Shimano works on a three-year life cycle for their products, redesigning and improving them with every iteration. In 2016, it was Dura-Ace’s turn.
Dura-Ace has always been the group set of choice for pro racers, with all but four teams choosing to run the superlative system, but Shimano isn’t content to rest on its laurels. Rumoured to be developed in partnership with Team Sky, the new 9100 and its electronic counterpart, 9170, is sleeker, sexier and more aerodynamic than ever before.
With all the new updates to the system, it seems there is now more technology on your bike then there was on Apollo 11.
This version of Dura-Ace is a complete overhaul of the groupset, with Dura-Ace labeled hydraulic disc brakes, an integrated power meter, and new wheels, just to name a few changes. There’s a lot to get through, so lets break it down, shall we?
4 for 1 Deal
This time around Shimano have a choice of four new groupsets in the new release:
- R9100 – Mechanical shifting with rim bakes
- R9120 – Mechanical shifting with disc brakes
- R9150 – Electronic shifting with rim brakes
- R9170 – Electronic shifting with disc brakes
The New Look
The biggest visual change for this groupset is the new colour scheme. Chrome obviously didn’t cut it with the pro teams this time around. Now fading from black to silver, Dura-Ace looks stylishly stealthy. If James Bond rode a bike, this is the groupset he would choose.
Opting for a sleeker new look, the new Dura-Ace is certainly striking.
More functional than Shimano’s aesthetic are the new cranks. According to Shimano, they’ve been redesigned to optimise power transfer and reduce weight. Designed for asymmetrical power input, the new chunkier crank arms are more rigid and efficient than previous versions.
The new Di2
With all the new updates to the system, it seems there is now more technology on your bike than there was on Apollo 11. The biggest perceivable addition to Dura-Ace’s shifting is Synchro shift. Synchro shift has been on XT and XTR Di2 for years; one of the few examples where mountain bikers were the first to get the newest technology. Essentially, the optional system removes the need for a front shifter. The system works by calculating the most efficient gear based on the current position of the rear derailleur, and adjusts the front derailleur accordingly. For example, if you are in the big ring in the front, and nearing the larger end of the cassette, if you shift to an easier gear again, the system recognises that by cross-chaining this way, you are decreasing your pedaling efficiency and increasing wear on the drive chain, so it will shift the gear on the front derailleur instead. If you’re changing the opposite way, the whole system works in reverse. Whilst disconcerting at first, the technology has been designed well and it does work, so it may just take some time to get used to. The whole system is completely customisable as well; you’re able to choose at what point the automatic shifting will kick in, or even if it kicks in at all. Shimano claims it actually saves a significant number of watts.
Synchro shift calculates the most efficient gear based on the current position of the rear derailleur, and adjusts the front derailleur accordingly.
As well as this, the housing of Di2 has changed. Your junction box, the brains behind the system, now fits nicely into the end of your drop bars, so you don’t need to have a box zip tied to your stem anymore. Also, the whole thing is now Bluetooth compatible, so when paired with the E-Tube Project Shimano smartphone app, you can customise, troubleshoot and update, all from your post-ride coffee break.
Shimano has fully incorporated hydraulic disc brakes into their Dura-Ace lineup, signaling that the brakes are here to stay, like it or not, in possibly the most contentious issue in cycling since Lance Armstrong. When it comes to disc brakes, it doesn’t get much better then these. The two piston stoppers have all the bling: Ice Tech, which allows them to run at a claimed 30 degrees cooler, brake pads with wider spacing to allow for easier and faster wheel changes, and a rounded edge on the rotors to lessen any risk of injury – good for anyone who fears getting their legs sliced open by a wayward rotor.
Continuing with the trends of the groupset, and the cycling community in general, Shimano’s Dura-Ace wheels have been updated to provide an improved experience all round. Wider profile rims for increased stiffness and aerodynamics, a change in rim depths, an updated colour scheme, and a lighter weight are all new for the 2017 season.
Available in a 24mm, 40mm and 60mm depth, both deeper rims are lighter than the previous C50, coming in at 1343 and 1400 grams respectively, compared to 1442 grams for the previous C50.
Cycling companies don’t seem to be very good at keeping secrets, seeing as Shimano integrated power meters have been rumoured for years, but now it’s finally here. Incorporated into the crank arm, it’s definitely the most subtle power meter on the market. With dual sided data collection and a third strain gauge in the crank spindle, Shimano believes this power meter far and away exceeds industry standards.
The two crank strain gauges aren’t anything special, but the spindle gauge is where things get interesting. This gauge sits in the part of the crank that goes through the frame, providing data on the position of your cleats and even the type of inner sole you should have in your shoe. Shimano claims a slight margin of error (plus or minus 2%), meaning that the meter reading will never be more than a few watts out from your true power output.
Shimano have opted for a rechargeable battery with a claimed life of 300 hours, but Apple said my phone battery should last for two days, so this remains to be seen. The power meter is both Bluetooth and Ant+ compatible, so it will work through most smartphones and any head unit you already have. However, all the updates will be done with your phone through the Bluetooth connection.
The power meter is available as an optional extra with the Dura-Ace groupset, and will be a good value for money option for those wanting to further quantify their rides.