Home Cycling Mountain bike groupsets: everything you need to know

Mountain bike groupsets: everything you need to know

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The mountain bike groupsets are a great option to get a good biking experience, with the right bike you could go as fast as you want, and sometimes faster. If you want, you can even ride the road with the same parts and get a similar experience. There is a variety of groupsets that can be used depending on your style, speed and how comfortable you want the ride.

I decided to try and write an article about mountain bike groupsets like I used to do 10 years ago, when I used to be involved in mountain biking. So I did a search and found the mountain bike groupsets.

Mountain bike groupsets are the ultimate in performance and simplicity, but it can be hard to know which one is right for you. This post is designed to answer all your questions about how the different groupsets differ, what you need to know to decide which one is best for you, and what to do if you can’t decide.

The buyer’s guide to mountain bike groupsets on BikeRadar will teach you all you need to know about the parts of your bike.

The collection of components that make up a bicycle’s drivetrain is referred to as a group, gruppo/groupo, or groupset.

Shifters, crankset, bottom bracket, front and rear derailleurs, chain, and cassette are among the components. Although brakes are often included in component series, we’ll focus on the components that make up the powertrain in this article.

This article, like our buyer’s guide to road bike groupsets, explains the components of a groupset as well as the many choices provided by the two major manufacturers: Shimano and SRAM.

On road bikes, full groupsets are more prevalent. Mountain bike manufacturers, on the other hand, often mix and match components from other groups – and, in some instances, separate brands – to fit the bike’s intended purpose and to reach a particular pricing point.

Mountain bike groupset components

Crankset for mountain bikes

Shimano offers its XT group in versions with one, two and three chainrings

Shimano’s XT group is available with one, two, or three chainrings. Courtesy

The number of chainrings on a mountain bike crankset may be classified into three groups.

Triple

The first is the triple, which is an old favorite. It is made up of three chainrings, the biggest of which is usually a 42- or 44-tooth outer ring.

The center ring is typically 32 or 34 teeth, while the inner ring is usually 22 or 24 teeth.

This arrangement may provide the widest variety of gears, but there is considerable gear ratio redundancy. When the lowest or highest chainring is chosen with the opposite lowest or highest sprocket on the cassette, cross-chaining is a problem.

Modern high-end mountain bikes do not have cranksets with three chainrings. They’re being phased out of the entry-level market, and double- and single-ring drivetrains are rapidly becoming the most popular and accepted configurations.

Double

When SRAM and Shimano debuted 10-speed drivetrains, cranksets with two chainrings surpassed the triple as the most popular mountain bike crankset. In comparison to triple cranksets, double cranksets have a smaller gear range and less overlap.

They have a smaller inner ring (22 to 28 teeth) and a bigger outer cog, which provides a gear that is more suited to rapid riding (34- to 36-tooth).

Double cranksets may be found on bikes ranging from entry-level to high-end models, although their popularity is waning.

Single

The shift toward wide-range drivetrains with a single chainring has been the most important development in mountain bike drivetrains over the last five years.

This configuration, known as a ‘1x’ (one-by), has been common on downhill mountain bikes for years, where wide gear ranges aren’t required and chain security (i.e., no lost chains) is critical.

The single-ring drivetrain has now become the new standard on high- to mid-level mountain bikes, and is increasingly seen on entry-level bikes due to the advent of SX Eagle and NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrains, courtesy to SRAM’s debut of XX1 and following wide-range 11 and 12 groups.

Chainring sizes range from 38-tooth chainrings for strong cross-country racers to 28- and even 26-tooth chainrings on certain fat bikes, depending on the intended purpose. Chainrings with 32 or 30 teeth are used on most 1x drivetrain motorcycles.

The usage of a chainring with tall, unramped teeth (because there’s no need to shift between chainrings) and alternate tooth widths that line up with the inner and outer links of the chain is a fundamental feature of 1x drivetrains.

Both of these features are intended to keep the chain in position in the absence of a front derailleur or chain guide.

SRAM x-sync chainring

Without the use of a chain device or chain guide, the ramped teeth assist maintain the chain on the single ring. SRAM

A single-ring drivetrain is less complicated and lighter since the front derailleur and shifter are removed. 1x drivetrains are also simpler to use for many beginner riders.

Bottom bracket for mountain bikes

Different frames use different bottom bracket systems, including threaded (left) and press-fit (right)

Bottom bracket systems vary per frame, including threaded (left) and press-fit (right) (right). Courtesy

Without bearings to spin on, a crankset won’t go you very far. These bearings are pressed or screwed into the bottom bracket shell of a mountain bike.

