SRAM has a new AXS Blackbox Derailleur that has just been raced at the the World Champs by Nino Schurter and several others and now also seen on the Enduro bike of Jack Moir (current EWS World Champion). This fancy new piece of kit has a World Championship title already under Nino and is taking on the gravity scene as well as XCO. “Blackbox” is the name given to SRAM’s research and development components being tested by their pro riders. Let’s take a look at some pictures and details.
So what can we tell from the picture here is that the derailleur is directly mounted to the frame. This is likely making use of SRAMs Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH) mounting interface on the inside of the rear stay, which would have made the UDH a very smart move from SRAM a few years ago, had this been one of their goals with the system. They have prepared countless bike models for their new direct mount derailleur by getting brands on board with the UDH (which solved the issue of having all sorts of bizarre hanger shapes as there was no standard). Impressive.
Beyond the direct mount. It seems that the derailleur has a shallower profile than the current AXS designs which will make it less susceptible to rock strikes and such. The lower pulley wheel also seems to have a couple more teeth which means less resistance on the chain. Speaking of the chain, it appears to be taking cues from SRAM’s road eTap chain with the outer side of the chain being flat. From what I understand this design is stronger than a normal symmetrical chain, but I’m not sure why. It does look cool though, as does the cassette. Blacked out but with shiny teeth and a bit of red in the centre. It is possible that the cassette is no longer 1 piece but that is hard to tell from the pictures available.
Something else I have a hunch about is the placement of the upper pulley wheel on the derailleur (best seen in the screenshot from jack’s YouTube above. It seems to be slightly higher above the knuckle than on the current model. This maybe be due to it being slightly large or the new shape of the derailleur itself. Adjusting the design here has an effect on chain retention and shifting accuracy. Moving it higher up should improve both of these factors but, I can’t say for sure.
It isn’t visible in any of the images taken from the World Cup but I was able to snap a screenshot from Jack Moir’s YouTube video of the new shifter as well. The buttons have moved away from the paddle design and seem to have some sort of rubberising for grip possibly? Maybe not as sleek as the current design but we’ll see how it comes out in production. It does appear to be quite adjustable looking at the mounting system.
My guess is that this won’t be too far from production given it is already been raced at the highest level and to quote Mr. Moir is “maaaaaaad” (that’s Aussie for “quite good”). We’ll be waiting over the next few months for the official release of the new SRAM AXS. While SRAM continue to iterate on their wireless MTB drivetrain, the big fishing reel company from Japan are still yet to release their own, with the closest thing so far being their new Ebike drivetrain system. Patiently we’ll wait to see what Shimano’s repose will be.