Gravel bike groupsets: which is best for you?

Imagine effortlessly cruising through dirt roads, confidently tackling rocky terrains and smoothly pedaling over puddles – all without breaking a sweat. Gravel bikes are not a figment of your imagination anymore; they’re the latest frontier for riders seeking that perfect harmony between the speed of a road bike and the adventurous spirit of a mountain bike.

As gravel biking gains popularity and you find yourself being drawn to this exciting world, the question arises: How do you pick the perfect groupset for your bike?

In this blog post, we’ll unravel the secrets behind choosing the ultimate gravel bike groupset tailored to your unique riding style and preferences. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on the ultimate journey to find the best gravel-specific groupsets that will leave you feeling like a king (or queen) of the trail.

Introduction to Gravel Bike Groupsets

As a cycling enthusiast looking to conquer any terrain, you have likely heard about gravel bikes and their phenomenal versatility. Whether you are exploring off-road trails, tackling challenging inclines, or cruising through city streets, the right gravel bike groupset can make all the difference in your riding experience. Comprising various components such as brake levers, gear shifters, front and rear derailleurs, chainsets (chainrings and cranks), and more, the choice of groupset can significantly affect how you interact with your bike. In this guide, we will provide an overview of some leading gravel bike groupset options available, discussing their features, pros, and cons, to help you make an informed decision.

There are several popular gravel bike groupsets in the market, including Shimano GRX, SRAM Rival 1×12, SRAM Force AXS Wide, Campagnolo Ekar, and Rotor 1×13. Each groupset comes with its own unique set of advantages, such as electronic or mechanical shifting, gear ratios, compatibility options, and overall performance characteristics. As you explore each option, consider factors like your preferred riding style, the type of terrain you frequently encounter, and your budget.

Understanding the nuances between these options will help you narrow down your search and ultimately choose the perfect gravel bike groupset to suit your needs. By doing so, you can enjoy an elevated cycling experience that combines reliable performance, efficient gear management, and countless hours of riding joy, no matter where your adventures lead you. 

The Function of Groupsets in Gravel Biking

As an adventurous gravel biker, you understand the importance of having a reliable and versatile bike to handle various terrains. One of the essential components that significantly affect your gravel biking experience is the groupset, which comprises the drivetrain and related parts. These components play a crucial role when cycling on challenging terrains, as they are responsible for crucial tasks such as gear shifting and braking.

The core elements of a groupset include brake levers and gear shifters, front and rear derailleurs, and the chainset made up of chainring(s) and cranks. These parts work together to provide optimal control, comfort, and performance during your gravel biking adventures. The choice of the groupset generally depends on personal preference and previous experience with specific brands.

Gravel bike groupsets come in various configurations, such as single or double chainring options, offering different numbers of gears for diverse cycling needs. A clutch derailleur is also an essential part of gravel groupsets, ensuring the chain remains engaged throughout your ride, reducing the need to stop and adjust the chain frequently.

Popular brands such as Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo offer specialized gravel groupsets designed to cater to specific gear ratios and unique gravel biking requirements. When choosing a groupset for your gravel bike, it’s crucial to consider factors such as the type of terrain you usually ride on, your preferred gear range, and your budget. By investing in the right groupset that caters to your needs, you can significantly improve your gravel biking experience and push your adventures to new limits. 

The Key Components of Groupsets for Gravel Bikes

As a gravel bike enthusiast, it’s crucial to understand the key components of a groupset and how they contribute to your riding experience. Here, we’ll explore the essential elements that make up a groupset for gravel bikes.

Brake Levers and Gear Shifters

These components are often integrated together on drop-bar gravel bikes. They enable you to control your bike’s braking and shifting systems, allowing you to switch gears and maintain a consistent speed while tackling various terrains.

Front and Rear Derailleurs

Also known as front and rear mechs, derailleurs are responsible for moving the chain between the chainrings and cogs on your cassette, respectively. This allows you to change gears smoothly and efficiently, ensuring that you can maintain a comfortable cadence regardless of the terrain.


Consisting of chainrings and cranks, the chainset is the heart of your bike’s drivetrain. The number of chainrings and cogs on your cassette determines the total number of gears available, which is crucial for navigating various terrains effectively.


