Rotor first showed us their 13-speed, hydraulically controlled drivetrain at last year's Eurobike show, but that system was an early prototype and ways off from production. The Spanish company came to Sea Otter with a much more refined version, though, with the group finally being available this coming summer. Price? They're not 100-percent sure yet and didn't want to quote a number, but did say that it'll be in-line cost-wise with the fancy stuff from SRAM and Shimano. So, not cheap.
Whatever it ends up selling for, I suspect that it'll be a pretty rare sight on the trails. Rotor isn't planning on cornering the drivetrain market with their 13-speed group, and they're actually manufacturing all of the components in Spain; think of this as boutique, out of the ordinary alternative to the norm.
Rotor 13-speed Drivetrain Details
• Hydraulically controlled shifting
• 13-speeds (12-speed spacing)
• Uses 12-speed chain
• 10-52 Cassette
• Mineral oil
• Manufactured in Spain
• Weight: TBA
• MSRP: TBA
• More info: www.rotorbike.com
While I'm not going to justify needing a 13-speed drivetrain (or 12, 11, 10, etc), the reasoning behind adding cogs is sound: More cogs can mean smaller jumps between each gear, which is important when you want tiny 10-tooth and huge 52-tooth cogs on each end.
The 13-speed Rotor derailleur is powered by roughly 40cc of mineral oil rather than a steel cable.
The derailleur has some neat stuff going on, especially the 'Go to Origin' button that does exactly what it sounds like. If you push and hold it, the derailleur will quickly drop the chain down to the smallest cog, which can be helpful if you're taking your wheel out. Speaking of that, the clutch is clever in a simple way; you literally unclip it from the upper section of the derailleur so you can swing it out of the way more easily.
The indexing isn't in the shifter like it is inside a mechanical system, but rather down at the derailleur, and there are adjustable stops to determine how many gears you can change with each push of the thumb paddle.
An adjuster at the back (left) lets you change shifter feel, and a button on the front (right) can be pushed to get the derailleur to drop down to the smallest cog nearly instantly.
There's more: That barrel adjuster-looking thing that the 3mm line goes into can be turned to change the effort required at the shifter. It might seem like you'd want as little as possible, but the adjustment can be used to make the shifting feel more mechanical-like. You know, if that's what you're into.
The shifter itself is much smaller than a mechanical unit, and there's just one paddle (with an optional bolt-on bonus paddle) that controls shifting up and down the cassette by how far you push it.
The shifter is tiny and there's just a single lever with a bolt-on bonus paddle.
To make a 13-speed cassette work, Rotor's used their own freehub design and also shifted the hub's drive-side spoke flange inboard by a small amount. Yup, that means you'll need to use their hub if you want 13-cogs. Their 12-speed cassettes play nice with normal freehubs, though, with the 10-tooth cog hanging off the end to get the clearance it needs.