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Need education on electronic groups - SRAM Force AXS vs Ultegra Di2

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Need education on electronic groups - SRAM Force AXS vs Ultegra Di2

Old 08-13-20, 11:22 AM
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Plainsman
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Need education on electronic groups - SRAM Force AXS vs Ultegra Di2

Looking at finally going electronic (with a new bike). I had not ever considered SRAM before (only had shopped bikes with Ultegra Di2), but it looks like Force AXS is now a possibility. Does anyone who has owned/used both have some pros/cons to offer? Liking the idea of going totally wireless, but Di2 has always been portrayed as super reliable. Thoughts to share?


Thanks!
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Old 08-13-20, 12:20 PM
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Here are my thoughts on Force AXS. I have had it for 7 months - a little over 5000 km.

Pros:
- When set up properly, it shifts very smooth.
- No wires is obviously great
- Easy to manage charging. When the LEDs ligth up red, you still have plenty of time to get home and charge.
- I really like the shifting: Right for higher gear, left for lower gear. Both for shifting chain ring. Very intuitive.

Cons:
- Front derailleur is hard to get right. Very little room for error in adjustment can lead to chain dropping. For some reason the compensating shifting mode made the problem worse.
- Limited choice of chain rings.
- Finish is not good. Big plastic cover on crank set looks cheap.
- Cassette is coated in a black finish that wears off, leaving it looking permanently dirty.
- Cassette can make the system a little noisy if not lubed well. (I replaced cassette with a Red cassette, which minimized this a lot, looks cleaner too)
- Crank set is extremely difficult to get off, if you ever need to.
(- Flattop chain requires specific chain tool and possibly chain wear checker.)

I got a Quarq power meter spider (110 X 5) that allows for the use of Carbon- Ti chain rings. You can use the Force crank arms. Hopefully there will be more Flattop-compatible chain rings in the future.

Last edited by flx100; 08-13-20 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 08-13-20, 02:29 PM
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I've been riding SRAM Force eTap AXS, 24sp this year and have about 3000 mile on it. I have the power meter crankset with 35-48T and the 10-28 cassette.
I concur with flx100 on the Pros.
On the Cons:
- The front derailleur chain drop is rare but it happens. I solved this by installing a K-edge chain catcher. I installed this after I saw a brand new Di2 equipped bike on display with a factory-installed chain catcher.
- I like the finish. Everything is black and gray. It looks nice.
- There are a couple of sprockets on the cassette that are noisier than the rest. The only thing I've found that will keep them quiet is using Finish Line dry lube on the chain. I found no wet lubes would keep it quiet.
- My chain uses a SRAM Powerlock link. I've been able to remove it easily using a pair of pliers. Beware that the link is supposed to be replaced if it is removed. (They cost about $3 each online)
Also:
I like that the SRAM eTap has only one switch on each brake lever. I have hit the wrong switch on Di2 when wearing gloves on cold days.
It's nice not having any wires on my bike.
The brakes are excellent.
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Old 08-13-20, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Phoenix800 View Post
I like that the SRAM eTap has only one switch on each brake lever. I have hit the wrong switch on Di2 when wearing gloves on cold days.
It's nice not having any wires on my bike.
The brakes are excellent.
Thanks! Sounds like you have experience with both. Performance wise (speed of shifts, smoothness of shifts, ability to customize shifts), how would you say eTap they stacks up to Di2?
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Old 08-13-20, 05:12 PM
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I've just converted one of my Campy 12 bikes over to a partial SRAM force axs group. So far it's working well, using my Campy chorus 12 crank with 48/32 chain rings and the new 10-36 cassette. No chain drops yet, despite the 16T difference at the crank. No noisy sprockets. My setup gives me a top gear like a 53/11, and a very low 32/36.

Front derailleurs are always a bit tricky. The SRAM installation videos are good. Watch thoroughly before starting a new installation.

Just today, I got new force axs parts on my second bike. With this bike, I'm using my existing Campy 11-34 cassette with the AXS chain. Campy 12 and AXS cassettes will work with the other brand's drivetrain. I also use my Campy brakes, despite the lack of a quick release. Braking seems to be more powerful.

I would not use the compensating or sequential shifting modes. I want complete control of my shifts. I do use the 2 sprocket limit, when holding the shift button down. That's my standard shift after changing chain rings.

