The impact of SRAM's single-ring drivetrain is undeniable. The groupset is now available for all disciplines across a broad price range. At the low-end is SRAM's NX single-ring, 11-speed system, which starts at $310 for a complete component group.
I'd be lying if I said I was thrilled when a shoebox-sized package showed up at my house containing a SRAM NX drivetrain. I'd grown fond of SRAM's 12-speed X01 Eagle group and was hesitant to swap it for the brand's budget-oriented single-ring setup.
Sure, I was curious how an entire drivetrain (shifter, rear derailleur, crankset, cassette and chain) that sells for less than the cassette of the X01 Eagle group would perform and hold up—but, not curious enough that I was eager to sideline the pricey Eagle to test NX.
Saddled with this First World problem, I bit the bullet and dove in, expecting a serious decline in drivetrain performance.
I was wrong. NX offered smooth, quiet and reliable shifts that felt on par with the higher-end 11-speed setups I've ridden for years. Hundreds of miles later, the NX system is still rolling strong and surpassing my expectations. I thought that NX might not offer the same level of chain retention as higher-end groups, but I never dropped a single chain while bombing down the rowdiest descents of my local trails. The NX shifter bangs off shifts as requested, but has a more rubbery feel compared to the more refined-feeling X1 and X01 shifters. It is available in both trigger and Grip Shift varieties. The trigger version employs a fixed handlebar clamp rather than the Matchmaker adapter, which neatly integrates brake lever and other cockpit controls.
The NX cassette is paramount to the group's affordability. It's designed to run on a non-XD (Shimano style) driver body. This design restricts the minimum tooth count on the smallest cog to 11, whereas the XD driver body-style cassettes found on the GX and above groups offer a 10-tooth small cog. You wouldn't think one tooth would make a huge difference, but it's a noticeable reduction when pedaling at speed—at 120rpm, the 11-tooth cog will be about 3 miles per hour slower than the 10-tooth. Still, this significantly reduces manufacturing costs, meaning that the NX cassette carries an accessible price tag of $80, versus $130 for the least-expensive XD-mounted cassette.
The NX rear derailleur has proven to be strong and reliable. It mirrors SRAM's GX derailleur, the main difference being that NX uses a stamped steel cage and inner parallelogram link, while GX uses aluminum. The NX crankset also draws from the GX line. It can accept chainrings down to 28 teeth and is offered in numerous bottom-bracket configurations and crankarm lengths.
NX is good. Really good. When it came down to it, I really didn't miss the Eagle after all.
$320-$355 / sram.com