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Shimano unveils new cross-compatible CUES groupsets for city, touring and mountain bikes, consolidating Claris, Sora and Tiagra

The new 9,10 and 11-speed, disc-brake-only drivetrain ecosystem means everything below mechanical 105 will be slowly phased out on flat bar bikes, and it's highly likely these changes will be coming to drop bar bikes too

Shimano has announced a brand-new approach to its mid-tier component lineup, unifying the 9-, 10- and 11-speed 'lifestyle' lineup under a new product family called CUES. At the moment, CUES is only available for flat-bar bikes, redesigning the existing Claris, Sora and Tiagra groupsets - and mechanical 105 - into a range of interchangeable components, including derailleurs, cassettes and chains. The change also applies to the Altus, Acera, Alivio and Deore MTB drivetrains, which could make sourcing and fitting spare parts for bike shops and riders much less of a headache. 

> Opinion: Shimano CUES looks like a genuine game changer

Totally revamping how we’ve come to know the Shimano drivetrain hierarchy, Shimano says that CUES will “offer smoother shifting, more durable components, and standardises compatibility across a wide range of categories” in the brand's lifestyle component lineup. The wide cross-compatibility of the CUES components should mean that repairs and upgrades are easier on CUES-compatible bikes going forward, as shops are not limited by the number of gears on the bike when it comes to replacing or updating components. As we understand it, though, CUES components will not be backwards-compatible with outgoing Tiagra, Sora and so on because the pull ratios are different to the older groupsets. 

What is changing? 

2023 Shimano CUES cockpit

CUES, (which stands for "creating unique experiences"), is not a totally new concept from Shimano, as we've already seen it launched on the e-bike-specific electronic groupsets last year. Now, the CUES family is consolidating the mechanical mid-tier groupsets, meaning that whereas you previously had a rather clear hierarchy and limited cross-compatibility - between a Sora and Claris groupset, for example - the CUES system should make the mixing and matching of components across speeds much less of a faff. 

The CUES lineup modernises the offerings, meaning that some drivetrain options are no longer available and the old groupset options are being phased out. CUES only includes hydraulic disc brake options, and the chainsets are limited to either 1x or 2x setups - meaning there will be no triple chainsets with a granny ring or rim brakes anymore. 

Those who are currently running existing 9-, 10- or 11-speed drivetrains on their flat bar bike don't need to panic (yet) though, as Shimano has said the current drivetrain options will stay in the brand's offerings for at least the next seven years as they are being slowly phased out. 

> Are we seeing the death of the triple chainset?

CUES will incorporate and discontinue Claris - Shimano's current entry-level 8-speed groupset for road, fitness and touring - as well, but the timeline of all of the changes being rolled out is not clear. This slightly vague launch of CUES can be seen as the introduction of the concept, rather than a definite announcement of groupsets being discontinued. 

The CUES lineup

2023 Shimano CUES drivetrain

CUES consists of three levels of components across all riding disciplines: U4000, U6000 and U8000. The U4000 range is 9-speed, U6000 is available in both 10- and 11-speed and the U8000 comes with 11-speed components. All of these are cross-compatible, to a certain extent.

You will find all of the CUES groupsets designed to use an 11-speed chain - meaning all of the cassettes have the same spacing between the sprockets and can be run with any existing 11-speed chain - including the e-bike specific E8000 chain that was part of the e-bike CUES launch last year. 

How is CUES more durable than previous drivetrains? 

2023 Shimano CUES drivetrain rear

The cassettes all feature Shimano’s Linkglide technology - something the brand initially introduced as an alternative to its more premium Hyperglide tech. Whereas Hyperglide is all about lightweight and performance, Linkglide is about durability and in the case of CUES, compatibility and accessible price points, so we're told.

The Linkglide cassettes have a specifically designed, taller and thicker tooth shape that provides additional surface area and mitigates the chain from skipping, especially under heavier loads experienced on e-bikes. The design distributes pedalling forces more evenly to prevent premature wear due to shifts from less experienced cyclists, so in other words, the Linkglide system is very forgiving for gear crunchers.

