SRAM went all in on a major brand facelift that covers SRAM, RockShox, Zipp and Quarq. The U.S. component maker branded the launch using an umbrella trade stamp: AXS. It looks like “axis”, doesn’t it? But you pronounce it “access.”
AXS the term performs double duty. It’s the tie that binds all SRAM’s electronic family into one customizable ecosystem, if those components communicate with the AXS app (AXS is not backward compatible with your prior-generation SRAM electronics).
More narrowly, AXS is the name for the app that manages every component inside the AXS ecosystem.
AXS does not replace anything. RED is still RED. Force is Force. Just, if SRAM henceforth intros an electronic component – and these RED eTap AXS components are available now – the assumption should be that the component (RED, Force, what have you) is probably inside the AXS family, i.e., it’s connected to the other AXS components and is controllable by the AXS app, and the app monitors its function and performance.
Let’s talk about that AXS app first. It’s what you’ll least remember after you absorb all that SRAM debuts today. What you’ll ooh and aah over are the meat and potatoes hardware stuff: the available cassettes, the number of teeth in the first-position cog, the chain ring options in the road cranks, the number of gears in the cassette. But the AXS app has functionality today, and it has the capacity to become a bigger thing in the future.
The purpose of SRAM AXS is to allow you to Control your bike’s hardware; to Personalize it, and to Monitor it. To grant you access. You can use components in the AXS exosystem without he app; it just adds customization and control features. You download this app, probably to a smartphone (Android or or iOS). You can set up an account in AXS if you want, and you can set up profiles for your bikes. Data is stored in the cloud. What data? How does it know? Your AXS eTap derailleurs, your Quarq power meter, are sending out both ANT+ and BLE signals, the former to your bike’s head unit, the latter to your smartphone (therefore to AXS).
As regards diagnostics and service intervals AXS could act like your late model car’s computer. My RAM truck lets me know what percent along the way I am toward my next oil change, and how much of my fuel filter’s life is used. AXS could tell you about the mechanical state of your components. Note that mileage is not counted in the AXS app; rather it’s hours.
What else can AXS do now? Everything AXS component is customizable. You have shifters: Road controls; Blips; Clics. Then you have things that perform work, e.g., derailleurs; or anything that accepts a wireless message. Even dropper seat posts. You tell the shifters, in AXS, using a smartphone, what to do. This is where AXS shines. Imagine a 1x MTB with an electronic dropper post. Thru AXS, one shifter could be set up for… shifting, and the other “shifter” handles the signal to the dropper post. In other words, Clics aren’t shifters. They’re message senders. Oh, the possibilities!
Because SRAM electronic components have unique signatures, if you set up a bike profile in AXS you won’t need to identify the bike on which you’ve performed a ride. Every component will log its own ride history in AXS. All you need is for your smartphone to sync with AXS.
What about other electronic components? Like TyreWiz, the onboard tire pressure sensor from Quarq? What if you want to archive what pressure you used for every ride, or specific rides? Not yet. Perhaps coming.
Via AXS you can opt for Sequential shifting, which is a nice feature for triathletes who run 2x, and is easy to turn on and off in the app. Yes, it’s analogous to a similar feature made by another component company. And like that other company, this feature is not customizable, that is, the big chain ring and the second-to-big cog is what you’ll be in before the system shifts to the small ring. Whether you like that gear or not.
Nevertheless, I rode a bike for a day in Sequential mode and it worked… well… move over to my review of SRAM’s new drive train options and you’ll see. There’s also Compensating mode, which lets you make the affirmative act of a front derailleur shift, but it then shifts the rear derailleur automatically up or down a cog or 2, to place you in the next larger or smaller gear. Then there’s manual mode. The AXS app is where you choose the mode, though it’s also possible to turn the mode on an off on the bike, even while riding (as is illustrated in the image below).
[Part of the AXS ecosystem is a new chain ring based power meter from Quarq]
Let’s talk to the Ghost of AXS Future. Yes, right now AXS sits in the same genus as e-Tube Project. Just, imagine getting an email, or text, or push note – based on your preference selection – from your LBS, telling you, “Bromigo! I see you’re racing the Flintrock Purgatory in 2 weeks. Records say you’re running Schwantinentals and IMHO you won’t last 5 miles without a flat on that course. I recommend these 36mm Maxxelins. I can have them here tomorrow.” After you finish the Flintrock Purgatory, does this impact your service schedule? Maybe.
An app passed across my transom last month, built by a Slowtwitcher, called Ikeono, and the diagnostics, and service intervals feature operates similarly. What I saw with Ikeono is not what it was, but what it could be. Imagine if your Google Calendar synced with an app like this. Heck, imagine if what we know (or could know, if Slowtwitchers used the functionality!) about you only based on your Slowtwitch Reader Forum Profile (your chosen LBS, your chosen bike fitter, your race schedule, your coach, your fit coordinates, etc.). What if this was synced?
Something like Ikeono or AXS has the capacity, in my George Jetson imagination, to be much more than simply a platform for communication between you and all your connected AXS components.
This is a quick overview of AXS, the AXS app, and how it brings all AXS-family components into a customizable ecosystem. But as you see, in my imagination it has bigger implications, though I’m way over my skis, with broader ambitions than the makers of AXS. SRAM is shy of becoming too much. In our post-Facebook age, where it’s clear that our privacy has been abused, SRAM is careful to note that AXS records the use of my hardware, but does not record my ride. Me? I have nothing to hide. Maybe my browsing history. But AXS can record my ride for all I care. Nevertheless, currently it doesn’t.
Elsewhere I’m writing about gearing and hardware changes SRAM has just announced.