impressive. The cassette is simply gorgeous and the machining on the cranks and chainring superb. It made me wonder why they included a (by comparison) shitty plastic chainring guard?

The design of the Pod ultimate shifter is quite different from the old paddle style AXS shifter (more on that later). The black flat-top chain looks awesome too, it gives the drivetrain a very distinctive look.

The marketing boasts that the drivetrain sans the derailleur hanger is tougher than nans home cooked biscuits, with pictures of people standing on their transmissions, poking sticks into the jockey wheels and bashing things with a hammer.

Note: the XO doesn’t have the independent bearing on the jockey wheels, just the XX level, so don’t stick stuff in there on your XO transmission.

Installing SRAM XO Transmission

As this was a whole new drivetrain platform, I opted to have my local bike shop to install the transmission and shift my old AXS drivetrain onto Teresa’s Levo.

The bike shop said the installation was pretty straightforward with just one call to Specialized to consult on the position of the chainring as it interfered with the chain retention device. A 3mm spacer under the chain retention device solved the problem.

Gone is the derailleur hanger, this derailleur mounts directly to the axle in the dropout.

Another significant design change over normal drivetrains is that you no longer need to set the b-screw gap, which required a rider (with all their riding gear) sit on the bike while someone sets the gap at sag with a gauge. This is a pretty big improvement.

One big design improvement over the standard Praxis Cranks and Chainring on the Levo, is the gap between the crank and chainring used to catch all manner of crud, whereas the new crankset-has a tidy little guard stopping anything from getting in there. This should mean a little less maintenance required over time.

Once everything was physically installed, the shop updated the firmware, tuned the chain-line and it was ready to ride.

Initial thoughts on SRAM XO Transmission

So after my first few rides out on the new transmission I have some reckons…. Two things I love about the new drivetrain and one thing I’m not sure about yet.

The pros

The first thing I love about the new transmission is that this is the quietest drivetrain I’ve ever ridden (bar single speed). I don’t just mean shifting quietly (although it does, especially compared to the shotgun shifts from my old AXS) I mean generally riding, it is very quiet. Bombing down chattery rocks, silent. No chain slap noticed. I wasn’t expecting it to be this quiet and now it is highlighting a creaky headset I’ll have to sort!

The second thing that I love about SRAM’s new transmission, it is very forgiving shifting under load. This one I was expecting as this was the headline “feature” that sold me on the idea of the new drivetrain. Others have mentioned the delay in up-shifting, I did notice this but more so on upshifts and didn’t really find it an issue. Downshifts on the other hand felt rapid and under less load, completely silent. To the point where I wasn’t sure if it had shifted. Under a bit of load it makes a bit more noise and under heavy load it sounds like the old shotgun pings of the old AXS. But, even under the extreme downshifts it was still super smooth. Impressive!

It takes a bit of intention to shift under load as it’s not something I’d normally do, but for testing it was clear this drivetrain lives up to the marketing hype.

The cons

Ok so the one thing I’m not 100% with yet is the pod shifter (ultimate controller?). I am very particular about how I have my cockpit set up. I’ll happily faff for hours getting this just right and so far I have not found a good position for the pod. I have XT brakes so have the shifter on its own discrete clamp. Aside from moving inboard or outboard on the bar, the shifter rotates around the bar and rotates on the clamp. The design is quite different from the old AXS paddle, I’m not sure it is an improvement though? I may grow to like it but for now it feels different enough that I have to be conscious of where the buttons are and which one I’m shifting, which takes away from enjoying the ride.


$3000 NZD is no small sum of money, so my expectations for the new SRAM transmission were very high and I’m pleased that the new transmission really does live up to the marketing hype. For riders like me that love a silent drivetrain or suffer from wince inducing mashed gears, SRAM’s new offering could well be a good investment and prolong the life of your gear and improve your ride enjoyment.

The controller however is taking some getting used to. I’ve been told by other transmission riders that they have opted to go back to the older paddle style AXS controller (which is compatible). For now I’m going to keep adjusting the positions and see if it grows on me.

If it weren’t for the controller or the huge price tag, I’d have given SRAM and their new transmission five stars instead of four and half. Nevertheless, this thing is impressive!


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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