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Shimano doesn't rule out 12-speed mechanical road groupsets

With new versions of Dura-Ace and Ultegra being Di2 only, how will Shimano plug the price gap to mechanical 105?

Shimano has just about left the door open for introducing a 12-speed mechanical groupset for the road, although it has reiterated that it is firmly focused on Di2 at the top of its range for the time being.

> Read all about the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset here
> Read all about the new Shimano Ultegrea R8100 groupset here 

Shimano finally announced new versions of its two top-level groupsets, Dura-Ace and Ultegra, last week. Both Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 are 12-speed and Di2-only. In other words, there are no options for mechanical shifting in either.

2021 Ribble Endurance AL e Shimano 105 - crank.jpg

That leaves a big price gap between Ultegra R8100 Di2 and Shimano’s third-tier 105 groupset which is mechanical only. Shimano has said in the past that it has no plans to offer Di2 electronic shifting at 105 level although, of course, strategies can change over time as technologies and markets develop.

As we speculated about on the Podcast last week, the logical plug for this gap would be either a 12-speed mechanical version of Ultegra, or perhaps a Di2 version of 105. 

We asked Shimano whether it could confirm that it's not its intention to offer mechanical versions of the 12-speed groupsets.

“We see 12-speed Dura-Ace and Ultegra as racing and performance riding groupsets where the advantages of electronic shifting really come to the fore,” said Shimano’s Ben Hillsdon. “This is what a significant amount of competitive and performance bike riders are looking for and where we can add real value to a customer’s ride.

“However, we will continue to make 11-speed Ultegra mechanical groupsets available at least into 2022. As well as serving current 11-speed road riders, these groupsets also serve cyclocross riders, plus the cassettes and chains are used with GRX 2x11 drivetrains."

GRX is the name given to Shimano’s gravel groupsets.

“We always make decisions after listening to our customers, which includes bike brands, retailers and consumers,” said Ben Hillsdon. “Never say never but for now the market direction is firmly towards Di2, which offers advanced performance for competitive racing or endurance cycling.”

What do you reckon? That’s not quite ruling out the possibility of mechanical versions of the new 12-speed groupsets.

2022 Shimano Ultegra drivetrain - 1

Shimano is always incredibly cagey about products prior to launch, rarely giving us any clues as to what is planned, but if there are definitely no 12-speed mechanical versions of Dura-Ace and Ultegra on the way it could easily have ruled them out. Shimano has never been shy about telling us what isn’t coming, just averse to telling us what is under development.

> 34 bikes equipped with new Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets

The other option, of course, would be to update Shimano 105 to 12-speed but leave it mechanical. Seeing as the vast majority of the new features of new Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 are based on the Di2 shifting as opposed to the braking, it’s hard to see next generation mechanical 105 benefiting much from trickle down technology from Shimano’s recently launched products.

shimano r7000-hydraulic shifter

The latest version of Shimano 105 is R7000 series which was introduced in 2018. Seeing as Dura-Ace, Ultegra, and fourth tier Tiagra have all been updated since then, you’d imagine that 105 will be the next groupset to see a revamp. That’s the usual Shimano way. In normal circumstances we’d be expecting this in 2022 although whether this will be affected by the global pandemic and its associated supply problems – and the fact that two top-level groupsets have just been revealed – remains to be seen.

What do we reckon is coming next after Shimano’s top three road groupsets, then?

  1. Mechanical versions of 12-speed Dura-Ace R9200 and/or Ultegra R8100
  2. A Di2 version of 105
  3. An updated 105 that’s mechanical only
  4. Something else entirely

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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