Sram X.9 Drivetrain

X.9 Shifter

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The Sram X.9 shifter has evolved a good bit during the time it’s been around. The 2008 X.9 shifter is very similar to the more expensive X.0 shifter but lacks a few features (like an adjustable shift lever) of the bigger brother.

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The X.9 shifter can be mounted in a plethora of ways. It has two different mounting holes for the shifter to attach to which gives even more adjustability for installation and shifter placement. If you’re running Avid brake levers the Avid Match Maker can be used to create a cleaner installation by reducing the amount of things on your bar.

Avid Match Maker detail (click to enlarge)

Ergonomically the shifter fells good and can be adjusted to suit just about every taste. The X.9 shifter lacks the adjustably that the X.0 gives for the main shift lever as well as a few other benefits that make the X.0 smoother.

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Sram touts the shifter as a 1:1 and labels Shimano as 2:1 but this is an oversimplified ratio that is aimed to perhaps overexpose their differences. This is a ratio between the amount of cable the shifter needs to move the derailleur. The real numbers are closer to 1.1:1 for Sram and 1.7:1 for Shimano, not quite as big of a difference as advertised. So what does this mean for you?

  • The good – I’ve found that it means a little bit easier setup/maintenance for the mechanic and less influence on the rear derailleur since the it takes more cable to effectively move the derailleur. Sram drivetrains seem to be less prone to need adjustments after they’re set up in my experience.
  • The bad – Sram will have longer shifting as the shifter has to pull more cable to index the derailleur. When you shift, you have to release/pull more cable for a given shift to occur.
  • The indifferent – In the bigger scheme of things, what is really important is the proper indexing. This means that while a Shimano might pull less cable for a given shift than Sram does to correctly shift a gear, the system needs to properly be able to define where the derailleur should be. Derailleurs aren’t held in a given position by the cable itself, but through a system with gears and detents.

The Guts

To change the shifter cable, you have to open the top of the shifter with the silver knob that unscrews. Often people make the mistake of trying to remove other screws and allen bolts on the underside only to have the shifter come apart unnecessarily. Once you have the top off, it’s easy to see where the cable goes in and how to change it out.

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The rear shifter is a bit more arduous as you have to thread the shifter cable through a small hole in a plastic wheel that rotates.

X.9 rear derailleur detail (click to enlarge)

X.9 front derailleur detail (click to enlarge)

The shifter cable changing system could be improved, as it’s not the easiest to get the cable in/out of the system. I’d recommend you take the shifter pod off of the bike to change the shifter cable. Changing the cable is easy once you know what to do but it is a bit more unnerving for most people seeing the guts of the shifter and all the springs exposed. Care needs to be taken if you’re performing this task for the first time.

Shift Feel

Shifting with the X.9 drivetrain is hard to describe in words. The shifting is good but it feels more clicky than a Shimano setup does in terms of engagement. More pressure is needed to shift the system in my opinion and it has a clicky feel to it. It doesn’t feel as smooth overall but it does offer a more pronounced shift which can be attributed to the stiffer spring in the derailleur.

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