Chain wear measuring should not be a problem. I use a combination of a 12 inch rule or a full length measurement and calipers between the outer plates. I also use several chains in a rotation, so I never have to toss chains prematurely in an attempt to avoid new-chain skip.

I also figured out that that there is no such thing as a medium cage RD, just for the 10-36 cassette. The only difference between the models is a 5mm longer B screw on the "medium" cage model. Both models have the same 70mm cage length. I bought an M4 x 25mm button head screw at Ace Hardware and ground the head down, to match the smaller diameter of the original screw.

I found the 3 piece force axs build kits for only $1050 at pro's closet.

Black finished chain rings and sprockets will all wear off in the chain contact area. No big deal.

Last edited by DaveSSS; 08-13-20 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 08-13-20, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Phoenix800 View Post
The brakes are excellent.
You're the only person I've ever heard say that (who has also ridden Shimano hydraulic discs). Every person I've talked to that has ridden both prefers Shimano brakes. I've never ridden SRAM, so I can't speak to that.


I really don't understand the allure of wireless tho, it's not like the wires wear out, and they're barely visible. I'll take the wires over the hideously large batteries on the SRAM derailleurs any day, if we're talking purely aesthetics.

As far as cold weather shifting with gloves, di2 can be programmed to use the hidden buttons on top of the hoods for shifting if needed, but I haven't had any issues, even when wearing liners and gloves together. I've never heard anyone say anything good about SRAM front shifting, while Shimano def has it down, smooth is the only way to describe it. Every SRAM bike I've ridden with has been noisy, I couldn't handle that, I need my bike to be as quiet as possible, but it doesn't seem to bother most people.

OP, any way you go, electronic is where it's at, personally, I'll never go back to mechanical. Still enduring it on the gravel bike, but not for long.
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Old 08-13-20, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
I'll take the wires over the hideously large batteries on the SRAM derailleurs any day, if we're talking purely aesthetics.
What batteries?
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Old 08-13-20, 07:33 PM
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I've found the AXS chains to be the quietest I've ever used. I started using them last July, with my otherwise all Campy drivetrain. With the new SRAM 10-36 and a Campy 12 crank, it may be the most silent drivetrain I've ever used. So far, chain life also seems to be very good. I also like only two buttons doing the work of two levers and two thumb buttons on my Campy bike. The FD never needs trimming and there's never any chain rub.
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Old 08-13-20, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
What batteries?
I circled the batteries in red.
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Old 08-13-20, 07:38 PM
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Good read. I have SRAM Red eTap and the rear sprocket noise drives me nuts, glad I am not alone.
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Old 08-13-20, 08:12 PM
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Try at least the big three and see which feels best to you. I switched from riding Simplex down tube shifters to indexed shifting just a few years ago. For me the SRAM shifting pattern is bizarre, and I couldn't stand the Shimano floppy brake lever. When I tried Campagnolo, they just seemed to fit my style and my very large hand size, so I have Campagnolo on my road bikes.

I can shift up or down and work the brakes from the drops or on the hoods. When they are adjusted correctly they shift smoothly and spin quietly. And I find them easy to adjust; maybe five minutes. And they only need adjustment when I change cassettes or wheel sets.

Others love their SRAM or Shimano, and I don't doubt that they are all good. I just prefer the fit and feel of Campagnolo. YMMV
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Old 08-14-20, 02:41 AM
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Wiring is an issue only on initial setup or when you saw groupset from one bike to another. If you buy a built bike, even that is not an issue. Just planning to convert a bike to Di2. Decided against SRAM because

1. I have Di2 on another bike and love it
2. SRAM hoods are hideous [at least the hydraulic ones]
3. I like that Di2 has only a single battery, and charge lasts for ever
4. SRAM needs all proprietary stuff now - no compatibility with 11 speed
5. SRAM is MUCH more expensive than Di2
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Old 08-14-20, 04:53 AM
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Originally Posted by InvertedMP View Post
I circled the batteries in red.
Oh... those are HUGE.
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Old 08-14-20, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
You're the only person I've ever heard say that (who has also ridden Shimano hydraulic discs). Every person I've talked to that has ridden both prefers Shimano brakes. I've never ridden SRAM, so I can't speak to that.

