Rotor has officially launched its new Uno groupset. It comes with a host of innovative features including hydraulic shifting. At a claimed 1604g (not including cranks), it's lighter than both SRAM Red and Shimano Dura-Ace

Rotor’s original product back in 1996 was its RCK crank system, while its widely used Q-rings launched in 2006. It’s expanded its product range since to include cranks and power meters.

At the official launch of Rotor Uno near Madrid this week, Lars Janssen, the company’s Uno Product Manager, said: “Offering a complete groupset was the next logical step for Rotor”. But Rotor hasn’t just followed the crowd with Uno. It’s been working on it for six years, developing some innovative features and producing a solution with very low overall weight.

>>> Rotor launches lightweight carbon Q-ring

Hydraulic shifting

For starters, Rotor Uno uses hydraulics for shift activation. Each lever body contains a single piece CNC moulding, made by Rotor in its own factory, with two pistons: one for the hydraulic brakes and one for the shifting.

There’s a single aluminium shift lever placed behind the carbon-fibre brake lever: a bit like SRAM DoubleTap, you push a short sweep to shift the rear mech up or the front mech down. Push further and the rear mech shifts to lower gears and the front mech from the small to the large ring.

Watch our first look at Rotor Uno at Challenge Mallorca

Rather than building the gear indexing into the lever, Rotor has moved it to the derailleur mechanisms. This means that there’s no routine adjustment required and no chance of ghost shifting. You set the lowest position to run correctly on the cassette’s largest sprocket and the rest just follow and are immune to any changes in the hydraulics. The mechanism can be set to shift between one and four gears per lever pull.

Indexing for the gears is handled at the mech. Here's the front derailleur without its cover

Indexing for the gears is handled at the mech. Here’s the front derailleur without its cover

The rear derailleur also incorporates a disengagement feature: flip a small lever and the mech is freed up from the levers and the cage can move independently, making it easier to switch wheels and adding some protection against damage, for example when in transit.

>>> Rotor power meter review

Since they don’t contain anything other than the hydraulic pistons, the internals of the lever bodies are very minimalist, which has allowed Rotor to choose how large to make the hoods. They’re actually quite wide as testers preferred the extra width, but Rotor will have the option in future to offer different sizes to suit different riders.

Lever body just contains the hydraulic pistons, so there's plenty of space

Lever body just contains the hydraulic pistons, so there’s plenty of space

The hydraulic hoses for the gears are very narrow with 3mm external diameter, a size which Rotor has chosen to allow them to be threaded internally through frames designed for electronic shifting cables. Being fluid filled, they’ll also handle tight turns without this impacting shift performance.

They are maintenance-free and filled with a 30 per cent glycol solution, which is stable down to -15ºC, so there’s little chance of your gears freezing. It’s also non-viscous and being a closed system, there’s no chance of contamination.

Hydraulic brake options

Rotor Uno is being offered with either hydraulic rim or disc brakes. Roto has paired up with German hydraulics manufacturer Magura, which already provides bicycle disc and rim brakes. There are also two versions of the brake levers: one for rim brakes and one for discs.

Disc and rim brake options are supplied by Magura

Disc and rim brake options are supplied by Magura

Because heat build-up in disc brakes can be large, this system contains a fluid reservoir whereas one is not required for the rim braked version. This means that you can’t swap between rim and disc brakes without changing the levers too. The brakes use 5mm reinforced hoses.

Wider than the shift hoses, they are filled with Magura’s proven Royal Blood oil which is environmentally friendly and does not adsorb water.

Disc brakes will be available in IS mount and direct mount version, while a direct mount version of the rim brake is in the pipeline.

And finishing components for a complete groupset

Rotor has also designed its own cassette for Uno. It comes in three parts each containing multiple sprockets: the smallest two domes are steel to cope with wear, while the largest is aluminium as the stresses on the teeth of larger gears are less.

The cassette’s splines are compatible with Shimano/SRAM freehub bodies. Rotor claims a weight of under 150g for the 11-28 available at launch.

We rode this Cervelo R3 test bike to Puerto de la Morcuera

We rode this Cervelo R3 test bike to Puerto de la Morcuera

And it has paired with KMC to offer an Uno chain. Based on the x11SL chain, it is DLC anti-wear coated and comes with red sideplates.

Real world testing

Rotor has had Uno installed on a number of bikes ridden by the Dimension Data team since January and all riders on the Bigla women’s team are also using the groupset. Janssen told us that the feedback from the teams has been invaluable and has resulted in a host of tweaks.

