4 Unexpected Perks Of Rotor 13 Speed

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When Hannah saw the Rotor 13 speed drive train in Idaho, a few little details beyond the basic benefits of Moar Gears caught her eye. 

rotor 13 speed
Mountain bike option are still at prototype stage.
Rotor 13 speed prototype
Shifter design to be confirmed…

1. Rotor 1×13 Pick And Mix

First up is its modular design. There’s only one derailleur for both MTB and Road/Gravel set ups. Pick your cranks, chain ring and cassette depending on what you’re riding. If you suddenly decide to abandon your drop bar bike, you don’t need to abandon the entire groupset. Which is nice, but not actually the most interesting prospect here…

Since it’s all inter-compatible, you could put roadie parts on a mountain bike – which is what the Mallen Twins have done. They’re a pair of 11 year old freeriding groms whose skills and tricks make some of us glad we don’t have to ride with them, and others of us glad we’re not their parents. Finding that MTB cranks were too long for their needs, they’ve been able to swap to road cranks to give them the perfect set up. While that’s only an option because they’re nice light weight 11 year olds (Most Singletrack readers would probably have a few warranty issues if they tried the same on their own freeride machines… and of course we’re sure that our cranks are the only thing holding us back from free ride greatness…) it seems like a pretty cool little hack to us.

2. Return to Origin

The little button on the side takes you down into the smallest sprocket at the touch of a… er… little button. If you’re racing and fixing a flat, that’s a nice little quick shift that will be a welcome time saver. If you’re just taking your bike apart to fit it into your Fiat Panda after a ride, it’s a nice little faff saver that you’ll surely appreciate time and time again.

3. Get Home Gears

If you’re feeling nervous about the prospect of a hydraulic shifting system then there’s a nice little ‘get home’ option here. You can actually shift gears manually, by pushing the derailleur up the sprockets with your hand.

Twiddle your way up the hill in a nice big sprocket, then ride along the ridge using that ‘return to origin’ button to get you moving along the the flat, then push the derailleur back up a bit for an easier climb up to home… you can’t do that with a broken gear cable.

4. Baby Steps

If you’re not yet persuaded of the merits of 1x, maybe this chart, aimed at the road and gravel folks, will help demonstrate the lengths you’d have to go to shifting between front rings in order to achieve a similarly smooth series of gear increments to Rotor 1×13. It bears little resemblance to the two half blocks with an overlapping middle that are the reality of 2x shifting, does it?

rotor 13 speed stats and figures singletrack magazine
Who actually does that many front ring shifts? Huh uh.

The benefits of 1x over a 2x set up are now well known to most of us mountain bike riders, but the Rotor 13 speed offers some benefits over other 1x set ups too. As well as the huge 520% range of the 10-52 MTB cassette, the steps in between the gears are more evenly spaced than on other options. That should create a more even and smooth progress through the gears, with no leaps  in one place or tiny increments in another. If you prefer your gears more tightly spaced, you can forgo the top 52 tooth sprocket, and have a 10-46T cassette. With so many options, there should be less chance of feeling like there’s not quite the right gear for the hill you’re climbing.

Rotor 13 speed singletrack magazine
Comparison of increments against other 1x options.
Rotor 13 speed singletrack
Even flow

Rotor 13 Speed Availability

While the road/gravel half of the groupset is available now, the MTB shifters are not expected to be released until Autumn. This prototype was on display, but we were absolutely not under any circumstances allowed to ride it. Humph.

Apparently the shifter shape may yet change, though the marketing information does seem to confirm it’s a single trigger actuation – one paddle for both up and down the gears. This matches the road/gravel shifter, where a half push takes you down the block, while a full one takes you up. The marketing material also shows a mountain bike shifter which looks quite different to the one we have here, and also features an optional removable trigger ‘for more efficient shifting while downhilling’.

prototype shifter
We were categorically NOT allowed to try this out.

I did get a very brief spin out on a (whispers) road bike with the groupset installed, so catch up with my first impressions of that here:

For a more detailed look at the construction, check out this story.


Hannah’s travel and accommodation was provided by CrankTank/Impact Sun Valley.

Comments (2)

    You can do a similar bar swap with SRAM etap shifters and SRAMS Connectamajig for the brakes; some rigs where configured this way for DK I believe. Certainly rodeolabs where experimenting I recall.

    Me thinks that we are nearing the edge of the cable capabilities with all these cogs on the back? As the shifts get closer together it seems that electric or hydro will be the only way to keep it adjusted. On my own bikes I think that 11speed XO functions better than Eagle 12,I’ve done everything I can, hanger align, red plastic dooley, etc etc etc, the 11speed has a nice clunk and bam its on the gear for long periods of the year, Eagle is more fiddly. Maybe this is one of the ways to moar cogs and clean shifting?

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