Classified POWERSHIFT hubs will kill the front derailleur

AK
posted by Ard Kessels
May 09, 2022

A few weeks ago at the 2022 Sea Otter Classic expo I was super excited to learn more about one piece of new technology. A two speed internal gear hub by a Belgian company called Classified.

But before we get into all the tech in this system, I have to share that I almost lost it when Tom Boonen walked into our booth. 

If you are not familiar: for a faux Belgian like myself it is the equivalent of Michael Jordan walking up and asking some casual questions about your products. Tom is Belgian royalty, a four time Paris Roubaix winner and an early investor in Classified.

Tom Boonen at the SOC22 Kogel Booth

Race-ready internal-gear hubs

I have test ridden several internal gear hubs in my life and they have one thing in common: a ton of added friction from the internal cogs, especially in the lighter gears. It is literally the opposite of what you need when you’re huffing and puffing on a steep ascent. 

Typically these hubs are also heavier than a boat anchor, another reason internal gear hubs are suboptimal for bike racing.

Classified says the additional friction from their planetary gear reducers is 0% in the virtual large ring setting since the system is simply locked out and spinning with the hub. 

A simple push of the button will switch to the virtual small ring, which means the rear wheel will rotate at 70% of the original speed. The lighter gear runs with 1% of added friction, which is completely offset by the fact that you are rotating a 52-tooth front ring instead of a 36. 

Classified POWERSHIFT hub expanded view

Imagine 52-Tooth 1x-drivetrain bliss

Imagine the benefits of running a single large chainring on the front. Just swap out cassettes to match the terrain. No more missed shifts, no more backing off the power to gear up or down, no more chain jams. You also gain an additional aero benefit because of the lacking front derailleur.

Smaller chainrings up front add friction since the chain needs to articulate across a larger angle. This is the sole reason we designed our Kolossos oversized pulleys. Totally Kogel approved! This system is built to go fast and my brief test ride confirmed that.

Imagine a MUCH larger single chainring

Instant shifting under full load

Looking closer at the Classified’s interpretation of internal-gear technology had me fascinated. This system can be retrofitted in any road or gravel bike with a through axle and flat-mount brakes. 

There is a shifting module  that fits in the left side bar end with a shift button very similar to Shimano’s sprint shifters. The Ridley test bike I rode actually had the system connected to the left side GRX Di2 shifters which made the transition even more natural. Apparently this connection was hard wired, so my guess is this won’t work with 12 speed Ultegra and Dura Ace.

The handlebar unit connects to a bluetooth receiver in the rear axle, which in turn shifts the hub unit with electromagnetic wizardry. It’s a little above my engineering hat, but the fact is that there is no physical connection between the axle and hub internals.  

Shifting happens in 0.15 seconds and under full load up to 1000 watts. This means you could make a front shift several times in one pedal revolution, something that is impossible with a traditional derailleur.

Classified sells wheelsets too

Hub-centric intelligence

The hub unit contains the planetary gears, all electronics and is fully sealed. I like how all the expensive parts, including the custom cassette are included in a single unit that can be moved from wheel to wheel without any effort. 

Most riders own multiple wheelsets and with this setup it is possible to swap wheels without the need to invest in a range of pricey electronic units. Compare it to the convenience of owning a pair of pedal based power meters. Thinking smarter, not harder.

A commitment to service

Totally in line with the smarter not harder philosophy: the gear units are not dealer serviceable, only at the Classified Head Quarters in Belgium and for the US at their local distributor. To make life easier for the dealers and to guarantee that customers don’t have to miss a day of riding, Classified plans to keep spare hub units at their dealers. 

They will be able to swap a faulty unit on the spot and send the bike out the door while warranty or service happens off site. Don’t you love a company that goes the extra mile for customer service?

What do you think? Should Kogel start working on a bearing upgrade set for Classified? These hubs would not live up to their full potential using generic steel bearings after all.

For the moment, I can’t wait to get my hands on a production set and start testing this. Let’s face it, the front derailleur is ancient technology and has overstayed its welcome for a while now. It is already banned on mountain bikes and most gravel bikes. It is time for road bikes to step into the 21st century.

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