Shimano’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated switch to 12-speed has arrived, the world’s top drivetrain and groupset manufacturer launching its latest Dura Ace and Ultegra series.
While the jump to a 12-tooth cassette will no doubt be the headline feature, the new R9200 Dura Ace and R8100 Ultegra have wireless shifting with the derailleur being powered via the traditional seat tube battery, and the redesigned shifters each holding a flat cell battery.
Shifting is claimed to be Shimano’s fastest ever, with processing speeds across both models resulting in a 58% decrease in rear derailleur operating time and 45% faster response and quicker shifting up front.
The new Dura Ace groupset, Shimano’s premium-level offering now in 12-speed and wireless.
Signal wise, the company have developed a proprietary electronic transmission system for higher security and lower power consumption. This operates alongside an ANT+ connection for data transmission to third party devices.
Shimano say that single internal battery makes for simpler charging and offers a higher voltage along with a more stable connection to the derailleurs. This, in turn, assist with shift speed speed. A bar end charge port is still available, and the rear derailleur features a charge port.
Battery life wise, factory figures show the internal battery offers 1000 km between charges. The STI shifters take coin-style CR1632 batteries which last for approximately 1.5 -2 years of usage.
To further increase battery capacity a fully wired option is also possible. This uses a smaller diameter and more efficient wiring that Shimano says it offers a 50% increase in shifter battery life.
New Dura Ace Highlights
Shimano’s premium R9200 Dura Ace series moves to 12-speed Di2-only and will be available in disc or rim-brake set-up with wireless shifters, 54-40T chain rings and 11-34T along with 11-30T cassettes.
The series includes a new power meter, updated brake technology, redesigned hydraulic brake callipers and a new line-up of tubeless and tubular wheels.
Battery charging is performed via a port on the rear derailleur. A new 4-pin plug provides the power.
The RD-R9250 rear derailleur is a slicker, lighter and more integrated design. It features a hidden charging port, a button for Di2 operations and LED lights to advise of Synchronized Shifting mode, settings mode or charging info.
The revised ST-R9270 shifters are slightly higher than their predecessors, with a raised head portion. They also feature a slight but noticeable inward curve for more comfort and better anatomical fit. Shimano say this creates an increased area between the shifter and the handlebar that equates to less hand fatigue and better overall control.
Significant Input From WorldTour Pros
One of the recurring themes throughout an hour plus video launch presentation was the significant input Shimano’s pro riders have offered with the updates.
Shimano say the new shifters offer better index finger and thumb grip on the hoods, and a better 3-finger grip behind the brake lever. The paddles are slightly larger, and there’s a slightly increased offset between Di2 buttons on the lever, allowing for better differentiation between the up-shift and down-shift button.
The company say this will especially help those using long-fingered gloves or riders with wet fingers.
The updated and subtly redesigned Dura Ace R9200 STI shifter.
The wireless design also offers for a simple installation procedure with no shift cable ports having to enter the frame or handlebar. Together with internal hose routing, it allows for a cleaner, more minimalist cockpit.
Talking minimalism, there are also new remote shifter buttons – the sprint (SW-R801-S) or climbing shifter (SW- R801-T) can be used with a clamp band or can sit integrally in the handlebars with a specific port, such as the new PRO Vibe Evo bar.
These new more compact satellite shifter options either attach to the drops via a 100mm cable (SW-RS801-S) or to the tops via a 260 mm Di2 cable (SW- RS801-T).
The launch of an updated E-tube app coincides with the Dura Ace and Ultegra release.
Simultaneously with the launch are updates to the company’s E-tube app. Full customisation options are available for the Dura Ace R9200 series such as Synchronized or Semi-Synchro shifting, Multi-Shift, shifting speed and STI shift button mapping to be set up on the go. Connections with 3rd party cycle computers can also be set up.
New ‘Sweet Spot’ Gearing
The new Dura Ace 12-speed HYPERGLIDE+ cassette retains the top 11T gear but has been optimised with a revision in the ‘sweet spot’ gears between the 6th, 7th and 8th sprockets to retain smooth and consistent steps.
Combining this with quicker shifting, Shimano say the cassette’s ramped profile allows for smoother gear changes, even under heavy load and ‘no matter whether you’re moving up or down the cassette.’
“The result is that there is no longer any need to back off an acceleration or time an easy pedal stroke with your shifts,” say Shimano. “Riders can now put the hammer down and shift even faster, with smoother cadence and better speed transition thanks to DURA-ACE cassettes with HYPERGLIDE+ technology.”
