SRAM has taken the 'Best New Product' category in the annual Cyclingnews reader poll for a second year, this time on the off-road side with its envelope-pushing XX mountain bike group.
Not surprisingly, XX is ultralight at under 2,300g for a nine-piece group but what's more impressive is how little – if anything – has been sacrificed to get there. Case in point is the 2x10 drivetrain layout: by using a wider-range cassette and intelligently spaced chainrings, XX nearly mimics the spread of a conventional 3x9 arrangement while also boasting the side benefits of a more direct chainline, fewer redundant gear ratios, and the option of a narrower pedal stance width.
The individual components take several design cues from the road-going Red group, especially the stunning X-Dome cassette (pictured below). Like on Red, nearly all of the X-Dome's cogs are milled from a single cone-shaped steel forging for lightweight durability but the XX variant goes one step further with its aggressively milled interstices to prevent mud and debris from building up (and we only imagine that Red might eventually get the treatment).
Add in powerful hydraulic disc brakes based on Avid's excellent Elixir CR model, shifters and derailleurs modeled after the powerful X.0, lots of premium materials such as titanium and carbon fiber, and a highly cohesive and integrated overall fit and feel and it's perhaps no surprise that XX has ended up at the top of the heap. Even more intriguing, however, is how SRAM might force Shimano's hand with its upcoming XTR revamp – we expect to get more information later this season and so far, the rumors are awfully enticing.
A well-deserved bronze medal goes to Zipp's re-engineered 303 road wheels, now with a full toroidal profile for better claimed aerodynamics but also a wider profile that lends improved tire casing support and additional bond surface area – especially critical for 'cross.
Larger-radius edges make for fewer pinch flats, too, and we expect this to be one of the more prevalent race wheels on the spring classics' brutal cobblestones if last season was any indication.
New 88/188 hubs improve on overall wheel stiffness, bearing durability and serviceability, too, and weight remains utterly feathery at just 1,152g for the pair, making the 303 a top pick if your budget will only allow for a single race wheelset for all occasions.
A surprising silver goes to Garmin's new Edge 500 computer. The result catches us off-guard not because it isn’t an impressive bit of hardware but rather the implications for how GPS and other advanced electronics are taking an increasingly important and prevalent role in our everyday cycling lives.
Like its bigger and heavier Edge 305 predecessor, the new Edge 500 tracks your routes via an array of orbiting satellites without having to worry about calibration and the generously sized screen displays an extraordinarily wide range of useful information.
New ANT+ wireless protocols also allow users to link the computer head to most direct power meters and downloading the information to any number of desktop or online applications lets you analyse your workouts and rides afterwards, too – all in one powerful little widget.
Cyclingnews reader poll results - Best new product
SRAM XX group: 3193
Garmin Edge 500 GPS computer: 2242
Zipp 303 carbon tubular wheels: 1597
Specialized Shiv time trial bike: 1399
Trek Speed Concept time trial bike: 1016
Metrigear Vector power meter: 845
Look/Time carbon blade pedals: 744
Giant Trinity Advanced SL time trial bike: 638
Scott Plasma 3 time trial bike: 548
Chris King Swift road hubs: 501
Reynolds RZR carbon tubular wheels: 467
Cannondale Flash carbon hardtail: 434
Storck Aero 2 time trial bike: 238
Cannondale Simon suspension fork: 208
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews to discover the winner of the Argon 18 Krypton, complete with SRAM Red groupset, Fast Forward F4R Clinchers, RavX bar, stem and seatpost, Speedplay Zero Cro-moly pedals and carbon bottle cages, which will be announced later in the week.