Shimano GRX — dream gravel groupset or too little, too late?

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<img src="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&resize=620,413" srcset="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=45&amp;resize=1200,799 1200w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=960,639 960w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=720,479 720w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=576,383 576w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=360,239 360w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/shimano-grx-rear-derailleur-be2e582.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=180,119 180w, " sizes="(max-width: 620px) 100vw, 620px" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-377164 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail" alt="Gravel bike rear derailleur" title="Shimano GRX rear derailleur" /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400">The news that <a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/tags/shimano/">Shimano</a> has finally embraced 1x gearing wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it does raise valid questions about what took the brand so long. It also leads to inevitable comparisons with </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/wireless-shifting-for-the-masses-sram-force-etap-axs-is-here/"><span style="font-weight: 400">SRAM’s latest and greatest AXS components</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">. </span></p>
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<li style="font-weight: 400"><strong><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/shimano-grx/">Shimano GRX is here: gravel-specific and 1x components for Ultegra, 105 and Tiagra</a></strong></li>
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<p><span style="font-weight: 400"><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/tags/sram/">SRAM</a> can justifiably claim credit for stoking the fires of 1x. Back in 2012 when many mountain bikers were still riding triples, </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/sram-xx1-prototype-spotted-this-one-goes-to-11/"><span style="font-weight: 400">the brand went all-in and launched XX1</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">, the first dedicated 1x groupset.</span></p>
<p><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/sram-cx1-1×11-cyclocross-drivetrain-first-look/"><span style="font-weight: 400">The CX1 cyclocross groupset appeared a couple of years later</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> and </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/features/sram-1x-road-force-1-and-rival-1-groupsets-first-ride-video/"><span style="font-weight: 400">was soon followed by Force 1 and Rival road components</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">SRAM has refreshed its road offering again this year with its </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/reviews/components/groupsets/groupset-road/sram-12-speed-red-etap-axs-hrd-review/"><span style="font-weight: 400">Red</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> and </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/wireless-shifting-for-the-masses-sram-force-etap-axs-is-here/"><span style="font-weight: 400">Force eTap AXS</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">, and while Shimano has continued to produce some stunning groupsets, including the likes of </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/reviews/components/groupsets/groupset-road/shimano-dura-ace-r9100-review/"><span style="font-weight: 400">Dura-Ace R9100</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">, </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/reviews/components/groupsets/groupset-road/shimano-ultegra-r8000-groupset-review/"><span style="font-weight: 400">Ultegra R8000</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> and </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/shimano-105-r7000-groupset-everything-you-need-to-know/"><span style="font-weight: 400">105 R7000</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400">, the Japanese brand has largely focused on ever-improving shifting and braking performance rather than up-ending its approach to gearing. </span></p>
<h2><span style="font-weight: 400">Shimano GRX vs. SRAM AXS</span></h2>
<div class="img-container img-container–landscape-thumbnail"><img src="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=620,413&amp;background=white" srcset="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1880,1252&amp;background=white 1880w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1456,969&amp;background=white 1456w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1112,740&amp;background=white 1112w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=940,626&amp;background=white 940w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=728,484&amp;background=white 728w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=556,370&amp;background=white 556w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=355,236&amp;background=white 355w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=340,226&amp;background=white 340w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-axs-0fff549.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=320,213&amp;background=white 320w, " sizes="(min-width: 992px) 940px, (min-width: 768px) 728px, (min-width: 576px) 556px, calc(100vw – 20px)" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-377166 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail img-container__image" alt="Hands gripping SRAM Force road shifters on bike" title="SRAM Force eTap AXS shifter" data-source-name="SRAM"></div>
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<figcaption class="wp-caption-text"><span class="caption-copy"><i class="icon-arrow icon-camera-circle"></i> SRAM justifiably stole headlines with the launch of its 12-speed Force eTap AXS groupset</span></figcaption><span class="im-image-caption"> <i>SRAM</i></span>
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<p><span style="font-weight: 400">In some ways, GRX is a huge leap forward, but it remains to be seen if it’s enough to sway <a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/cycling-discipline/gravel/">gravel</a> and adventure riders who might be tempted away from their existing SRAM groupsets, or by the shiny newness of SRAM eTap AXS .</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">Where SRAM has steamed ahead with 1×12 gearing, GRX components don’t go beyond 11-speed. Riders hoping for a 12-speed drop-bar-friendly setup using </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/features/why-shimano-decided-to-create-a-new-freehub-standard/"><span style="font-weight: 400">the Micro Spline freehub,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> introduced with </span><a href="https://www.bikeradar.com/news/shimano-xtr-m9100-everything-you-need-to-know/"><span style="font-weight: 400">Shimano XTR M9100,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> will be disappointed and, officially, there’s no 1x option for the more affordable 10-speed components.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">The comparison with SRAM isn’t totally straightforward. AXS offers an extra cog compared to GRX, and the lowest gear ratio currently on offer for 1x ‘road’ setups is a 36/33t, which isn’t as low as the 40/42t that’s achievable with Shimano. </span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">However, AXS components are all interchangeable with one another, so once they’re available separately, you’ll be able to match an Eagle AXS rear derailleur to road shifters and run that monstrous 10-50t mountain bike cassette.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">You also have the option of running mountain bike cranks to get a smaller ring up front, or there are various 11-speed possibilities (Force 1 etc.). So, while SRAM doesn’t have a dedicated gravel groupset, the options are there.</span></p>
