Spotted at Unbound: SRAM Transmission 13 Spd, Zipp wheels, and Trek Checkpoint 

Disappointed the new Red wasn’t 13-speed?… New XPLR has you covered. 

Unbound Gravel is arguably the biggest gravel race of the year and as such it now holds pride of place as the place for manufacturers to unveil new tech. Many are calling it the Dauphiné of Kansas.

The race hasn’t even started yet and SRAM is already delivering the tech goodness with a new 13-speed Transmission type Red XPLR groupset, as first reported by our friends at Cycling Weekly, alongside what appears to be a new Zipp wheelset. 

Basics first. The new XPLR groupset is effectively just a new rear derailleur and cassette. The bike we got photos of featured the new XPLR and was also equipped with the new SRAM Red AXS shifters, brake calipers, and cranks officially unveiled just two weeks ago. Those are easily identifiable due to lever shape. Unsurprisingly, the AXS batteries are also a carry over. 

But that derailleur and cassette are truly noteworthy in their own right, in that the cassette now features 13 sprockets, which is notably one more than 12, and the derailleur is connected to the frame in a Transmission style, à la SRAM’s XX SL Eagle. That means it mounts directly to the frame, effectively sandwiching the dropout with the derailleur itself dissected by the thru-axle creating an almost unbreakable setup.

In the interest of avoiding a full history lesson, one which Dave Rome very much did not avoid in his review of that XX SL Eagle groupset last year, the transmission type derailleur requires a frame with SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger. That is a hanger standard SRAM had rolled out years ago with promises of simplifying the nightmare that was the multitude of derailleur hanger types, with seemingly every manufacturer having its own type. The UDH standard was adopted en masse in MTB spaces, before SRAM pulled the a-ha move unveiling a UDH-replacing  direct mount derailleur.  

(Specialized has a new Crux with UDH, by the way, also at Unbound. But since the rest of the frame apparently remains unchanged, we’re not going to run a whole story on it.)

Right from the moment Eagle landed, many were asking, us included, “Will UDH come to road and gravel frames?” Now we have the answer, as SRAM is clearly set to launch a new gravel-specific XPLR transmission.

As for the cassette, it’s not a new Red or XX SL Eagle carry-over item. We know this thanks to the Count: it is 13-speed while both those already-launched groupsets are 12-speed. Like the Eagle cassette, though, it is Transmission specific, featuring a narrow-wide tooth profiling. If it’s anything like the Eagle cassette, it’ll feature mostly even-numbered sprocket tooth counts, with just a single middle, odd-numbered tooth count with standard profiling. This also almost certainly means the new XPLR groupset also necessitates SRAM’s new T-type chain, as also first seen on Eagle. It’s also worth noting the groupset is almost certainly 1X only. 

While SRAM has not officially commented on the new XPLR, posts to online forums suggest the new gravel offering will be released in August. 

The new groupset has appeared on numerous bikes ahead of Saturday’s race. That includes Keegan Swenson’s Santa Cruz Stigmata and the updated S-Works Crux with a UDH-compatible dropout for Sofia Gómez Villafane.

Perhaps most interestingly though, the new groupset also appeared on what seems to be a new Trek Checkpoint that Russell Finsterwald will race. 

New Trek Checkpoint

The new bike features re-profiled tubes throughout, fully integrated cable routing, and what appears to be a new one-piece bar stem. Visually, it is similar to the new Domane released two years ago and also seems to adopt the updated Isospeed as first featured in that new Domane. 

Unless our eyes are deceiving us, it seems SRAM also has some new Zipp Firecrests in the works. We know even less about these but they do seem much wider and also feature the same new white decals we spotted on Valteri Bottas’ new Canyon, as covered in this week’s Performance Process newsletter. Could Zipp really be going wider than the 25 mm internals currently seen on some of their wheels? Time will tell but it would explain why a number of SRAM-sponsored pros are now on tyres that are 50 mm or even wider.

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