Bottom brackets come in a dizzying variety of options; you may find our comprehensive guide to bottom brackets helpful.

cassettes for mountain bikes

Shimano's widest range 12-speed cassette offers an 10-51t spread, while SRAM offers a 12-speed group with a 10-50t range

Shimano’s most comprehensive range SRAM provides a 12-speed group with a 10-50t range, while 12-speed cassettes have a 10-51t spread. Courtesy

Cassettes are available in a variety of sizes and speeds. Cassette selection, like crankset selection, is frequently influenced by the bike’s intended riding style and budget.

Mountain bike cassettes are available in seven different speeds, ranging from seven to twelve. The smallest and biggest cogs are typically referred to to provide an idea of the entire range, such as 11-32t or 10-50t.

Apart from downhill bikes, which often employ narrow-range cassettes, most mountain bikes choose a cassette with a broad range of gears to make climbing simpler. 11- to 34- or 36-tooth ranges are the most frequent on bikes with double or triple cranksets.

SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle-branded drivetrains have a 10-52t range (11-50t on SX and NX Eagle), whereas Shimano’s 11-speed SLX and XT groups have an 11-46t range and a 10-51t option on its newest 12-speed XTR, XT, and SLX groups have an 11-46t range.

Chains for mountain bikes

Higher-end chains often feature hollow links or pins to save weight over more affordable versions

In comparison to lower inexpensive chains, higher-end chains typically include hollow links or pins to reduce weight. Courtesy

The kind of chain you’ll need is determined on the brand of groupset and the number of gears. The space between the cogs decreases as the number of gears rises, and the chain gets thinner as a result.

As a result, always use a chain made for the number of gears on your cassette — don’t use a 9-speed chain on a 10-speed drivetrain or an 11-speed chain on a 12-speed drivetrain. Some chains are even directional and need installation in a particular orientation, so double-check before proceeding.

More costly chains are more likely to feature smoother, more durable, and corrosion-resistant coatings, as well as hollow links and pins to reduce weight. Given that chains are the first component of a drivetrain to wear out, it’s usually preferable to go with a mid-level chain.

Derailleurs for mountain bikes

The components that move the chain between gears on the cassette and chainrings on the crankset are known as derailleurs. Each brand has its unique design, although the concept is the same in most cases.

Mountain bike front derailleur

The chain is moved between the chainrings by the front derailleurs. BikeRadar

When the shifter is depressed, a cable is pulled or released, which moves the derailleur, derailing the chain and placing it in a new gear.

Mountain bike rear derailleur

The chain is moved between gears on the cassette by rear derailleurs. BikeRadar

Derailleurs are no longer controlled only via cables. Shimano’s XTR Di2 and XT Di2 derailleurs are electronically operated and utilize electrical cables to connect to the shifter (s). The AXS groupsets from SRAM are fully wireless.

Shifters for mountain bikes

Shift levers are used to control the derailleurs on a bicycle, as previously stated. Shimano and SRAM have distinct designs, and although they both change gears, they do it in different ways.

Shimano RapidFire trigger, SRAM Grip Shift, SRAM's trigger shifter for mountain bikes

Shimano’s RapidFire trigger mechanism is on the left, SRAM’s Grip Shift is in the center, and SRAM’s trigger shifter is on the right. BikeRadar

Both SRAM and Shimano have ‘trigger shifters,’ which are technically different. This term is a little deceptive since both firms have improved the lever ergonomics such that the rider may move both levers with his thumb instead of his index or “trigger” finger.

This method has the advantage of allowing the rider to shift while maintaining their index finger on the brake lever.

SRAM provides two mechanical shifter systems: Trigger and Grip Shift. The trigger system is the most popular. Grip Shift works like a throttle, allowing you to shift by twisting back and forth. This system has lost favor in recent years, but it still has a devoted following in cross-country racing because to its small weight and ability to rapidly shift across the cassette.

The SRAM AXS has a novel design with three buttons, two of which are controlled by a paddle that rocks up and down, and the third is a button on the rear – the function of the buttons may be customized via SRAM’s dedicated software.

Shimano’s Di2 utilizes electronic switches as well, and it may be customized via an app.

Di2 may, for example, make advantage of Shimano’s Synchro Shift technology, which enables the rider to operate both the front and rear derailleurs with a single shift lever. The microprocessor in the system selects the best chainring and cassette sprocket to keep the rider’s cadence consistent.

Price vs. performance when choosing a mountain bike groupset

Shimano XTR and SRAM Eagle AXS derailleur

Despite being wireless, the SRAM derailleur has a 144g weight penalty due to the battery. Immediate Media / Tom Marvin

Groupsets, like other components, come in a wide range of prices. So, what are the advantages of more costly groupsets?

