The front derailleur has long been the bane of the mechanical components of a bicycle. While some perfectly set-up front derailleurs, like Shimano’s Di2, are immense improvements over what front derailleurs used to be, there is no escaping that the front derailleur is a rather primitive component by necessity. There remains room for improvement in the way we shift bicycles. Classified Cycling has set out to do just this with their new internal hub equipped shift system. The Classified Cycling Powershift system works in conjunction with a rear cassette to provide the range and jumps of 2x shifting without the hassle of front derailleur.
The Rise of 1x Road Gearing
Of late, the most common way to “improve” front shifting has been to simply eliminate it. 1x drivetrains are becoming more common – even on dedicated pavement bikes. This being said, wide range cassette equipped 1x set-ups have bigger gaps in gearing than a 2x set-up. They also have more drivetrain friction, particularly in the lowest gears. While the 1x approach is established as a valid gravel gearing option for some riders, the gearing gap differences alone have demonstrated why 2x still exists and is the dominant format on the pavement.
This being said, who doesn’t like the simplicity of a 1x? If the simplicity of the 1x could be preserved while offering the gearing jumps of a 2x, you’d really be onto something. Classified Cycling has recognized this and designed an impressively performing internal hub that marries with a 1x external drivetrain to create the gearing jumps and rolling friction of a 2x system with the simplicity of a 1x.
How the Classified Cycling Powershift System Works
Classified Cycling’s Powershift system takes the not very new concept of the internally geared hub and simplifies and modernizes it. Instead of trying to put the rear cassette range into a hub, Classified effectively put the chainrings inside. They then electrify the system for very fast shifts on demand and to provide the performance an enthusiast demands.
The gearing range of the Classified Powershift provides a 0.7 gear ratio. Multiply what you are using for a 1x ring up front by 0.7 and you will have your equivalent “small ring”. If you run a 50T, your low gear equivalent is a 35T ring. If you run a 44T, your low will be similar to having a 31T inner ring…
The broadest gearing range Classified currently offers is 451%. This is accomplished with a 11-34 cassette. At 451% range, the system is competitive with common readily available gearing ranges outside of the broadest OEM offerings (a SRAM 46/33 with a 10-36 is 516%). We see room for Classified to offer the broadest 2x range on the market with the addition of a 10-40 cassette or the like in the future.
Classified Cycling Powershift Considerations
The Powershift system is conceptually and functionally excellent. Like most things, it has some constraints, which are worth being aware.
Classified Cycling Wheel Options
Classified Cycling’s system depends on their proprietary hub. At the time of this writing, the hub is only available as part of a complete carbon rim wheelset from Classified. To Classified’s credit, they are offering high quality wheels and hubs that compete well with many mid to high grade carbon wheel offerings on the market. However, you can’t use an existing wheel with the Powershift system.
At the time of writing, Classified offers three different wheel systems: a gravel-based wheel with 30mm of depth; a 35mm road depth; and a versatile 50mm deep aero wheelset.
Not the Lightest, but Not Far Off
Classified Cycling’s current offerings are not as light as the lightest offerings on the market (Red, Dura Ace…), but they do compete well with the weight of most popular performance groups on the market. You won’t add weight with Classified’s system if you ride groups like SRAM Force AXS, Shimano Ultegra or Shimano GRX.
While we think it is intelligent of Classified to overbuild their product, it would not be surprising if additional “SL” options will come from Classified over time. There are places in the Classified system where further weight can likely be reduced.
Classified Cycling Powershift Gearing Options
Gearing can become a pretty personal topic. So, this is less of a limitation than something to be aware to make sure that the system provides you with the gearing you want.
The Classified Cycling Powershift system uses a proprietary steel Powershift cassette. While the current range of gearing Classified offers is more than adequate for many riders, you have to stick within Classified’s offerings. You can’t just retrofit a SRAM cassette onto a Classified hub.
On the low side of climbing gears, if a 40-11 is high enough for your top speed, you will have the equivalent of a 28-34 for a low climbing gear (40 * 0.7 = 28). This is nice and low, but not as low (or as high) as a SRAM 10-52 cassette paired with that same 40T ring.
On the high side of the gearing range options, the biggest chainring Classified recommends is a 50T. A 50-11 is currently the highest gearing option available. Again, fine for most of us, but not as high as a Cat 2 or above racer is likely to desire.
The good news is that Classified holds the reigns to their own destiny on gearing. They currently produce 11 and 12 speed cassettes ranging from 11-27 to 11-34. Additional gearing options as they continue to expand the application of their system seem feasible.
