Prod­uct re­views


Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents -

There was a time not too long ago that 11 speed driv­e­trains were all us moun­tain bik­ers needed to shred our lo­cal trails and climb and de­scend the big moun­tains. 11 gears, good range and re­li­able shift­ing. I even thought that any more gears would be wasted and re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity would go out the win­dow.

That was un­til the ‘Ea­gle’ had landed. SRAM dropped 12 speed Ea­gle driv­e­trains on us and it was bye-bye for­ever to 11 speed. I know most peo­ple who haven’t had the chance to ride Ea­gle could ar­gue that it was only one more gear, but it is re­ally is more than just that.

So, what do you do as a rider that has a per­fectly good, ex­pen­sive 11 speed SRAM XX1, X01, X1 or even GX driv­e­train on their bike but want to up­grade to 12 speed? Well, don’t con­trib­ute to land­fill is what e*thir­teen were think­ing when they came up with their 12 speed up­grade kit for SRAM.

The TRS+ 12 Speed Up­grade is e*thir­teens an­swer to any SRAM 11 speed owner with that itch to up­grade to 12 Speed with­out drop­ping more than a weeks pay on a shiny new Ea­gle driv­e­train. The en­tire con­ver­sion kit comes in at a rea­son­able $499, not too bad con­sid­er­ing what you get in the box. Plus, you get an even larger gear range thanks to e*thir­teen’s 511% 9-46T cas­sette out­do­ing SRAM’s 500%.

When I first heard about this up­grade, I was pretty keen to get my hands on a sam­ple to see ex­actly how they have achieved this feat whilst keeping most of your ex­ist­ing 11 speed parts on your bike, or at least re­place some of your al­ready worn driv­e­train.

Open­ing the box for the first time re­vealed a 12 speed cas­sette, 12 speed YBN sil­ver chain, some shift hous­ing and cable, 12 speed ratchet spool, spac­ers and bolts and lastly a bag of tools and grease. Ev­ery­thing you need to get the job done at home. That’s right, I said at home, as this is what e*thir­teen were in­tend­ing when they thought up this con­ver­sion.

The ‘ge­nius’ be­hind their con­ver­sion… change your 11 speed shifter to a 12 speed shifter. Pretty sim­ple idea, ex­e­cuted by a rather sim­ple up­grade to your shifter. It sounds daunt­ing, pulling apart some­thing most bike me­chan­ics

would tell you never to tin­ker with, but this is what they want you to do.

For some­thing as dif­fi­cult as re­plac­ing your shifter’s 11 speed spool to 12 speed, it only took 20 min­utes to com­plete that task (not in­clud­ing the 10 min­utes watch­ing the YouTube video) This was re­ally only made pos­si­ble by a very use­ful lit­tle tool in­cluded in the box called the “Claw”. Look­ing like some­thing that sits in your take-away pizza box, the claw ba­si­cally be­comes a 3rd hand when pulling apart your shifter, hold­ing the shifters in­ter­nal assem­bly in place whilst you swap out the shift­ing spool. Af­ter in­sert­ing a cable into the shifter and con­firm­ing that there were in­deed 11 clicks, it was time to get the other parts swapped out to com­plete the con­ver­sion.

As the e*thir­teen cas­sette is XD driver com­pat­i­ble, a sim­ple swap­ping out the old and in with the new, I had a fresh, light­weight 12 speed cas­sette ready to roll.

The only other ma­jor con­ver­sion nec­es­sary in this 12 speed up­grade is to re-space the jockey or pul­ley wheels on the de­railleur with the sup­plied spac­ers and longer bolts. It is a 5 minute job and it’s ready to shift all the way up to the 46T cog with­out any has­sles.

Once the new chain was on and short­ened to the re­quired length, I needed to ad­just the rear de­railleur’s B-Ten­sion screw to al­low for that larger cog and dou­ble check the high and low lim­its. Now it was time for a test ride.


There is one point to add here be­fore go­ing any fur­ther which is I was orig­i­nally run­ning SRAM XX1 Ea­gle on this bike be­fore switch­ing back to an 11 speed setup for this test. So I do have a good base­line for shift­ing per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­ity and com­par­i­son be­tween 11 and 12 speed driv­e­trains.

That said, a quick roll around the streets go­ing through the gears I didn’t no­tice any­thing re­ally that dif­fer­ent com­pared to the orig­i­nal 11 speed setup. Shift­ing was nice and crisp, thanks to the ever re­li­able SRAM X01 shifter. The cas­sette is slightly nois­ier than the stock SRAM cas­settes, likely due to the hol­low con­struc­tion of the e*thir­teen cas­sette. The only fault I found with the driv­e­train in my ini­tial test ride was the per­for­mance of the up­shifts and down­shifts from the 9 and 10 tooth cogs. It was a lit­tle slow and some­times took a few rev­o­lu­tions be­fore the gear would change. A lot of this has to do with the amount of B-Ten­sion added to the de­railleur to clear the 46T cog when shift­ing down from the 39T. It is re­ally not a ma­jor is­sue as I knew I wouldn’t be us­ing the 9T that of­ten.

But this is a moun­tain bike af­ter all, so I re­ally needed to get the bike out in the dirt and mud and give it a thrash­ing to re­ally put the con­ver­sion kit to the test.

I put al­most 12 hours on this driv­e­train in vary­ing con­di­tions and I have to say I am quite amazed as to how well the shift­ing per­for­mance was through­out the test. I rode some quite tech­ni­cal trails that re­quired a few last sec­ond down shifts on steep and rocky climbs and the shift­ing was pretty flaw­less. I might have thought a few times the down shift to the 46T cog was not as rapid as the new Ea­gle XX1 cas­settes, but I am nit pick­ing just a bit.

I did, how­ever, never get the shift­ing be­tween the 9 and 10T cogs to be as smooth and rapid as the shift­ing be­tween the 10 and 11T cogs on the SRAM 11 and 12 speed cas­settes but this re­ally didn’t an­noy me too much as I only got up to those gears on a cou­ple of fire road sec­tions.

Only time would tell how re­li­able the shift­ing on the 12 speed e*thir­teen cas­sette would be, as past ex­pe­ri­ence with the 11 speed ver­sions is the shift­ing per­for­mance di­min­ished quite quickly as the cas­sette wore.

Af­ter all, the 12 speed is a very light cas­sette, tip­ping the scales at 338 grams com­pared to the Ea­gle XX1 cas­sette at 360 grams. As the cas­sette is bro­ken into 2 parts, the 9-33T and 39-46T, you can pur­chase the in­di­vid­ual parts so if the low­est gears are worn out, you can re­place just that sec­tion, sav­ing quite a few dol­lars.


In my ex­pe­ri­ence, as a me­chanic re­plac­ing countless 11 speed driv­e­train parts at quite con­sid­er­able costs, it would be fair to say that any rider who has worn driv­e­train parts, namely cas­sette and chain, and was think­ing of a costly Ea­gle up­grade, then this could be the so­lu­tion. I know with the lat­est and cheap­est SRAM NX Ea­gle hit­ting the market, there will be peo­ple who would ar­gue that e*thir­teen is too late to market with this prod­uct. But in re­al­ity, with NX Ea­gle’s 11-50T cas­sette you just don’t get the huge gear range of the 9-46T. And the weight alone would be a turn off for me!

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