Made up of 10, 11, 12, or 13 sprockets, the cassette is referred to as the bike’s “speed.” A wide-ranging cassette is ideal for tackling steep and uneven terrain, while a narrower cassette suits flatter terrains where closer gear ratios are needed.

When choosing the right groupset for your gravel bike, consider factors such as your personal preference, prior experience, and riding conditions. By understanding the key components and their benefits, you’ll be better equipped to select the perfect groupset for your gravel biking adventures. 

Key Differences Between Groupsets for Road and Gravel Bikes

As an avid cyclist, you might wonder about the key differences between groupsets for road and gravel bikes. Understanding these differences will help you choose the right gear for your cycling adventures. Here are the top four differences you should be aware of:

1. Gearing Range: Gravel bike groupsets typically feature lower gearing options, making it easier to tackle steep, off-road climbs. Road bike groupsets, on the other hand, focus more on maintaining a high cadence on tarmac surfaces. So, if you plan on tackling challenging off-road terrains, opt for a gravel-specific groupset.

2. Clutched Rear Derailleur: A gravel bike groupset usually includes a clutched rear derailleur, which keeps the chain tensioned and prevents it from slapping against the chainstay when riding on rough surfaces. This feature reduces chain noise, enhances chain retention, and decreases the chance of dropping your chain. Most road bike groupsets don’t include a clutch, since such surfaces aren’t a part of traditional road cycling.

3. Chainline Width: Gravel groupsets often have a slightly wider chainline than road groupsets, providing additional clearance for wider tires. This extra space is crucial when navigating off-road, whereas it’s not particularly necessary for road bikes.

4. Single vs. Double Chainrings: Gravel bikes commonly utilize single chainring (1x) setups, reducing the chances of mechanical issues and mud buildup. Road bikes typically use double chainring (2x) setups for a smoother, more precise gear shifting experience on tarmac surfaces.

In summary, the key differences between gravel and road bike groupsets mainly revolve around gearing range, rear derailleur characteristics, chainline width, and chainring setups. Keep these factors in mind when choosing the right groupset for your cycling ventures, ensuring the best possible performance and enjoyment on your rides. 

Shimano Groupsets for Gravel Bikes: Pros and Cons

If you’re considering getting a gravel bike, one of the critical components to consider is the groupset. Shimano is a popular choice among cyclists due to its performance quality and reliability. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of Shimano groupsets for gravel bikes to help you make an informed decision.


1. Variety of options: Shimano offers a dedicated gravel groupset called GRX, available in three ranges – RX400, RX600, and RX800 – catering to different budgets and preferences.

2. Wide gear ratio: Shimano gravel groupsets provide various gear ratios, allowing you to tackle a range of terrains with ease. GRX groupsets offer both 1x and 2x configurations, depending on your needs.

3. Chain stabilization: Shimano’s clutch derailleur technology ensures excellent chain stability and smooth gear changes, reducing the chances of your chain falling off during rides.

4. Comfortable and secure grip: Shimano’s shifters and levers are designed for a comfortable and secure grip, providing confident control over your bike on uneven surfaces.

5. Reliable braking: Shimano’s Servo Wave technology promises improved brake power and modulation, delivering a safer and more enjoyable gravel riding experience.


1. Price: Shimano groupsets, particularly the higher-end models, can be relatively expensive compared to other brands. However, their performance and longevity usually make up for the initial investment.

2. Limited top speed: While Shimano gravel groupsets are versatile for most terrains, they may lack a high enough gear ratio for very fast road rides. If you frequently ride at high speeds on smooth surfaces, this could be a limitation.

In summary, Shimano groupsets offer a reliable and high-quality option for gravel bike enthusiasts. They come in various configurations and price points, catering to different needs and preferences. Weigh up the pros and cons mentioned above to determine if a Shimano groupset is the right choice for you and your gravel bike adventures.

Sram Groupsets for Gravel Bikes: Pros and Cons

As a gravel bike enthusiast, you might be wondering which groupset is best for your off-road adventures. One popular option to consider is the SRAM lineup of groupsets, known for their high-quality performance and reliability. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of SRAM groupsets for gravel bikes.

