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Three years. That’s the approximate shelf life of a major-brand product in the bicycle industry. Whether it’s a carbon frame or an entire groupset, it has proven to be a consistent number. And that number has been overdue for the market leader, with Shimano finally unveiling its much-rumored Dura-Ace 9100 mechanical and Dura-Ace Di2 9150 groupsets.
While those expecting wireless 12-speed shifting are likely to be left wanting more, the new top-tier road groupsets showcase Shimano’s continued efforts towards greater efficiency and easier operation. Component integration, aerodynamics and ergonomics were also terms thrown around at the official product launch.
Much of the new groupset carries familiar features, but key standouts include Shimano’s first power meter, overhauled aerodynamic wheels, the first ever Dura-Ace hydraulic disc brakes, ANT+/Bluetooth connectivity, and a little automated shifting for Di2 users. All of that, plus a rather fancy black-to-silver fade aesthetic.
With it all being released at once, there’s plenty to tell. And remember, what starts at Shimano’s top-tier almost always trickles down shortly after.
DURA-ACE POWER METER. A FIRST FOR SHIMANO
Long discussed, and prompting nervousness from other power meter brands, Shimano has finally entered the data-driven market. Closely based on technology from its previously acquired BikeFitting.com business, the new dual-leg power meter packs a number of industry-first features into its new Dura-Ace crankset host. Shimano quickly stated that reliability and accuracy were two key design factors in the new power meter.
The Dura-Ace FC-R9100-P power meter places strain gauges at three key points: one on each hollow aluminum crankarm and a third inside the 24mm steel spindle. Doing things a little differently, the left and right gauges are connected via a wire that runs through the crank spindle. This allows the use of a single battery and less chance of transmission issues.
While Shimano’s own literature doesn’t mention it, we’re told the spindle-based strain gauge provides the impressive vector data that the BikeFitting.com machine has become known for. We originally witnessed the BikeFitting-specific power meter a few years ago, where it was shown that the pressure spots through the pedal could be detected. In turn, providing useful information regarding the effect of cleat position and even innersole type. Whether the data is useful or not to have on a bike or even detectable at all by current head units is perhaps too early to tell.
Upon recently getting our hands on a working prototype (for five minutes…), we received word that the new power meter offers 2% accuracy. While this may seem equal to many other options out there already, we’re told that Shimano is achieving 2% accuracy at 200 and 1,200 watts, and everything in between.
Previously the company had been coy as to where exactly the battery is housed, however, we now know the Lithium-Ion battery sits within the steel axle and should provide over 300 hours of use between charges. Additionally, we can confirm that the hollow crank arms are indeed being used for at least the routing of wires.
Charging the battery will be achieved externally by connecting a sealed magnetic plug to the driveside ‘brain’. It’s a similar technology to that of modern smart watches and should help in making the system truly waterproof.
Shimano has made no comment in regards to a Shimano head unit, but the Dura-Ace power meter will offer both ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity. While Shimano has not confirmed it, the Bluetooth is more likely to be used for firmware updates and systems checking than live connectivity.
It’s worth noting that the integrated nature of this power meter means it’s an out-of-the-box item only. You won’t be able to fit the technology to existing 9000 or even new 9100 cranksets.
Changing chainring sizes is said to be a non-issue for the new power meter, and it’ll use the same rings as the standard 9100 crank. Shimano has claimed the power meter adds 70 grams over a standard 621 gram 9100 crankset (170mm, 52/39T, no bottom bracket). Pricing is still to be confirmed, with availability scheduled for approximately April 2017.
As it uses an induction charger, the plug is kept completely waterproof.
(Updated 07/11/2016 with photos and further information following a closer look at a working prototype.)
SHIMANO DURA-ACE DI2 9150 GOES WIRELESS, SORT OF
With Di2 having proven itself as an impressively reliable system, new Dura-Ace Di2 9150 will offer more refinement than innovation. Those closely watching the mountain bike world may be privy to such changes already, as the previously released XTR Di2 and more recent XT Di2 teased the many features to come.
Perhaps the biggest news is the upgraded wireless communication, with both ANT ‘Private’ (works with ANT+) and Bluetooth connectivity. This new addition is the centerpiece to a number of new features including synchronized shifting.
The ANT is to be used for head unit connectivity, displaying the likes of battery life and gear selection. Bluetooth is currently only destined for connection to Shimano’s soon-to-be-released ‘E-Tube Project’ app, but it’s a tremendous upgrade over the current wired-only (and Windows PC-only) setup. The app will be available for iOS and Android users, on either mobile or tablet. It’ll allow access to common customization interests including shift settings, shift button purpose, shift speed, and wireless firmware updates. More detailed diagnostics, such as hardware troubleshooting, may likely still call upon a shop with the current connection kit and software.
