Shimano Ultegra RX

Shimano debuted an Ultegra RX rear derailleur with a clutched cage pivot at last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. Unlike the obligatory disc brake marketing at Paris-Roubaix, the riders in the professional peloton actually seemed eager to use this new product, as the sprinting over cobbles at 30mph creates a lot of chain slap and the threat of throwing a chain.

The concept of clutched cage pivots for chain management is borrowed from the mountainbike market. The complex dynamics of mtb drivetrains on full-suspension bikes has always presented a problem in keeping a chain under control. But other than pro riders pounding the cobbles at race speed, do road riders really need a clutched rear derailleur?

Well, the case can certainly be made that gravel riders could benefit from better chain management of course, though it sorta depends on what your type of gravel you’re riding.

But you know who benefits from a clutched derailleur all the time? Riders with 1x drivetrains. As much as I can see this as Shimano’s tardy acknowledgement of the gravel market, I think that Shimano could very well be hedging their bets that 1x road might not be a fad.