1. Wide range of options: SRAM offers a diverse range of gravel groupsets to suit various preferences and budgets. From the entry-level Apex 1 to the top-tier Red eTap AXS, you can find a groupset that meets your needs and enhances your biking experience.

2. Advanced shifting technology: SRAM is known for its 1x (one-by) drivetrain systems, which eliminate the front derailleur and reduce the number of components needed for shifting. This simplifies the bike’s mechanics and results in less maintenance and more reliable gear changes.

3. Lightweight and durable: SRAM’s gravel bike groupsets are designed to be both lightweight and durable, making them ideal for off-road adventures. This means you can ride with confidence knowing your bike’s components can withstand the challenges of the trail.

4. Hydraulic disc brakes: SRAM’s gravel groupsets often come with hydraulic disc brakes, providing superior stopping power and ensuring a safer ride on rough terrain.

1. Limited gear range: Some cyclists may find the gear range offered by SRAM’s 1x drivetrains to be limiting, especially on steep climbs or fast descents. However, this is often mitigated by the wide-ranging cassette at the rear.

2. Price: SRAM groupsets can be quite pricey, depending on the model you choose. If you are on a tight budget, you might want to consider more affordable options from other manufacturers.

3. Compatibility: SRAM components may not be compatible with all bike frames or other components, so it’s crucial to ensure your bike can accommodate your chosen groupset.

In summary, SRAM groupsets for gravel bikes offer numerous benefits such as a wide range of options, advanced shifting technology, and reliable performance. However, you should also consider potential drawbacks, such as the limited gear range, price, and compatibility before making your final decision. 

Campagnolo Groupsets for Gravel Bikes: Pros and Cons

As a gravel biking enthusiast, you might be wondering if Campagnolo’s groupsets are the right choice for your gravel bike adventures. The Italian brand is known for its innovation and high-quality components, but how do their groupsets fare when used on gravel bikes? In this section, we’ll explore the pros and cons of Campagnolo groupsets for gravel bikes.


1. High-quality components: Campagnolo has a reputation for producing high-quality and reliable components, ensuring your gravel bike performs well on rough terrain.

2. Unique 13-speed offering: Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset stands out with its 13-speed cassette, providing you with a wider range of gears to help you conquer varying terrain.

3. Single-chainring drivetrain: Ekar features a 1x single chainring setup, simplifying the drivetrain and reducing the chances of chain issues on rough terrain.

4. Lightweight design: Campagnolo’s components are often lighter than those of competing brands, which can improve the overall handling and performance of your gravel bike on rugged terrain.


1. Limited options: Campagnolo currently only offers one dedicated gravel groupset (Ekar), which may limit your options compared to the multiple gravel groupsets available from Shimano and SRAM.

2. No electronic shifting: Unlike Shimano and SRAM, Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset is only available in a mechanical version, which may not appeal to riders who prefer the convenience of electronic shifting.

3. Price: Campagnolo’s high-quality components often come with a higher price tag compared to other brands. While this may be justified by the quality and performance, it’s worth considering if the additional cost fits within your budget.

4. Compatibility: Campagnolo’s components are not as widely compatible with other brands, which can limit your options if you’re looking to mix and match components on your build.

In summary, the Campagnolo Ekar groupset offers a unique 13-speed option, lightweight design, and high-quality components for your gravel bike. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons, considering the price, compatibility, and lack of electronic shifting before making your final decision.

Choosing the Best Gravel Bike Groupset for Your Riding Needs

Selecting the perfect gravel bike groupset for your riding style and requirements can be a bit overwhelming. With various options from reputable manufacturers available on the market, it’s essential to understand the features and benefits each groupset offers, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable riding experience. Here’s a brief guide to help you choose the best gravel bike groupset for your needs.

Firstly, consider your riding terrain and the gear ratios needed. If you mostly ride on flat surfaces, a groupset with fewer easy gears should suffice. However, for those tackling steeper, more technical climbs, a groupset with a broader range will be more suitable.

Next, decide between a 1x (one chainring) or 2x (two chainrings) setup. A 1x groupset provides simplicity and lower maintenance due to having only one derailleur. On the other hand, a 2x groupset offers smaller jumps between gears, making it an excellent choice for riders looking for a smoother, more precise gear change.