Named “Full Synchro Shift,” the new Dura-Ace Di2 can be customized to reduce your shift input by automatically controlling front shifting based on your rear gear use. As you shift up or down the cassette, the synchronized shift function will shift between the front chainrings accordingly to ensure your cadence remains consistent and to minimize cross-gearing.
This Synchro shifting has been proven in Shimano’s XTR groupset since its 2015 release, where many riders use the 2×11 setup without a front shifter fitted at all. The mountain bike groupsets do warn you of an upcoming automated front shift with an audible beep and we suspect Dura-Ace will, too.
The left shift buttons will still activate a manual front shift as per normal. However, Shimano is so confident in its Synchro Shift technology that it’s likely to be pre-programmed on most new bikes. And of course, it can be customized or just turned off through the free app.
One customization idea we’re keen to try is to set the right shift buttons to shift the rear derailleur one direction, with the left buttons going the other and leave front shifting fully automated. For us, this would closely replicate how SRAM’s eTap shifting works, but without worry of front shifting.
We’re told a ‘Semi-Synchro’ shift mode can also be set up to adjust your rear gear position based on your manual front chainring choice. So shifting at the front will enact automatic shifts at the back to keep a consistent cadence. Such a feature is already available in Campagnolo’s EPS V3.
For those who don’t want to think at all, it’s plausible that a fully automated shift setting based on power and cadence from the power meter could potentially exist down the line. While it’s something Shimano offers in the commuting world, it hasn’t been mentioned for this performance-based groupset.
The new wireless connectivity and synchronized shifting options are the result of two new components. An updated battery plays host to the improved ‘brains’, while a specific connectivity junction box needs to be spliced into the system for the ANT/Bluetooth. This latter item will be offered in either a slim “inline” type (EW-WU111) or a slightly bulkier version (EW-WE101) that can be zip-tied in place. No doubt, we suspect the inline version to be far more popular, and perhaps even allow for it to be hidden within a frame.
Shimano has not forgotten those loyal customers using older generations of Shimano Di2 (save for the original Dura-Ace 7950, which doesn’t use the E-Tube system). You’ll be able to upgrade your existing drivetrain to Synchro Shift and other wireless features by changing to the new battery and adding a “wireless unit.” We suspect such an upgrade will be extremely popular given the sheer number of Ultegra Di2 bikes out there.
Shimano has also put some work into its “Junction A” box. This is the cable port that commonly sits underneath the stem and offers battery level indication, system reset, and a place for various wires to connect.
Three new versions of the Junction A box will be available. There will be one for use inside a handlebar, assuming internal cable routing is available. Another option is designed for placement inside a frame, such as what the new Trek Madone 9-Series (and a few others) already offers. And then there will also be the traditional version that sits beneath a stem or similar.
These new Junction A boxes and wireless connectors are notably different to what is offered in Shimano XTR and XT Di2. The mountain groups feature a small LCD screen that clamps to the handlebar, which doubles as the Junction A box and wireless connectivity. We’re told such an option will not exist on the road – and seemingly for little reason other than aesthetics and limited handlebar space. Still, the fact the Junction A doesn’t double as the wireless connectivity box feels a little undercooked to us.
REAR DERAILLEUR DESIGN GETS EDGY
Just as Synchro shift is borrowed from the mountain bike world, so is the new Dura-Ace rear derailleur design. Named ‘Shadow’, the new derailleur features a low-profile design in order to better avoid potential crash damage or just generally getting bent. As a side benefit, the lower frontal profile is perhaps more aerodynamic, too.
Part of this Shadow design is an inline linkage system from where the derailleur attaches to the frame’s hanger. In recent years, Shimano introduced a Direct Mount standard to the mountain-bike world, which sees specific derailleur hangers replace this upper derailleur link for a stiffer, stronger and lighter connection while also allowing for easier wheel removal. We suspect we’ll see a similar option in road cycling soon, although adherence to tradition may prevent its widespread adoption.
Another change is the gearing capacity, with a claimed 30-tooth maximum large sprocket, as compared to 28T of the previous generation Dura-Ace. Not that Shimano recommends it, but there are many cases of older Dura-Ace Di2 being set up to work with 30 or even 32T cassette cogs. Given this, it’s likely the new derailleur may stretch to larger than claimed or recommended, albeit with potentially degraded shift performance.