The weight of the groupset

“Strong. Light. Cheap,” as Keith Bontrager famously remarked about bicycle components. Choose two.”

A lighter bike will always accelerate, climb, and stop faster than a heavier one, but something has to give in terms of strength. Reduced weight is frequently a significant role in increasing cost when it comes to mountain bike drivetrains, wheels, or even entire cycles.

In general, the more money you spend on mountain bike groups, the lighter they get. Frequently, the groupset’s performance plateaus at the second layer from the top, with decreased weight being the cause for the additional cost.

The difference between Shimano’s top two tiers, XT and XTR, for example, is approximately 300g (without brakes), while the difference between SRAM’s flagship XX1 Eagle and second-tier X01 Eagle drivetrains is closer to 46g (excluding brakes and bottom bracket).

These weight discrepancies are due to more costly materials and more sophisticated (or time-consuming) production methods.

More costly components, in addition to further machining, hole drilling, and high accuracy, often utilize materials like carbon fiber, titanium, lightweight aluminum, and ceramic bearings to attain class-leading low weights.

Longevity of the groupset

You’d expect a mountain bike group that costs more to outlive a less expensive alternative.

Although durability improves with price, we have found that it plateaus at the second-tier choices. Shimano uses the XT designation, whereas SRAM uses the X01 designation.

In certain cases, the more costly option’s component durability may actually deteriorate, since absolute weight reductions can occasionally outweigh product lifetime.

The more costly technical components are made with more accuracy, refinement, and materials that are more long-lasting. This is most noticeable in derailleurs and shifters, where cheaper components acquire play and slop with time, while superior parts may last for many years.

Cassettes and chainrings, on the other hand, are often the polar opposite of this. The less costly choices are composed of heavier, more durable steels, while the more expensive ones are comprised of lighter, softer aluminum and titanium metals.

performance of the groupset

Aside from the weight savings, more costly mountain bike groupsets find other methods to improve performance.

Most notably, higher-priced alternatives provide a smoother, more accurate, and faster gear change.

This involves less effort at the lever, which becomes evident after a few hours on the bike. Electronic gears will establish a new standard in this area, providing maximum accuracy and speed at the touch of a button.

Increased crankset rigidity, for example, allows for sharper shifting and more effective power transmission from the pedals to the rear wheel. More sophisticated designs and materials that enhance strength and stiffness without increasing weight are used to accomplish this.

Additional characteristics of the groupset

It’s usual for the more costly organizations to have more features in addition to extra gear.

Clutch-equipped rear derailleurs, like as Shimano’s Shadow RD Plus or SRAM’s Type-3 Roller Bearing Clutch, are examples of technology available on these companies’ groupsets, starting with Deore and NX Eagle.

The clutch maintains the chain tight, making it easier to shift across difficult terrain, quieter in the transmission, and less likely to lose a chain.

SRAM X01 Eagle and Shimano SLX derailleur

A clutch mechanism is now included on both SRAM and Shimano mechs to assist minimize chain slap. BikeRadar

Gear indicators, on the other hand, are a feature that is often removed when the groupset price rises. The idea is that more experienced riders utilize gears based on “feel” rather than numbers or indicators.

Options with an emphasis on discipline

With so many different disciplines in mountain biking, it’s not unexpected that what works well for ascending steep hills in cross-country may not be optimal for down cliff cliffs in downhill.

This is why more aggressive riding styles now have their own discipline-specific groupsets. These will be discussed farther down in the separate brand hierarchies.

Mountain bike groupsets from Shimano

Shimano is the largest producer of mountain bike groupsets in the world.

Shimano’s mountain bike groupset hierarchy is as follows, from least costly to most technologically advanced:

  • Shimano Tourney is a tournament organized by Shimano. is a tournament organized by Shimano.
  • Altus M2000 Shimano
  • Shimano Acera M3000 Shimano Acera M3000 Shimano Acera M3 Shimano Acera M3000 Shimano Acera M3
  • Alivio M3100 Shimano
  • M6100, M5100, M4100 Shimano Deore
  • SLX M7100 Shimano
  • Deore XT M8050 Shimano
  • Deore XT M8100 Shimano
  • XTR M9050 Shimano
  • XTR M9100 Shimano

Shimano also has two downhill-specific groupsets available:

  • Shimano Zee M640 Shimano Zee M640 Shimano Zee M640 Shimano Zee M640 Shimano Zee M640
  • Shimano Saint M820 Shimano Saint M820 Shimano Saint M820 Shimano Saint M820 Shimano Saint M820

Shimano Tourney

Shimano Tourney bicycle groupset

Shimano’s Tourney groupset is a cheap 6- and 7-speed option. Shimano

Tourney is the first model in the line, and it’s typically seen in department store or children’s bikes. It comes in a few different configurations, depending on whether it’s for touring, road, or extremely light mountain biking.

