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by David Rome
June 30, 2016
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.
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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.