Despite trends toward larger pulley wheels to decrease drivetrain friction, Shimano is keeping to its 11T sizing but with a more sleek and shapely cage surrounding them. The new derailleur design sees weight drop to a claimed 204g from the previous 217g figure.
Clutch-equipped rear derailleurs are commonplace in mountain-bike rear derailleurs, designed to reduce free movement of the pulley cage over rough surfaces to improve chain security and reduce frame slap. And despite many cyclocross racers pleading for it, new Dura-Ace rear derailleurs will not be fitted with a clutch mechanism, at least for now.
Beyond a 10-gram reduction in weight, there is little talk of changes to the front derailleur. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing given just how good the shifting already is with 9070.
SHIFTERS GET MORE TACTILE
Not a huge amount has changed with the shifters. The ergonomics have been refined and there is now a more defined hold for those low “TT-like” seated positions while on the top of the hoods.
Most impressive is that the shift hood shape barely changes between mechanical or hydraulic brake models. Compare this to the current non-series hydraulic disc brake options, and clearly Shimano has worked hard to reduce the reach and size of its disc brake levers. Smaller handed riders will be pleased to hear that the brake-lever reach adjust now offers 41mm of adjustable range.
After many years of light-action shifters, the buttons finally now feature a more pronounced and definitive click. It’s closer to that of a mechanical feel and is something that fixes a common complaint with previous Di2 iterations. The shift lever shape has also grown, which should help shifting when wearing full-fingered winter gloves.
Weights haven’t changed much from 9070, with the electronic rim brake shift levers (ST-9150) shaving a modest seven grams for a claimed weight of 230g per pair. With the master cylinder tucked inside, the electronic hydraulic shift levers (ST-9170) are stated to weigh 360g a pair.
BIG CHANGES FOR TIME-TRIAL RACERS AND TRIATHLETES
Electronic shifting has changed the triathlon and time trial markets, eliminating long-standing problems on mechanical drivetrains created by tortuous internal routing, long lengths, and sharp bends. Shimano is well aware of this and has invested plenty into improving its product for those who primarily race against the clock.
By making smart use of its new Synchro Shift technology (or, more accurately, forcing its use), Shimano has been able to greatly simplify its shifting setup. Riders choosing to use this new generation of Di2 will have to give up manual control of front shifting, but in exchange will gain lower weights, simpler operation and improved aerodynamics.
For example, the extension shifters (SW-R9160) now offer a minimal 13mm external profile, compared to 52mm of the previous generation. They’re half the weight, too, at 30g per set and they simply push into place like a plastic bar plug with no dedicated mechanical clamp mechanism.
The base-bar brake levers are said to be 28% narrower than the previous generation and 28g lighter per side. Much like the road hoods, mechanical or hydraulic brake choice won’t affect ergonomics.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICING
Shimano is claiming delivery of the new Di2 groupsets by early 2017. Pricing hasn’t been made available yet, but expect similar pricing to current 9070 offerings, with perhaps a minimal increase to account for the new wireless transmitter.
DURA-ACE MECHANICAL ISN’T DEAD. WELCOME 9100
Shimano is undoubtedly steering its ship toward electronic shifting and was quick to point out that the top five finishers of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix were all on Dura-Ace Di2 gearing. However, plenty of changes to its mechanical groupset prove cabled shifting is still very much alive.
Many of the general changes seen in the new Di2, including the increased gear range, Shadow rear derailleur design, and improved ergonomics will also be found in the new 9100 mechanical groupset. Additionally, shift lever throw is greatly reduced, and a wholly new front derailleur design is sure to get the mechanical-minded excited.
While supposedly sticking with the same cable-pull ratio as previous generation 11-speed road options (meaning cross-compatibility with older components), Shimano has managed to achieve a 24% shorter shift throw from the main gear lever (the brake lever itself), and a 14% reduction in throw from the secondary shift lever (the one behind the brake lever).
A big part of this lighter and quicker shifting actuation is what Shimano coins “Instant Release” – yet another feature borrowed from the company’s mountain-bike components. Effectively, it removes the dead spot in the shift action for immediate cable movement as the lever is pressed.
These mechanical shift levers (ST-R9100) with rim brake levers are quoted to weigh 365g – the same figure quoted for 9000. The hydraulic disc version of these levers (ST-R9120) sits at a claimed 505g.
