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  • Everything in your life is increasingly wireless, so why aren’t the gears on your mountain bike?
  • One of the world’s largest cycling brands has finally made the wireless shifting breakthrough for rough terrain riding mountain bikes.
  • The promise is for perfect shifts no matter your speed or terrain. But you’ll have to be mindful of the battery levels. 

The modern mountain bike might be built from sophisticated aviation grade carbon-fibre and have suspension that can float you over the bumpiest terrain, but it still shifts as most bicycles have for decades: with cables.

Although road cycling has transitioned to wireless electronic shifting, mountain bikes have unique demands which prevented a move away from cable tension to electric gear selection.

It has been a source of frustration for mountain bikers to jealously watch road riders benefit from the repeatably perfect shifts of an electronic drivetrain. Any cable operated bicycle gearing will stretch and develop play over time, which requires the annoying admin of tensioning. Even worse, are when cables snap or are snagged by terrain during a crash – leaving you with a dysfunctional drivetrain.

Electrically powered gears solve all these issues and American cycling powerhouse brand, SRAM, invested enormous engineering resources over the last six years to finally produce a system which works for mountain bikes. It’s called AXS and the promise is hundreds of kilometres of perfectly actuated, skip-free shifting, for as long as you keep the batteries charged.

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An evolution of SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle drivetrain, the AXS upgrade consists of a wireless transmitter mounted on the handlebar and completely redesigned rear derailleur. Prompting the rear mechanics to shift when you want them to, without cable tension doing the work, is a tiny electric motor operating a mesh of miniature gears, which provides the force needed to move the chain up and down the rear cassette, setting it at the appropriate gear select by a rider.

Battery life is impressive. SRAM says the handlebar transmitter, which riders flick to select their gear, is good for two years of operation before a battery change. The sophisticated electro-mechanical rear derailleur, which does most of the work changing gear, requires recharging every 20 hours.

Simplicity and speed are two of the wireless AXS drivetrain’s primary advantages. Cutting and routing cables when assembling a new bike, can be nightmarish for most riders – who are at best, amateur mechanics. With an AXS drivetrain you simply fit the handlebar transmission and rear derailleur, which automatically signal and adjust to each other.

Being a SRAM AXS mountain bike early adopter comes at a premium most consumers have come to expect from vanguard devices containing wireless technology. Local retail pricing for the drivetrain is R37,900. The kind of money that can buy you a complete new mountain bike.

Watch the SRAM AXS in action here:

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