The Classified Powershift System is easily the biggest innovation in gear shifting since the emergence of electronic shifting. I’d happily never see a front derailleur again. When it comes to shifting performance and gear offering, it’s better than anything else on the market today. However, the price is prohibitive and, as of yet, the wheel and bike partners are limited.
All the gears of a 2x system, with the clean lines and simplicity of 1x
Shifting under load and under muck
Works with mechanical and electronic groupsets
Super fast and smooth gear changes
As of yet, limited wheel and bike choices though that is changing
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After some eight years in development, the Classified Powershift Technology is gaining momentum. It received Eurobike’s Gold Award for design and innovation, it’s been UCI accredited and has already been spotted at the WorldTour.
Riders have backed this revolutionary shifting technology from its inception with Classics legend Tom Boonen being one of three company’s three owners and fellow legends like Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Anna van der Breggen are listed among the company’s investors. Now, the industry seems to be coming around as well with bike manufacturers like Ridley, Factor, Pilot Cycles, Rose and Allied all lining up to roll out Classified-equipped bikes, while Mavic, FFWD, DT Swiss, Enve, Reynolds, Boyd and Spinergy are all set to produce wheelset around the Classified hub.
The hub that’s said to be the front derailleur killer is going places so we decided to give it another look.
Stefan Abram rode and reviewed it back in 2021 with the intention to see if the hub could indeed make a front derailleur obsolete. I decided to test the system’s secondary use case, which is more gear options for the unique demands of gravel racing and riding.
The Classified Powershift System explained
While modern shifting is smoother, faster and more precise than it’s ever been, drawbacks remain. Cross-chaining, dropped chains, slow or poor shifting, big jumps between gears, and the need to be moving to change gears.
The Classified Powershift System set out to address all of those drawbacks, while also making the finicky front derailleur obsolete.
So how does it work?
The Classified Powershift System consists of a two-speed, internally geared hub, a wireless bluetooth shift button and a smart thru-axle. It’s 11- and 12-speed compatible and can be used with just about any shifting system, 11- or 12-speed and either wireless or mechanical, as long as your system is a 1x.
The Classified System is self-contained and as such, one could actually use it in conjunction with a 2x system, however, Classified suggest using a front chainring no smaller than 40T as anything smaller will reduce the system’s performance. Until the aforementioned wheel manufacturers start building wheelsets around the Classified hub, consumers are limited to purchasing Classified’s own, and rather pricey, wheelsets, which come in three rim depths —30, 35 and 50mm— and only in carbon.
To shift, a push of the satellite shift button sends a signal to the rear wheel’s smart thru-axle which in turn signals to the Powershift hub to toggle between its two internal gears. All this happens in just 150 milliseconds.
The whole system is electronic and powered by batteries. A CR1632 battery powers the shift button, which Classified says will last about a year’s worth of frequent use or 10,000 shifts. The smart thru-axle is rechargeable with a micro USB cable and will last about three months.
The rear hub is sealed, waterproof and maintenance free. There are two gears residing inside of it. The first is a direct-drive, the second offers a 30-percent change in gearing, acting much like a two-ring front crankset does. Paired with a 11-34 cassette you can get a gear range of 451%. In comparison, SRAM’s 1x XPLR system paired with a 10-44 cassette gets you a 440% range while the 2x X-Range series with a 43/30 crankset and 10-36 cassette will get you up to 516%. Shimano’s GRX 2x11 gravel groupset will get you up to 474% range with a 11-34 cassette.
Essentially, with the Classified System you get the aesthetics and benefits of a 1x system with the gear offering and clean chain lines of a 2x system.
Best of all, Classified’s shifting system allows you to change gears in a split second and under full load —up to 1,000 watts in fact— no matter the terrain, whether you’re moving or standing still or how mucked up your drivetrain is.
The gravel use case
Long hours in the saddle, loose strength-zapping surfaces, technical terrain, steep pitches and pure grinds. Gravel riding blurs the lines between mountain biking and endurance road riding, and has sparked all sorts of new bike and drivetrain designs. Trending at the moment are 1x drivetrains with massive gear ranges in the back and a small chainring up front.
The benefits of a 1x system include less overall weight, simpler shifting, better aerodynamics, easier cleaning and less chain drop. The drawbacks include big jumps between gears, a smaller overall gear range, giant pizza plate sized cassettes and rather severe chain angles.
Promising reliable shifting in all conditions, low-maintenance, a wide gear range yet smaller jumps in between gears and the benefit of a bail-out gear, Classified is making a strong use case for gravel riders and the team at Classified was keen for me put it to test, at home and on gravel racing's biggest stage: the muck fest that was Unbound Gravel.
But before I could put the system to the test, I had to first install it. My gravel / bikepacking rig is usually set up with a good ol’ 11-speed mechanical SRAM Force groupo — nothing fancy. I run a 38T narrow-wide chainring in the front and an 11-42 XT cassette in the back.
To switch over to the Classified Powershift System, I slapped on a Wolf Tooth 40T Drop Stop chainring and paired it with Classified’s 11-34 hub for max gear range. This proved to be overkill but more on that later.