In 2020, Tourney got its most recent upgrade, which included two new 6- and 7-speed transmissions, as well as changes to the shifters, front mechs, cranks, and cassettes.

The groupset is available with triple or double cranksets in 6-, 7-, and 8-speed systems.

Altus M2000 Shimano

Altus is the group you're likely to find on entry-level mountain bikes

On entry-level mountain bikes, Altus is the group to look for. Courtesy

The next group is Altus, which is the one you’ll see on entry-level mountain bikes.

Altus is now available with a 9-speed cassette and a triple crankset with 40/30/22t chainrings.

The Altus rear derailleur does not include Shimano’s Shadow Plus clutch technology for chain stability, but it does have Shimano’s Shadow design, which is a lower profile that reduces the chance of damage from trail obstacles.

Shimano Acera M3000

Shimano Acera M3000 groupset

Acera is more likely to be found on cheap mountain bikes than Altus, although it has more technology. Shimano

Acera is the next to arrive. On some components, this group begins to use corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel.

It’s a 9-speed group that works with either a 40/30/22 triple or 36/22 double crankset. It has a broader range of cassettes, 11-36.

Alivio M3100 Shimano

Shimano Alivio bicycle groupset

The whole groupset in its entirety. Shimano

Shimano Alivio is located just above Acera. This 9-speed group, like Acera, comes with a triple or double crankset. If you’re looking for a trail-worthy mountain bike, Alivio Shimano is a good place to start.

It’s the first mountain group from Shimano to include a two-piece crankset with an external bottom bracket for added rigidity. The Octalink bottom bracket is used by Acera, whereas the square-taper bottom brackets are used by Altus and Tourney.

The front derailleurs, gear shifters, cranks, cassette, and chain of the Alivio groupset have all been updated for 2020.

M6100, M5100, M4100 Shimano Deore

Shimano Deore 12-speed M6100 1x groupset lead image

On paper, the Shimano Deore 12-speed offers almost all of the characteristics of Shimano’s higher-end groupsets. Shimano

The Deore range was completely overhauled for 2020, with technology from the SLX, XT, and XTR groups trickling down to bring the groupset from its initial 10-speed only M6000 form up to 11- and 12-speed.

Microspline cassettes (10-51 tooth range), Shadow RD+ rear derailleur, and a broad variety of cranks with Dynamic Chain Engagement+ technology are all new components on the M6100 12-speed.

The new M5100 11-speed groupset is almost similar to the M4100 10-speed groupset in appearance and technology.

Both come in 1x and 2x configurations, and the 11-speed rear derailleur works with a 51-tooth rear cassette sprocket.

SLX M7100 Shimano

Shimano SLX M7100 groupset

The SLX M7100 groupset in its entirety. Shimano

In the Shimano hierarchy, the SLX M7100 is a highly significant group. It offers the same amount of speeds as the XT and XTR, but at a lower cost.

In general, SLX has the same features and capabilities as the higher-end groups, but with a greater weight and somewhat poorer shift quality.

A 12-speed cassette with 10-45 and 10-51t choices is one of the standout features.

Deore XT M8050 Shimano

Shimano Deore XT M8050 Di2 groupset

Deore XT M8050 Di2 groupset from Shimano. Shimano

This is Shimano’s XT drivetrain with Di2 electronic shifting. When the M8100 series was introduced, however, the M8050 series did not get the same upgrades as the cable-operated XT groupset, remaining an 11-speed system.

The electronic system has the benefit of regular gear changes and minimal maintenance. Sequential shifting, also known as Synchro Shift, is another benefit of Di2, in which both the front and rear derailleurs are controlled by a single control, and the system determines whether to shift at the front or rear for the next nearest leap.

The Deore XT M8050 Di2 groupset is built on the same crankset, cassette, chain, and brakes as the XT 11-speed mechanical groupsets.

Deore XT M8100 Shimano

Shimano XT M8100

Shimano’s XT M8100 groupset in its entirety. Shimano

Shimano Deore XT is a step down from the XTR professional group. This 12-speed group shares almost all of XTR’s top-end design characteristics and provides all of the performance that most riders would ever need, albeit at a small weight penalty.

Single or double cranksets are offered with the XT. Deore XT comes in a variety of 10-45 and 10-51t cassette sizes for 1x and 2x drivetrains.

