Shimano Dual Control isn't so much trickling down right now as cascading. Hot on the heels of Sora, which made the switch to nine speeds and Dual Control (downshift behind the brake lever rather than a thumb button, the same as the higher end groupsets) comes a completely new groupset: Claris.
Number-wise – all Shimano groupsets have to have a number – this is 2400, so it's replacing the 2300 groupset which was called, erm, 2300. "As the market continues to grow and the entry level becomes more important, we thought it was important that the groupset had a name for next year," Shimano's Mark Greshon told us.
It's aimed at entry level sportive and road riders and Shimano are gunning to get an even bigger slice of the first-time-rider market with this new running gear. It's an eight speed system, with the capacity for up to a 32T cassette at the back and double and triple options at the front, so should give enough ratios for
"One of the the key things we've tried to do with Claris is give the groupset a quality feel," Mark told us. "So when people start road riding and then they upgrade, it has a fimiliar Shimano feel to it. Also, if it's someone's first experience of a road bike they don't want to be put off by bad shifting; we want to keep them on road bikes for the future."
There's plenty of different configurations available for touring, long distance riding and sportive and road riding too. There's a triple chainset (53/39/30) as well as compact (50/34) and cyclocross (46/34) options. The lower ratio double will also be specced on flat bar bikes, and there's Rapidfire shifters, levers and integrated controls for flat bars as part of the groupset.
The STI lever, like we said, is proper Dual Control so you use your fingers to change down, not your thumb. Double and triple options are available, and ergonomically the lever is exactly the same as the current Tiagra and Sora models in terms of shape.
The chainsets use an Octalink bottom bracket, and they're available in silver or black, as are the hubs. One of the things Shimano have worked on really hard with Claris is the front shifting. "In the past on entry level road bikes, front shifting has never been a highlight, So we've done a lot of work to make sure that riders get a real feeling of quality from the front shift," Mark said.
The groupset has been designed as a system, like the more expensive gear. The front derailleur and the ramps and pins on the chainset have been specifically designed to work together, unlike previous entry level groupset where it was a bit more mix-and-match. Shimano are hoping that this will encourage manufacturers to spec the complete groupset on bikes instead of downgrading certain components: usually it's the chainset and the brakes that give way.
The rear derailleur can handle up to a 32T sprocket and takes its design cues from Shimano's higher end groupsets. It features a wide-link design and light action spring for crisper shifts with less effort.
Braking is taken care of by a 49mm calliper that uses the same Super SLR cable pull as all the other existing Shimano road brakes. The flat bar lever is designed for use with V-brakes, cantis and mechanical discs with the same cable pull as a V-brake, although it'll also work with callipers.
The rear hub has been designed to cope with the torque generated by the large 32T sprocket. As with all Shimano hubs it uses a steel freehub body and cup and cone bearings.
The groupset will be launching later in the year, so we expect to see it on entry level bikes that see from the summer onwards, and we're sure it'll be all over Eurobike in September.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.