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Why is 1x best for gravel?

6 October 2020
Why is 1x best for gravel?

We worked with a diverse community of gravel riders, understanding where they come from, what they do, and what they want.

“The message is loud and clear – having well-spaced steps between the gears matters a lot for managing your cadence”

Gravel means many things to different riders, but across our diverse community we all have some common ground and shared needs. The Ekar groupset is designed for all of us.

Endurance riding, bikepacking adventure, organised races, a blast in the forest after work – many types of riders consider themselves ‘gravel’. Amongst us are grass roots enthusiasts, lifelong experimenters, and elite level racers chasing the authentic challenge of going beyond the asphalt.

Gravel riders, whatever their origin, want a fresh take on cycling. Many gravel riders have spent time on the road, wondering what they’re missing out on when the finished surface… finishes. There are mountain bikers wishing to go further, faster, and more efficiently, aligning themselves with the bikepacking scene’s counterculture.

The endurance riders and ‘old-fashioned’ tourers who get their kicks by connecting with nature and being outdoors all day – and all night. They all want to mix it up, find challenging and rewarding routes and ways to ride. There are the cyclocross racers, and riders who choose CX bikes because they’re close to ticking the ‘do everything’ box. Gravel riders even come from singlespeed, fixie, track racing or BMX, appreciating the value of simplicity, keeping it light, lean and uncluttered.

What Road tells us about Gravel and 1x

  • Saving weight matters! Switching from 2x to 1x might save around 250g – and we’re proud that Ekar is the lightest gravel groupset, under 2.4g.

  • No front derailleur or second chainring is an aerodynamic win.

  • Having a full range of gearing appropriate for your ride is crucial. This concern is central to our thoughts with Ekar.

  • Alongside this, the message is loud and clear – having well-spaced steps between the gears matters a lot for managing your cadence.

Why Mountain Bikers value 1x

  • The beauty of 1x is its simplicity. This thinking trickles down from gravity to trail and XC, and transfers naturally to gravel.

  • It’s easier to operate, shifting with one hand. Your left hand is free to control the bike, (or maybe feeding yourself!)

  • With no front rings shift there’s less risk of dropping a chain. Ekar’s clutched derailleur keeps secure chain tension through gravel’s clattering demands.

  • No second ring or mech means less trail debris to effect shifting smoothness.

And what we know from Gravel…

  • Performance gravel riding demands a smooth cadence, keeping control of power delivery as you control handling and flow. Wherever you come from and wherever you ride, this is a universal truth.

  • For long-distance gravel adventure, reliability and durability are just as highly valued – so the best design and materials choice is vital for each component. These considerations are close to Campagnolo’s heart.

With Ekar’s 1x drivetrain you don’t get the ‘waste’ of duplicated gears. That’s partly because of chainlines – not combining the smaller sprockets and small chainring, or the large with the large – but also because in 2x, some gearing ratios just overlap, and ultimately become extra bits of metal to carry.

Riders still, understandably, have questions: Do you get the full range of gears as with a 2x system? Is the highest gear high enough, and the lowest gear low enough? Is the spacing between them close enough?

“With Ekar the considerations of gear ratio range and spacing were absolutely fundamental to the whole project,” says Ekar’s Product Manager. “With the kind of arguments you hear from so many different riders, a 1x system is clearly the right way for gravel. There are just so many advantages that it has to work."

“To achieve the wide range of gearing ratios required for the many different types of gravel riding, 13-speed is necessary. It was the combination of smart mathematics and a huge amount of practical testing – at our spiritual home Cima Ekar and elsewhere – that enabled us to work out the precise relationships between those 13 ratios, so that Ekar can deliver efficient cadence control and speeds for every gravel rider. And we developed a whole set of options, with four different chainrings, and three cassettes, all interchangeable. The decision to run a 9-tooth sprocket was important to making this possible. We designed and tested to ensure there was no additional wear on the 9T, and that a suitable freehub body made fitment and compatibility not just possible, but easy. "

“We’re proud of the results. We hope you get to ride it for yourself.”

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