One ring to rule them all

Single chainring gearing is a growing trend for adventure bikes, with a multitude of features adopted from mountain bike and road technology. To make sense of it all, we will explore the advantages and explain the differences between the ranges of groupsets at the forefront of the market.

on and on one by single ringcarbon gravel bike

Choosing the right gearing is crucial for gravel riding, and one-by (or 1x) groupsets have become a popular choice for their simplicity, reliability, and consistency. With only one chainring, one-by groupsets offer a more straightforward drivetrain, fewer gears to worry about, and a more consistent chainline. These advantages translate to better power transfer, reduced wear on your drivetrain, and a smoother overall riding experience.

Shimano and Sram are the two leading manufacturers of gravel specific groupsets. At Pearson we tend to favour Shimano for a few reasons, notably for quality, functionality, continuity of supply and exemplary customer care from UK distributer, Madison. Shimano's GRX series groupsets offer a range of one-by options designed specifically for gravel riding.

on and on x1

The GRX 600 groupset is generally accepted as the affordable option with a balance of performance and price, and for those more familiar with road gearing, is equivalent to 105. The GRX 800 groupset is a lighter option and equivalent to Ultegra. The chainset features Shimano's Hollowtech II hollow crank arm technology and a lighter weight, more durable cassette.

The GRX 815 is the same quality as 800 but with electronic di2 parts offering programmable electronic shifting for the ultimate convenience and precision, with programmable button options to suit your preferences. The prices differ between the groupsets used within the Pearson range, with the GRX 600 being our entry-level option, to the GRX 815 di2 sitting at the top of the tree.

GRX 815

One of the challenges with one-by groupsets is preventing the chain from coming off the chainring, especially when riding on rough terrain. To address this issue, Shimano has designed their GRX series with a 'Dynamic Chain Engagement' tooth profile – tall teeth that are alternately thick and thin, specially shaped to hold the chain in place and prevent the chain from bouncing off.

Additionally, a clutch on the rear derailleur of the GRX series groupsets reduces chain movement and prevents chain slap, making for a quieter ride and preventing damage to your bike's frame and drivetrain components.


A wider range of rear gears, typically a 11-42 cassette, allow for tackling steep climbs and technical terrain with ease, combined with a 40 or 42 tooth front chainring, offer a high enough gear to keep you spinning up to around 60 kph (this is usually fast enough for most semi-responsible adults). And with both mechanical and electronic shifting options available, you can choose the shifting style that best suits your preferences.

In addition to the performance benefits of one-by groups, there are also potential environmental benefits to consider. By simplifying the drivetrain, there are fewer parts that need maintenance and replacement over time. This means less waste generated from worn-out components and less energy and resources used in the manufacturing and shipping of required or replacement parts. Furthermore, with improved chain retention and reduced chain slap, there is less chance of damage to your frame which can help extend the lifespan of your bike. 


All Pearson adventure bikes offer one-by as an option and each is custom built to size and your bike fit. Whatever your budget or requirements, there is a Shimano GRX series groupset that can suit your needs and elevate your gravel riding experience.


Read next: Take The Rough With The Smooth >



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