Classified Cycling Powershift Price Point = Force/Ultegra/GRX800
Classified Cycling has intelligently selected to target the pricing level of their initial offerings towards the heart of the performance road and gravel market. This makes the Classified Cycling system a good option on an enthusiast level bike.
When all is said and done, a Classified Cycling drivetrain on an Ultegra, GRX800 or Force level bike will be price competitive with a front derailleur equipped bike. There is one caveat – it will be price competitive as long as you were already planning on putting good carbon wheels on the bike…
What Does Classified Cycling Powershift Do Better than Other Options?
Mitigates the Usual Increase in Mechanical Friction when Going from 2x to 1x
Traditionally, 1x drivetrains have 2-3 watts more friction than 2x. Classified Cycling has a good explanation as to why this difference will not occur in the most important gear ratios for climbing with their system. The basics of it are that the rider will be staying in a larger front chainring even while climbing. Larger chainrings have less friction than smaller rings. https://classified-cycling.cc/stories/articles/classifieds-design-principles-for-an-efficient-bicycle-drivetrain
Powershift Eliminates the Front Derailleur
What more needs to be said?
Remote Shifter Placement
You can place the shift button most anywhere you want. The button has nice feel and melds well with the rest of the system. By having a separate shift button for the internal hub, it frees you up to simplify the paddle patterns on a system like Shimano’s Di2. Once you eliminate the front derailleur, the paddles can be used to just control the rear derailleur or be free to control other devices.
The Fastest Shift on the Planet
150 milliseconds is the amount of time it takes between the button being pressed and the gears shifting. This is the fastest shift speed we know. It is about 50 milliseconds faster than Di2 in its fastest setting and people don’t complain about Di2 shift speed.
Wireless Smart Thru Axle
The Classified System centers around the Smart Thru Axle, which houses the electronic receiver for the system. The Smart Thru Axle is a nice Integration of a part that a bicycle requires anyhow. While you need to make sure you have the right thread-pitch for your application, the installation is quick and without a bunch of auxiliary parts.
The system is designed to be universal. It doesn’t require unique axle spacing or preclude the rider from putting a wheelset without Powershift on the bike and using the bike as a standard 1x. It is easy to swap wheels without having to carry extra hardware for the system.
Full Load Shifts
The system shifts quickly and accurately, even when a 1000 watt load is being applied. While electronic front derailleurs are far more accommodating in this regard than derailleurs used to be, this remains a weak point of the front derailleur. The Classified Cycling Powershift system doesn’t care if you are putting out 100 watts or 1000 watts – it will shift smoothly either way and it will not cause the chain to fall off in the process.
It is worth noting that that Tom Boonen is quoted as saying, “I tried to break them and it didn’t work.” Translation: “The system can handle the wattage you produce…”
Classified Cycling Powershift – Sealed and Weatherproofed
While time is the only way to know for sure, we expect that Classified has done their homework and the system is sealed as well as claimed. Keeping the gears internal has clear advantages over an exposed front derailleur that is exposed to the elements, crash damage, etc. The concept certainly makes sense from a weather perspective.
Who Should Seriously Consider Classified Cycling’s Internal Hub System?
- The pavement cyclist who is concerned about simplicity and appreciates the experience of riding a smooth shifting bike. This is a big market; it is why the majority of riders ride their bike.
- The gravel rider who wants to ditch the front derailleur, but doesn’t want the inherent frictional gains of a 1x when climbing and would like to preserve the smaller jumps between gearing of a 2x.
- The rider looking to make one bike as versatile as possible for pavement and gravel.
- The rider looking to upgrade their current drivetrain to a more modern group. If you need new wheels in order to upgrade your components anyhow, the Classified system costs a very similar amount to a traditional front derailleur equipped system.
Classified Cycling Powershift System in Summary
We have sold a few Classified Cycling Powershift systems and I am in the process of installing a system on my personal Moots Routt RSL for this coming riding season. Why am I going with Classified? The concept just makes sense. Much like tubeless tires and disc brakes, I’ve wondered for decades why internal gearing took so long to make it onto performance road bikes. It is great to see this technology be developed and coming into its own.
While the considerations are there, the Classified System has some very compelling upsides. It is a very worthwhile option for the majority of riders based on what it accomplishes. Bridging the gap between 2x and 1x while eliminating the most finicky component on the bicycle makes it “game changing” technology.
Contact Us to learn more about the Classified Cycling Powershift system and how it may work for you.