In the MTB world, SRAM brakes are known for their dreaded "gobble" noise. You could get ride of it for a while but it always came back. I had two sets of SRAM brakes and they all did it. Moved to Shimano and have been quiet ever since. Shimano is also mineral oil based and honestly, can except lots of slop in set up and maintenance and still work pretty darn perfect.
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Old 08-14-20, 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
1. I have Di2 on another bike and love it
Personal opinion,
Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
2. SRAM hoods are hideous [at least the hydraulic ones]
Can't comment but I have rim brakes and my small hands easily fit around the hoods.
Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
3. I like that Di2 has only a single battery, and charge lasts for ever
I like not having to have the bike near an outlet. I get 800+ miles on a charge and just take the batteries inside and charge them while i'm watching a ball game. Also if for some reason you miss the blinking LEDs and a batter goes dead, you can move the RD battery to the RD.
Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
4. SRAM needs all proprietary stuff now - no compatibility with 11 speed
What stuff? Are you saying that you can't intermix 11 speed with 12 speed? Who would want to?
Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
5. SRAM is MUCH more expensive than Di2
A Trek Domane SL7 with eTap is $200 more than Di2. That's on a $6000 bike. Doesn't seem that MUCH.
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Old 08-14-20, 06:15 AM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
Personal opinion,

Can't comment but I have rim brakes and my small hands easily fit around the hoods.

I like not having to have the bike near an outlet. I get 800+ miles on a charge and just take the batteries inside and charge them while i'm watching a ball game. Also if for some reason you miss the blinking LEDs and a batter goes dead, you can move the RD battery to the RD.

What stuff? Are you saying that you can't intermix 11 speed with 12 speed? Who would want to?

A Trek Domane SL7 with eTap is $200 more than Di2. That's on a $6000 bike. Doesn't seem that MUCH.
1. Yes, personal.
2. I have SRAM mech on a bike, and love the hoods. The hydraulic electronic are huge, though that is also aesthetic and/or personal
3. I have plenty of outlets in my bike room, and anyway ****loads of stuff need to be charged, including pedals.
4. I like to have some compatibility between my bikes. Again personal.
5. Looking to buy 2 new electronic groupsets, and the difference I find is about 500 dollars [or more] between Ultegra Di2 and SRAM Force etap.

If I am wrong on 4, I would love to buy etap actually, as to go Di2 I have to drill 2 titanium frames. Etap would be convenient, but I am avoiding it due to cost.
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Old 08-14-20, 06:22 AM
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Don't confuse 11 speed etap with the new AXS 12 speed. There is no compatibility between the two and comparisons are irrelevant. The new a AXS chain is the quietest chain I've ever used.

For those who are unaware, AXS cassettes fit on an XDR freehub, not the antiquated shimano splined hubs that will soon be replaced with microspline for road bikes. Your current 11 speed shimano wheels will not be convertible.

AXS was more expensive than Di2 if not purchased as part of a new bike, but prices are now dropping quickly, by $300-600 off a force partial build kit.

Having Campy wheels, converting to an XDR freehub cost $60. I could also keep using my Campy 12 cassettes with their freehubs that are the same since the days of 9 speed. Campy will soon have 12 speed cassettes starting with a 10T sprocket, but there will be a new freehub, still compatible with older wheels and older cassettes. They will also have a new 1X13 gravel group with 9-36, 9-42 and 9-45 cassettes.

Last edited by DaveSSS; 08-14-20 at 06:31 AM.
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Old 08-14-20, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Plainsman View Post
Thanks! Sounds like you have experience with both. Performance wise (speed of shifts, smoothness of shifts, ability to customize shifts), how would you say eTap they stacks up to Di2?
I rode Di2 for a couple of weeks and never had the groups side by side for comparison. Any performance comparison I could make would be based on memory, so I won't do that. I've made no efforts to customize shifts on either group as I've found the default settings to be fine.
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Old 08-14-20, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
1. Yes, personal.
2. I have SRAM mech on a bike, and love the hoods. The hydraulic electronic are huge, though that is also aesthetic and/or personal
3. I have plenty of outlets in my bike room, and anyway ****loads of stuff need to be charged, including pedals.
4. I like to have some compatibility between my bikes. Again personal.
5. Looking to buy 2 new electronic groupsets, and the difference I find is about 500 dollars [or more] between Ultegra Di2 and SRAM Force etap.