Some of the top gravel bike groupsets available include:

1. Shimano GRX: Known for its reliability and performance, Shimano offers various GRX groupsets catering to different budget levels (RX400, RX600, and RX800). These groupsets feature dedicated gravel-specific components and versatile configurations.

2. SRAM Rival 1×12 AXS: This affordable electronic drivetrain offers a wide gear range and wireless convenience, making it an excellent choice for those venturing off the beaten path.

3. Campagnolo Ekar: Perfect for racers preferring a 1x system, the Ekar groupset delivers dependable shifting, a 13-speed rear cassette, and a focus on maintaining optimal cadence.

In summary, selecting the ideal gravel bike groupset comes down to personal preference based on your riding style, budget, and the desired gear range. Explore the features and benefits of each groupset to find the perfect fit for your cycling adventures.

Understanding the Price Range of Gravel Bike Groupsets

When choosing the ideal gravel bike groupset for your needs, it’s important to understand the price range of the options available on the market. Groupsets can vary widely in cost based on the quality, components, and brand. Here, we’ll give you a better understanding of what to expect in terms of pricing so you can make an informed decision on the best groupset for your budget and preferences.

On the lower end of the price spectrum, you’ll find entry-level groupsets like Shimano’s GRX RX400, which is equivalent to their Tiagra road groupset. This is a budget-friendly option in a 10-speed configuration, best-suited for riders new to gravel biking or those on a tighter budget. Prices for entry-level groupsets typically range from $300 to $600.

Mid-range gravel bike groupsets like Shimano’s GRX RX600 or SRAM’s Rival 1×12 offer higher quality components, increased durability, and additional features. You can expect to pay between $700 and $1,200 for these groupsets, depending on the brand and specific components included.

At the top end of the price range, you’ll find premium gravel bike groupsets such as Shimano’s GRX RX800, SRAM Force AXS Wide, or Campagnolo’s Ekar. These high-performance groupsets are lighter, offer more advanced technology, and provide smoother, more precise shifting. Prices for these premium groupsets range from $1,500 to $2,500+.

When considering which gravel bike groupset is right for you, evaluate your biking needs, your experience level, and your budget. Remember that investing in a good quality groupset can improve your biking experience and save you money in the long run, as higher-quality components typically require less maintenance and last longer.

Maintenance Tips for Your Gravel Bike Groupset

As a gravel bike enthusiast, keeping your groupset well-maintained is crucial for optimal performance and an enjoyable riding experience. Here are 10 essential maintenance tips to ensure your gravel bike’s groupset stays in top shape:

1. Clean your drivetrain regularly: Remove dirt and debris from the cassette, chainrings, and derailleur pulleys to prevent premature wear and maintain smooth shifting.

2. Lubricate your chain: Apply a suitable chain lubricant depending on your riding conditions. Don’t forget to wipe off excess lube to minimize dirt accumulation.

3. Inspect your chain for wear: Use a chain checker tool to monitor wear, and replace your chain when necessary to avoid damaging your cassette and chainrings.

4. Adjust your derailleurs: Ensure both front and rear derailleurs are aligned correctly to avoid chain rub and facilitate accurate shifting. Consult your groupset’s user manual for specific adjustment procedures.

5. Check cables and housing: Inspect cables for fraying or rust, and ensure cable housing is free of dirt and debris. Replace worn cables as needed.

6. Bleed hydraulic disc brakes: Familiarize yourself with your groupset’s brake bleeding procedure or consult a professional if you’re unsure. Regular bleeding ensures consistent and effective braking.

7. Replace worn brake pads: Inspect the thickness of your brake pads and replace them when they approach the recommended minimum thickness provided by the manufacturer.

8. Keep an eye on shifting performance: If your shifting becomes sluggish or inconsistent, it may be time to replace your cassette or chainrings.

9. Monitor your bottom bracket: Check for side-to-side play in your cranks and listen for any creaking or grinding noises, which might indicate a need for maintenance or replacement.

10. Regularly inspect all components: Routinely give your groupset a visual once-over to identify and address any issues early.

By following these maintenance tips, you’ll keep your gravel bike groupset in great condition, ensuring a dependable and enjoyable ride on your favorite gravel routes.

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