Gravel Grinder News: SRAM XPLR, Easton Carbon Drop Bar and More

Gravel Grinder News: SRAM XPLR, Easton Carbon Drop Bar and More – by Guitar Ted

Today in Gravel Grinder News we have views on the new SRAM XPLR group, news of a carbon drop bar from Easton, and a new sealant from Finish Line. Let’s go!

Image of drive train parts from SRAM's new Rival eTap XPLR group.

SRAM XPLR: You’ve seen the news and heard all the previous rumors. We will assume that you’ve done the research then. So, we won’t bother you with all the technical specifications nor will we be able to give you any ride reviews….yet, but we have pithy opinions on what this group is, and what it means for gravel riders and adventure cyclists.

When we looked at the SRAM XPLR presser, we saw a ton of information, but in reality, we think there are only a few ‘big deals’ here. Some of what was included seems impressive, but is not likely to be a major influence on the gravel cycling scene. Some of the bits are cool and high-end kit that should be an influence going forward. Briefly then, here are some bullet point reactions to the SRAM announcements.

  • Electronic Only, 1X Only Drive Trains: The heart of XPLR is the three levels of drive train choices which riders will likely see spec’ed on future gravel/all-road offerings from brands in 2022 and beyond. All are based upon SRAM’s eTap, AXS technology. So, no mechanical groups were introduced under the XPLR banner. Obviously, SRAM has the Apex mechanical bits which we assume would be their entry-level gravel parts, but why not make those “XPLR” branded with some tweaks? Perhaps this is coming later. At any rate, the positioning of SRAM’s XPLR offerings seems mid to high end on the price range. Leaving out the 2X options also seems less racer friendly, and also leaves out choices for folks who still like the benefits of a 2X system. Some folks may also grouse about the 440% range and only two cassette options here. Of course, there is the Eagle option, but it is notable that Eagle and XPLR are not cross-compatible.
  • Rock Shox XPLR Rudy – XPLR Reverb Dropper Post: Along with the drive train bits, SRAM introduced the Rock Shox Rudy suspension fork and the Rock Shox XPLR Reverb dropper post. These seem less ‘mainstream gravel/back road rider’ and more about how some brands are thinking gravel bikes are an opportunity to do what the average MTB used to do 20 years ago. Since those ‘average MTB bikes’ no longer exist, the push to make gravel bikes somewhat more adept at doing MTB things results in suspension forks with 30mm-40mm of travel, and dropper posts with limited travel. SRAM gives those who want to push into MTB-lite riding the option to fit their bike with a couple of nicely designed products, but in our opinion, we don’t see this as part of a ‘gravel group’ as much as we see these parts being ‘conversion options’. Kind of a ‘gravel/all-road’ vs ‘drop bar MTB’ thing.
  • Zipp XPLR 101 Wheels, Carbon Drop Bar: First off, the carbon drop bar is a nice bit of kit and features some nice design work. Nuff said. The wheels? Single wall, 27mm internal width, and not really all that light for the set at plus 1600 grams. The single wall construction is interesting and maybe that does work in a compliant way to dampen out chatter and crushed rock induced vibrations, but we aren’t seeing the bang for the buck with the 101’s. Carbon wheel sets are coming down in price and the $1,000.00 dollar to $2,000.00 dollar range is very competitive now. The Zipp XPLR 101’s seem like a bit of a miss in this light.

SRAM XPLR will be a big deal going forward and will expose a lot more riders to electronic shifting technology. The allure of absolutely no cables or wires, (excepting brakes), will make for ultra-clean design aesthetic for bicycles which will appeal to many folks. The Rival level kit will probably be a heavily spec’ed option on new bikes, especially since supply chain and raw materials issues are driving up prices across the board for 2022.

We don’t see the rest of the bits being all that popular. The fork and dropper are well done, but pricey, and more ‘MTB’ than what most people need or want out of an all-road bike. On the other hand, doing single track with a gravel bike fitted with a suspension fork and a dropper seems something like bringing a Toyota Prius to move a full sized refrigerator- You could do it, but there are better options. Or- there should be.

Easton Cycling Launches The EC90 AX Gravel Adventure Bar: Easton Cycling has had an AX gravel/adventure component line up for a few years now. We liked several of their offerings, including an aluminum handle bar we reviewed here. Now news comes that Easton has finally given this range a carbon handle bar called the EC90 AX.

Easton Cycling's new EC90 AX carbon drop bar
The new Easton EC90 AX carbon drop bar

This new bar features Easton’s “Max Contact Drop”, Di2 bar end routing, and an improved, ergonomic top section. The bar will come in 40cm, 42cm, 44cm, and 46cm widths which are measured center to center at the brake hoods. The bars will have 16° of flare, so not too much, but enough that wrist clearance in the drops should be fine. Weights are claimed to be 208 grams for the 42cm bar and 218 grams for the 46cm bar. Price for the EC90 AX handle bar in the U.S. will be $269.99 with Canadian prices coming in at $389.99.

FinishLine FiberLink sealant in an 8oz. sized bottle.

Finish Line Sealant Debuts: Finish Line recently introduced a new sealant called “FiberLink“. The sealant is a latex based formula with Kevlar fibers introduced to it for maximum sealing capabilities. Finish Line claims that FiberLink will seal faster to reduce air pressure losses. The sealant’s Kevlar fibers are also claimed to help puncture seals remain robust and effective throughout the remainder of a ride.

Finish line provided this quote in the press release;

We challenged ourselves to develop a tire sealant that would lead the bicycle industry in sealing speed, strength, and longevity,” said Hank Krause, Founder & President of Finish Line. “After two years of formulating and testing, we’ve now ticked those boxes, and we’re extremely excited for its global launch.

FiberLink sealant is available now in 8 ounce squeeze bottles for $12.99, in 32 ounce jugs for $34.99, or in a 1 gallon jug for $110.00. All prices USD.

NOTE: Images and information used for the SRAM XPLR, Easton EC90 AX bar, and the Finish Line FiberLink sealant were provided by the respective companies and PR firms who sent Riding Gravel press releases. Opinions given on the SRAM XPLR group are Riding Gravel’s own and may not reflect those of anyone else.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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3 thoughts on “Gravel Grinder News: SRAM XPLR, Easton Carbon Drop Bar and More

  1. EC70 ax have a great shape, but it’s a pretty stiff bar for carbon. It’s a bit cheaper than my carbon cowchippers or FSA AGX bars, but I could tell the difference in carbon quality vs these other two. Hopefully the EC90 levels the playing field.

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