Rose bikes announced a gravel bike. But not just any gravel, it was a version of their Backroad model with a rear Classified hub.
You will be forgiven for wondering what’s so important about the Rose Backroad Classified, especially since another Brexit bonus is we can no longer buy Rose bikes in the UK. Well, what’s interesting is the Classified hub.
You see, Classified hubs include a set of planetary gears that provides the equivalent of 2x gearing by replicating the kind of gearing step a front deraileur and double chainring might provide. For those of us with long memories this may well invoke – at the very least – a series of eyerolls.
Quite apart from long memories of Sturmey Archer three speeds, the patient zero of mainstream internal gearing, does anyone remember the Hammer Schmidt crankset for example? And more to the point, know anyone who had one?
So take this news with a large pinch of salt, in addition to which is the question – does it solve any actual known problem or simply create new ones?
As far as potential problem solving is concerned, I suppose it is worth observing in principle just how big our cassettes have grown over recent years. I have a new 1×12 Deore 10-51T cassette ready to go on my Aether 9 build and it is simply enormous (and heavy). How much bigger can we go in the search of wide-range gearing? With current derailleur tech, probably not an awful lot.
This pursuit of super-wide cassettes leads to issues with chainline, chain wear and shift quality, although to be fair modern designs seem to work better than they really have any right to. Then there’s the fact that super-wide cassettes ultimately affect how wide rear hub spacing can get, creating a design ceiling. Again, it’s moot over whether this is a real problem or not.
On the flipside, the Classified hub gears introduce one very obvious limitation. They are Bluetooth actuated. Yep, you need to charge your shifter for it to work. Hmmm, not sure that’s what I want from a bike to be honest.
I guess if Tony can accommodate wireless shifting on his road bikes, and the new Dura Ace/AXS/Super Record groupsets are all likely to be wireless only in short order it might be something we have to get our heads around. MIND you, Mondraker clearly see wireless and electronics as part of the future of MTB too, and e-bike integration is another driving factor here.
What’s significant about the Rose Bikes/Classified/gravel match up is a) it brings the price of Classified hub availability down to relatively sensible levels after they have been available for a little while on spendy Ridley bikes, and b) the gravel application is not a million miles away from XC MTB territory. We will soon see if the Classified tech stands up to the kind of abuse it will get from off-road riding.
What it offers potentially is wide range gearing with closer steps between cogs and greater freedom over chainline. Would a 2x hub with 7-speed close-ratio cassette work? At some point we may get to find out! And as an aside, what a source of regret that Rose Bikes no longer ship to the UK – I’d love to try the Backroad with or without a Classified hub.