<div class="img-container img-container–landscape-thumbnail"><img src="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=620,413&amp;background=white" srcset="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1880,1252&amp;background=white 1880w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1456,969&amp;background=white 1456w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1112,740&amp;background=white 1112w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=940,626&amp;background=white 940w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=728,484&amp;background=white 728w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=556,370&amp;background=white 556w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=355,236&amp;background=white 355w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=340,226&amp;background=white 340w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/sram-force-etap-acs-drivetrain-fbaea1c.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=320,213&amp;background=white 320w, " sizes="(min-width: 992px) 940px, (min-width: 768px) 728px, (min-width: 576px) 556px, calc(100vw – 20px)" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-377167 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail img-container__image" alt="Driveside of SRAM Force eTap AXS on white bike" title="SRAM Force eTap AXS drivetrain" data-source-name="SRAM"></div>
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<figcaption class="wp-caption-text"><span class="caption-copy"><i class="icon-arrow icon-camera-circle"></i> While the 12-speed cassette options haven’t quite caught up yet, there are lots of ways to achieve your gearing goals with SRAM’s current range</span></figcaption><span class="im-image-caption"> <i>SRAM</i></span>
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<p><span style="font-weight: 400">Nevertheless, GRX will make a lot of Shimano fans very happy because it brings proper gravel-friendly gearing at a range of groupset levels and includes clutch-equipped rear-derailleurs, where previously Ultegra RX was the sole option. </span></p>
<h2><span style="font-weight: 400">Do riders really want 1x on their road and gravel bikes?</span></h2>
<div class="img-container img-container–landscape-thumbnail"><img src="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=620,413&amp;background=white" srcset="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1880,1252&amp;background=white 1880w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1456,969&amp;background=white 1456w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1112,740&amp;background=white 1112w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=940,626&amp;background=white 940w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=728,484&amp;background=white 728w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=556,370&amp;background=white 556w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=355,236&amp;background=white 355w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=340,226&amp;background=white 340w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/grx-2x-590df50.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=320,213&amp;background=white 320w, " sizes="(min-width: 992px) 940px, (min-width: 768px) 728px, (min-width: 576px) 556px, calc(100vw – 20px)" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-377169 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail img-container__image" alt="Driveside of gravel bike with 2x gearing" title="Shimano GRX 2x gearing" data-source-name="Shimano"></div>
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<figcaption class="wp-caption-text"><span class="caption-copy"><i class="icon-arrow icon-camera-circle"></i> Despite the obvious appeal of a simple 1x setup, 2x still has its place</span></figcaption><span class="im-image-caption"> <i>Shimano</i></span>
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<p><span style="font-weight: 400">Attitudes to 1x have certainly evolved. It’s an easy sell for mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes, where chain retention is of paramount importance and closely spaced gears are deemed less critical. </span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">For mixed riding, where you might spend prolonged periods on tarmac, there’s still a case to be made for having two chainrings because it lets you run tighter cassette ratios with smaller jumps between gears without sacrificing range. </span></p>
<h2><span style="font-weight: 400">Is Shimano GRX too late?</span></h2>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">If you’ve just bought a gravel bike, then yes, GRX is too late. This doesn’t change the fact that it’s hugely welcome news. As long as component makers don’t completely abandon their existing product lines — and Shimano never does — more choice has to be a good thing. </span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">GRX offers some intriguing features for gravel riders, such as those in-line hydraulic brakes, and it makes useful gearing more attainable. If you’re shopping for a 2020 bike you’ll have a greater range of options than before and I can’t find any reason to complain about that. </span></p>
<h2><span style="font-weight: 400">The future — Shimano GRX 12-speed? Dura-Ace R9200?</span></h2>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">Shimano has yet to launch a 12-speed groupset for drop-bar bikes, but with a new Dura-Ace groupset more than likely to appear next year — Shimano is pretty consistent with its product life-cycles — that could easily change.</span></p>
<div class="img-container img-container–landscape-thumbnail"><img src="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=620,413&amp;background=white" srcset="https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1880,1252&amp;background=white 1880w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1456,969&amp;background=white 1456w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=1112,740&amp;background=white 1112w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=940,626&amp;background=white 940w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=728,484&amp;background=white 728w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=556,370&amp;background=white 556w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=355,236&amp;background=white 355w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=340,226&amp;background=white 340w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/volatile/sites/21/2019/05/dura-ace-r9100-cranks-1-897eaec.jpg?quality=90&amp;lb=320,213&amp;background=white 320w, " sizes="(min-width: 992px) 940px, (min-width: 768px) 728px, (min-width: 576px) 556px, calc(100vw – 20px)" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-377171 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail img-container__image" alt="Close-up of Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 cranks on Specialized Venge bike" title="Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 cranks" data-source-name="Matthew Allen / Immediate Media"></div>
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<figcaption class="wp-caption-text"><span class="caption-copy"><i class="icon-arrow icon-camera-circle"></i> Dura-Ace is likely to get an update in 2020 and it seems highly likely it’ll be 12-speed</span></figcaption><span class="im-image-caption"> <i>Matthew Allen / Immediate Media</i></span>
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<p><span style="font-weight: 400">If Dura-Ace R9200 (or whatever Shimano calls it) has 12-cogs then it seems inevitable that GRX 12-speed components will ultimately appear too, although we might have to wait for the next generation of Ultegra, as Dura-Ace has historically been kept as the road-racing groupset, with few concessions to other riding niches. </span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400">Whatever happens, it’s a good time to be a bike components geek, long may that continue. Will your next bike be wearing Shimano GRX? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. </span></p>
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