Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

Our discovery of Rotor’s hydraulic shifting patents turned out to be well timed, teeing up the group’s public debut nicely. Turns out, our technical breakdown of the groups functioning was nearly spot on, so we’ll recap:

By using a completely hydraulic system from the shift lever all the way to the derailleurs and putting the ratcheting mechanism on the derailleurs, Rotor was able to eliminate any slack from the line that could lead to loose shifting. The side benefits of such a system included lighter weight and plenty of functional improvements that simply can’t happen on a cable-driven or mechanical system.

The key to the system is precision and reliability. Hydraulics have been proven in everything from bicycles to airplanes to heavy industry, just not for bicycle shifting until now. Their motivation was to let customers looking at Rotor’s oval rings and lightweight alloy cranksets find an entire group with the same brand. Undoubtedly, it will also give them more opportunities to put the group on pro teams that may otherwise have to opt for SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo groups simply because of sponsorship programs dictating complete group use. And they hinted we might see some major teams on the group very soon. But that can’t be enough to justify the heavy time, energy and financial commitment the development of such a product can draw from a company. So, it needs create demand based on its merits. Of which, there are quite a few.

Check out the cutaway photos and tech details below, along with new carbon chainrings, and new 1x rings for road and mountain…

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The hoods are reasonably sized, but there’s plenty of room left inside, so Rotor’s considering offering a smaller hood grip option for those with petite mitts.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The hoods can remain small because they only need one traditional master cylinder for the brakes, shown here in dark black. Notice it’s pretty much all that’s filling the space in the hood.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The shifter’s cylinder, in silver, needs no expansion reservoir because it’s a closed system. So, the entire shifting lever assembly sits inside the brake lever.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The silver port at the top is the “bleed” port. Initial setup will require a bleed if you’re running them internally. Technically, they say it’s not a bleed because it’s a closed system, but the process will be similar to bleeding hydraulic brakes. So it’ll include an “installation” kit with Magura Royal Blood mineral oil, same as what’s used in the brakes. If you’re concerned about frequent service, they say you shouldn’t have to touch it again until you need to take the group off your bike…whether that’s one year, two or ten.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The brake levers have two pivot points, one for rim brakes on the top, and the other for disc brakes. Just behind the bleed port is the reach adjust screw.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The rear-facing port on the brake master cylinder is for the hose leading to the brake calipers. The one just in front of it pointing straight up is the bleed port.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

One of the biggest challenges was creating the stopping points. With brakes, the pads hit the rotors and stop the system. With derailleurs, there wasn’t the same physical stop, so they had to create the aforementioned indexed system that would provide a virtual stop. Adding to that challenge was that each virtual stop in one direction needs to be able to be pushed through to reverse the system and shift in the other direction.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

There are no limit screws on front derailleur because there’s a single positioning screw (visible through the inverted “U” on left image) to center it over the big chainring, which then automatically sets the upper and lower limits. The bleed port is the silver screw directly adjacent to the hydraulic line’s banjo.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The rear derailleur has a single bolt adjustment, too. It adjusts the position over the smallest cog, which then lines everything up. Initial setup is done on the big/small ring/cog combo. There is a second upper limit screw as a backup, in case the hanger gets bent and you need to prevent it from running into the spokes, but it’s not needed for set up and could removed if you want to save half a gram.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The lever is called the “Go To 11” switch. Flick it forward and it disengages the ratcheting mechanism and throws the derailleur to the smallest cog. This makes wheel changes much quicker, but it’s also a safety mechanism in case you damage the hydraulic lines. Supposing the hydraulics do fail, you can release it, re-engage it, then manually push the derailleur into whatever gear you want.

Speaking of hose damage, they say there’s only been one case of real world failures. And that was because the rider was stopped at a light and another rider slammed into him and his front wheel sliced the line into the cassette. Other than that, they’ve even seen one tester pinch the line between the stem and headset and the system still worked.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

The rear derailleur can be set to upshift (to an easier gear) up to four gears at a time, or as few as one. It’s user adjustable with a 3mm Allen key. They made this adjustable because in summer, it’s easy to feel how many shifts you’re making, but with big winter gloves, you lose that fine touch, so you can limit it to just one shift per push to reduce errors.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

To set the number of inboard shifts allowable per push, simply thread the silver bolt in or out. The number of rings visible tells you how many shifts it’s set for. There’s still individual “clicks” at the shifter lever, so you won’t have to shift through all two, three or four shifts, but you could.

After shifting the demo system, there was one interesting tactile sensation worth mentioning. The system effectively shifts like SRAM’s mechanical road groups, push it a little bit to go to a harder gear, push it further to shift to a harder gear (in the rear, front is opposite). As the lever is pushed past the limit for the outboard shift, it clicks to release the ratchet to execute that outboard shift, then quickly moves past the ratchet to bring it back to the original gear and then past the second click to shift inboard to the next easier gear. Pushing it slowly on a test stand felt a little odd, but we’ll reserve judgement until we can test it on a bike.

