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Shimano Answers Questions on Gravel Bikes & GRX Components | AASQ #71

We Know, There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise.

Meet Nick Legan, Shimano Road Brand Manager

Before being hired as the new Shimano Road Brand Manager, Nick Legan literally wrote the book on Gravel Cycling. Prior to that, his resume includes seven years as a professional mechanic on the pro tour, Technical Editor for VeloNews, and then a turn at the Gear & Road Review Editor for Adventure Cyclist. That is to say that Nick knows his stuff, which makes him a perfect liaison between us and members of Shimano’s Product development team including Dave Lawrence, Chris Jacobson, and Jessie Gascon.

Shimano’s Commitment to Gravel Cycling

Shimano established itself as the gravel category leader with Shimano GRX (the world’s first dedicated gravel, cyclocross and adventure group), our RX800 gravel shoes, and PRO’s Discover line of bags and cockpit components. So it’s an area where we’ve spent a lot of time researching, testing, and developing product for riders like you.

Addressing Questions and Feedback

First of all, as you might expect, we can’t comment on future product, rumors, or product in development. One common question we received is why we don’t have mechanical shifting, inter-category compatibility; for instance, road shifters with mountain bike derailleurs. Just like you we love to tinker. But as the leading bicycle component manufacturer in the world, we have shifting performance standards that have to be met before we release products to the public. While it would be fun to have a drop bar bike with mountain bike gearing or vice versa, we have to design components that function well 100% of the time. As many of you have seen, Di2 can bridge the gap between our mountain, road, and gravel worlds. That said, we’ll never make something intentionally incompatible if there’s no technical reason to forbid it. We want to maximize that intercompatibility whenever it meets our internal performance standards. So with those comments made, we’ve made every effort to fully answer your other burning questions! Happy trails.

An Introduction to GRX Group

Question from Larry: When designing the GRX group, what specific features were needed to make it “gravel?” Just gearing options? Is it more durable? Is there any reason why you couldn’t use it on any drop bar bike?

Shimano’s Response: Gravel means so many things to so many people. For GRX, it meant lower gears, better rough riding ergonomics, 1x and 2x gearing options, and covering a wide range of budgets. We felt strongly that gravel is its own category with its own demands. So we launched GRX with multiple price points so we can cover the widest range of riders. Depending on how and where you ride, GRX would make a fine option for any drop bar bike. When it comes to road racing, we still think that Dura-Ace and Ultegra are the clear choice. But a lot of people have purchased a second wheelset and use their gravel bikes on the road. Isn’t versatility wonderful?

GRX Group Preferences

Question from Morgan: What’s been more popular in terms of the new GRX group – 2x or 1x?

Shimano’s Response: It’s a hard one to answer because 1x vs. 2x is so use-specific. Generally 2x is slightly out-selling 1x. But our goal with GRX was to create versatility and options for riders. So it’s a win-win!

Details on Shimano GRX Rear Derailleurs

Question from Greg: Do both of the pulleys on the Shimano GRX 810 series RD have ball bearings or bushing bearings? Or is one ball bearing and the other a bushing? Also why are the top and bottom pulleys different sizes in the 810 RD?

Shimano’s Response: The RX810, RX815, RX812, and RX817 rear derailleurs have sealed bearings in the pulleys. The 2×11 derailleurs, RX810 and RX815, have larger 13T pulleys to increase the chain capacity required by large front chainring differences. The 1×11 RX812 and RX817 derailleurs have smaller 11T pulleys. All of the Shimano GRX derailleurs have upper and lower pulleys that are the same size.

Gearing Options

Question from Efrain: Will Shimano come out with a road or GRX mechanical derailleur that can run up to a 40 or 42 cassette in the back to do a mullet build without adapters? Especially since you can do this with Di2.

Shimano’s Response: Both our Shimano GRX RX812 mechanical and RX817 Di2 rear derailleurs can run up to an 11-42T cassette. So you’re covered!

12-Speed Mechanical/Hydro Brifters for 1x 12-Speed Gravel

Question from John: Since Shimano doesn’t make a 12-speed XT/XTR Di2 rear derailleur, when can we get 12-speed mechanical/hydro brifters for 1x 12-speed gravel? Did I mention that mechanical 12-speed 10-45T with Hyperglide+ is fantastic?

Shimano’s Response: John, so glad you’re enjoying Hyperglide+ and our 10-45 cassette. As for future product, please see our intro note above.

Lower Gearing Options

Question from Noah: GRX is a great groupset, but the gearing remains pretty aspirational – a 31 front chainring with a 34 rear cog is still not enough for many of us. Is it possible for Shimano to design and build a rear derailleur that can handle a wide-range double chainring setup with an 11-40 or 11-42 cassette? And is it possible to use the existing GRX double system to do that? Thanks!

Shimano’s Response: Thanks for the question. We had dozens of them regarding gearing. You’re not alone in requesting lower gears. The one constant is that no one in the gravel/adventure cycling world is looking for harder gears. Shimano GRX was our first foray into the gravel world. In its first generation, it offers the widest range with the lowest gear Shimano has ever produced for drop bar bikes. Your best bet from our current Shimano GRX lineup would be our 2×10 option. With it you can run a 46/30 crank with a 10-speed 11-36 cassette. Please rest assured that we hear you, you’re not alone, and the pursuit of lower gears is ongoing.

The Return of Triple Cranksets?

Question from Jason: I’ve always felt triple cranksets offer the best of all worlds–gear range, minimized chain deflection, smooth gear ratio transition between rings, etc. Do you ever see a triple returning to high-end groupsets like Ultegra or XTR?

Shimano’s Response: A triple can offer an exceptionally wide gear range. But the priorities of the market have changed in recent years and we don’t expect to see the return of the triple. Riders are routinely asking for simpler, more user-friendly drivetrain options. Fewer chainrings also increase tire clearance and limit the detrimental effects of cross-chaining.

Compatibility of GRX 812 Rear Derailleur with Double Front Chainring

Question from Tyler: Can I use the GRX 812 (1 x) rear derailleur with the double (2x) front chainring? If not, why not?

Shimano’s Response: It’s a little bit complicated. It comes down to rear derailleur capacity. For a 1x drivetrain, the capacity is the difference between the largest cog and the smallest cog (42-11 = 31). For a 2x drivetrain system, the…

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