Shimano gets wireless certification – is Dura-Ace R9200 near?
This isn’t another fishing prank. It seems Shimano’s widely rumoured upcoming road groupsets are getting closer, and thanks to two approved applications with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), we have a little further insight into what is likely coming this year.
Ok, so what do these FCC documents tell us? Well, firstly they suggest that we’ll be seeing something new from Shimano within the next six months. And secondly it all but confirms the rumours that Shimano’s next electronic groupset iterations will be wireless or semi-wireless – something we covered last year based on a number of patents.
Digging through the details
The FCC website is a convoluted mess, but thankfully we have FCCID.Io to cut through the chaff. Here a simple search under Shimano has revealed two wireless communication applications that have been approved within the past week.
The juiciest of details are currently hidden due to a confidentiality agreement between the FCC and Shimano, but what’s interesting is that a number of these agreements are only valid for 180 days from the approval date, and so it’s quite likely the big reveal will be with us by the middle of the year (in time for 2022 bikes).
Speaking of the big reveal, Shimano is soon to celebrate its 100th anniversary (March 2021), and it wouldn’t be surprising at all for the company to kick off the party with a new flagship groupset. Add in the fact we’re just about overdue for a new iteration of Dura-Ace and the timing could make perfect sense.
Ok, so there’s a confidentiality agreement stopping us from seeing the specifics, but thankfully the FCC still requires some information be made public. And it’s here that we can see wireless application approvals for a rear derailleur (WY7-3GK1) and shifting module (WY7-927A).
Notably, both the shifting module and the rear derailleur offer transceivers for a specific frequency (2,478 MHz), and so it seems almost certain that these two components will wirelessly communicate with each other.
Meanwhile, the rear derailleur also offers transceivers for low energy Bluetooth and ANT+. That Bluetooth connection will most likely be used for software updates and setting control, while the ANT+ is likely to serve for data transfer purposes between cycling devices.
Isn’t there a derailleur missing?
What I find most intriguing is that there’s currently no FCC approval for a front derailleur. I see three potential reasons for this.
Firstly, it’s possible such an approval is still pending with the FCC and Shimano does indeed have a wireless front derailleur in the works.
The second option is that perhaps these FCC documents are specifically for the long-anticipated electronic version of Shimano XTR 12-speed. Shimano offered an electronic version of its previous XTR groupset, but we’re now two years into the current generation and it remains mechanical only.
(Speaking of mountain bikes, I noticed Shimano has applied for a patent related to an electronic dropper post. It’s worth noting that the seatpost is wireless and shares a battery with the also wireless rear derailleur, but I digress. Back to road speculation.)
The third possibility is that maybe this is further confirmation of a rumour that Shimano’s next electronic iteration will only be semi wireless. The concept here is much like FSA’s WE electronic groupset, where wireless shifters transmit to the master derailleur (the front derailleur in FSA’s case), which is then wired with the rear derailleur and a central battery.
In this third scenario, Shimano could be using the rear derailleur as the wireless master (hence the ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity), and then have it wired to a centrally placed battery which then runs off to the wired front derailleur. Such a semi-wireless system may not be as easy to set up as SRAM’s wireless eTap, but it would still solve the problem of complicated wiring paths at the handlebars. It would also greatly ease the set up on many new aero bikes with fully concealed cabling.
Instead, this semi-wired system could have a single larger battery that requires only occasional charging. The battery could be placed within the seat tube or seatpost like most current Di2-equipped bikes. The charging port could be made accessible at the rear derailleur, or frame manufacturers could work on something more centrally placed (such as that weird, unexplained port on Bianchi’s gravel bike).
Ok, so if this third scenario is possible, then why not put the wireless transceiver in the more centrally placed front derailleur? Well, such placement would always limit the system to having front shifting, and as we know from gravel, cyclocross, and even triathlon disciplines that’s not always wanted.
New disc brake calipers
A key rumour we first heard about new Dura-Ace is that specific attention was being made to refine the disc brakes to be easier to set up, rub less, and be quieter.
And while the FCC applications are completely unrelated to this and we don’t have any answers as to whether any of these elements have been addressed, there is a recently approved patent for a new flat mount disc brake caliper design. These calipers show an external end cap on the exterior side (not unlike older generations of Shimano mountain bike calipers), and what appears to be a refined fluid transfer path.
Notably there also appears to be a new tool with “coupling jaws” to lock onto the bleed nipple for what will surely be an easier and cleaner bleeding process.
Another element I found interesting is that the patent specifies that it applies to either two- or single-piston calipers. Current Shimano road calipers make use of two opposing calipers, but the mention of a single piston caliper could suggest that such a thing may exist in future.
Single-piston disc brake calipers are nothing new in cycling. Coda offered such brakes two decades ago (commonly fitted on Cannondales), while Hayes made a successful go at lowering the entry point of hydraulic brakes with its single-piston Sole brakes in the mid 2000s. This has me thinking that Shimano could be looking at ways to lower the entry point of its road disc systems, or perhaps even looking for ways to cut weight.
At this point, it’s almost certain that Shimano’s next road group will follow in the footsteps of its XTR, XT, SLX and even Deore groupsets. Expect 12-speed and Shimano’s HyperGlide+ system that effectively forms a shifting ramp system between the cassette and chain. We’ll also likely see the MicroSpline freehub system (or a version of) that we’ve seen Shimano’s mountain bike groups introduce.
However, there are still a number of unknowns. For example, will there be a mechanical version of the groupset (fingers crossed)? And just how soon after Dura-Ace’s release will we see Ultegra?