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Shimano launches GRX gravel groupset

7 May 2019
Verdict:

Shimano says GRX is the first component series on the market designed specifically for gravel riding

Thanks to Shimano’s conservative attitude towards new trends and its penchant for clinically thorough research, development and testing phases, major innovations from the Japanese components brand are few and far between.

This means that the Shimano GRX gravel groupset release, a versatile groupset that caters specifically for gravel and adventure riding, can be seen as an affirmation that gravel riding as a trend has shifted into the canon of conventional cycling.

GRX has a mix-and-match theme to mirror to the diverse requirements of riding gravel - there are options for 1x and 2x chainsets, 10- or 11-speed cassettes, mechanical or electronic transmissions, dropper post integration and expansive gear ratio combinations, plus supplemental and specialist components.

The cranksets blend features of Shimano’s MTB and road offerings and use a +2.5mm chainline to increase tyre and frame clearance. The 1x option has a proprietary ‘Dynamic Chain Engagement’ tooth profile to ensure chain retention over rough ground while the 2x 48-31 crankset has a 17-tooth gap to create wide gear ratios.

The front derailleurs aren’t too dissimilar to Shimano’s pure road-going designs but echo the cranksets’ +2.5mm outbound clearance so wide tyres shouldn’t be an issue. As expected, the technology trialled for gravel in Shimano’s Ultegra RX rear derailleur is exhibited in the GRX model, which uses a clutch in an attempt to minimise chain slap and boost retention, as well as Shimano’s MTB Shadow+ form factor.

Some stark differences to Shimano’s previous designs are found in the GRX levers. The ergonomics of the lever blades are markedly different - they are more angular than Shimano’s typical road models and use an anti-slip textured finish to promote a more secure feel when riding in muddy and wet conditions.

In the top-line GRX levers Shimano borrows its ‘Servo Wave’ technology from its MTB range, which the brand says ‘provides a stronger braking feeling with greater modulation options for more aggressive riding.’

Further adding to the versatility of the group, GRX offers inline sub-brake levers that are attached to the main hydraulic line and can be mounted in the centre of the handlebar for braking options when riding on the tops.

Rounding out the new ensemble is a GRX wheelset, available in both 700c and 650b sizes. The rims sport a 21.6mm inner width that promises to be well suited to gravel tyre sizes.

Availability looks set to be from July in the UK, with Di2 options available from August. Look out for a full review as soon as we are able to put some miles into the groupset.

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