From cranks and derailleurs to brakes and wheelsets, Shimano’s new GRX goes all in on gravel.
Longer miles on safer and more adventurous roads, gravel cycling holds appeal for roadies and mountain bikers alike. And up until now, frame builders have led the charge with purpose-built bicycles that attempt to make riding on gravel faster and more fun.
But today, Shimano unveiled the “world’s first dedicated gravel component series.” Dubbed GRX, the setup provides a dialed, in-line component groupset to take on the typical a la carte builds widely employed to outfit gravel frames.
And while the tech looks to us like a solid setup for the demands of off-road adventures, it also suggests an evolution of the sport itself. Once an offshoot of adventure touring and bikepacking, gravel riding now has its own groupset to complement a growing fleet of “grinder” frames.
Shimano GRX: Gravel Groupset
In a nutshell, the new GRX series comprises a suite of specific modifications many gravel enthusiasts previously had to make themselves to each individual component.
For example, the GRX drivetrain centers around an 11-speed drivetrain, available as 1x and 2x setups. Gearing for the 2x represents the largest delta between big and small chainrings: 48-31 with Shimano’s existing 11-34 cassette. The idea is that this will satisfy mashers on long flats while also giving them a fighting shot at brutal or sloppy climbs.
Plus, the drivetrain, like the rest of the GRX series, comes in stepped prices and performance levels. So riders can opt for mechanical shifting in all series or Di2 in the highest 800 series. Shimano also offers an entry-point 2×10 drivetrain.
Front derailleurs sport a new outboard +2.5mm chainline design to provide more tire, debris, and frame clearance. Because of this, GRX front derailleurs will only work with Shimano’s GRX cranks. The rear derailleur, meanwhile, is equipped with the brand’s RD+ technology to prevent chainslap on washboard terrain.
Shimano didn’t stop at the drivetrain, however. New GRX disc brake levers have a higher axis (by 18 mm) to provide better braking while riding on the hoods. Similarly, Shimano added an antislip surface to the levers for better purchase when braking in muddy, wet conditions.
GRX also adds more braking options with hydraulic sub-brake levers mounted to the top of the bars. Riders with a 1x setup can even route a dropper cable into one of the GRX hydraulic disc brake levers.
Last but not least, the GRX series includes a gravel-tuned, thru-axle wheelset. Available in 700c and 650b, the rims sport a wider 21.6mm internal width to accept burlier tubeless setups.
Shimano GRX Pricing
What will all these goodies cost? Well, there’s so much mixing and matching within the individual components, it’s tough to say. For example, wheelsets run between $200 and $420, and top-speccing the drivetrain will cost well over $1,000.
But that’s probably not the point. The purpose of GRX is likely to provide OEMs a full gravel suite to equip on brand-new gravel builds. Shimano said GRX will become available on 2020 model year bikes, so we’ll keep an eye out for the first offerings.
In all, GRX signals a major affirmation of gravel riding as a distinct and increasingly popular discipline. It allows road riders to move away from dangerous, high-traffic roads. And it gives mountain bikers, cross riders, and bikepackers an adventurous option for long-distance riding.