They’ve tested it from -18°C up to 40°C (0ºF to 104ºF) and seen no changed in performance. Moving beyond those extremes, the fluid volume can change, which will affect the feel of the shifting, but not the precision because it’s mechanical indexing is done behind the hydraulic fluid, directly at the derailleur, so fluid expansion or contraction has no impact on its accuracy.

Weights are TBA. These designs are close to final, but they’re not ready to claim final weights and pricing. They’re close, though. Dealer/distributor events and a press launch are planned for later this year with a retail launch in March 2016.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

You’ll have the option of rim or disc brakes, both made by Magura but branded to match the rest of the Uno group.

Rotor Uno hydraulic shifting road bike group tech details and photos

When it does ship, the complete group will include shifters, derailleurs, cassette, brakes and a KMC 11XL chain. The cassette, like the rest of the drivetrain parts, is made in Spain. It’s machined nearby Rotor’s own factory and uses steel cogs for the first nine speeds, then alloy for the largest two. They wouldn’t let us show you the backside, but the design allows for the alloy cogs to be removed and replaced, either because they wore faster or because you wanted larger sizes at the top of the cassette. The two different color tones on the the steel cogs are simply two different surface treatments they’re considering, but production units will appear uniform.

Cranks and chainrings will be sold separately, which lets you pick the sizes and ovality. Or even choose a 1x road or ‘cross set up…which they’ll be able to accommodate with their new QX1 single road chainring:

Rotor-QX1-road-1x-single-narrow-wide-chainring02

They’ve had QX1 rings for mountain bikes and cyclocross, and now they’re offering a narrow-wide version for road. It’s slightly more ovalized than their standard Q-rings, and only available in 110bcd.

Rotor Qrings Qarbon carbon fiber enhanced oval chainring

For double chainring setups, the new Qring Qarbon uses a thinner alloy big chainring with a 3K woven carbon fiber plate bonded to the outside.

 

Rotor Qrings Qarbon carbon fiber enhanced oval chainring Rotor Qrings Qarbon carbon fiber enhanced oval chainring

The inside of the chainring is all machined 7075-T6 alloy with ramps and pins for enhanced shifting. But the outer carbon plate makes it 20% stiffer for even better shift I g performance and less deflection under power. But it’s not too stiff, which they found could actually make shifting slightly worse, so it was about finding the right balance. They say this one hits the sweet spot.

It’s available in 110bcd only, and is shown here on their 3D+ CNC’d crank arms.

The design also saves a bit of weight, coming in 8% lighter than the standard alloy Qrings. Price is €199 compared to €145 for standard alloy big rings. The little rings are sold separately and remain unchanged.

Compatible with all of their cranksets and any others that use a 5-bolt 110bcd pattern. Available in November.

Rotor-Rex3-1x-single-chainring-option02

For mountain bikes, their Rex3 lineup (which is based on a 24mm spindle rather than their typical 30mm spindle) finally gains a 1x chainring option.

Rotor-Rex3-1x-single-chainring-option03

It uses a different spider than the others, but puts the ring in the right spot to maintain proper chainline.

RotorBike.com

44 COMMENTS

  1. Hydro rim brakes… Cool idea. Wish that tech was around 20 years ago. Wait a minute it was …

    Is there really a market for a hydro grouppo when electronic and wireless are here ?

  2. @ Anthony
    lighter, more reliable, no batteries, SUPER easy setup and adjustments….. why WOULD you go wireless? for the novelty?

  3. Well, I may be in the minority, but I’m welcoming these mechanical groupset improvements (hydro being a potential big improvement) as I’m not a fan of going electronic. Waiting for ride review…

  4. Rode a P5 to test the shifting after I installed a K-Edge. It had RT-8TT magura hydro rim brakes. They’re incredibly powerful. It was somewhat frightening on a 48 frame as someone 77″ tall with that much power.

  5. I very much like where this is heading. I want a mechanical bike, not an electronic bike. A well sorted hydraulic system will be very efficient and robust. i hope they eventually do something like SRAM’s WiFi gearing.

  6. Just glad to see some new players (along with FSA) in the group set market.. Taking on the big boys surely I mies they believe strongly in their product.. Looks good too!..

  7. Very cool. It would seem that if they can get the price reasonable enough, these would have a major advantage over cables because the performance wouldn’t fade as quickly, and less tuning needed. Also less effort to shift. It’s been a long time coming. Awesome stuff.

  8. I have a set of unused and never mounted Magura HS77 hydraulic road brakes in the original box from the 90’s. I wonder if this system I could finally use them with this system somehow.

  9. I like this, some competition for the three big brands is always welcome! Hopefully it won’t be too expensive. It definetly needs to be a bit cheaper than the electronic group sets on the market.

  10. Nice to see more players in the groupset market, and plus points to Rotor and Magura for introducing something very different from the norm.

