Speculation is rife on the internet, and nowhere more so than when it comes to new bikes and tech equipment. The big question mark for 2020 is will we see a brand spanking new Dura-Ace groupset? Here’s what we do and don’t know so far.
- Your complete guide to Shimano road bike groupsets
- Review: Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2
Firstly, what will it be called? The timeline of Dura-Ace suggests R9200 is the most obvious because it follows R9100 launched in 2016 and R9000 in 2012. Before that, the 7000-series stretched from 7100 launched in 1977 which ran through 7200, 7300, 7400, 7700, 7800 and finally 7900 in 2008. So R9200 it most likely is.
The current Dura-Ace R9100 groupset was unveiled at the 2016 Tour de France but took nearly a year before it was shipping on new road bikes. Shimano, like most bike and equipment manufacturers, works to a three of four-year product cycle, but in the case of Shimano, it errs on the side of caution when it comes to new releases. Better to do it right when it’s ready rather than rush it.
Current Dura-Ace is an 11-speed setup available in mechanical or electronic versions (Di2) with a choice of mechanical rim brakes or hydraulic disc brakes. There’s a power meter option too. We’d expect a new Dura-Ace R9200 if it’s to be called that, to follow SRAM and Campagnolo and make the leap to 12-speed.
But we don’t know if it’ll come out with a radical new approach as SRAM offered with smaller chainrings and a 10 tooth cassette sprocket, or be more conservative like Campagnolo and use the extra sprocket to fill in a gap in the cassette for smoother cadence changes.
The move to 12-speed will suit the increasing range of the latest Dura-Ace cassettes, with a previously unimaginable 11-30t now offered. It’s a far cry from the old corncob cassettes the pros had to make do with and shows how important consumers are to Dura-Ace design. It’s no longer a groupset only entirely at the pro peloton, and with that in mind, the 12th sprocket could help increase the range or just fill in a gap in these wider range cassettes.
If Shimano does go 12-speed, we expect it to use a version of the new Micro Spline freehub that debut the mountain bike XTR 12-speed groupset. Shimano has been using its HG freehub since forever and it has stood the test of time very well, but its new 12-speed XTR groupset shrunk the 11t sprocket down to a 10t sprocket, as SRAM did with its groupset. It remains to be seen whether Shimano brings a 10t sprocket to Dura-Ace or if it sticks with an 11t. There are widely held concerns about the efficiency loss when the chain wraps around such a small sprocket.
Micro Spline also made from aluminium, a first for Shimano, and features 23 rectangular shaped splines (compared to 13 on HG), a design inspired by its Centre-Lock disc brake rotor interface. Since it was launched most wheel brands have embraced it so there should be no issue with choosing a wheelset to match the new Dura-Ace groupset. But yes it does mean your current wheels won’t work unless you can upgrade the freehub body.
All that said, it is entirely possible Shimano will continue to use the HG freehub design. Campagnolo proved it was possible to fit 12 sprockets into the same space as 11 without messing around with the freehub, you just make the sprockets and chain narrower! Doing that would ensure backward compatibility, and that would certainly keep many consumers with lots of wheels happy.
Will new Dura-Ace be wireless? That’s a question we’ve put to Shimano on several occasions, and the answer that has always come back is it would only consider wireless if it could match the shifting quality and speed of its wired Di2 groupset. Our experience with SRAM’s wireless groupset is that while shifting is excellent, it’s a tiny bit slower than Di2 if we’re splitting hairs.
There are advantages to wireless when it comes to building a bike for sure, and it does provide much cleaner lines, but with the level of integration, we’re now seeing on modern race bikes the benefits of wireless are probably not as substantial as they might be.
Will new Dura-Ace continue to be offered with mechanical and electronic shifting versions. We’ve no data to back this up, but we’re not seeing as many mechanical Dura-Ace bikes on sales as compared to Dura-Ace Di2.
The demand and popularity are definitely on the side of electronics. And is there any performance gain still to be had with mechanical? Given how conservative Shimano typically is, we’d expect them to continue to offer a mechanical Dura-Ace groupset.
Disc brakes have become hugely popular even since current Dura-Ace was launched in 2016. Now, most of the professional peloton is on disc brakes and consumer demand is certainly hitting the sales of rim brake bikes hard. Will Shimano continue to offer Dura-Ace with rim and disc brake versions or will rim brakes be confined to the history books?
What else can we expect? Shimano recently acquired Pioneer so we could see something new on the power meter and computer front, possibly a more integrated approach to providing real-time data feedback for cyclists.
What would you like to see from new Dura-Ace?
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