Guess what happened when more than 50 Shimano gravel ambassadors, design and marketing staff and a bevy of gravel-crazy editors descended on the legendary Almonzo 100 race in Spring Valley, Minnesota? We had a blast—even if after the ride our bikes and bodies looked like acid-washed jeans from the 1980s and our lungs were filled up for days with finely procured Minnesota gravel dust.
The free event (you just have to send them a postcard to enter) was a fitting setting for Shimano to not only launch a new gravel-focused derailleur and limited-edition Gravel Shoe, but also a great backdrop to illustrate Shimano’s commitment and journey into the varied and popular gravel market. For the past year, the crew at Shimano has been traveling around the globe (literally) to test, ride and immerse themselves in the variety of gravel events and terrains in order to create a solid gravel offering in the upcoming months that will satisfy this emerging market.
After riding the new products across the never-ending gravel roads outside of Spring Valley, here are our thoughts:
The RX Derailleur
Our Allied Allroad bikes were equipped with Shimano’s new Ultegra RX rear derailleurs featuring chain-stabilizing technology. Two new options, the RD-RX800 and RD-RX805 for mechanical and Di2 systems respectively, both utilize the Shimano Shadow RD Plus technology for chain stabilization in more varied and uneven gravel conditions. The new derailleurs feature an on/off switch found next to the upper pulley. When it is activated, the rear derailleur pivot is designed to reduce chain chatter and “excessive movement.” After three-plus hours of gravel riding at out-of-comfort-zone speeds, we were definitely impressed with the precision of the new derailleur and appreciated the smooth and tight shifting in the varied terrain, as well as not one chain drop. The derailleurs will sell for $109.99 (RX-800) and $284.99 (RX-805).
The XC 5 Shoe
The XC 5 shoe was launched last year at Eurobike and Interbike, and this limited-edition camo version was launched at the Almonzo 100. The mini-power-strap shoe lacing, the Michelin high-traction tread, perforated venting and carbon-reinforced midsole are nice features of this shoe. Shimano created only 1,000 pairs to be available worldwide, so hustle if you want a pair. They retail at $149.99 and will be available only at your local dealer.
Shimano is the largest component manufacturer in the world, and the gravel segment of cycling exists outside the narrow and oftentimes-stifling world of pro racing. Gravel has very few rules. What struck us most about this trip was the humility, effort and sincere approach the team at Shimano engaged in to create these gravel-focused products in what is sure to be the beginning of a much larger offering. The inclusion of a group of gravel ambassadors that ranged from bike shop owners to gravel personalities, and a variety of riders in between, gave this launch a colorful and authentic feel. We gathered in a small town in Minnesota to ride until we couldn’t ride anymore on products that clearly have a human foundation, centered around the singular mission to have more fun on gravel bikes. Kudos to Shimano, and to the variety of gravel personalities and designers, for helping make this segment (and these products) a breath of fresh air for cycling.