With the launch of FSA’s WE electronic group at Eurobike there are now five major component manufacturers – Campagnolo, SRAM, Shimano, Rotor and FSA. Of them all, Rotor Uno is taking the most novel, and perhaps, risky path.

Longtime lightweight-crank manufacturer Rotor Bike Components has officially blossomed from the bottom- bracket-spindle arena and into the gruppo market with Rotor UNO. This hydraulic-actuated, closed system is the first market appearance of this technology since Acros A-GE MT, which never caught on in the mountain bike world. But with SRAM and Shimano swinging at each other, one product release after another, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the relatively small Spanish company.

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The biggest question on the table is why hydraulic and why now? Rotor’s Wolfgang Turainsky explains that UNO is designed to offer smooth, precise, lightweight shifting with a mechanical feel. The system uses a 30-percent Glycol solution that remains stable from minus-15 degrees to 88 degrees Celsius. Complete weight comes in at 1,604 grams—99 grams lighter than the new SRAM eTap according to Rotor. The benefits are obvious: there are no batteries to charge or cables to stretch. After one or two cable flushes to dial-in the shifting after initial installation, the closed system is nearly maintenance free, according to Rotor.

RotorUno-Lever

During our first ride it took about 30 minutes to become accustomed to the hydraulic feel in the UNO levers. The hood shape falls somewhere between the small peaks of Shimano Dura-Ace and giant horns of SRAM Red. It’s a comfortable perch for your hands—we’re told UNO will ship with two different-sized hoods to accommodate different-sized mittens. Designed and manufactured in Madrid, the UNO shifter uses a single lever for shifts very similar to SRAM DoubleTap—although, with the indexing living in the derailleurs, it doesn’t feel quite as crisp or precise at the lever. With its red-and-black color scheme, the lever could even be mistaken for a SRAM unit. One benefit of the UNO indexing is that the rider can upshift from one to four gears with a single throw. This simple adjustment is made through a small twist of a tiny limit-screw on the rear derailleur.

Dimension Data is Rotor’s race partner in Uno development and there were rumors we would see the group at the Dauphine and potentially the Tour. We did not see that happen. 2,000 units were initially designated for sale by July 1, and only in Europe, but currently Rotor classifies the groups as ‘coming soon’ so there is likely some last minute refinement going on. We’ll let you know when we get our hands on a long term test.

1,604g; $2,500 (w/o crankset); rotorbike.com