Classified 'front derailleur killer' hub spotted in pro peloton
Uno X's Anthon Charmig uses Classified Powershift at Tour de Hongrie
Classified's hub-based two-speed shifting system has been spotted by the Cyclingnews tech team being used during the Tour de Hongrie, in what appears to be the product's first-ever appearance in the pro peloton. The move suggests that the technology is of interest to pro teams, for reasons we'll get into below.
Just a few weeks ago, we published the findings from our hands-on review of the Classified Powershift CF G30 gravel wheelset. Our verdict was that while the wheelset itself was pretty unremarkable in comparison to the best gravel wheelsets, the two-speed internally-geared hub at the centre is "absolutely groundbreaking". We concluded that it could well have the potential to change cycling as a whole.
The one caveat to our review was that it was "it is begging for better wheel options designed around it," and it appears that's exactly what Uno-X Pro Cycling Team have done. Mechanics from the team have laced up the Classified Powershift hub to the Arc 1400 DiCut rim from their team sponsors DT Swiss. Uno X clearly share our opinion on the product, as it was their pre-race GC leader Anthon Charmig who benefitted from the new tech.
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What is it?
The Classified Powershift is a wireless two-speed rear hub that connects either to your electronic shifter or a separate shift button fitted to the handlebars using Bluetooth. Inside the hub, two gears can be found. The first is a 1:1 ratio, essentially transferring the same gear as if it didn't exist. The second is a 1:0.686 ratio, effectively reducing the size of the front chainring by 31.4 per cent, which in reality would mean a 52T front chainring is accompanied by a 'virtual' chainring of 36T.
This is then paired with a cassette and rear derailleur, just like on any other bike, allowing for the standard 2X 11-speed (or 12-speed) setup, but without the need for the front derailleur and double chainset.
Why use it?
One of the likely reasons for Uno-X to use the product in racing is for the aerodynamic improvement. The removal of the front derailleur and double chainset - replacing it with a single chainring - means fewer products are outboard of the bike's centreline, theoretically removing them from the flow of the wind. This is a technique widely adopted by time triallists for the same reasons.
In addition, given the frequency of chain drops experienced by teams during this year's Spring Classics, it would make sense for the team to want to reduce the chances of this happening. The ability to switch to a 1X chainring - potentially with a narrow-wide chainring and even a clutched derailleur - would vastly reduce the potential for a dropped chain on rougher terrain; a benefit enjoyed by gravel and mountain bike riders using similar 1X setups.
What's more, in our experience of the Classified hub, and as highlighted in our review, the shift performance offers an impressive ability to shift under load. Existing 2X systems, by contrast, require a period of adjusted pedalling load to shift smoothly. The Classified hub also boasts the ability to shift without pedalling at all, which would potentially aid riders in the event of an unplanned stop.
All of these benefits, according to Classified, come without an increase in weight.
"A Classified equipped bike is equally light or lighter than a bike with a traditional 2X electronic groupset equipped bike and traditional reference hub," reads a statement on the brand's website. "The bike setup used by our initial partner: Classified in combination with a Rotor Aldhu 1x crank, is up to 70g lighter than the same bike with a traditional 2x11 GRX Di2 groupset and a DT Swiss 350 hub. In short we can state that the weight of the replaced components (front derailleur, small chainring, traditional hub, thru-axle and cassette) is approximately the same as the weight of the components offered by Classified."
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Doesn't this already exist?
The idea of putting gears inside the rear hub of a bike is nothing new. Shimano has long been doing it with its Nexus and Alfine hubs with plenty more than two gears, and other brands such as Rohloff and Pinion also have their own similar systems.
However, while those systems are usually found on the best commuter bikes, Classified has geared itself towards road and gravel use, with a focus on minimal weight and maintaining the fitment of a cassette and derailleur. It also benefits from wireless technology.
It's that wireless technology that enabled our eagle-eyed tech team to spot it in the peloton. Receiving the Bluetooth signal is a job handled by the smart thru-axle, which houses its electronics inside the quick-release handle.
Is the front derailleur dead?
Assuming the claims to be true, the adoption of the Classified Powershift by Team Uno-X could spark a wider uptake of the technology among the pro peloton. The opportunity to reduce aerodynamic drag, improve shift performance, and reduce the potential for dropped chains all without adding weight seems like a no-brainer for teams chasing performance and marginal gains.
However, there's one very distinct hurdle that we can see between where we stand today and the wider adoption of the technology from teams: Punctures.
Despite the best tubeless road tyres improving with each new launch, punctures remain a prevalent issue for the pro peloton, and with each puncture comes the need to swap wheels. That is assuming they want to avoid their wheels buckling like Jumbo Visma at Paris Roubaix.
A rider puncturing on a Classified-equipped wheel and swapping to a standard rear-wheel would effectively be stuck in the big ring for the remainder of the race. To overcome this, Classified would need to strike a deal with Shimano to supply its wheels to neutral service, and for this to happen, there would need to be much wider adoption of the technology first.
A real chicken-and-egg situation if ever we saw one, but one that Uno-X is making steps to solve.
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As the Tech Editor here at Cyclingnews, Josh leads on content relating to all-things tech, including bikes, kit and components in order to cover product launches and curate our world-class buying guides, reviews and deals. Alongside this, his love for WorldTour racing and eagle eyes mean he's often breaking tech stories from the pro peloton too.
On the bike, 30-year-old Josh has been riding and racing since his early teens. He started out racing cross country when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s and has never looked back. He's always training for the next big event and is keen to get his hands on the newest tech to help. He enjoys a good long ride on road or gravel, but he's most alive when he's elbow-to-elbow in a local criterium.