Planned, specific and considered, Shimano today announced its first lineup of dedicated gravel groupsets. Dubbed GRX, this all-new component family is designed to perfectly match your ride, across any terrain and distance. Cyclist shifts to the dirt for a first-look at this fresh category of drivetrain componentry.
A dedicated Shimano gravel groupset was always on the cards and while we were teased with a seemingly random Ultegra RX rear derailleur a little over 12 months ago, for most, it was a band-aid solution ahead of bigger demands. Shimano GRX “Gravel Adventure” delivers on the desires of the gravel, adventure, all-road and commuter riders – not to mention manufacturers – and comes to the party with a suite of components designed to mix and match for your ‘perfect’ ride.
From the hardcore Race to the Rock riders through to the weekend Gravel Grit‘er (stay tuned for 2019 Gravel Grit dates) or those looking for a cleaner and simpler all-road drivetrain, GRX has something to suit most. From a top-tier 11-speed RX810 series offering 1x and 2x systems through to 11-speed RX600 1x and 2x and 10-speed RX400 2x only line up, the options are more than substantial. Better still, the GRX family is attainable for more than just the true ‘gravelleurers’ and comes at a price the majority will swallow. And just in case you thought the above was a typo, GRX remains 11-speed at the top-end. Our guess is we’ll need to wait for Dura-Ace to gain an extra cog before the technology trickles down the pyramid.
In keeping with the Shimano trend, the top-level RX800 series will be available in Di2 electronic and mechanical shifting versions, both options sharing the same crankset, chain, cassette and brake callipers. While surface level aesthetics may look on par to the regular road components there are subtle and significant adjustments stretching across the GRX family that really do set it apart from simply being a rebadged road system.
The only similarity found is cassettes and chains where Shimano allows the rider to chose between a wide-range mountain bike cassette – like many already use on 1x systems – or tighter spread road cassettes, for those you are running a 2x crankset. With specific 1x and 2x cranksets along with a host of cassette options, now more than ever, gravel gearing can be fully optimised to your style, terrain, distance and preferences. For now, we’ll save you the chatter of a full gearing breakdown and inside let the graph below do the talking.
Riding road bikes across gravel roads isn’t a new thing but gravel bikes, adventure riding, bike packing, flash packing, these are the buzz words that have continued to trickle into the bike manufacturers vocabulary and marketing material over the last few years. In 2019, specifying the details of a gravel bike is far from a cookie-cutter operation and unsurprisingly, Shimano has announced a family of components in order to accomodate the varying needs of riders. Even for those with one gravel/adventure/commuter bike, there’s always the possibility of switching up the drivetrain to suit a particular trip or ride and with GRX, Shimano hopes to have designed enough components to satisfy that potential desire.
A quick look at the spreadsheet below goes some way into displaying the multitude of combinations available to GRX users and while GX600 and GX400 fills the gaps, Shimano says you’ll more likely find this line up across the OEM (new bike) market, with GX800 series being the most likely purchase for after market buyers.
Dedicated to gravel
There’s always a method and strong consideration behind any of Shimano’s new products and while GRX is a true gravel offering, there are tried and tested details which make the family far from a ‘Gen 1’ release. Starting at the centre with the crankset, chainrings are given the Dynamic Chain Engagement tooth profile like we’ve seen across the MTB range while the crank arms and matching front derailleur (must be used together) are stepped 2.5mm out from the usual placement to allow greater tyre clearance – because 40mm rubber on gravel bikes is a must is many situations.
Shifting towards the rear of the bike and the rear derailleur has a similar flavour to what we saw 12 months ago with the launch of Ultegra RX – Shimano’s seemingly soft entry into the gravel market. Both mechanical and Di2 GRX derailleurs feature the Shadow RD+ chain stabilisation system to minimise chain noise and more importantly, keep the chain slap to a minimum and thus where you need it – on the chainring and cassette. Akin to all Shimano clutch systems, a simple lever switches the derailleur from off-piste mode to a lighter action to suit smoother terrain. Worth mentioning is both 11-speed and 10-speed rear derailleurs are compatible with standard Dual Control Levers, in case you wish to maintain your current road shaped levers.
Speaking of levers, this is where things get particular interesting with a fully revamped hood shape, ribbed hood texture, lever shape, anti-slip coating and braking pivot. The GRX series of levers will undoubtedly be the first thing riders will notice when jumping onto the new groupset with greater control and comfort the key points of difference when the road gets rough. Again, in similar style to the gearing combinations, there is a spread of lever options depending on your choice of mechanical or Di2 operations along with the option to include one or two brake levers bolted to the tops of the bars – like some professionals use at races like Paris-Roubaix.
Braking receives little change with ICE Technology rotors and cooling fin pads providing reliable braking bolstered by a better feel at the lever end. Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete offering without at least one wheelset and the RX570 comes in 700c and 650b options for thru-axle only, no Boost.
Shimano GRX series pricing
In comparison to Ultegra-level components like R8020 and R8070, the RX800 series should be similarly priced. So, from our calculations you should find a Trek Checkpoint SL6, Focus Mares 9.8 or Specialized Diverge Comp type ensemble to sit around the $4,500 mark. Going down the specification a little further, RX600 and RX400-equipped bikes will most likely sit around the $3,000 for something like a Merida Silex 6000 and sub-$2,000 for a Giant Toughroad SLR GX mark respectively. Of course, frame materials and remaining bits and bobs will play a role in the final price however, it’s clear GRX will find itself across the top-end gravel and CX bikes through to the entry level gravel and all-road commuter ranges.
As mentioned above, the most commonly found aftermarket GRX member will be the RX810 and RX815 series of components. Rough pricing can be found below.
1x 11 – Mechanical from $1,999, Di2 electronic from $2,299
2x 11 –Mechanical from $2,099, Di2 electronic from $2,649
Note: Di2 spec excludes wires, battery and junctions. Pricing subject to change. Head to bike.shimano.com/en-au for full details.
Before you go rushing out to your local LBS, it’s worth taking your time to consider your gearing and component needs. Once you’ve got that bit sorted, you’ll need to sit tight until Jul/Aug for mechanical specifications and Sep/Oct for Di2.
Expect Cyclist to hit the gravel aboard the GRX groupset over the coming months. Subscribe today and never miss an issue.