SRAM X5 2×10: Budget Mtn Performance?- by Grannygear
When XX first debuted with the 2×10 gearing, it was hailed as bold, wonderful, gorgeous, silly expensive, or hated/dismissed/cursed, depending on how close you stand to the retrogrouch backscratching tree that all grumpy bears covet. But it was just a matter of time before 2×10 trickled down into lower levels of grouppos…XO, X9, X7, and now X5. While it is also available in 3×10, the 2×10 version is what we have been playing with for a while now and it represents the bottom of the line of 2×10 gearing from SRAM. This what they say at the website:
Up for Every Challenge
With race-ready performance and technology, X5 components help off-road enthusiasts take it to the next level. With smooth, precise X-Glide shifting and legendary SRAM 10-speed performance, X5 brings out the best in any bike—and in every rider.
This group came on a Cannondale hard tail that was bit small for me, so I rode it a bit here and there, and decided I needed to upgrade it a bit in order to get the most out of the bike. Wheels…heavy wheels suck the joy out of a 29″er and that is where most cheap 29ers end up…in the heavy wheel pool, splashing around the shallow end where the signs say, “Do Not Dive“. I wanted to get into deeper water for some cannonballs at least, so I swapped the wheels for some Easton EA90 XCs and Geax Saguaros and shaved one pound off the front wheel alone. Oh yeah.
In the process of that swap, I got a look at the PG1030 cassette. That is a nice piece of work with the top three cogs on an aluminum spider and the rest are individual cogs with spacers. So while that may not be the hottest set-up for a free hub with an aluminum body, it is a step up in weight savings over the hunks of pinned steel that some cheaper 9 speed cassettes used to be. I weighed it as 352gs. I do not have weights on all the other parts and I did not strip the bike to do that, but let’s face it…X5 is heavier than more expensive stuff like XO. So this is what may come on a lower end bike, right? And if you end up with one, it will not be because you were counting grams, but counting pennies or at least making a value judgement on what your needs are for a new bike.
So how does it work if you end up with it? Well, it works really, really well. Sure, there is more slop in the paddle shifters, and I suppose the rear derailleur may not be sealed as well at the pivots, or the crank is not as stiff, etc, but really I bet most riders will not be unhappy with it unless they are expecting World Cup performance out of it. Man, we have come a long way in performance of our gear. This would have killed XTR of the ‘old days’.
But in order to get more opinions from a relevant source, I let three riders get on the SRAM X5 2×10 equipped Cannondale with no expectations. I did not mention the X5, etc. Just go ride it. All were experienced riders, but none of them ride high end bikes, just decent ones. One had not ridden bikes in years, but used to be a real avid rider. He is looking to get back into it so 29″ers, disc brakes, 2×10, etc…all is new to him. After the ride time, I asked them if they felt the bike shifted like a low end bike. What did they think about the drive train performance? With no preconceived notions they all felt it was not an issue and they were surprised that it was not a ‘XT’ level part, to put it in perspective.
Obviously, judging by the website, X5 is looked at as a viable mtn bike group, not a sidewalk cruiser deal. So, for a serious mountain biker on a budget, SRAM X5 2×10 might be just place card holders for future upgrades as things wear out , but at least it will be good stuff until it hits the re-cycle bin, and, the rider just might be surprised as to how well it does work. If it is on a more pedestrian 29″er and will never be upgraded, it seems like it will get you down the trail or path with solid performance.
if I have one negative thing it would be that the lowest chain ring gear on the 2×10 crank is a 39/26 and that is not low enough for a beginner on a steep trail, even with a 36T rear cog. You need to go to a triple to get a 22T chain ring. Maybe this will not be an issue with most of the casual use bikes this would be spec’d on, but with a wheel swap, that Cannondale was zipping around the trails pretty good and a lower gear might have been good to have every so often.
Note: SRAM sent the X5 equipped Cannondale for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.