There are two Dura Ace cassette options, 11-30T and a new 11-34T ratio for steep climbs. The cassettes come with a new spline fitting pattern, which is also backwards compatible to Dura Ace R9100 11-speed freehub bodies, meaning that new Dura Ace R9200 components can be used on the previous R9100-series wheels.
As well as the new larger 11-34T cassette, a new larger 54-40T chainring option will offer higher transmission efficiency than smaller chainring options.
More Marginal Gains
With a smaller, sleeker and lighter Di2 front derailleur (FD-R9250) and more advanced rear derailleur (RD-R9250), the front derailleur has a 33% smaller frontal area, brings a weight drop to 96 grams, and offers big ring capacity for 50-55t chainrings.
Two cranksets will be available, the integrated power meter version (FC-R9200-P) or the non-power meter version (FC-R9200).
The new Dura Ace front derailleur shifts considerably faster, has less frontal area, and is lighter.
Both versions come in either 50-34T, 52-36T or a new 54-40T chain ring combination, with crank arm lengths from 160 to 177.5 mm and have a Q-factor of 148 mm.
The power meter version uses Bluetooth and ANT+ technology to transmit data. It boasts 300+ hours of ride time between charges and comes with an improved 1.5% strain gauge accuracy.
The Dura Ace R9200 crankset is complete with the same 12-speed chain used on Shimano’s XTR M9100 series, simplifying inventory requirements for retailers and riders.
Bicycling Australia Magazine are yet to ride or review the groupset, but Shimano tell us there’s wider brake pad and rotor clearance and a switch to Shimano’s RT-MT900 rotors. “The result is a quieter system, achieved through less heat deformation of the rotor,” we are told.
Both Dura Ace and Ultegra disc callipers feature a number of changes including simplified bleeding.
Dura Ace Wheels
Shimano has redesigned its wheel line-up with a balance of three factors: drag reduction, a new direct engagement hub, and lighter construction.
Three rim height profiles offer different performance benefits for riders.
- The C36 (WH-R9270-C36-TL wheel is focused on climbing and is the lightest wheel offering.
- The C50 (WH-R9270-C50-TL) is an all-round wheel with a great balance of drag, lateral and driving rigidity, periphery and overall weight and controllability.
- The C60 (WH-R9270-C60-HR-TL) is the most aerodynamic wheel with High Rigidity (HR) for sprints and high-speed pursuits.
Drag reduction was a big goal and the new C50 in particular excels in that department. In race situations it brings a 5.1W drag reduction versus the Dura Ace R9100 series C40-TL tubeless wheel and a 1W reduction versus the R9100 C60-TU tubular wheel, whilst still offering other all-round benefits of weight and controllability.
Driving rigidity was amplified to increase the direct pedalling feeling when accelerating. This was achieved through a direct engagement hub, using two interlocking faces rather than a pawl and ratchet system and results in a 63% increase between the new R9200 C50-TL and the previous R9100 C40-TL wheel, along with a 45g weight reduction in the freehub.
Three completely new Dura Ace wheelsets will be available. New Ultegra wheels are also available with the carbon rims being the same as Dura Ace.
Every gram counts when it comes to rotational mass, so the new wheels have seen a big weight reduction in the rims too. A pair of the WH-R9270- C50-TL wheels drop 161g compared to the previous model.
Ultegra R8100 Key Points
While Dura Ace is a dream for many of us, the reality is Ultegra will be a bigger seller and the groupset more everyday riders turn to.
Like Dura Ace, the new R8100 series Ultegra moves to 12-speed with wireless Di2 shifter function and faster derailleurs.
For the first-time ever Ultegra includes a power meter option and full-carbon tubeless disc wheels that share the identical rim to the Dura Ace wheels but are finished with different spokes and hubs.
Major Ultegra changes can be broken down into five key development areas: shifting platform, control interface, brake system, drivetrain system and wheel system.
The new Ultegra groupset includes wheels and power meter options.
The new Ultegra R8100 shares the same revised Di2 platform as Dura Ace R9200 to improve shifting speed whilst making the shifter-derailleur connection wireless, and still ensuring absolute reliability.
The faster shift speeds are the same as the Dura Ace (58% faster in the rear derailleur and 45% faster up front), thanks to an improved motor design in the derailleurs, and faster processing speeds (the moving time between motor and gear mechanisms).