XTR M9050 Shimano

Shimano XTR M9050 mountain bike groupset

Shimano launched the XTR Di2 in 2015. It’s no wonder that the first electronic shifting groupset in mountain biking is also the most costly. Mud and grime will not wreak havoc on shift quality by disconnecting the mechanical cord. Shift performance is outstanding. Shimano

Shimano’s flagship electronically-shifting XTR Di2 M9050, like the M8050 XT series groupset, is only 11-speed compatible and shared most of its components with the top-tier M9000 groupset while it was available. Now that XTR’s M9100 is a 12-speed groupset, finding a full-house 11-speed XTR groupset is more difficult.

It also features Synchro Shift and can be powered by an electric mountain bike’s built-in battery, much as the XT Di2 groupo.

The expensive cost and the need to remember to recharge the battery every now and again if you’re using the Di2 system on a ‘acoustic’ bike are two drawbacks.

XTR M9100 Shimano

The latest Shimano XTR group has a wealth of drivetrain options to choose from

Shimano’s newest XTR group offers a wide range of drivetrain choices. Courtesy

Shimano’s XTR is the top of the line and is often utilized in racing. XTR blends high-end styling with lightweight materials including high-grade metals, carbon fiber, and titanium. It’s very uncommon for XTR to have capabilities that aren’t available at any other groupset level, such as multi-shift release while downshifting.

There are four distinct drivetrain choices available in the newest M9100 group. A wide-range 112 drivetrain with a huge 10-51t cassette, a tighter-range 112 drivetrain with a 10-45t cassette, a 212 drivetrain with a 10-45t cassette, and a 111 drivetrain intended to conserve weight with a 10-45t cassette are all available.

XTR used to be divided into two categories: Race and Trail. Many components of the group have been consolidated into one line in the current M9100 series. For brakes and pedals, though, there are still Cross-Country and Enduro divisions.

Cross-Country is all about conserving weight, so features like tool-free brake levers and Ice-Tech brake cooling fins are ditched in favor of a few more kilos.

Enduro is the more “everyday” and feature-rich alternative, where a few more ounces offer you more braking power and flexibility for a few extra grams.

This new XTR group also has a brand-new freehub design that is incompatible with prior Shimano mountain bike groups.

Shimano Zee M640

Zee is Shimano's entry-level group for downhill and freeride

Shimano’s entry-level downhill and freeride group is called Zee. Courtesy

Shimano’s entry-level gravity groupset, Zee, is the first of the discipline-specific groups. It’s a less expensive variant of Saint (see below).

Zee is a downhill and freeride bike that only comes with a 1x crankset. It’s designed to be heavier (and more durable) than the SLX group.

Zee is a 10-speed group, unlike SLX.

Shimano Saint M820

Saint is Shimano's top-level downhill focused groupset. Built with professional downhill-racing and extreme freeride in mind

Shimano’s top-tier downhill-focused groupset is Saint. Professional downhill racing and extreme freeride were the inspiration for this design. Courtesy

Saint is positioned as a high-end choice for downhill racers.

Saint, like Zee, is a gravity-focused 110 group designed to withstand freeride and downhill punishment.

Mountain bike groupsets from SRAM

Single-chainring groupsets (many of which have a ‘1′ in the name) are separated from double and triple-chainring choices in SRAM’s mountain bike groupset lineup.

SRAM, like Shimano, provides a DH-specific alternative in the shape of the X01 DH.

While SRAM’s specialized single-chainring groupsets have been a recent success story, the company has also been a big supporter of doubles over triples in the past. We’ll go through the 2x and 3x groups before moving on to SRAM’s ever-growing 1x family.

The introduction of 1x 12-speed drivetrains was made possible by SRAM’s newest Eagle technology.

An 11-50t, 10-50t, or 10-52t 12-speed cassette, larger, 14-tooth jockey wheels, an improved ‘Type 3′ clutch mechanism in the rear derailleur, and a redesigned 1x-specific chainring with taller, curved teeth and a new profile intended to improve performance at the cassette’s extreme ranges are all shared features on Eagle-level drivetrains that distinguish them from SRAM’s 11 groups.

SRAM’s groupsets are arranged in this order, from least technologically sophisticated to most technologically advanced:

  • SRAM X3
  • SRAM X4
  • SRAM X5
  • SRAM X7
  • X9 SRAM (discontinued)
  • SRAM Eagle SX
  • SRAM NX
  • NX Eagle by SRAM
  • SRAM GX
  • GX Eagle by SRAM
  • X0 SRAM (limited parts remaining in the lineup)
  • SRAM X1
  • SRAM X01
  • Eagle SRAM X01
  • Eagle AXS SRAM X01
  • XX SRAM (discontinued)
  • XX1 SRAM (limited parts remaining in the lineup)
  • Eagle SRAM XX1
  • AXS Eagle SRAM XX1

Three SRAM groupsets are available, two for downhill and one for electrified mountain bikes:

  • SRAM GX DH SRAM GX DH SRAM GX DH S SRAM GX DH SRAM GX DH S
  • DH SRAM X01
  • SRAM EX1

SRAM X3

SRAM X3 isn't a complete groupset, but does mark the entry of SRAM's mountain bike components. SRAM offers cassettes, chains and cranksets as separate 'non-series' options here

The X3 groupset from SRAM is the company’s most basic option. Courtesy

SRAM X3 is a basic level of SRAM componentry that marks the entry-level of SRAM’s mountain bike components. It is not a full groupset.

