Right now might not seem like the perfect time to do a SRAM Force 1 review with the new SRAM AXS and SRAM Force eTap groupsets being launched, but never the less, cables are still very much in, this groupset rocks and wireless was not designed to be a replacement, but another option.
Looking back a few years, the SRAM Force 1 group was designed to be a top-of-the-line single ring cyclocross group, but as gravel has grown, it is slowly becoming the standard there as well. Want an all-purpose group for cyclocross, gravel, adventuring, commuting or pretty much anything? SRAM’s Force 1 puts in a really solid performance.
A few years back we had the chance to ride and complete a SRAM Rival 1 review 1. At the time we really wondered why anyone would want or need more. The Rival 1 was a solid performing 1x setup that just weighed a little more. Then we were talking about beer, bikes and life in general, and then it all made sense! As Americans, we want the best of everything, exclusive beers, carbon wheels, or that group that is just a little lighter and and has a little more carbon. First world problems!
Looking at the SRAM FORCE 1 Details
We’ll start at the only point of contact. Shifting on the rear derailleur is handled by a single shifter, and you guessed it, the right one. Old school DoubleTap still rules the mechanical groups for SRAM, slight lever push to shift down on the rear cog and a little longer lever push when hitting the hills. If you have never ridden a SRAM group, you are in for a treat.
Personally the ergonomics feel great, everyone has their preference when it comes to hood shape, size and feel. We found the fit to be great with, and without, gloves. To us, the hoods and levers just feel natural in-hand and make long sections of road comfortable. Smaller hands may find them a little on the big side. A little item to note is the HDR (hydraulic brake) hood is slighter bigger than a standard cable brake.
Smaller hands will appreciate the adjustable reach, with SRAM’s trademark Reach Adjust, as well as improved ergonomics on the levers for a better finger wrap.
The SRAM Force 1 and the X-Sync Chainring drive the system, literally. This narrow-wide tooth is designed to essentially eliminate dropped chains and cut weight by removing the front derailleur. We’ve ran the X-Sync rings on Rival 1, Force 1 and XX1 for years and never have had a chain drop. But, the full Force 1 kit is much more than awesome chainrings. The whole kit has proven to be capable on roads, gravel and even single track.
The Force crank arms feature a unidirectional carbon in crank arm matched to a forged alloy spider for light weight and durability. A 172.5 mm crankset with 50T rings weighs in at 679 g.
The chain is standard issue. The PG-1170 chain is not CX-1 specific and could be replaced with any SRAM Red 22 or XX1 11-speed chain. A word of caution with Force 1: regular chain replacement is recommended, as an excessively worn chain could decrease the reliability of the system. But we keep our chains clean, well lubed and replaced regularly anyway, right? It would be cool to have a little flashing light like the water filter on the fridge.
Moving back, we’ll find the heart of this group, the rear derailleur. The SRAM Force 1 rear derailleur adopts all the technologies of SRAM 1x MTB to provide a fast and solid 1×11 shifting. SRAM’s unique clutch system eliminates chain slack, providing for smoother, quieter and more secure chain travel. The rear derailleur also features Cage Lock, a quick little lock that makes for fast wheel changes or chain installation.
The rear cassette features 11 cogs and a wide range! A common question with a 1x system is whether the single ring can offer an adequate gear range. Our experience is “most of the time”. While you can use any cassette with the 1x system, it comes with the generous spread of 11-32 or 11-36 options, which in our experience is plenty for the vast majority of cyclocross, gravel and bike trail cruising riders.
You may run out of gears on that long descent or chasing guys on road bikes on the flats, but as the roads turn up, you’ll have plenty of low-end to climb back roads, grind through mud or load down some packs. On gravel, this drivetrain is an absolute joy with just the right ratios for anything I threw its way.
Time to Stop !!
Stopping power is kind of an overlooked part of the groupset when it comes to reviews. It’s like buying a sports car. People care about the engine size and 0-60 time, but rarely are bragging about the stopping power. As someone who has had his fare share of episodes with with crashes, I feel this is kind of important.
The SRAM Force 1 Hydro Bakes are a forged aluminum disc caliper with stainless hardware to keep it clean. Inside are 18 mm pistons front and rear offering plenty of power. Pads are a steel-backed organic compound and are easily changeable. The brakes are designed to fit all frames and are available to fit both flat and post mount frames and forks or post
Size does matter, SRAM recommends 160 mm rotors when riding exclusively on the road, but we opted to run 140 mm front and rear 100 percent of the time. Depending on riding style, the terrain and your weight; rotor size could vary.
Rollin’ on 302s
The ZIPP 302 is the workhorse wheelset in the Ohio Outside office. This affordable carbon wheelset has been through thick and thin and always comes out true and ready for more. Read our full Zipp 302 wheelset review here.