Top of the climb wasn't warm in April

Top of the climb wasn’t warm in April

We rode a Cervelo R3 Disc equipped with Uno and Rotor’s new 2INpower power meter up the defining climb of last year’s Vuelta a Espana from Miraflores de la Sierra to Puerto de la Morcuera, where Fabio Aru attacked and dropped Tom Dumoulin, securing his first Grand Tour win.

Uno’s shifting – particularly at the rear – is accurate and direct and requires similar force to a mechanical set-up. At the front, there’s some feathering required to accommodate different chainlines. Braking is also effective. We dragged our disc brakes for several kilometres back down the climb, without developing any noticeable fade or brake rub.

Pricing, weight and availability

A complete Uno groupset including rim or disc brakes will retail for 2499 Euros without cranks. Rotor claims that the total weight for the shifters, derailleurs and disc brake hardware is 1604g, which is 10g less than the SRAM Red equivalent and 417g less than the same components for Shimano Di2.

Adding in Rotor cranks is likely to reduce this advantage, although the option is there to use the groupset with other manufacturers’ cranks. And with Rotor offering its own crank-based power meters it might not be so relevant for high-end users.

Initially Rotor will focus on selling aftermarket, but also expects Uno to be offered as an option on complete bikes. It also plans to launch additional Uno products in future. Janssen mentioned satellite shifters. Adding additional shift options would just be a case of joining their hoses up to the lines from the main gear shifters.

  • Doug M.

    “world’s first hydraulic groupset” bro, do you even google?

  • Stevo

    The Rotor group hasn’t got four batteries to worry about, for a start. It is also lighter, the brakes are better, the gear shifts are likely to be at least as good, and it isn’t made SRAM.

  • Stevo

    I think it looks beautiful.

  • marc carter

    I would love to try one out, but at that price tag, no thanks. My record on cables is fine and affordable

  • llos25

    Are they in competition to make the most ugly groupset.

  • Marc Moseley

    Also, if you wanted to get fancy, you could put fittings like elbows, return bends or frame fixed couplings and make the routing go anywhere a di2 wire can go. No need to worry about bend radius as with cables, just have to keep it from kinking.

  • Marc Moseley

    You’d likely never have to fiddle with tension, like you do as cables stretch. They don’t need replacement every couple thousand miles, they don’t progressively loose performance like cables as housing liners wear and get dirty. Replacement can be a big hassle if you ride a bike with internal routing. I’ve had cables snap on me mid ride. Of course, hydraulics can leak, but they could also (if they were smart) come up with a simple device to hydrostatically test your hydraulic systems every so often, at home, at say 1.5x times peak working pressure and catch problems before they happen on the road. No batteries to charge. Master cylinders in the brifters would likely outlast the rotating nylon/poly drums in cabled systems (I’ve had a pawl break on well used shifters mid ride). Also, with the appropriate hydraulic oil, your shifts wouldn’t suffer in cold weather while housing can accumulate moisture in warm weather and freeze in the cold, creating even more friction.

    I think the system has tremendous potential for being convenient and well performing if designed and built well. Depending on the routing it could conceivably be road repairable as well, if they came up with convenient patch kit, you’d only need to carry a small container of oil (1 – 2 oz maybe? if that?). Or just ride it on single speed mode to the nearest drug store to buy some mineral oil. There are certainly more drug stores than bike shops (which is what you need when you brake a cable) and most are open 24/7 now.

  • Hobo Beard

    I just think Rotor have missed the boat somewhat, do not get me wrong it
    looks like a good bit of kit but will it really be a contender against
    DI2. I like many people made the switch over to electronic and have had
    zero issues whatsoever. What would make the average joe buy the Rotor
    group over DI2??. I cannot see this groupset coming in as “cheap” option
    either I would guess the whole package to be between1 and 1.5k, it they
    wanted to make a dent in the market I would however say its needs to be
    around the 699.99 price point but honestly I cannot see that being the
    case.. FSA have a semi electric unit in the works and I would guess that
    Shimano would have a wireless unit in the pipeline regardless what
    their PR people say. If the tech is there to go Wireless and Shimano can
    do it right then I see little reason how that will not be the future.
    Having a bike with no cables or wires is a dream come true esp if you
    travel often with your bike, I know Etap is with us but I just do not
    think Sram would do it right and will awaiting the longterm reviews
    after during the season..

  • One would hope not, but they would be smart to capitalise on it as part of their overall strategy.

  • MD

    I hope that’s not their entire business plan though 🙂

  • Don’t forget that some people will be keen to buy a brand that is not Shimano, SRAM, Campag just so their bikes are more unusual.