Cassettes, chains, and cranksets are all available as distinct ‘non-series’ alternatives from SRAM.

Plastic shifters and derailleurs with metal derailleur cages are designed for 7-, 8-, or 9-speed drivetrains. These components are appropriate for mild leisure riding but not for trail riding.

SRAM X4

Just like SRAM X3 , X4 also isn't a true groupset. With just a shifter set and rear derailleur on offer, it's normal to see other brands mixed in with SRAM X4 parts

There are just a few components in the SRAM X4 series. Courtesy

X4 isn’t a real groupset, just like SRAM X3. With just a shifter and rear derailleur available, it’s common to see parts from other manufacturers mixed together with SRAM X4 components.

These components are often found on cheap bikes, and X4 shifters come in 7- and 8-speed variants, with mechs ranging from 7- to 9-speed.

SRAM X5

SRAM X5 mountain bike groupset

SRAM’s X5 groupset is the company’s first complete groupset, and it’s a great bargain for riders looking for 10-speed gearing. At this level, SRAM debuts their 2/10 gearing. BikeRadar

This is the first SRAM group you’ll likely see on a beginner mountain bike. Although it lacks a clutch on the rear derailleur, it’s a trail-worthy set for leisure riding.

7-, 8-, 9-, and 10-speed cassettes with a maximum cassette sprocket capacity of 36 teeth are compatible with different versions of the rear mech.

This 10-speed group is available with a 2x or 3x crankset, although the cranks are also available in a 9-speed variant.

SRAM X7

Often seen on lower-priced hardtails and dual suspension bikes, SRAM X7 is a good choice for regular off-road use on a budget

SRAM X7 is an excellent option for frequent off-road usage on a budget, and may be found on lower-priced hardtails and dual suspension bikes. BikeRadar

The X7 group includes a few more characteristics that set it apart from the X5 group. The inclusion of a clutch on the rear derailleur to enhance chain retention is the most significant upgrading feature of this 10-speed set.

The X7 shifter features a more precise action than the X5 shifter, and it’s also compatible with SRAM’s MatchMaker system, which lets riders attach shift levers and brakes with a single clamp.

The X7 comes with a 2x or 3x crankset.

SRAM X9

Equivalent to Shimano SLX, X9 is the workhorse groupset of SRAM's range. Nearly all the performance features are present at this level, with slightly cheaper construction methods and materials keeping prices down, but the weight is higher

The X9 groupset, which was equivalent to Shimano SLX, was SRAM’s workhorse but has since been retired. BikeRadar

SRAM’s X9 groupset, which was equivalent to Shimano SLX, was the company’s workhorse. At this level, almost all of the performance characteristics were there, but the weight was greater due to somewhat inferior building techniques and materials.

The X9 group was a tough, trail-ready 10-speed group that came in two sizes: 2x and 3x.

The shifters and derailleurs were made of aluminum rather than plastic, and the X9 crankset had hollow crankarms to reduce weight.

The SRAM X9 groupset is no longer available.

SRAM Eagle SX

A picture of a SRAM SX Eagle groupset

SX Eagle is SRAM’s entry-level 12-speed groupset. SRAM

This is SRAM’s most inexpensive Eagle groupset.

The 12-speed cassette is mounted on a Shimano-style freehub, which means the smallest sprocket is 11t instead of 10t on GX Eagle and above. This, on the other hand, helps to keep the price down.

SRAM NX

SRAM NX is the gateway to SRAM's 1x11 drivetrains

SRAM NX is the starting point for SRAM’s 11 drivetrains. Courtesy

The SRAM NX is the most cost-effective of SRAM’s 11 groups. SRAM’s narrow/wide X-Sync chainring and a broad range 11-42t cassette are included on this group.

NX Eagle by SRAM

SRAM has brought its 12-speed Eagle technology to its entry-level NX groupset.

SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle technology has made its way into the entry-level NX groupset. Immediate Media / Russell Burton

The NX Eagle drivetrain bridges the gap between the GX and SX Eagle drivetrains, featuring SRAM’s innovative Type-3 Roller Bearing Clutch technology and the ability to operate with either 11- or 10-tooth cassette sprockets.

