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.
Shimano’s 9100 mechanical/rim brake shift lever (left) is a little lower profile than the 9120 (right) mechanical/hydraulic brake shift lever. However, reach and diameter remain similar
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).
The new mechanical Dura-Ace lever hoods also have an updated grip pattern.
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.
The biggest changes to 9100 can be seen in the derailleurs
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.
Each of the components have a faded paint scheme. It’s subtle but looks fresh and slightly different to anything else on the current market, surfice to say it’ll be as hard wearing as previous Dura-Ace components.
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.
The front derailleur has managed to do away with the need of a barrel adjuster, integrating the adjustment by vertue of a simple allen screw.
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.