Shimano GRX Groupset Review
The GRX groupset is incredible and when it comes to rating it, there’s only high numbers. It’s very capable. It’s reliable, it does exactly what we need it to do on a gravel ride.
- Looks amazing
- Very Functional while on Gravel
- Parts are easy to source using other Shimano Groupset Components
- Compared to other groupsets excellent value for money
- Great for Bikepacking and Multi-Terrain Touring
- Limited on the 1X sizes would like to go less than a 40 tooth
- The matt gray isn’t for everyone
User Review( vote)
When gravel cycling got big, Shimano jumped at the chance to make a gravel groupset, and when Shimano does something, they don’t do it half-heartedly.
They called it the GRX, and although it may look like your standard 1X 2X groupset, it’s actually pretty special. Shimano is known for making just excellent components from wheels to gearing, and they even have a very big place in the fishing market too.
We are often asked if we need a new groupset for gravel. Will a road or MTB groupset work instead? What makes a gravel groupset different? In this article, we will be telling you all about the Shimano GRX groupset and why it is so unique and will make a difference to your gravel riding.
Shimano GRX Levels
As with many groupsets, the Shimano GRX comes in many different shapes and sizes, and performance levels. You have the baby RX400 series, which is your basic entry-level groupset and very similar to Shimano Tiagra. Then you have the RX600.
This is the mid-range groupset and sits similar to the Shimano 105. Then finally, the RX800, which is the high end of the range and similar to Ultegra and even comes in Di2 Electronic Shifting.
They use multiple ranges of setups from your 2X with a front derailleur or the 1X with just the rear derailleur across all the ranges.
What makes it Special?
What makes this groupset stand out from the crowd and an official gravel groupset? The best way to do this is to break it down and tell you about what makes it different and better for the more rugged riding and how it differs from a typical Shimano Road groupset.
The shifters are probably one of the most unique parts of the Shimano GRX Groupset and, to start with, look incredibly different. They come in a beautiful matt gray color, and where you hold your hands, you have a flat top with ridges for grip. This flat top evenly distributes the pressure on your hands, and the ridges give you a much better grip compared to a road groupset.
The shifters also have a different axis point, which is 18mm higher. This means you have much better leverage, and the brakes are much easier to use.
It doesn’t stop there. On the higher-end models, you also have the Shimano Servo Wave technology from the Shimano XTR Groupset. This means it’s much easier to control the braking power.
One thing we notice is how different the GRX815 Di2 Shifters we’re. They appear thinner and have a much sharper hood. They also have changed the hydraulic system slightly, making it easy to add the cyclocross mini brake lever on the top.
Crankset and Cassette
The GRX cranks look excellent, and they take what you see in the road groupsets and give them a rugged look. The cranks come in two options, a 1X and a 2X, with 10 or 11-speed. What makes these different mainly is they slightly offset the chainrings away from the frame and tires to give you more clearance by about 2.5mm.
They come in various sizes. On the 1X, you get a 40 or 42, and this can be paired with an MTB cassette on the rear. They don’t currently offer options to go smaller on the front chainring, which I can see them doing.
Then we have the 2X. They have done an amazing job here, and you have subcompact sizing, so you get sizes like 48/32 and 46/30, making it much easier to get up short, sharp, rough climbs.
Then we have the derailleurs, and well how different can you make a derailleur for gravel? Quite a fair bit apparently. Visually they look very similar to the R8000 and R7000 Shimano Road groupsets, but they do have differences.
The front derailleurs are slightly offset (2.5mm) to match the cranks and sit out a little bit further to help the bit with a larger jump on the front chainring.
Then you have the rear derailleur. These come with an optional direct mount link and also a clutch on them. What a clutch on a derailleur does is tighten the tension.
If you pull the tab on the derailleur over, you will find the gears won’t shift as smoothly, but the chain is much tighter, so when you’re bouncing over rough terrain, it has less chance of coming off.
Brakes and Rotors
Apart from some of the high-end GRX with the Servo Wave technology that has come across from XTR, the brakes are pretty much the same as the road groupsets. They work well, and you can add either MTB or Road rotors, depending on what sizes you want on the bike.
I found for myself using 140mm on the rear, and 160mm on the front was perfect for the riding I was doing. All the brakes they make are hydraulic. If you’re wondering if they make mechanical options, they don’t.
The groupset does come with extras you can buy to enhance the experience. You have the GRX tubeless-ready wheelset and the cyclocross brakes, to name a couple.
The beauty of the Shimano GRX Groupset is the fact it is compatible with a lot of Shimano components on the MTB and Road Groupsets. You have a huge amount of cassette options, and it makes getting spares and replacements when a service is due very easy.
What did we think?
We have been using the GRX 810 mechanical groupset for a while, and it is excellent. It shifts incredibly under the roughest conditions. It stops quickly, and although I tend not to ride with it much, the clutch mech is an amazing feature.
Is the GRX needed?
In my opinion, yes. If you have ever used a gravel bike with a road groupset on then some things make it challenging, like having too high ratios for steep rough climbs and the fact it’s much more common for your chain to fall off. Having a mountain bike groupset goes the other way, the ratios are too low, and it’s just overkill.
The GRX groupsets just bridges between the two, which is incredible. It’s something that I feel adds so much value to gravel and off-road riding. I feel it will make a perfect bikepacking groupset and will be very popular.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.