The NX Eagle PG-1230 cassette, on the other hand, does not utilize SRAM’s XD driver body, which can accept sprockets as tiny as 10 teeth. The GX Eagle is SRAM’s first 12-speed drivetrain featuring XD driver technology.

SRAM GX

SRAM GX is a very budget-friendly 1x group that's suitable for real mountain biking

SRAM GX is a low-cost 1x group that’s suited for serious mountain riding. SRAM

SRAM GX components are a common option for mid-priced bikes since they share many of the same designs and internal characteristics as the top-tier 1x products.

GX, unlike NX, comes in 11/11 and 2/11 variants, as well as a specialized 7-speed downhill group.

GX Eagle by SRAM

SRAM GX Eagle mountain bike drivetrain

In June 2020, GX Eagle got a new upgrade. SRAM

The GX Eagle group was the next addition to SRAM’s 12 series. With the launch of this budget-conscious group, it was obvious that SRAM was trying to put the last nail in the front derailleur’s coffin.

SRAM upgraded their GX Eagle groupset in June 2020, adding a 10-52-tooth cassette (a two-tooth increase on the lowest, biggest cassette sprocket), a new derailleur (which can now shift into the lowest gear), and updated cranks (which now come in both carbon and alloy versions).

As you would expect, the pinned-together GX Eagle cassette is heavier than the X01 and XX1 cassettes, which are highly machined from one piece hardened steel.

AXS SRAM GX Eagle

SRAM GX Eagle AXS mountain bike groupset

The GX Eagle AXS groupset in its entirety. Immediate Media / Ian Linton

SRAM began rolling out their AXS electronic shifting technology to the (somewhat) more inexpensive GX Eagle groupset in March 2021. It has a lot of the same tech and guts as SRAM’s more expensive AXS groupsets, but with heavier steel components instead of aluminum or carbon fiber.

It works with all current SRAM Eagle 12-speed components, as well as AXS drop-bar shifters for gravel bikes.

It’s also available as a GX Eagle upgrade kit, which contains the rear derailleur, shifter, and charger, allowing you to convert to electronic shifting while retaining your current 12-speed components.

SRAM X0

A long-standing popular choice in performance groupsets, SRAM X0 continues with its 2x10 gearing. It's often compared to Shimano XT, but X0's use of carbon fiber means it's lighter and more expensive

SRAM X0 maintains its 210 gearing, which has made it a popular option in performance groupsets for a long time. It’s frequently compared to Shimano XT, however the X0 is lighter and more costly due to its carbon fiber construction. BikeRadar

X0 was a 10-speed groupset featuring carbon fiber for weight savings and precise machining for shift accuracy, and it was long regarded SRAM’s finest choice for performance without breaking the bank. SRAM did provide a triple crankset for this group, but it was more often seen in a 2x form.

Only a portion of the X0 groupset has survived. The only remaining components are front and rear grip shift gear changers and trigger shifters, as well as front and rear hubs.

SRAM X1

X1 is SRAM's budget-friendly 1x groupset. It shares much of the performance and features of XO1 and even XX1, but less carbon-fibre and more aluminum means a higher weight

It has a lot of the same performance and characteristics as the X01 and even the XX1, but with less carbon fiber and more aluminum, it’s heavier. BikeRadar

When X1 was originally released, it was SRAM’s low-cost 1x groupset. Since then, SRAM has developed the NX and GX 1x drivetrains, upgrading the X1 groupset in the company’s hierarchy.

With a small weight penalty, the X1 group is a good option for riders looking for a dependable 11 drivetrain. It has many of the same characteristics as the top 11 groups.

SRAM X01

SRAM X01 was perhaps the most sought-after groupset of 2014. X01, along with X1 and XX1, offers a unique 11-speed setup where the cassette and rear derailleur are greatly different to offer a huge 10-42t range, without the option of a front derailleur

The X01’s cranks and derailleur cage are made of carbon fiber. BikeRadar

The SRAM X01 groupset was probably the most popular in 2014. X01, along with X1 and XX1, wowed our testers with their unusual 11-speed configuration, which included a cassette and rear derailleur that were vastly different from 10-speed setups at the time, allowing for a massive 10-42t range without the need of a front derailleur.

The X01 family is one step below from SRAM’s 11 family. It’s a good option for riders who desire the top-tier performance but can deal with a slight weight penalty.

Eagle SRAM X01

SRAM X01 Eagle mountain bike groupset

Mountain bike groupset SRAM X01 Eagle.