  • SRAM’s ETap is quite interesting but I would be very wary of buying it as their kit is however not reliable. I jokingly asked ‘how long before they are recalled?’ on a post re their new ‘Level’ brakes today and got this reply.
    “Considering I’ve warrantied like 12 pairs of Guides in February alone…. I give it a week after release ha!’

    I’ve also spoken to several bike distributors here in the UK and all have said off the record that they’d rather SRAM kit wasn’t on their bikes because of the issues.

  • I’ve used hydraulic rim brakes and they are way better than caliper brakes, particularly in the wet. Hydraulics are a large part of why disc brakes are so good.

  • MD

    That’s going to be their challenge I think. They went hydraulic likely because of patent issues not because it’s going to be better than electronic (it might well be as good as). But who is going to retrofit their bike with this this Rotor groupset instead of an easier to fit SRAM wireless electronic _unless_ there is a significant price difference. ETap is already priced competitively against dura-ace so Rotor would need to undercut them all. And even then, shimano and to a lesser extent SRAM will still have the option of offering a slightly heavier and slightly cheaper electronic version of the 2nd tier groupset. I think Rotor’s greatest hurdl isn’t going to be technical it’s going to be marketing and pricing.

  • Mike Williams

    200g lighter than DA…now I want to see the price (although I am currently leaning towards wireless electronic for my next groupset).

  • Samuel Clemens

    In any event, something new is always interesting and potentially exciting 🙂

  • Roger

    I agree. But hydraulic fluid has much lower frictional losses. And, as far as I know, it doesn’t “give” as much when force is applied.

  • Samuel Clemens

    Maybe, but…I don’t see the deficiencies of a Bowden system. And a few decades on…I doubt it will be easier to repair than a good old Bowden…

  • Roger

    Maybe it works better than systems with Bowden cables? Also, it doesn’t have batteries that need to be charged, it can’t be hacked, and it might be easier to repair in 20 years time than electronic.

  • Samuel Clemens

    well, that said, I do think hydraulic shifting is a bit of over-engineering, particularly against electronic or just good old mechanical shifting. The need for master cylinders, fluid lines etc…what advantage can that possibly deliver?

  • Roger

    “The groupset is 22-speed (2×11) much like Dura-Ace”

    And much like Record years before that. Or doesn’t Campagnolo exist in CW land?

    And while we’re at it: “the big three – Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo”. SRAM is a relative newcomer, best known for it’s quality problems. It seems a bit strange to put it before Campag in that list.

    CW seems to have a thing about SRAM though: “With the recent launch of SRAM Red eTap wireless shifting, is Rotor’s new groupset already antiquated before it is released?” No, Rotor Uno is not antiquated, especially if it actually works and eTap is as bad as some of SRAM’s other stuff.

  • velocite

    The details of Rotor’s patent application were released recently and it embodied a different architecture: the indexed shifting was built into the derailleurs, not the shifters, so adding more shifters was a simple matter of branching off more hydraulic lines. It’s not stated in the above article whether that scheme is implemented in this product, but I would have thought it was. The advantage of hydraulics over electronic, including wireless, is no batteries, and over cables, well, that’s obvious.

  • RobTM

    Cable stretch and dirt/wear? People get new bikes then often have shift issues and you don’t hear of MTB hydraulics putting ppl off.
    Electronic is still very expensive, not value, I don’t think Rotor are trying to compete with those very high end sets.

  • blemcooper

    That may well be the case, though the specific claims attributed to Rotor in the article don’t suggest that, but rather the conclusion reached by the author. The claims from Rotor are actually of the “me too, but using hydraulics” variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se.

  • James Jinhoo Kim

    The article clearly states that the ultimate goal is to be the lightest yet competitively priced. Hydraulic lines are much lighter than traditional cable and housing. Plus with Rotor’s expertise in aluminum machining, I think this will be the next lightest group set when paired with DA cassette.

  • David Mosby

    Campagnolo will be the Brembo of braking,, I will wait

  • dogo

    Probably had to do this way to avoid patent infringing Shimano/SRAM/Campag

  • Edward Hutton

    I agree with the need to sell something new statement

  • blemcooper

    What problem is this really solving (other than the need to sell something new)? At least with electronic, you had clear benefits of shift buttons wherever you needed them and a different, automatic approach to trimming a gear combo.

    It’s doubtful that the multiple shift positions of hydraulic would be as flexible or compact as electronic. Perhaps it will be more resistant to faults from high vibration environments? And more resistant to gunking up than cable systems in harsh environments, but harder to maintain when the time comes, especially out on the road.

    The hood shapes look nice though.

  • Mike Prytherch

    Be interesting to see how you set-up the gear shifting, also how easy will it be to trim the hoses.