    I’m especially curious about the “closed system” for the shifting hydraulics. Does that mean Rotor is confident there’s no threat of contamination from moisture or dirt in normal use?

    Nice to see they engineered a fail-safe mechanism in case the shifting system loses hydraulic pressure.

  11. Great stuff… This appears to be the group that I have been waiting on… Like others I hope the price is in line with the electronic groups…. Now the bike industry just needs to sort out all the disk brake standards, go back to threaded BB’s and I will be ready to place my order.

  12. Hydraulic shifting would seemed perfect for mountain bikes, where water and mud ingress might be a problem for cables and electronics.

  13. I see this being great for cross, touring and mountain biking. If your derailleur is full of grime, hydraulic can power through it easily. I’m guessing my bike with open ferrules will need to have cable ties holding these hoses in place? That’s not ideal but its the bike I own now(always will) that would benefit the most from this.

  14. Hydraulic shifting seems like a good alternative to fully-sealed cables. I hope there is a neat way to mount the hydraulic lines to standard cable stops.

  15. @Jim E – supposedly the shift hoses are only 3mm in diameter, so they will fit in the same places that Di2 and EPS wires are routed.
    And if internal routing is not possible, one can tie the hoses on (although at that diameter, they may fit nicely in an enlarged cable stop, with a bushing for the larger portion). There is not need for traditional “stops”.

    The brake cables are bigger and obviously full length. But I suspect a big market with these will be disc equipped bikes and as such they will be designed for the cable runs. Non-disc bikes will likely have to zip tie if internal routing ports aren’t big enough.

  16. When I saw “closed system” I remembered the Magura HS-33 brakes and Hope C2 discs that I had on bikes in the 90’s. I also remembered that the fluid expands when it gets hot and contracts when it gets cold and that when I kept my bike in my car for an after work ride, the brakes were locked up on a hot day and I had to dial the piston back to get them to loosen up.

    Did I miss it? How is Rotor compensating for fluid expansion? It’ll be a real thing for people who live in the west and might leave their house in the AM when it’s 40F outside and return when it’s 80+

  17. Tidbits I have found
    the group will cost roughly the same as a Dura-Ace Di2
    full package will weigh about 350 grams less than a Di2 setup
    The brake and shifting systems work independently of each other. The former is a typical open system with a piston and reservoir. The drivetrain is a closed system
    MTN-Qhubeka will be on the group for 2016

  18. @ sean – it’s in the article…
    “They’ve tested it from -18°C up to 40°C (0ºF to 104ºF) and seen no changed in performance. Moving beyond those extremes, the fluid volume can change, which will affect the feel of the shifting, but not the precision because it’s mechanical indexing is done behind the hydraulic fluid, directly at the derailleur, so fluid expansion or contraction has no impact on its accuracy.”

  19. It’s pretty obvious that everyone here wants precision shifting and zero maintenance. And not a shifer that sounds like a printer.

  20. @Veganpotter, Barry Naiss, Problem Solvers makes a hydraulic line fitting for cable stops. It works pretty well, and they’re only a few bucks and grams, and they’re grams that save your paint.

  21. It’s a closed system, but it looks like all you are doing is pushing fluid back & forth with no fixed “zero” point. I’m sure if you went from -18 to +40 without touching the shifter, it would be pretty wonky, but as soon as you re-indexed it via shifting, all would be fine again.

    Another way to think of it is that every shift is just a relative move from the current position. With indexing handled outside of the hydraulic system it doesn’t matter where you are in the piston’s travel, just as long as there is enough travel left to get to (or from) the next gear.

    Make sense?

  22. To me, another interesting feature would be the possibility of having multiple shift positions (like with Di2). That would be relatively easy when using this approach with ratchet mechanism built into the derailleur. You just run an extra hydraulic hose from the hoods to your second shift position.
    In fact, in the early days of the sram red group, I experimented with this using a slightly modified sram double tap shifter and an extra cable running from the hoods to the aerobars and found that it worked very well. At the time, I contacted the lead engineer for the road group at sram (twice), informed him of this possibility, and asked also to consider their ratchet mechanism built into the derailleurs, but there was no response… 🙁

    WELL DONE ROTOR!!!!

  23. Not 100% sold on this idea. I currently have the Magura’s on my P5, I really like the stopping power but maintenance has not been easy on them. I’m actually losing brake fluid on my front one (3 years of use). I would think a system like this one will face the same challenges. I would stick with electronic shifting, hard to beat. The battery issue only takes a reminder on your phone to charge it every 3-4 months, very reliable and hassle free so far.

  24. I haven’t seen any updates on this groupset since August last year, despite that this article and others said that a press product release/ride testing would take place late last year. Is this still on track for March retail release? From my view this is really exciting technological innovation, as long as it comes close to living up to the performance claims.

  25. This is too advanced for me. Bikes need to revert back to their old school roots.

    Ok, gotta go (drives away in his 2017 Audi R8…)

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