SRAM’s X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, which debuted in 2016, featured a 500 percent gear range thanks to a massive 10-50t cassette. SRAM refers it their 112 mountain bike groups as “Eagle.”

The X01 Eagle group is often seen on high-end trail and enduro bikes, and it comes with a complete aluminum derailleur cage and foam-cored cranks. It weighs 46g more than its range-topping cousin, the XX1 Eagle.

The X01 Eagle groupset received an upgraded wider-range cassette (now 10-52 teeth) and a new derailleur in June 2020, allowing it to shift into the largest sprocket.

Eagle AXS SRAM X01

SRAM X01 Eagle AXS mountain bike groupset

Mountain bike groupset SRAM X01 Eagle AXS. SRAM

Unlike its lighter XX1 Eagle AXS cousin, the electrical AXS Eagle system, like its cable-actuated brother, is intended for more rigorous usage such as on all-mountain or enduro bikes.

The weight of the AXS systems increases as their strength increases, but their usefulness remains the same.

SRAM XX

SRAM XX is a 2x10 cross-country-race-focused groupset. While still available, it has been surpassed by SRAM's 1x11 and 1x12 mountain groups

SRAM XX was a 210 groupset designed for cross-country racing. BikeRadar

The XX group was SRAM’s primary off-road drivetrain until the introduction of the 111 systems. It was a specialized 210 group that relied heavily on carbon fiber and titanium components to save weight.

The XX groupset is no longer available.

SRAM XX1

SRAM XX1 is the groupset that started the single-ring revolution

The SRAM XX1 groupset was the catalyst for the single-ring revolution. BikeRadar

This is the highest 11-speed group from SRAM. When the 1x revolution was launched in 2012, it was this group who spearheaded the charge.

Only the trigger shifter, grip shift shifter, and rear derailleur are still available, as well as an 11-speed chainring, chain, and cassette.

SRAM XX1 Eagle

SRAM XX1 Eagle groupset

SRAM XX1 Eagle groupset SRAM XX1 Eagle groupset SRAM XX1 Eagle groupset SRAM X

The XX1 Eagle group is designed for cross-country riders at the peak of their game.

The XX1 Eagle cassette and chain feature gold titanium nitride coatings, which are said to improve longevity over the X01 Eagle.

The XX1 Eagle derailleur has a carbon outer plate on the derailleur cage, and the XX1 Eagle crankset is hollow.

The weight difference between these two groups is negligible.

The XX1 Eagle groupset, like SRAM’s GX Eagle and X01 Eagle groupsets, was upgraded in 2020 with a bigger 10-52-tooth cassette and a new 52-tooth compatible mech.

AXS SRAM XX1 Eagle

SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS groupset

SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS groupset. SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS groupset.

SRAM introduced wireless versions of its top two mountain bike groupsets in 2019: XX1 Eagle AXS and X01 Eagle AXS, after having a wireless option on the road for a few years.

AXS introduces a smart new shifter design and a derailleur fitted with a second clutch, which enables it to move in the case of a quick collision, minimizing damage. A wireless AXS Reverb dropper post is also available.

SRAM EX1

SRAM's EX1 drivetrain aims to meet the needs of the latest breed of e-mountain bikes

The EX1 drivetrain from SRAM is designed to suit the requirements of the current generation of e-mountain bikes. SRAM / Victor Lucas

SRAM’s EX1 group was created with the burgeoning e-mountain industry in mind. Electric assistance, as well as the quick changes that come with it, puts more strain on components.

To avoid cross-chaining, the EX1 has an 8-speed cassette with the large cog 7mm inwards of where it would be on an 11-speed configuration. This provides an extra-strong chain that is positionally synchronized with particular teeth to reduce drivetrain strain during gear changes.

SRAM GX DH

SRAM GX DH groupset

GX DH groupset from SRAM. BikeRadar

The GX DH groupset has just seven gears and can only be used with the PG-720 or XG-795 cassettes. It was designed specifically for downhill riding.

A shifter, mech, chain, and cassette are all included in the GX DH groupset.

DH SRAM X01

SRAM's latest discipline-specific groupset, X01-DH, uses many of SRAM's single-ring technologies but with a far smaller gear range for downhill racing

The X01-DH groupset from SRAM is designed for downhill racing and utilizes several of SRAM’s single-ring innovations, but with a much narrower gear range. BikeRadar

The X01 DH is a downhill-specific groupset that comes in either a 7- or 10-speed configuration.

Mountain biking is an awesome activity that is accessible for almost anyone. It is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy some of the natural beauty this country has to offer. However, if you are new to the sport, you may not know what equipment you need to get started.. Read more about sram mtb groupset hierarchy 2020 and let us know what you think.

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This article broadly covered the following related topics:

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