The CUES Linkglide cassettes fit on a standard HG freehub body and the two smallest sprockets - the 11 and 13-tooth ones - are the exact same across the range so that they can be replaced separately from the rest of the cassette. 

Shimano says the lifespan of the Linkglide cassettes is three times longer than that of the alternatives, making them the most durable in the brand's offerings. This obviously makes the Linkglide range more budget-friendly, as well, as you don't have to change the components so often. 

Can different speed CUES components be mixed? 

2023 Shimano CUES shifter

All of the CUES shifters and derailleurs use the same, specific Linkglide pull ratio, meaning that yes, the shifters can be used across different speed groupsets.

The CUES drivetrains feature 13-tooth jockey wheels across the range, again making the system more cross-compatible across the 9,10 and 11-speed CUES components. This should make sourcing and fitting spare parts much easier, because all pull ratios and cog spacings are the same.

2023 Shimano CUES rear derailleur

When can we see CUES on bikes? 

The CUES components are not widely available in the UK quite yet, but it's likely that most of the mid-range bikes that you're going to see enter the markets later in 2023 will be equipped with a Shimano CUES groupset instead of the outgoing 9, 10 or 11-speed models. 

What about STI levers/drop bar bikes? 

Shimano Sora 3500 - shifter

This is the first launch of CUES outside the electronic groupsets that were announced last year, and a source tells road.cc that “Shimano have 'have all but confirmed' that CUES componentry for drop bar is coming, but not until much later”.

We're taking this to mean that the CUES treatment, with the phasing out of Tiagra, Sora and Claris, could be coming to road bikes too, although we're not 100% sure if the phasing in and out times are the same as this initial announcement for flat-bar fitness, city and mountain bikes. 

And the prices?

At the time of writing, we don't have any pricing information at all for the CUES system or any of the components in the new line-up... so we're unable to judge if it will indeed provide the accessible price points we've been promised right now! You can check out Shimano's website for more details on CUES, and we'll update when we get more information. 

Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops. 

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59 comments

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
1 like

Just to add into the pot that Shimano have a tradition of non-series components and I can see that rim brakes of whatever variety for budget offerings could well be provided down that route, without tarnishing the CUES compatibility approach. Long drop brakes were an example, where there weren't series versions when I put my Kinesis T2 together with Tiagra.

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peted76 | 1 year ago
1 like

Barring the loss of mechanical brake support.. this move by shimano looks to me to be a pretty good.. it should make the interchange and upgrade of parts far easier.

I'm sure they'll continue to produce parts or stockpile parts for older systems for a while yet.. 

Someone will step up to fill any void in the 'entry level mechanical brake/shifter space' pretty quickly.. I'm guessing this space must not be as profitable as others. 

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Prosper0 | 1 year ago
2 likes

So there isn't a release date, no discontinue date for old goupsets, there's no physical CUES stock and no CUES components to actually show anyone. 

This is vapourware... 

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KiwiMike replied to Prosper0 | 1 year ago
0 likes

CUES parts are now appearing on the UK disti website. The foundation cassettes have been there for months, I'm riding one now. When the mechs and shifters will be there, TBC. 

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AidanR | 1 year ago
1 like

Wake me up when they release the road shifters.

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
1 like

The cassettes are more wear resistant but a worn chain is still going to need checking, and it will be interesting to know how durable the chain is. Ideally, every group set should have a chain checker included. Wouldn't it make sense for bike makers to sling in a cheap chain checker in the box? With a warning sticker.

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
0 likes

I like it. From the USA site, it looks like the 9 speed is the outlier lacking compatibility, and you can potentially flip to 11 speed with just a RH shifter and cassette on the middle stuff. I can see a lot of bike builders selling 11 speed with the bottom of the range crank, the crank being the first port of call for economy now.

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wycombewheeler replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
4 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

bottom of the range crank, .

you talking abut the ultegra ones that fall apart?

