On the heels of Shimano’s release of a 12-speed mountain bike drivetrain to compete with SRAM’s popular Eagle line, Rotor has upped the ante even further with the launch of a 13-speed modular mountain bike/drop bar group. And yes, you read that right, Rotor 13-speed is here.
Top line highlights of the Rotor 13-speed hydraulic drivetrain include a 10-52 cassette (a 520% gear range) with a claimed weight of 330 grams, which is actually 30 grams lighter than a SRAM Eagle XX1 12-speed cassette, and 37 grams wispier than the new Shimano 12-speed XTR cassette. The new Rotor 13-speed group’s rear derailleur has clutch mechanism and internal indexing, thus the beefy look and very minimalist shifter, which will come in mountain bike and road configurations.
And just like Shimano’s latest XTR group, use of Rotor 13-speed will require a new hub due to the space requirements of having a 13th cog. If, however, you opt for the 12-speed Rotor cassette (which will also be an option) you’ll be able to use a traditional Shimano-style hub body. And Rotor says it will keep the new hub design as an open standard, so other manufacturers will be free to create compatible hubs.
By why 13-speed? “It’s focused on simplifying the cyclist’s shifting experience,” says Rotor. “We believe road, gravel and cyclocross riders will follow mountain biker in the successful adoption of single ring drivetrains. That combined with a wide choice of 1x chainring sizes (38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54) means our 13-speed cassette can match and improve gear range and gear steps of traditional 2×11 drivetrains.”
There is definitely some truth there, as the wide gear steps of 1×12 drivetrains is certainly one of the primary reasons we have not seen wider adoption of 1x set-ups on drop bar bikes. Even some mountain bikers still complain about this. But with what would be two extra cogs in the back (since 11-speed is the standard for road/gravel/cross at the moment) Rotor feels they’ve addressed this issue, while also making a more simplified system. And the reality is that due to overlap of chainring-cog combinations, a traditional 2×11 group really only has 14 different gears, so you wouldn’t be losing very much.
The idea is that instead of debating when to shift your chain from one chainring to the other and then adjust your rear cog choice accordingly, you’ll simply have one choice — easier gear or harder gear. And with 1×13 you could bypass the traditional challenging 2x front derailleur shift, and just focus on fluid rear shifting with reduced chance of chain loss or chain suck. It would also free up cockpit space for things such as dropper post levers, which for gravel and maybe even cyclocross could be useful.
As for mountain bikers, the benefits are the addition of yet another gear, which would truly smooth out the gears steps as you move up and down the cassette.
Other selling points put forth in Rotor PR material touting the benefits of 13-speed include lower weight because you ditch the front derailleur and the associated parts needed to make it move. Rotor is also pushing the benefits of hydraulic actuation (the staple of its already released Uno groupset), including less maintenance because there are no cables of batteries to deal with.
It all ups up to a very interesting concept if nothing else. Whether it actually takes hold is an entirely different matter. For that answer, we’ll have to wait until spring 2019 when Rotor says the new group will become available.
Until then keep an eye on rotorbike.com for more info.