Thoughts on GRX after 350 miles of Flint Hills gravel
By Jay Petervary
Since gravel riding become a bike category, the industry has generally used road groupsets on gravel bikes. While they work for the most part, gravel isn't what they were intended for. Shimano changed all that with GRX.
Going into DKXL I was super excited to have the opportunity to ride a Shimano GRX Di2 groupset. I’m always exploring new equipment and I’m a big supporter of the sub-compact gearing that is starting to enter the market. Shimano GRX proved to me it is designed for gravel and adventure riding.
When people ask about GRX, a word I use to describe it is "strong.” As usual with Shimano, the shifting is precise and crisp but with a stronger feeling: the feel and touch of the shift levers is strong, the shifting itself is strong, and even the look is strong. And after what I did to it in DKXL I will add that it is strong!
The new ergonomics have a really good feel. No matter how wet or sweaty your hands become you can’t slide off thanks to the textured hoods. I like the added length of the lever hoods for when I was up and out of the saddle cresting a climb and the new shape is easier on my wrists. The slight bend in the brake lever makes for a more natural reach with the flared bars I was running as well. In the end my hands were happier.
The biggest and most striking difference between GRX and a road groupset is the gearing itself. I absolutely loved the 48/31 front chainrings. The gear was never too tall nor was I spun out. I had to make fewer front shifts compared to the compact road gearing I am used to. I really like 2x11 for this style of riding (the front derailleur never once gave me trouble even under full load!) and with this front chainring and cassette combo (I ran a 11-32 and could have gone smaller) you get much smaller jumps in gears which is really nice on the gradually changing terrain of the Flint Hills.
Lastly, for the long haul of the DKXL I did use aero bars and I also mounted Di2 bar end shifters. I really appreciated not needing to move my hands to make a shift.
Overall, Shimano GRX is a groupset designed intentionally for gravel and adventure riding that absolutely makes sense and works perfectly. It was the perfect tool for my ride to victory at DKXL.
Jay Petervary is among the most accomplished endurance cyclists on the planet. A sampling of his achievements include six journeys along the Tour Divide, 11 trips at Iditarod, and six participations at Dirty Kanza. He has also helped to pioneer routes like Italy Divide and the Silk Road Race. Follow him on Instagram @jay_petervary and at his website: https://jaypetervary.com/.