When Shimano released their Di2 system I was interested. When I rode my mate’s Ridley fitted out with Di2 I was reasonably impressed. But not enough to make me want to buy the system or even add it to my wish list. BUT… then SRAM released the eTap system and immediately I wanted it. Partly because I prefer SRAM anyway but mostly because it’s wireless.
No physical connections between the derailleurs and the shifters, no cable to route, no cable to snag, no unsightly cabling, just wireless. Add to that the ability to shift up with the right shifter and down with the left and even to allow the system to deal with sequential shifting of the front and rear derailleurs seemed spot on (if you choose 2x with a front derailleur). Of course this was all way too expensive for me and so it went onto my wish list but no further.
I then moved away from using a front derailleur on my road bike much like I had already on my mountain bike and 1x became my latest focus (If I remember correctly 1x eTap for road wasn’t available in the original 11 speed incarnation). And so I continued riding SRAM mechanical 1x for pretty much the whole of 2019, with eTap just being a far off distant pipe dream.
So along came the AXS 12 speed version of eTap. Suddenly there were new cassettes with an extra 10T cog allowing a better range of gears for 1x. A new cool looking chain with a flat edge. And most importantly a proper 1x road eTap groupset. Also eTap as a technology had now been around for a good couple of years and there hadn’t been many reports of issues with the wireless communications, mid-ride battery failures or anything untoward. eTap was well and truly back on my radar! The major problem of course still being the cost!
An upgrade to 12 speed eTap would now mean that I would have to upgrade not only the shifters and derailleur but also the cassette, rear wheel freehub (to XDR), the chain and the chainset. My existing SRAM Rival brake calipers should work with the new levers and the chainset is available as a GXP option to work with my existing bottom bracket. Still, a lot of components required for the upgrade; costly!
Fortunately I had a very good year at work in 2019 resulting in a good sizeable bonus. Then I had need to cheer myself up while in the Pandemic lock down during April 2020 and some time on my hands, suitable for working on my bike! Just the right ingredients for an eTap upgrade! Especially as there were big discounts available on both the groupset (shifters, derailleur etc) from Wiggle and the wear parts (cassette, chain etc) from Tweeks Cycles.
So I went for it; all in. I bought the groupset with the brake calipers included and ignored the GXP version of the chainset in favour of the new DUB standard, even though this meant buying a new bottom bracket too. The chosen chainset was 1x of course and I went for the 40T option and combined that with the large range 10-33 cassette to maximise the flexibility of the bike with regard to gravel riding, bikepacking, flat rides and hilly rides.
Fitting was fairly easy. Having a frame with internal routing for the hydraulic tubing makes it a bit more of a faff but it just means removing and refitting some of the nuts and ferrules and then re-bleeding the brakes at the end. Fortunately I already had a SRAM compatible bleed kit from when I built the bike up originally. I can highly recommend the kits and instructions supplied by Epic Bleed Solutions – https://epicbleedsolutions.com/
Then I paired up my derailleur and the levers and connected to the SRAM AXS app on my phone to do the firmware updates. And all was good to go. After the usual trimming of the derailleur position, B screw and the high and low set screws of course.
So there we go, I am now setup with a full wireless SRAM AXS gearing system on my Kinesis RTD road/gravel bike and raring to go and do plenty of riding this summer (2020). I will of course let you know how it goes longer term on this blog sometime soon.