Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by James Huang
June 15, 2016
Photography by James Huang
Hidden in plain sight at the Tour de Suisse were two upcoming gems from Shimano: a development mule for the Japanese company’s highly anticipated power meter, and a new set of top-end road shoes that mark a paradigm shift for its cycling footwear. U.S. technical editor James Huang was on site for a close-up look.
It’s a poorly kept secret that Shimano has been working on a power meter over the past few years, but exactly what that might entail hasn’t been well outlined. Based on the development mule spotted at Tour de Suisse on one of the FDJ team bikes, Shimano’s power meter will be quite similar to the one currently offered by Pioneer (and could help explain why Pioneer is feverishly working to adapt its system to work on other brands of cranks).
Shimano’s prototype is dual-sided for true left-right independent power measurement, with each arm sporting a strain gage array applied to the inside surface. The one on the non-driveside is located roughly at the middle of the arm but given the more restrictive clearances, the driveside one is positioned closer to the chainring spider. Both are unusually small and appear to be permanently sealed, which bodes well for weather resistance. Like Pioneer, there is an electronics box affixed to the chainring spider that presumably houses a wireless transmitter but that’s comparatively tiny, too.
Unlike the fully wireless Pioneer power meter — and the prototype dual-sided model that Stages has been developing — Shimano is physically linking the two sides together with a four-pin connector routed through the hollow bottom-bracket spindle. Such a setup would require just a single power source and wireless transmitter, which not only saves weight (and allows the individual components to be smaller) but could also bode well for overall system reliability. It also appears that Shimano will use some sort of built-in rechargeable battery.
Shimano has yet to make any official announcement on an upcoming power meter offering, but it’s anticipated that one is coming later this season in conjunction with the new Dura-Ace/Dura-Ace Di2 introduction. That power meter will, of course, be built around the new crankset, but given the finished appearance of this test mule — not to mention the sheer number of current Dura-Ace groups already on the market — Shimano will hopefully offer a power meter option built into the 9000-series version, too.
It’s no secret that Shimano is working on a crank-based power meter, but it’s nonetheless rare to see a development mule in the wild.
Shimano’s working prototype looks to be very similar to the Pioneer power meter, at least in principle, with two arm-based strain-gage arrays, and a transmitter attached to the spider.
While it’d be nice to use the existing Di2 battery to provide juice for the power meter, Shimano has apparently chosen to outfit the power meter with its own on-board battery. This simplifies the hardware, and also allows the power meter to work as a standalone unit.
Whereas Pioneer’s dual-sided power meter is fully wireless, Shimano’s development mule appears to connect the two sides together with a four-pin plug. This would reduce system complexity, with just one transmitter and battery required throughout, and should theoretically improve reliability.
The four-pin connector won’t work with Shimano’s current bearing preload cap, however, so currently the design uses a modified version with a fully hollowed-out center and splined outer rim — and yes, its own dedicated tool.
The box attached to the spider presumably contains the battery and transmitter hardware. There also appears to be a button and single LED indicator.
The hardware on the driveside crankarm is very neatly integrated — and it’s all noticeably more compact than the Pioneer power meter.
Unlike other arm-based power meter such as Stages or Pioneer, the boxes on the Shimano power meter prototype appear to be permanently sealed, which bodes well for weather resistance.
There isn’t much room on the driveside arm, so all of the power meter components need to be very compact.
Over at the Lotto NL-Jumbo bus, meanwhile, team rider Wilco Kelderman was seen donning a set of prototype Shimano road shoes that bear little resemblance to anything the company has done before.
Most significant is the new carbon fiber sole, which is now molded as one piece with the wraparound heel cup, presumably for reduced weight and a tighter, more efficient hold than traditional two-piece setups. Further boosting a tight hold is the heel cup’s “cat’s tongue” liner material.
Up top is a sleek synthetic upper with minimal visible stitching but plenty of mesh panels and perforations to help keep riders’ feet cool and dry — and based on prior history, there’s a good chance it’ll be heat-moldable for a custom fit. Shimano is finally moving away from its preferred ratcheting buckles in favor of a dual Boa reel arrangement, while a wraparound upper design eliminates the need for a conventional tongue while still minimizing ankle tendon irritation with a visible cutout.
No technical details are currently available, but based on appearances, these new Shimano shoes should be significantly lighter than the current R321 model.
Lotto NL-Jumbo rider Wilco Kelderman was spotted with these new road shoes, presumably from Shimano, the team’s shoe sponsor.
The new carbon fiber sole is now molded as one piece with the wraparound heel cup, presumably for reduced weight and a tighter, more efficient hold.
The tread design is interesting to say the least, with a fairly substantial heel pad coupled with a wraparound design up front.
It’s difficult to say for sure at this point, but at least based on images, the sole plate on Shimano’s new road shoes is admirably thin.
The new shoes feature a sleek upper design with few seams but lots of perforations and mesh.
Kelderman’s new shoes use a wraparound, tongueless design.
The Boa cable closures feature an optional extra loop over the forefoot for region-specific tightness.
So-called “cat’s tongue” material inside the heel cup is a long-standing Shimano feature that helps grab hold of a rider’s socks.
Given how finished these shoes look, we’re guessing Shimano will officially announce them soon.