Thursday, October 31, 2019

Getting My GRX On: Update

There she be! The Noble GX5 with GRX on it. (That's a lot of "G's" and "X's"!)
The installation of the new Shimano GRX components and PRO brand stuff I was sent has been accomplished. I rode the bike on its first legit gravel ride Monday for over two hours.

The 1X thing hasn't really been appealing to me for quite some time. I had to stick with it since this bike is not routed for a front derailleur. (I could use an electronic one) So 1X GRX was spec'ed and that's what you see there in the image.

So far, since I have run Force 1X and now this GRX 1X, I have "gotten used to it", but it doesn't have as deep a range as I can get with a 2X set up, and that might end up becoming an issue at some point with the current set up. Which is a 42T drive ring turning an 11-42T cassette, by the way. So "low" is 1 to 1, and you don't get to go lower than that.

Now where I live? That is likely alright. I've run across a couple of situations where less than a one to one ratio would have been nice. Usually on century rides. But for the one to five hour range of rides? I probably am fine. Going somewhere else with this bike? Maybe not so much. But I've got other bikes too, so it isn't imperative that I have 2X on the Noble GX5.

So, enough about the gearing. Here is a run down of all the new parts on the bike:

  • Shimano GRX 800 Mechanical 11 speed Right hydraulic lever.
  • Shimano GRX 800 Dummy Left Lever set up for Dropper Post actuation. (See Note below)
  • Shimano GRX 800 Hydraulic Brake Calipers F/R 160mm Rotors F/R
  • Shimano GRX 800 Crank w/42T drive ring, 172.5mm
  • Shimano GRX 800 Rear Derailleur (Mechanical 11 spd)
  • Shimano GRX Wheel set
  • Shimano XTR/Dura Ace 11 speed chain
  • Shimano XT 11spd 11-42T Cassette
  • Shimano XT pedals
  • Shimano PRO seat post
  • Shimano PRO stem
  • Shimano PRO bar tape
  • Shimano PRO bottle cages
  • Shimano Discovery Series Big Flare handle bar
  • WTB Volt saddle, medium width
  • Wheels Manufacturing BB86 Thread-together bottom bracket
The GRX rear derailleur has a clutch, like the MTB line, but it feels far different

(NOTE: Disclaimer dead ahead. Skip ahead if you don't care)

That's most of the bike! I should also note here that besides the bottom bracket, which I purchased, the rest is all sent for no charge to Riding Gravel for test and review. I am not being paid, nor bribed for this post here.

Now- with that out of the way, I got this all set up and everything went quite well, actually. The first legit gravel ride went well too. Shifting required a slight tweak from the barrel adjuster, (standard issue on the GRX derailleur- Huzzah!), and I imagine I'll have a couple more tweaks to that before it settles in. The brakes are fantastic. Probably the best drop bar Shimano hydro brakes yet. Maybe best ever? Close. Really quiet far. 

The brake hoods feel awesome too. They put some nice texturing on it for grip, and the rubber they used feels nice. The shape is excellent with a nicer, flatter radiused shape with a nice width to them. I also like Shimano's hydraulic hood shape far more than SRAM's which looks ugly in my opinion. At any rate, Shimano's shape looks a lot less weird and more like the fully mechanical levers they make. The big deal here is the lever blades. They shaped the blade and while that may seem like not such a big deal, it is when you feel them under your fingers. The shapes and contours just feel really good.

The GRX levers feel great under the hand.
So besides those stand outs, the bike was like before. Good wheels, no issues there, and everything else just worked like it should. Now I will say a bit about the saddle, the WTB Volt, because there is an interesting story.

WTB has the "Fit Right System" now where you measure your wrist and then a calculation their system does based upon some preferences and that wrist measurement spits out what saddle is right for you out of their line. I had been preferring the WTB Pure series of saddles, which measures out to be in their "wide" size range. Now I have to back track a bit to several years ago when I tried Bontrager's saddle fit system and I was measured out in their "medium" width category, which I think is something like 143mm or round about there. So, I tried that, and I just never got along with their saddles at all. I abandoned them after sitting on a Pure V and liking that. So, I pursued getting a bunch of those saddles and for a time, all was well.