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TheBillder | 1 year ago
4 likes

"CUES components will not be backwards-compatible with outgoing Tiagra, Sora, Tourney and so on because the pull ratios are different to the older groupsets. "

So when I fall off and destroy my Tiagra or 105 mechanical rear mech in 7 years' time, I'm stuck with a useless shifter and a big bill because the pull ratio changed. Why, exactly? Are the MTB or Sora and Claris pull ratios different so that's what we all have to have?

I get it that 7 years is a long time in product lifecycles, but this feels a bit like planned obsolescence, and somewhat at odds with benefits of more durable cassettes.

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a1white replied to TheBillder | 1 year ago
3 likes

Had the similar problem on my 10 year old Tiagra equipped bike recently. Not long after I got it, they updated Tiagra, changing the pull ratios, you now can't buy the old Tiagra deraileur. So when I went to my bike shop with a problem with my rear mech, they told me it needed replacing and I was possibly looking at having to get new shifters too as I'd have to upgrade to new Tiagra, at a minimum. Thankfully they had an old 10 second hand speed Ultegra deraileur, in a parts box, they were able to clean up and fit (which has the same pull ratio) Saved me a fortune (looks damn nice too!). So yeah Shimano parts obsolescence is nothing new unfortunately. 

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Simon E replied to a1white | 1 year ago
0 likes

I believe the derailleur pull ratio changed for Tiagra 4700 10 speed. For 4600 you may be able to use Sora or NOS/secondhand Tiagra rear mech.

Shimano also adjusted the cable pull for caliper brakes too, so BR-R451 deep drop brakes are required with 4700, which means BR-R450 and BR-R460 aren't fully compatible any more. Shimano no longer make deep drop (mudguard compatible) brake calipers that work properly.

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lesterama replied to TheBillder | 1 year ago
1 like

Exactly the reason I don't like Shimano. I've loved using their gear over the years, but want to keep it going for a long time.

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AidanR replied to TheBillder | 1 year ago
2 likes

The reason is that Shimano's pull ratios have historically been different different between MTB and road groupsets. In aligning them, backwards compatibility with either MTB or road had to be sacrificed.

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ChasP replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
0 likes

Historically all shimano had the same pull ratio until 11s road and 10s mtb. Hopefully it's only Sora that will change to become compatible with 105 11s and tiara.

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a1white | 1 year ago
2 likes

Im. a bit puzzled. My fairly cheap dependable hybrid, I use for errands etc., I bought a few years back has Altus 8 speed and cheap effective v-brakes. What happens in 7 years time, when they stop making replacement parts? Will I no longer be able to get compatible cassettes and chains? Also are they seriously only going to spec all those low end hybrid bikes (that currently have tourney and cheap v-brakes) with hydraulic disc brakes?! That's going to push up prices somewhat, I'd gave thought. I understand disc brakes are better, I get that, but on low end hybrids a huge chunk of the cost will be the hydraulic brakes. They surely still must have the option to fit cheap 3rd party rim brakes?

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grOg replied to a1white | 1 year ago
0 likes

I suspect Shimano will still make parts for obsolete groupsets; they still make 7 speed cassettes and chains, even though they haven't made a 7 speed groupset for new bikes for some time.

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IanMSpencer replied to a1white | 1 year ago
2 likes

The likes of Sun Race and MicroShift are good places to go.

I used a lot of SunRace components on budget bike repairs. In a way, Shimano not providing for that market is a good thing, it makes opportunities for others. SunRace was at least as good as Shimano and covered 5-7 speed with nicely designed trigger shifters and simple derailleurs, as well as economical cassettes.

Then Tektro were good for v-brakes though I didn't drop on any side pull brakes I was fond of over Shimano at the right price.

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a1white replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
0 likes

Yeah was thinking that too. i know Decathlon use Microshift on quite a few lower end bikes now. Though I looked at the CUES page on Shimano and I can see that Shimano have obviously thought about 3rd party providers for brakes. The levers are seperate untis from the shifters, so in theory, Tektro and the like can still make the rim brakes as they do now, if they also make levers that will work with the shifter fitments. I have a decent Road bike, but also a cheap Ridgeback hybrid runaround. It has Altus (and Tourney crank/front deraileur)  plus very cheap Promax V-Brakes. I'm still pretty amazed at how well those cheap brakes work! Why use Hydraulics at 5x plus the price? Complete overkill on a bike like that.

