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Removing the front derailleur from a drop-bar bike comes with its benefits — simplified frame design and increased tyre clearance — but it’s also fraught with compromise. We’re now at a place where 1x drivetrains can indeed match the total range of a good 2x setup, but that comes with greater gaps between each shift.
As spotted by Cycling Weekly, Classified is a Belgian company with a yet-to-be-released two-speed internal-gear rear hub which hosts an 11-speed cassette on the outside. And while that may sound simple, there’s a whole lot of cleverness here and it’s not nearly as radical-sounding as SRAM’s patented concept.
A wider range from a smaller cassette
Specific details of Classified’s new product are limited, but from the company’s website, we know the internal shifting hub offers both a 1:1 and a 1:0.7 ratio, the latter effectively adding a lower gear range than what the exterior cassette suggests. That two-speed gearing is wirelessly controlled from a handlebar-mounted shifter — more on that in a second.
Classified’s hubs require a unique cassette, something the company will produce itself. Currently, there are four cassette ranges listed, and all are 11-speed. These cassettes are said to be machined from a single block of steel (not unlike SRAM’s upper-tier cassettes), and the large driver interface replaces the need for a cassette spider. The result is something that’s said to be light and extremely durable.
Classified is currently stating those four cassette options are 11-27, 11-30, 11-32 and 11-34T, sizes that are compatible with existing Shimano 11-speed road drivetrains, while SRAM and even Campagnolo 11-speed users could make a number of the size options work, too. For example, that 11-30T cassette offers a total gear range of 273%, but when combined with Classified’s internal shifting system, that figure grows to 398%.
Specific weights of the cassettes and hubs haven’t yet been shared, but in theory this system could be lighter than a comparable 2x system.
Classified claims that its wireless system can shift between the two internal gears within 150 milliseconds, or in other words, crazy fast. And it can make that shift under significant load, apparently up to 1,000 watts.
To control the two hub gears, a small wireless transmitter is installed into the left-side end of a drop handlebar and connected to either a shifter or satellite buttons. It’s currently unknown what shifters this will work with, but it feels safe to speculate that Di2 compatability would be within the design scope. The transmitter is powered via a small replaceable battery. And the system claims to offer ANT+ communication for gear display with popular computer units.
At the hub end, the electronics are cleverly tucked into the thru-axle. The electronic receiver seemingly sits in the axle’s handle, as does the USB-rechargeable battery. The system works with induction coils so there are no wires or similar to contend with at the hub. Classified claims the battery will last 10,000 shifts, or three months of riding, between charges.
Modular hub design
The whole system is designed to transfer from one hub shell to another, meaning you can set up multiple wheelsets with the Classified system without incurring the (unknown) cost of the electronics and moving components. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a modular concept, with Kindernay showing a similar idea for its fully internal-geared hub at Eurobike 2019.
Classified states the whole system is well sealed from the elements and suitable for all conditions.
That hub shell appears to offer an enormous hub flange diameter and uses straight-pull spokes. As mentioned, exact details are limited, but the hub appears to make use of existing 142 x 12 mm axle fitments, which should allow this hub to be a direct fit for the majority of disc road bikes on the market. Speaking of discs, the pictured hub shows a centerlock brake mount.
The company’s imagery suggests this product will begin its life aimed at road, gravel and adventure riding markets. However, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the technology having applications in other segments, such as e-road bikes and even mountain bikes.
Currently, specific details such as prices, weights and frame compatibility remain unknown. Similarly, there’s no mention of system efficiency, something that will likely be an important element given the increased drag that many internal-gear hubs carry.
Whether it’s affordable or not, this is certainly one of the better solutions to ditching a front derailleur that we’ve seen.