Shimano head off-piste with Ultegra RX800

The winningest road cycling component manufacturer may have a museum of trophies but this …

The winningest road cycling component manufacturer may have a museum of trophies but this matters little when you’re out in the wild, exploring new terrain on equipment better suited to the bitumen than gravel. The Ultegra R800 clutch-mechanism rear derailleur is the final piece Shimano has missed in the adventure market. Until now.

Gravel riding, adventure cycling or even groading (a term we hadn’t come across until recently), it matters little what you name it, the equipment required to tackle an off-road ride with a drop bar bicycle remains more or less the same. Tubeless tyres are essential and the wider you go, the deeper down the rabbit hole one can explore.

Disc brakes are a must and almost standard these days. Even the most hardened cyclocross riders have made the switch to discs. Then you need to consider appropriate gearing for tackling double-digit gradients on surfaces that provide little in the way of traction. Seated climbing becomes your friend while descents take on an entirely new meaning.

Some riders prefer to keep the traditional gearing alive with a double chainring configuration while others have ditched the large and small rings in favour of something in between. Paired with a wide-range cassette, gravel bikes have become an entirely fresh bread of ‘road bikes’. Shimano, until now, has lacked just one piece of the puzzle to make it’s road range truly adventure ready – the clutch rear derailleur. Until now.

Shimano take hold

A standard feature in the mountain bike scene, the clutch rear derailleur has one primary function; to keep your chain from slapping about when the road turns to dirt and the terrain becomes unforgiving. The Ultegra RX derailleur will be available in both mechanical and Di2 versions (RX800/RX805) and while holding onto all of Ultegra’s renowned shifting performance, will now have the added benefit of what Shimano has dubbed Shadow RD+ technology.

In similar fashion to its line-up of MTB offerings, the on/off switch provides its user with a firm hold on the drivetrain to reduce derailleur arm movement and reduce ‘chain chatter’. Compatible with road dual levers (mechanical or Di2) the RX series can also handle 34T cassettes with CX and compact chainring combinations of 36-46T and 34-50T.

Why has Shimano released a standalone derailleur and not a complete groupset? Well, for many of us, we’ve already got a suitable machine with all the appropriate bits hanging off it, expect for one upgrade…

Available from mid June, adventure enthusiasts can also expect to see a fresh pair of appropriately specc’ed disc, tubeless and thru-axle ready aluminium hoops.

Shimano RX800 pricing

Shimano RX800 mechanical derailleur: $199 (approx)
Shimano RX805 Di2 derailleur: $489 (approx)

Shimano WH-RS370-TL wheelset (28-33c tyres): $399 (1,900g pair, claimed)

Product is expected to be available from mid-June 2018 onwards.