For the purpose of this review, Classified supplied me with its CF G30 carbon tubeless compatible wheelset, which features a hard plastic shell instead of a normal hub in which to fit the rather large Classified hub. Getting the wheel up and running was about as quick and straight-forward as it comes. The tires seated easily and installing the single-piece steel hub took no effort at all. The shift button and thru-axle was a bit more effort.
The shift button is wired to a battery-containing transmitter, which goes in your bar ends while the button goes wherever you’d like it — in my case, I placed it on the inside of the drop curve so I could shift with my left thumb even when on the hoods. This meant unwrapping my bars and drilling a small hole into the bars to connect the button with the transmitter. If you use Shimano Di2 compatible bars with pre-drilled wire routing holes, this would be a non-issue. Additionally, if you have a bike with Shimano Di2, the system can be connected up so that the STI lever buttons control the hub shifting, making it a clean, integrated setup.
Handlebars done and re-wrapped, I then had to properly fit the smart thru-axle which involved matching the smart thru-axle’s thread and length to my own. Even with the help of digital Vernier Calipers, that took a few tries. But the setup was now complete and ready for testing.
A note about weight
In my setup, I went from a mechanical 1x system to the 1x Classified system. I wasn’t removing any parts as one would when going from a 2x groupset to the Classified Powershift System, in which you would get rid of the front derailleur, second chainring, cables, housing, etc.
Classified claims that the total weight of a bike equipped with the Powershift system is more or less equal to that of a bike with an electronic 2x groupset. But in my case, going from a mechanical 1x to the Powershift system meant adding a little bit of weight, even with the carbon G30 wheels.
On my kitchen scale, the plain wheelset, without the hub, cassette and thru-axles, came in around 1476g. The superlight, one-piece machined cassette added just 205g and the Classified hub with its internal gearing added another 469g. Then there’s the thru-axle and shift button/transmitter as well.
All in all, it wasn’t a big penalty for having twice the gears, but the system meant adding around 121 grams of weight to my build compared to the original 1x 11-42 setup with aluminium wheels and around 430g more than the same setup with my carbon hoops.
How it rode
The Classified Powershift System experience is unique in every way. The hub is startlingly quiet and the shifting buttery smooth and oh so speedy. My bike felt the same as it always had but with the big exception that I now had double the gears at my disposal with a simple touch of the button. And without the risk of cross-chaining, I could use every single one without giving it a second thought.
The shifting experience easily outperforms any 2x shifting I’ve ever ridden because shifting the front derailleur is always a tad slow as you’re asking your chain to jump or drop a rather big distance. Front derailleur shifting is tad slow at best, often just straight-up clunky or worse, a chain drop risk. When it comes to off-road riding, I’m all for a 1x system.
With that said, the Classified system also outperformed my usual 1x setup not only thanks to the 11 additional gears, but mostly due to the gentle progression between them. What’s more: you can shift without even turning a pedal or whilst climbing. Often while gravel riding, I find myself grinding up a steep pitch in loose or sandy condition,putting all my weight in the saddle in an attempt to help my tires get as much traction as possible. In these moments the beauty of shifting under load becomes especially apparent. That bail-out gear can make all the difference, on loose terrain, hills and, as I would soon discover at Unbound, in mucky conditions.
If you've followed the Unbound coverage, you'll know that the conditions were truly epic. Massive downpours, lightning, thunder and so much mud. Not to mention the carnage of sliced tires, lost bottles, clogged-up mechs and crashes.
The course’s deep creek crossings, flood zones and large puddles caused my drivetrain to struggle. As my rear derailleur clunked from one gear to the next, I knew I always had that second Classified gear to bail me out should the going get real tough.
However, as my rear derailleur was getting clogged up, the Classified shifting did lose some of its smoothness, making the jump between the big and little gears feel rougher than before.
This, however, seemed to have been caused solely by the struggling rear derailleur because once the bike was cleaned, the Classified Powershift system shifted as smoothly and crisply as ever.
With the 40T upfront, I was definitely undergeared and would recommend at least a 42T if not a 44T. I had chosen a 40T with hilly Oregon riding and loaded bikepacking in mind, but in the race setting, I spun like a track racer and struggled to keep up with the higher paces in the pack.
While you can definitely feel the undulating terrain at Unbound in the legs after some hours in the saddle, I don't think I necessarily 'needed' the added gear provided by the Powershift hub. I think my usual 1x setup with a 38T chainring and a 11-42 cassette would have been plenty here. However, in hillier conditions and whilst bikepacking, the added gears are a godsend.
The Classified Powershift System is easily the biggest innovation in gear shifting since the emergence of electronic shifting. I’d happily never see a front derailleur again.
When it comes to shifting performance and gear offering, it’s better than anything else on the market today.
But however clever the system, it is an aftermarket accessory and for that’s prohibitively expensive. The gravel kit reviewed here starts at €2,599, which is a considerable cost on top of an already fully built bike. This cost does include a nice set of carbon wheels, and should you choose to have a wheelset built by one of the Classified partners, a kit without wheels can be bought for €1299. This is still about the cost of an entirely new groupset.
So unless you’re already in the market for a nice new wheelset, the Powershift system is a rather spendy nice-to-have.
Hopefully as Classified adds more partners, there will not only be more buying options in terms of Classified-equipped wheels and fully built bikes, but we might see the price come down with the addition of things like alloy wheels.
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