Recently I have been not as pleased with Pure V's as I have been getting soreness which I cannot remember having. Age changes things. Maybe that was it? Dunno. But change in my saddle of choice was going to be necessary. Then last Summer I got the chance to try a new, medium width Silverado. I really liked it. This was a 142mm width saddle, which was interesting to me, remembering the old Bontrager measurement.

The medium width Volt from WTB
Fast forward to August and Gravel Worlds where I saw the WTB Fit Right System in operation. Later on I was asked to go through the system and WTB wanted to send me a saddle or two, write up a review, and see what I thought. I got two Volts. One in Medium and one in Wide.

One ride on the Wide one was all it took for me to realize that it wasn't right. The saddle was hitting me just like a Pure V and no wonder. They have almost identical shapes. Then I tried the Medium saddle. Goldilocks! This was really good, and again- 142mm.

So, both the Bontrager system and the Fit Right System were correct, it's just that WTB stuff agrees with me and the old Bontrager stuff never really did. Now the Silverado will get pitted against the Volt and I'll have to see which feels correct, or just better, and go with it. Or.....maybe both will be fine. Possible. Testing will be necessary.

What else? Hmm.... Oh yeah! The seat post. I have a left lever that was modified by Shimano for dropper post actuation. I didn't get the correct dropper post when Shimano sent me the stuff, but when they have the right one, I will be making the switch and checking that out as well. I remember really liking a dropper on an Otso test bike I had a year and a half ago or so now. It will be interesting to see what that does for Winter riding, as I'll likely be trying that out whenever conditions allow for it over the Winter months.

So, yeah.... So far so good. Both on the GRX and the saddle. Stay tuned here and at Riding Gravel for future updates.


Anon said...

Looking forward to your review as you put some time on the GRX. I'm building a new bike and this is probably what I will use. I'm planning on using a 10-42 x-dome cassette with the group for the 10t cog, and I just happen to have a spare xd freehub body. I'm assuming this will be fine as the group uses an XT cassette for its wide range option, and 11spd Shimano and SRAM cassettes are compatible. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Guitar Ted said...

@(Whomever You Are)- Yeah, I used a Shimano cassette on the Force 1 group with no issues. I would think the reverse would be no issue.

75 miles south said...

The SRAM forced/initiated 1x on "gravel bikes" is nonsense. I love SRAM stuff, but I can't wait to find a GRX 2x groups with hydros in my price range. Having ridden thousands of miles of midwest gravel, in 2x9 and 2x10 with tightly spaced cassettes, I can't understand why someone would happily give up the front chainring for wider rear gaps, even if the overall range is similar.

For CX racing, sure, 1x is probably fine.... Why not? with the extreme changes in speed, larger gaps might even be a benefit... But on "gravel" who hasn't hit a gentle grind into a headwind where 1 tooth gaps in the upper cassette are appreciated?

Guitar Ted said...

@75 miles south: But if I don't try it extensively and A/B it against the 2X, how would I know for sure? While I like 2X over 1X in theory, this will be the definitive test- for me- what one is actually best for me and why.

Also- The Noble GX5 I have is not 2X (mechanical) compatible. So- there's that. This was the bike I had to use to test 1X on, because hey..... Why would I screw up my perfectly good 2X bikes with a 1X group?

Right? ;>)

Anon said...

@75 miles south, I used to feel the same way, and I still go back and forth on the issue. I think I'm going 1x on the next build for a couple of reasons. First, I'm a sucker for the simpler aesthetic of 1x. Shallow, I know. Secondly, the bike is for fun and I'm trying not to get hung up on ideas such as optimal or perfect or forever. Lastly, I recently had the opportunity to spend a few hours on a 1x bike in the mountains and to my surprise, the gearing was really nice. I enjoyed the ride a great deal and the bike felt great. It might have been in my head, but the 1x setup seemed to be part of that feeling. The bike just felt tight--in a good way. FWIW, I've never had any problems with 2x setups and front derailleurs. My mtbs are still 2x10, and I would never get rid of 2x on my road bike.