shimano grx shifters with xt rear derailleur

Shimano GRX Shifters with XT Rear Derailleur: A Perfect Match for Gravel Cyclists

Gravel cycling has taken the cycling world by storm, offering cyclists a unique and adventurous way to explore unpaved paths and scenic routes. As the popularity of gravel biking continues to rise, cyclists seek components that provide optimal performance and versatility for their off-road adventures. In this article, we delve into the seamless integration of Shimano GRX shifters with XT rear derailleurs and how this combination enhances the riding experience for gravel cyclists.

Understanding Shimano GRX Shifters

The Shimano GRX series is specifically designed for gravel cycling, offering a range of features tailored to the demands of rough terrain. These shifters provide riders with precise and smooth gear changes, even in challenging conditions. The GRX series comprises several options, including mechanical and Di2 electronic shifters, catering to various riding preferences.

The GRX shifters boast ergonomic designs with an extended lever reach, ensuring comfortable control from multiple hand positions. Additionally, they offer customizable setup options, allowing riders to adapt their bikes to their unique riding styles and preferences.

Exploring Shimano XT Rear Derailleur

On the other hand, the Shimano XT rear derailleur is part of the legendary XT groupset known for its durability and reliable performance. Originally designed for mountain biking, the XT rear derailleur has found its way into the gravel cycling community due to its robust construction and smooth shifting capabilities.

The XT rear derailleur features Shimano’s Shadow RD+ technology, providing a low-profile design that reduces the risk of damage from trail obstacles. Its clutch system enhances chain retention, reducing chain slap and noise, which is particularly beneficial for off-road riding on rough terrain.

GRX and XT Compatibility

Many gravel cyclists wonder whether it’s possible to combine GRX shifters with XT rear derailleurs for their custom bike setups. Shimano has been mindful of compatibility across its product lines, and in many cases, GRX and XT components are cross-series compatible, especially for 10-speed and 11-speed drivetrains.

To ensure compatibility, Shimano provides a comprehensive Di2/e-Tube compatibility chart on its website, allowing riders to verify the suitability of their chosen components before installation. The chart indicates which combinations work harmoniously, making it easier for cyclists to make informed decisions.

Upgrading to a 1×11 Drivetrain

One of the popular trends in gravel cycling is the adoption of 1x drivetrains, eliminating the front derailleur and simplifying gear shifting. Cyclists seeking a wide gear range with fewer components often consider upgrading their drivetrain to a 1×11 configuration.

By combining GRX shifters with XT rear derailleurs, riders can achieve a smooth and efficient 1×11 setup. The GRX shifters provide the necessary control over the rear cassette, while the XT rear derailleur accommodates a wide range of cassette sizes, offering the versatility required for challenging gravel rides.

Installing and Adjusting GRX Shifters and XT Rear Derailleur

Installing and setting up GRX shifters with XT rear derailleur requires careful attention to detail to ensure optimal performance. Cyclists should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use the appropriate tools for installation. Proper cable routing and tension are essential to achieve precise and crisp shifting.

Once installed, cyclists need to adjust the rear derailleur properly to avoid potential issues, such as chain skipping or slow shifting. Ensuring that the components are correctly aligned and the derailleur hanger is straight contributes to a smooth and reliable shifting experience.

Comparing GRX and XT Performance

The performance of the GRX shifters and XT rear derailleur is a critical factor for gravel cyclists. The GRX shifters excel in their responsive and intuitive shifting, providing riders with instant gear changes for steep climbs or fast descents. Their ergonomic design offers comfort during long rides, reducing hand fatigue.

On the other hand, the XT rear derailleur proves its worth in the rugged terrain, ensuring consistent and reliable shifting even under heavy load. The Shadow RD+ technology effectively reduces chain movement, preventing chain drops and improving overall stability.

Overcoming Compatibility Challenges

While GRX and XT components are generally compatible, some cyclists may encounter specific compatibility challenges, especially when mixing different generations of components or combining road and mountain bike components. In such cases, using JTek Shiftmate can address cable pull differences and optimize compatibility for a seamless riding experience.

JTek Shiftmate acts as a pulley adapter, allowing smooth cable movement between different components. By using the appropriate Shiftmate version, cyclists can achieve precise and accurate shifting without the need for extensive modifications.

Practical Riding Applications

The combination of GRX shifters with XT rear derailleur opens up exciting possibilities for gravel cyclists. Riders can customize their gravel bikes to match their riding style and preferences, making the most of both components’ strengths.

Cyclists often share their experiences of improved ride quality and performance when using GRX shifters with XT rear derailleur setups. The versatility of this combination allows cyclists to conquer various terrains with confidence and precision.


Shimano GRX shifters paired with XT rear derailleurs present a winning combination for gravel cyclists seeking optimal performance and versatility. As gravel biking continues to captivate cyclists worldwide, this integration provides a seamless and efficient drivetrain solution for off-road adventures.

Embracing the future of gravel cycling with GRX and XT integration, riders can experience enhanced gear control, reliable shifting, and improved overall riding experiences on rough and challenging terrains.


While some third-party combinations may work, Shimano recommends using GRX shifters with Shimano rear derailleurs for the best compatibility and performance.

As of the article’s writing, Shimano GRX shifters are designed for 10-speed and 11-speed drivetrains, not the newer 12-speed systems.

Mixing XT shifters with GRX rear derailleurs is generally not recommended, as they may have different cable pull ratios, resulting in improper shifting.

A 1×11 drivetrain simplifies gear selection, reduces weight, and offers a clean aesthetic while maintaining a wide gear range suitable for various terrains.

The cost of upgrading to a 1×11 drivetrain depends on the specific components chosen, but it can be an affordable and worthwhile investment for gravel cyclists.

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