If I am wrong on 4, I would love to buy etap actually, as to go Di2 I have to drill 2 titanium frames. Etap would be convenient, but I am avoiding it due to cost.
Be sure that you're looking at AXS 12 speed etap, not 11 speed. The 11 speed version is dead and not a current production offering. A complete force group was about $1000 more than ultegra, but even with the recent price drop, it may be $500 more, per group. The cheapest partial group I've seen is $1050.

No way would I drill into Ti frames to install a soon to be outdated 11 speed group.
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Old 08-14-20, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by vespasianus View Post
In the MTB world, SRAM brakes are known for their dreaded "gobble" noise. You could get ride of it for a while but it always came back. I had two sets of SRAM brakes and they all did it. Moved to Shimano and have been quiet ever since. Shimano is also mineral oil based and honestly, can except lots of slop in set up and maintenance and still work pretty darn perfect.
When I got my bike the first thing I did was bed the brakes per SRAM's procedure. They are quiet.
SRAM specifies DOT 4 or 5.1 brake fluid which is used in millions of cars. It seems to work pretty well.
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Old 08-14-20, 08:43 AM
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One thing to note:

I haven't used SRAM before, but I am a current gen Ultegra Di2 user. Most bikes don't ship with the wireless dongle thing (which is $70-80 more) so the only way to configure it in depth is by hooking up the charging port to a PC computer via USB. This was a huge headache for me when I first got it since I realized the Shimano app wouldn't work and I only had Macs (I ended up having to boot into my seldom used Bootcamp install and the Shimano app had a very hard time pairing). Suffice it to say, you'll either want to make sure you have access to a PC or buy the dongle—because AXS is wireless out of the box, I believe that all that phone/Wahoo/Garmin connectivity is already ready to go.

Otherwise, I'm quite happy with Di2 and it's super reliable and easy. I quite like the shifting setup with the two paddles/buttons per lever as it lets me shift up and down with one hand. I'm not sure why some people hit the wrong shifter sometimes but it's never been an issue for me,
Also, though I keep forgetting they're there, there's the hidden hood button which I don't think SRAM has.

I would love to try out AXS someday though. At least from what I've seen, it seems like you can do weirder things with an AXS setup like cross it with Eagle and run it 1x and get 10-50 cassettes. I've only seen fairly conservative setups with Di2 but I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Of course, if you're just road-riding, all of this is just academic but if you see gravel in your future, it may be worthwhile to consider the adaptability of the system.
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Old 08-14-20, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
Be sure that you're looking at AXS 12 speed etap, not 11 speed. The 11 speed version is dead and not a current production offering. A complete force group was about $1000 more than ultegra, but even with the recent price drop, it may be $500 more, per group. The cheapest partial group I've seen is $1050.

No way would I drill into Ti frames to install a soon to be outdated 11 speed group.
I would love to get etap 12 speed if they were priced even somewhere near the di2. For switching to Di2, I need only shifters, derailleurs and the extras. I can keep crank, cassette, chain etc.

Any link to a place with decent pricing for a etap full group?

Also, just ordering new wheels for these bikes [wife's and mine], wiith Shimano 11 speed hubs. What would I need if I go to 12 speed?
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Old 08-14-20, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
For those who are unaware, AXS cassettes fit on an XDR freehub, not the antiquated shimano splined hubs that will soon be replaced with microspline for road bikes. Your current 11 speed shimano wheels will not be convertible.
This is not true. I have DT Swiss hubs on all of my bikes, road and mountain except one. It is a very simple matter of swapping the free hub body over if I wanted to run microspline (which I do on all my MTBs...). On my one wheel set without DT Swiss hubs (Bontrager Aeolus) I can get a micro spline free hub from Trek.
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Old 08-14-20, 07:28 PM
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Yeah, assuming the microspline 12sp freehub body will physically fit in the same space I don't see a problem - just replace it. But that's an assumption. Still it's hard to imagine them making the freehub even wider and further aggravate the lacing asymmetry...
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Old 08-14-20, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
Oh... those are HUGE.
Compared to di2 derailleurs, yes, they are.

People argue that wireless is better because it looks cleaner, but the derailleurs themselves look horrible, imo. I don't care about wires, because it's a one time deal, build the bike and you're done with them.

Aesthetics aside, I'll take Shimano's better shifting and braking, the fact that di2 looks better is just icing on the cake.
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