Cast your mind right back to the start of 2020, when we were free to roam as we pleased and Brexit minutiae was the only thing on the news... except for the burning question of when the next incarnation of Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace groupset would launch, of course.
David Arthur took a look at some rumours that were doing the rounds back in February, predicting that the next Dura-Ace will carry the R9200 series name. A little later in the year, we saw what was believed to be the new Dura-Ace system on Remco Evenepoel’s bike. The issues faced this year might have delayed its release, but rest assured, things are moving in the right direction for the release of this new tech.
The problem is, we’re currently all just guessing at what this new tech might actually consist of. Our Tech Editor Mat Brett is currently up to his eyeballs in Shimano’s numerous patents that cover the next Dura-Ace groupset. He’ll have a detailed look at them soon; but in the meantime, Cycling Weekly reckons that the new Dura-Ace Di2 will be Di2-only and powered by cigarette lighter technology, while CyclingTips has come to the conclusion that 12-speed and wireless are definitely going to be features of Dura-Ace.
So without further ado, here's our next gen Dura-ace wishlist...
Broadly, we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet on this one. 12-speed shifting looks to be one of the main features of the new Dura-Ace and we’re ok with that. 11 cogs in a cassette are, let’s face it, absolutely fine. The same was said about 10 cogs, but to keep up with the crowd, Shimano will need to make their latest groupset 12-speed. Not that we'll be complaining about having an extra cog.
While Sram went to an XD driver to attach its cassettes to wheels, we believe that Shimano will follow Campagnolo and simply squeeze an extra cog onto its existing Shimano Hypreglide freehub standard. That would be excellent news for those of you with a few wheelsests, and we're sure that aftermarket wheel brands would be grateful too.
The only scenario that we could see forcing Shimano to use its MicroSpline freehub standard from the mountain bike world would be the move to a 10T cog in the cassette... but more on that later.
With the last iteration of Dura-Ace, Shimano moved the maximum cog allowed in the standard cage length up from 20T to 30T. We’d like to see this extended again to fit a 32T cog in the rear.
Why? If 12-speed does indeed happen then an 11-32T cassette would be ideal for the majority of roadies, with the larger cogs in the rear helping us up those steep climbs. Many already customise their setups to these ratios, we’d just like to see it become standard issue.
While we’re on the subject of cogs, we would expect Shimano to follow Campagnolo’s lead on what to do with the extra cog in the 12-speed system.
SRAM used it to add a 10T cog in the rear and then made the chainrings smaller. The theory is very solid; it allows the rider to remain in the big ring for longer and saves a bit of weight too. That said, issues with drivetrain resistance reported by Velonews and the fact that many SRAM-sponsored riders have ditched the 10T along with the smaller chainrings points to it not being a perfect solution.
Campagnolo simply uses the extra cog to smooth a jump between teeth in a wide-ranging cassette. And that would be very helpful if Shimano decided to give us 11-32T cassettes as standard.
While wiring a Di2 system is pretty straight forward, the setup simplicity of SRAM has drawn many riders to SRAM’s eTap system. Several conflicting patent drawings make it unclear as to whether Shimano will go for a fully wireless system, or rely on some connection between various parts of the groupset.
There is a separate argument to be had as to how useful wireless is. Ok, it might make installation a bit faster, but in use, there aren’t many significant benefits to a wireless system; especially if that wireless system has very fractionally slower shifting than wired, or has reduced battery life. SRAM's double-tap design, which relies on you pressing both left and right shifter paddles at the same time to shift the front derailleur, waits for a fraction of a second when you press for a shift of the rear derailleur. The system is simply waiting to see if you are going to press both paddles, hence the small delay in shifting.
SRAM eTap also houses the batteries in the derailleurs themselves, resulting in a slightly reduced battery compared to Shimano and Campagnolo. The benefits of each system is a can of worms to crack open if you’re bored on a long ride with a mechanically-minded friend.
One thing that we think Shimano simply must learn from SRAM is that app integration, and its performance, are both crucial, especially when we're becoming so accustomed to using apps to get the most out of cycling tech nowadays.
Get a bike with SRAM Red eTap AXS equipped and you simply download the app, connect to your groupset via Bluetooth, and away you go. With Shimano, an inline wireless connector needs buying for an eyebrow-raising sum before you can connect the system to your smartphone. Before you do that, the system needs to be on the same update; and to ensure that is the case, the bike needs plugging into the computer software, which has all of the smartphone app functionality, making the app a little redundant.
Mechanical Dura-Ace shifting is some of the smoothest on the market, and while the industry is undoubtedly going towards disc brakes and electronic shifting on high-end bikes, we’d love to see Dura-Ace continue to offer mechanical shifting and rim brakes
That said, we’ve been through Trek’s 2021 range and there is no sign of mechanical Dura-Ace shifting. With the launch of its new Emonda, Trek said that the decision to make it a disc-brake only platform in 2021 was based on sales data that showed an overwhelming preference for discs.
Finally, we’d really like to see Shimano make more of the custom programmability of Di2. Shifter button functions can be customised, and you can do some really cool stuff with that.
One cyclocross racer had both their left and their right shifter programmed to operate the rear derailleur on their 1X race bike. That way, if (when) they crashed and broke a shifter, they could still operate the gears. Ideally, this would tie in nicely with a better app experience and wouldn’t require the inline wireless transmitter.
How much of this will we get from the new Dura-Ace groupset? We’re feeling greedy, so hopefully all of it!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.