Just like in Di2, the low profile Shadow rear derailleur should prevent it from being wrecked in the event of laying down the bike, and should also post improved numbers in the wind tunnel. Up front is a new Direct Mount mounting interface, yet again taken from the mountain bike world, and with the same claimed benefits of improved shifting given the sturdier frame interface and foolproof cage alignment.
Shimano has curiously switched to a top-routed cable entry for the new Direct Mount front derailleur with housing that feeds directly into the derailleur body. This is analogous to rear derailleurs and potentially yields benefits in terms of cable protection and rear tyre clearance, but it also tosses aside decades of convention. The design will still accommodate traditional routing with a special U-shaped, low-friction guide that Shimano will both include with the derailleur and offer after-market.
A second new front derailleur is more conventional, but still vastly different from models of past and is perhaps the most innovative aspect of the whole 9100 groupset. The cable enters the derailleur from the bottom and threads through into an easily accessed spool on top. From here, cable tension can be finely adjusted with a 2mm hex key – farewell in-line cable barrel adjusters. Limit screws will be accessible from the side, not from above.
Weights for the new front and rear derailleurs are set at 69g and 158g respectively. For reference, a 9000 front derailleur is quoted at 66g, with the rear derailleur at an equal 158g.
Expect first sighting of the mechanical groupsets as early as September. Like the Di2 groupsets, pricing is yet to be released although it’s a safe assumption that it will remain comparable to 9000 pricing.
ROAD DISC BRAKES COME TO DURA-ACE
No surprise here, both Dura-Ace Di2 and mechanical will be available in either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brake variants.
The biggest story in the disc brakes is in the shifter body ergonomics, something that now more closely aligns with the standard shape and doesn’t suffer the extended reach or greater girth of current levers.
In addition to the greater range of brake-lever reach adjustment, Dura-Ace disc brake levers will finally offer contact point adjustment. It’s a feature carried over from Shimano’s mountain-bike brakes and allows some finite control over the feel and free movement of the lever. It’s an especially nice option for those sensitive enough to detect the lever feel difference between front and rear brakes (due to hose length).
The disc-brake caliper will be available in the road-specific “Flat Mount” style only. This one-piece alloy caliper will use the same brake-pad shape that is currently used in existing Shimano Flat Mount brakes. Although unconfirmed, we suspect these Dura-Ace brakes to use lighter titanium or aluminum pad backing plates instead of the current steel ones.
Bleeding the system is much the same as current Shimano, using the funnel system for clean and quick servicing.
It wouldn’t be a disc brake without a rotor and the new design is arguably Shimano’s first truly road-specific effort. Shimano is once again using a three-layered brake track with stainless outer surfaces (for better friction characteristics) and an aluminum core (for more efficient heat dissipation). Whereas the current design rivets that track to a separate aluminum carrier, though, the new rotor forms the brake track core and carrier as a single part for greatly improved heat transfer.
Shimano claims operating temperature reductions up to 30°C as compared to the already-excellent current version. The rotors will be available in either 140 or 160mm diameter, in Centerlock mount style only.
Good news for those not keen on disc brakes: the rim brake calipers get an update, too. Claiming to be stiffer and lighter, the new dual pivot and direct mount brakes will feature a ‘Booster’ bridge for a 43% decrease in deformation under hard braking. Direct-Mount brake calipers continue with three distinct options: front, rear standard, and beneath bottom bracket.
Likely in an effort to reduce drag and chance of accidental use, photos reveal the cable-release cam now turns an additional 90-degrees inward.
The rim brakes stick with Shimano’s ‘SLR-EV’ pull ratio and so will be backward compatible with other 11 speed groups. All new brake calipers claim to have tire clearance for 28c rubber.
DURA-ACE 9100 CRANKSET, CASSETTE AND PEDALS FURTHER REFINED
Shared between both electronic and mechanical groupsets, the crankset, cassette and chain have not gone forgotten.
Just like every other iteration, the new 9100 crankset offers an improved stiffness-to-weight ratio. A key factor in this is the enlarged crank arms and outer chainring. Additionally, Shimano’s asymmetric approach takes a further step with closely analyzed and focused load points of the four-bolt design. This comes with a seven-gram drop in weight.
Where is this load point? With the right crank in a 3 o’clock position, it’s the chainring spider tab to the immediate top right. It’s unclear whether the actual bolt circle diameter has changed, although even if it’s the same, new and old crankarms and chainrings won’t match visually. Regardless, Shimano will offer chainrings in 50-34, 52-36, 53-39, 54-42, and 55-42T sizes. These new chainrings are said to have a new tooth profile that’s better suited to wider gear ratios.
