The talk of SRAM getting into the e-MTB game started in 2019 to compete with the likes of Bosch, Shimano, and Fazua, who are deeply involved in producing some of the best e-MTB motors. Since then, there have been sporadic sightings of heavily disguised test units at e-EDR events like Tweedlove in 2022, but last week's Eurobike show was the first time that a SRAM prototype has seemingly been on public display. SRAM has a history of having pro riders test products either in plain sight or cleverly disguised for years, so maybe it's a similar situation here?
While they’re late to the game with other competitors on their second and third iterations, SRAM is a disruptive brand who have introduced plenty of game-changing tech like 1x drivetrain systems and wireless gearing, so it will be interesting to see what they bring to the e-table.
When I asked the guys on the SRAM stand about the mysterious motor on the GasGas bike, with a wry smile they could neither confirm nor deny this was a new product from them.
The bike in question was a prototype e-EDR race bike from GasGas, and considering that SRAM is a co-sponsor of the team, it would make sense for them to be the first team to use the new tech.
So, what do we know already?
As there has been no official info released, this is all pure conjecture. However, we can piece together several bits of information we already have to paint a clearer picture of what looks to be in the pipeline.
Patent applications can often be a great place to see what new technology brands are working on, although they can also throw up a few red herrings too, as many ideas don't get past the blueprint phase. We featured some of these in our article 'Is SRAM working on a new e-MTB motor' back in December. The details outlined in the patent don't actually appear to have much in common with the unit fitted to the GasGas bike, which looks like a more standard-fitting motor unit and frame-fitting battery, whereas the patent is for a combined motor and battery setup. The combined battery and motor patent would lower the center of gravity, as talked about in the patent. Still, it would also be difficult to integrate into various frame layouts, which would explain the change to a more standard-looking setup at Eurobike.
Details have been scarce since the news that SRAM rumored to have taken over Amprio, but it's this acquisition that may give us more clues about the functions of the new unit. Again, this is purely speculation, but Amprio’s current motor, the RMAG, delivers 75-90Nm of torque, weighs 2.85kg, and has several battery options up to 710Wh. Those numbers put it in the full-power e-bike category alongside the Bosch Performance Line CX and Shimano EP8, and could be the basis for a new platform. To compete at the highest level, the unit must at least match the best offerings, so SRAM has potentially used the RMAG as a starting point and developed the motor further.
What we saw at Eurobike
It is hard to glean any details purely by looking at the bike on display, but one detail we did notice was the smaller-than-usual frame mounting bolts. Normally, an M6 bolt steel bolt is used, but the unbadged motor looked to have M4 or M5, which would be an easy way to save a few grams on the overall weight. It looked slightly smaller than similar units too, which could make it easier for brands to integrate it into frame designs and potentially use shorter chainstays.
It would be safe to assume that any new platform would use a variant of SRAM's already well established AXS wireless shifting technology. In fact, the bike in question had a T-Type AXS left-hand lever that I presume is to operate the motor, there was also some form of display integrated into the top tube, but this had been covered up. SRAM already has a slick app for AXS gears and Flight Attendant, so we expect there to be a variant of this to work for riders to fine-tune the engine and battery.
Another potentially interesting feature is the auto-shifting e-MTB drivetrain that SRAM has already patented. While it's not the first to do this, as Shimano have their own Auto Shift function, but combined with the latest T-Type Transmission's solid shifting under load, auto shifting would make a lot of sense as the extra torque of an e-MTB motor can make smooth gear shifts difficult, and it would reduce the chances of fluffed gear changes and broken chains.
SRAM’s auto shift patent relies on several sensors and accelerometers, just like the RockShox Flight Attendant suspension, so could we see a fully automated suspension, gearing and e-MTB bike? A fully automated bike might scare some, but could be perfect for those with less mechanical leanings, or those who just want to ride and let the bike take care of itself. There has definitely been an increase in automated gears and suspension lately so it will be interesting to see how far they can take this.
Given the amount of possible integrations and features, it's no surprise a SRAM motor release has taken a while, and presumably they are testing the system to the max prior to releasing any further info. Whatever SRAM is working on, it's sure to be a fresh take on what an e-MTB can be, and we can't wait to see what that looks like.