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Prosper0 replied to a1white | 1 year ago
1 like

I think what this means in practice is that Shimano is choosing to drop you and move out of the budget/bottom end of the market, leaving that to cheap Chinese brand stuff. 

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a1white replied to Prosper0 | 1 year ago
0 likes
Prosper0 wrote:

I think what this means in practice is that Shimano is choosing to drop you and move out of the budget/bottom end of the market, leaving that to cheap Chinese brand stuff. 

 

I find this very hard to believe. They absolutely dominate this sector currently, with Tourney and Altus. Rightly so too, when an entire groupset performs as well as that does for £100. Why drop all that? Really it's a testament to their years of experience and refinement of the mechanical shifting that they are able to come up with a reliable mech as cheap and effective as Tourney. Sod 105 Di2, the real marvel is how they pump out all those hardy Tourney mechs so cheap 😅! 

Looking at the Shimano page, though, the Brake levers are seperate units from the shifters. so in theory a 3rd party brake lever, with cables, could be used with v-Brakes. I imagine this is how budget City/Hybrid bikes will be specced up. Even now they'll rarely come with Shimano brakes.

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matthewn5 replied to Prosper0 | 11 months ago
0 likes
Prosper0 wrote:

I think what this means in practice is that Shimano is choosing to drop you and move out of the budget/bottom end of the market, leaving that to cheap Chinese brand stuff. 

Good call, though it might see them go the same way as Campag once they do, because they'll end up only making high end kit.

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Miller | 1 year ago
1 like

If all of 9, 10, 11 speed have the same pull ratios, doesn't this mean that 9, 10, 11 speed cassettes will have different widths? How will that play on wheels?

I can see from Shimano's pov that they will really get the SKU count down with this.

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wtjs replied to Miller | 1 year ago
0 likes

If all of 9, 10, 11 speed have the same pull ratios, doesn't this mean that 9, 10, 11 speed cassettes will have different widths?

Obviously, yes, but it doesn't matter because it's not by very much! Looks like a good plan to me

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tubasti replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
0 likes

No, because the amount of cable pulled is controlled by the shifter. A 9-speed shifter pulls more cable between clicks than a 10-speed shifter.

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IanMSpencer replied to tubasti | 1 year ago
0 likes

Ah, but the cog spacings are the same, according to the article.

They've got pictures up on the USA Shimano site and annoyingly, no end on view. I would imagine the 9 speed has a healthy gap between big sprocket and spokes.

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wycombewheeler replied to tubasti | 1 year ago
0 likes
tubasti wrote:

No, because the amount of cable pulled is controlled by the shifter. A 9-speed shifter pulls more cable between clicks than a 10-speed shifter.

sounds right to me, if the pull ratio is the amount of cable that makes the derailleur move over by 1mm, then it would theoretically be possible to change from 10spd to 11sp, by changing only shifters and cassette, because the rear mech would react in exactly the same way.

11spd would need a smaller shift, and the shifter would provide that by using less cable per click.

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KiwiMike replied to tubasti | 1 year ago
0 likes

In CUES the pull ratio is identical. You can swap between series/speeds just fine, you just lose some clicks, ie runing a 9-speed shifter on an 11s mech/cassette. Emergency repairs FTW. 

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levestane | 1 year ago
1 like

'Unique' has ambiguity!

It'll be interesting to see the cassettes, hopefully they'll still be OK with DT friction and old XTR RDs.

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grOg replied to levestane | 1 year ago
0 likes

No; Linkglide cassettes are not compatible with older RD's; friction shifter may work but Linkglide uses specific shifters and derailleurs; it is compatible with existing 10/11 speed chains and chainrings.

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tubasti replied to levestane | 1 year ago
0 likes

I don't see why not. 9- and 10-speed cassettes have been unchanged for over two decades.

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