While details were scarce, it sounds like Shimano has also adjusted its crankset chainline slightly outward in order to better serve bikes equipped with disc brakes and short chainstays. We suspect it’s a minor change given how little was mentioned of it.
Despite increasing pressure from frame manufacturers and competing brands, Shimano will stick with its tried-and-trued 24mm steel spindle axle and a choice between press-fit and threaded bottom brackets. There’s still no direct support for those using frame systems built around oversized 30mm-diameter spindles, such as BB/PF30 and BB386EVO.
Not including the bottom bracket, crankset weights are claimed at 609 (50/34T) and 621g (53/39T).
The cassette isn’t too different from 9000-series, although Shimano does state a new tooth profile offers faster and smoother shifts. The cassettes continue with carbon-fibre reinforced plastic and aluminium spiders. Titanium cogs continue for the five lowest gears, with steel used for the six smaller cogs.
The big story is the new 11-30T cassette. This is the largest cassette ever offered at a Dura-Ace level and features 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-27-30T sprockets.
There are no major changes to the chain, with Shimano using the already available “901” 11-speed item. Perhaps the most notable change will be a tool-free joining link, something that was announced a few months ago.
Update (April, 2017): Read our in-depth review of the Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 pedals.
Details of the new 9100 carbon-bodied pedals are extremely scarce, with Shimano stating nothing more than, “completing the drivetrain is a new lighter Dura-Ace pedal optimized for the perfect balance of weight and rigidity.”
Looking to the single pedal photo for evidence, it is clear the metal base plate is no longer replaceable and instead only covers exact contact points. Further milling for weight reduction is seen within the pedal body, too. We suspect the SPD-SL cleat, axle design, and choice of two spindle lengths will continue with this new generation.
NEW C40 AND C60 DURA-ACE 9100 AND 9150 WHEELS GET WIDER AND FASTER
Long in need of an update, the Dura-Ace wheels have been (mostly) overhauled to keep with current trends. The C35, C50, and C75 will be replaced and simplified by the C40 (40mm depth) and C60 (60mm depth). Four variants will exist in each depth, most featuring an external rim width of 28mm and a hybrid-toroidal-like shape (U-shape).
Shimano makes big aero claims for its designs, and hints that this is its biggest investment into aerodynamically designed wheels to date. The chart we were shown claimed that the new C40 and C60 tubulars saved two and 16 watts, respectively, when compared to the current 9000-series C50. This was with a 25mm-wide tyre, at a 7.5-degree yaw angle in a sprint on a flat road (speed not mentioned).
Weights are down, too. For example, the C40 tubular is claimed at 1,343g and the C60 version at 1,400g. For reference, the outgoing C50 tubular weighs 1,442g for the pair.
Wheel stiffness is said to have increased through wider hub flange spacing (which improves the spoke bracing angles) and the wider/asymmetric rim design. The asymmetric rim design will feature on full carbon rear wheels only.
Both the C40 and C60 ranges are split in disc and rim-brake options. Two variants exist for each brake type based on tyre choice. These new aero models will feature full carbon rims with exception to the rim-brake clincher versions of the C40 and C60; these two options will feature a carbon rim with alloy braking surface that make use of the existing C35 and C50 rims respectively.
Update 29/03/2017: In the case of the rim brake clincher C40 and C60s, these will use the same rims as found on the former C35 and C50 wheels.
Rim-brake versions will stick with standard quick-release hubs, while disc brake wheels will only be available to suit 100×12 and 142x12mm thru-axles. All wheels stick with Shimano’s 11-speed titanium freehub body, which means backwards compatibility with 10-speed drivetrains.
Looking to the shallower C40, the disc-brake choices consist of a tubular (TU) version and a tubeless (TL) that also doubles as a clincher, these are claimed to weigh 1,380 and 1,540grams respectively.
Rim brake versions of the C40 will include a tubular version at a claimed 1,343g and the alloy/carbon hybrid clincher version (using the older C35 rim) at a relatively weighty 1,620g.
Going deeper, the C60 are offered as equivalent variants to the C40. This includes the disc-brake tubular at 1,460g and the tubeless/clincher version at 1,690g. The rim-brake options include tubular at 1,420g and a hybrid alloy/carbon clincher at 1,750g.
Not interested in aero gains? The long standing C24 is mostly unchanged for the next generation, with a marginal improvement in drive rigidity through wider hub flange spacing. This wheelset remains as rim brake only (alloy braking surface) and is claimed to weigh 1390g in a clincher version.