SRAM has today unveiled a brand new ecosystem of gravel components, to be known as XPLR.
Pronounced 'explore', the new range will comprise new components within all three of SRAM's Red, Force and Rival eTap AXS groupsets. It will also include Rockshox Rudy XPLR 30/40mm forks, a Reverb XPLR dropper post, and gravel-specific Zipp 101 XPLR wheels.
Arguing that gravel is yet to find a single definition and that it means different things to different people, the XPLR range is created to allow riders to mix and match components as necessary, helping them to find their ideal setup. Or as SRAM puts it, "define your own ride style".
The collaboration is the clearest to date between the three brands, all of whom sit under the roof of SRAM LLC alongside Quarq, Truvativ and the most recent acquisition, Time.
Rather than an all-new gravel-specific groupset, SRAM has added gravel-targeted components to its existing range trio of drop-bar eTap road bike groupsets: Red, Force and Rival. Within each of these tiers, SRAM has added an XPLR rear derailleur, which is designed to be used with the new cassette.
That new cassette will be entitled XPLR, and will be available in two constructions, XG-1271 will be the Red and Force equivalent, while the XG-1251 will sit in line with the Rival tier. Both are given a 10-44T range across the 12 sprockets, which SRAM claims will combine the ample range needed for steep gravel climbs with the close steps for fast road riding.
The derailleurs are given the same clutch technology as others in their respective tiers, so Force and Red will get the Orbit fluid damper, while Rival will use a mechanical spring. However, in designing the derailleur to offer consistent shifting across the wide gear range, SRAM has altered the position of the pulleys, which in turn makes it compatible with 1X chainsets only.
There are new Red and Force 1X direct-mount cranksets on offer too, as well as Force and Rival Wide cranksets, which are designed to account for the wider Q factor of gravel bikes with boost spacing.
The derailleurs will cost $710.00 / €685.00 / £610.00 for Red, $490.00 / €465.00 / £415.00 for Force and $255.00 / €265.00 / £236.00 for Rival, while the XPLR cassettes will cost $210.00 / €225.00 / £200.00 and $150.00 / €160.00 / £145.00 respectively.
Rockshox's contribution to the new XPLR ecosystem of components comes in two forms. The suspension fork, which will be known as the Rudy XPLR, and the Reverb XPLR dropper post.
The Rudy XPLR fork will come with a choice of either 30mm or 40mm travel off the shelf, and switching the internals will allow you to change between the two. It will borrow technologies like the Race Day damper from the SID fork, but in a smaller form, and integrate a Solo Air spring, which is said to provide small-bump sensitivity without bottoming out easily.
With clearance for up to 50mm tyres, the new Rudy fork offers plenty of width for fatter tyres, but is compatible with 700c wheels only, which will disappoint those on a 650B setup. The fork is also able to mount fenders of both road and mountain bike varieties, meaning those who wish to convert their gravel grinder into a commuting hack through the week can fit full-length fenders and keep the rain at bay.
The dropper post, known as Reverb XPLR, differs from existing Reverb droppers in more ways than just size. It is 27.2mm in diameter, giving it gravel frame compatibility, but Rockshox has also integrated a technology it calls ActiveRide.
ActiveRide means that when fully extended, the seatpost acts as a normal post should, but with the touch of a button on the AXS controller, a rider can add compliance to the ride to counteract the loss in compliance that a lighter-weight carbon post would have otherwise offered.
The Rudy XPLR fork will retail for $799.00 / €869.00 / £779.00, while the Reverb XPLR will cost $600.00 / €600.00 / £500.00.
Last but not least in the collaborative effort comes Zipp, with its 101 XPLR wheelset.
While many of the best gravel wheels look like beefed-up versions of the best road bike wheels, the Zipp 101 XPLR wheels have clearly looked to the mountain biking sector for inspiration instead. They feature an internal width of 27mm and a depth so shallow that it remains unquoted.
The 101 XPLR borrows plenty of technologies from Zipp's range of off-road friendly hoops, including 'ankle compliance', which allows the rim to flex laterally by a few millimetres when rounding a corner - as a runner's ankle would - to increase traction. It also uses Zipp's ZR1 hubset, which offers a 5.5-degree pickup with its 66 points of engagement.
The Zipp 101 XPLR will retail at $850.00 / €870.00 / £780.00 for front wheels, and $950.00 / €970.00 / £866.00 for rear wheels.
Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.
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