The new Ultegra rear derailleur with 12-speed cassette and C50 wheels.
Ultegra also features the new smaller diameter SD-300 wires connect the Di2 battery (BT-DN300) to front (FD-R8150) and rear derailleurs (RD-R8150). Just like Dura Ace, the single internal battery makes for a simple charging solution and ensures a stable and high voltage connection to the derailleurs with a stated battery life of1000 km between charges.
Also like Dura Ace, the STI shifter buttons are powered by coin-style CR1632 batteries with a life of approximately 1.5-2 years of use.
Charging is now via the rear derailleur is now the point at which the system is charged, replacing Shimano’s SM-BCR2 charger.
The new Ultegra R8100 derailleurs weigh 116gr and 262gr a combined 67gr difference.
Like it’s senior sibling, Ultegra has two new 12-speed HYPERGLIDE+ cassettes in 11-30 and 11-34 ratios. The 11-30 cassette in particular has also been optimized with a revision in the ‘sweet spot’ gears between the 6th, 7th and 8th sprockets (see chart).
The new cassettes come with a new spline fitting pattern, which is also backwards compatible to Shimano 11-speed freehub bodies, meaning that new Ultegra R8100 components can be used on the previous Shimano 11-speed wheels.
For the first-time ever, the Ultegra cranksets come with the option of a power meter. The FC-R8100-P offers up to 300+ hours of ride time, thanks to an integrated, waterproof and rechargeable Li-ion battery. Dual-sided data is provided by Shimano’s proprietary strain gauges on both crank arms. The power meters use Bluetooth and ANT+ technology to transmit data.
Power meter and non-power meter cranksets come in either 50-34T or 52- 36T gear combinations with crank arm lengths of 160, 165, 170, 172.5 and 175 mm. The Ultegra power meter crankset weighs 769gr, 21gr heavier than the DURA-ACE power meter at 748gr.
The Ultegra R8100 chainset is complete with the same 12-speed chain used on Shimano’s XT M8100 series, simplifying inventory requirements for retailers and riders.
Like Dura Ace, Ultegra features a new design and updated bleeding and maintenance.
Shimano’s new Ultegra brake components offer more fine-tuned control through the tighter, faster and more aggressive cornering lines found in road racing situations.
With the addition of ‘Servo Wave’ technology to brake levers, taken from Shimano’s MTB and Gravel braking systems, riders have a shorter free stroke and are able to get a more immediate connection between brake pads and rotors, allowing for more feathering or modulation of the brakes, resulting in more speed carry-through and more confidence in technical situations.
In addition, brake noise reduction has been improved by a claimed 10% through 10% wider brake pad and rotor clearance and a switch towards Shimano’s RT-MT800 rotors.
Another key change on both Dura Ace and Ultegra is a change to how brake maintenance is performed. It’s now possible to bleed the brake without removing the caliper from the frame thanks to a separate bleed port and valve screw. A new funnel and bleed spacer also help improve the bleeding process.
On brakes, the new calipers weigh 282gr per pair versus the Dura Ace caliper weight of 229grams.
The updated 12-speed Ultegra as fitted to a Canyon Endurace.
For the first-time ever Shimano has introduced a full carbon tubeless disc brake wheel line-up at Ultegra level.
Much like the new DURA-ACE wheels, performance comes from drag reduction, rigidity, and light weight construction.
Three rim height profiles offer different performance benefits for riders.
- The C36 (WH-R8170-C36-TL wheel is focused on climbing and is the lightest wheel offering with a target weight of 1488 g per pair (for comparison, DURA-ACE WH-R9270-C36-TL weight: 1350 g).
- The C50 (WH-R8170-C50-TL) is an all-round wheel with a great balance of drag, lateral and driving rigidity, periphery and overall weight and controllability. The ULTEGRA C50 comes with a target weight of 1570 g per pair (DURA-ACE WH-R9270-C50-TL: 1461g).
- The C60 (WH-R8170-C60-TL) is the most aerodynamic wheel for sprints and high-speed pursuits, focused on drag, lateral rigidity and driving rigidity. The ULTEGRA C60 comes with a target weight of 1649gr per pair (DURA-ACE WH-R9270-C60-TL weight: 1609gr).
Ultegra R8100 components are expected to be available from October 2021.
Pricing for both Dura Ace and Ultegra will be available soon.
Numerous manufacturers now have the groupsets fitted to new bikes available from September 1.