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AASQ #119: Why full group sets for Gravel? Rotor, FSA and MicroSHIFT discuss

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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. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question.

Welcome back to the Bikerumor Ask A Stupid Question series. This week, the good guys from MicroSHIFT, Rotor and FSA are joining us to discuss why they do, or don’t offer complete group sets dedicated to gravel riding. Contributing today are:

Why full group sets for gravel? The market is clamoring for the absolute widest gearing possible and that would come via compatibility with mountain bike gearing. This could have been accomplished with the introduction of 10, 11 and 12 speed shifters and a couple of cranksets.

Rotor: For ROTOR, we asked ourselves the same question: why a specific groupset for gravel? That’s why we introduced the 1×13 as a modular 1x group, which means its single wide-range derailleur is capable for Road, Gravel, MTB or TT.

revel mtb with rotor 1x13 drivetrain 13 speed wide range cassette
The Rotor 1×13 drivetrain for MTB on a Revel

Since the derailleur is able to take up to a 52T rear cog, we leave it to the rider to determine the best gearing for their use: we offer 12s cassettes compatible with any 11s HG freehub body or 13s cassettes that work with our hubs and are capable of a wider range: 10-36, 10-39, 10-46 & 10-52.

rotor 13 speed drivetrain 1x13 gravel bike
Rotor’s 13 speed wide-range derailleur is compatible with their road, MTB and TT groups, and is suitable for gravel

This array of options, combined with the massive array of front ring sizes made possible by direct mount (26T-58T, round or oval), gives riders the largest array of gear choices on a group that provides the best versatility on the market.

FSA: That is great question with a complicated answer. Gravel riding has been evolving and, in its relatively short existence as a category, is continuing to develop as new riders enter the market.

fsa k-force light gravel drivetrain 2x crankset

We see MTB riders who have experiences with gear jumps have a different expectation from roadies, who may favor smaller jumps between gears. This may explain why riding history may favor 1x vs 2x systems. Then, when you include bike packers and new gravel riders, whose needs are quite different from that of a former road racer (in terms of power and speed, etc.) and we start to see a real mix of needs, wants, and requirements.

fsa k-force modular crankset supercompact short crank arms
Learn more about FSA’s super compact gearing and ultra-short cranks in a previous Q&A here

Fortunately, FSA has been at the forefront of compact and super compact crank designs, adding to the continued development of gravel riding. This goes to prove that there is no one size fits all, silver bullet, or quiver killer set up with so many sub-categories and different needs. Not to mention, cyclists live, ride, and seek out different terrain and experiences.

fsa k-force light agx 2x gravel crankset adventure cross

FSA continues to work with professionals who give valuable feedback in developing our products, including our AGX (Adventure Gravel Cross) category, all the while not wanting to keep the status quo on technology and continuing to look for the best fit for all cyclists.

MicroSHIFT: Gravel is a really big category that covers a lot of different riding styles. Components optimized for competitive gravel racing are going to look different than those for, say, bikepacking or leisurely mixed-terrain group rides. At microSHIFT, we’ve always been intrigued by the idea of wide range 1x drivetrains on bikes with drop bars.

microshift advent x 10 speed drop bar brifters

That’s why we offer 1x integrated drop bar shifters for our ADVENT and ADVENT X mountain bike groups – it can make for a fun, simple setup that is deceptively high performance in a lot of common riding situations. If you want something relatively lightweight with good chain security and a really straightforward, predictable gear progression, these groups hit a pretty nice sweet spot. 

Microshift Advent X 1 x 10 drivetrain affordable shimano freehub body wide range cassette clutch (6)
MicroShift offer drop bar shifters for their Advent X 10-speed mountain bike group making it a viable option for gravel bikes

I think you don’t see more brands doing this because their existing road shifters don’t pull enough cable for a wide range rear derailleur, and it’s hard to figure out how to pack more cable pull in without making the shifter body larger. 

Got a question of your own? Click here to use the Ask A Stupid Question form to submit questions on any cycling-related topic of your choice, and we’ll get the experts to answer them for you!

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2 years ago

the answer is simple. so they can sell more stuff. why use what you already have that would work when you can buy a new thing with a gravel specific name on it that also will work just as good as what you have but has the name on it. like how is that hard to understand

2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

It isn’t that simple. Existing road components have shortcomings of gear range, clearances, lack of clutch options on rear derailleurs. While Shimano could simply add “Wide Range” parts to existing groups but compatibility isn’t that simple either. If there are combinations in a family that aren’t compatible, riders who experiment will be disappointed with performance or even worse, damage to their bikes. If a brand says what a thing is for, people who intend to use it for that thing almost always respond positively. Marketing matters. It is imperative that these makers gain benefit from their investment or innovation becomes stifled.

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