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Will Shimano CUES ease future bike industry supply chain dilemmas? Unified groupsets will “reduce inventory needs and simplifies the servicing process” says components giant

As the world's largest bike component manufacturer announces a wide-ranging simplification of its product range, it's been suggested that this could be beneficial if another pandemic-style rush for all things bike happens again...

Shimano announced a significant revamp of its mid-range groupset hierarchy earlier this week that will see a number of its product lines discontinued and amalgamated into a series of 9-, 10- and 11-speed groupsets called Shimano CUES. While this will make for a better, more reliable riding experience according to Shimano, it's also been suggested that the versatility and ability to mix and match components across the range could even help to reduce future supply chain issues in the bike industry. 

> Shimano unveils new cross-compatible CUES groupsets for city, touring and mountain bikes

The headline info that appeared in most of the CUES coverage this week focussed on the culling of old groupsets, the lack of triple chainsets and rim brakes on the new products and how the cross-compatibility and more durable Linkglide technology will benefit the rider; however, the bike industry news publication Bike Europe suggests that the unified groupset line-up "should assist with cutting out supply chain delays experienced in the last couple of years."

Shimano CUES might not be your typical sparkly bike industry launch – indeed, it was announced the day before SRAM’s overhauled 12-speed, electronic Force AXS groupset and Cannondale’s revamped Supersix race bike – but it’s one that has implications for a much broader section of the bike-riding population. In the not-too-distant future, any new bike that was previously specced with Shimano Tiagra, Sora, Claris, Altus, Acera, Alivio or Deore components will instead be dressed with CUES. That’s a huge percentage of bikes sold to the general public… a public that rushed to buy bikes and have their old ones fixed up when lockdown hit in 2020, only to find that a lot of bike shops were booked up for weeks with repair jobs, and supply of mid to low-end components was extremely low.

While it was Bike Europe that explicitely suggested that CUES could ease future supply chain problems, Shimano itself puts it like this: “Shimano CUES reduces inventory needs and simplifies the servicing process for mid-tier bikes."

Gradually parts for the older groupsets that CUES is replacing – that are not compatible with the new products – will be phased out over a period of roughly seven years, and going forward CUES parts will be highly interchangeable. To give an example, it would be possible to fit an 11-speed CUES shifter on a bike with a 9-speed set-up and vice versa if emergency replacement parts were required.

In theory, then, if any significant world events occur in the future that disrupt the supply chain, it could be much easier to service and build up bikes with any mix-and-match Shimano CUES-compatible parts that retailers and distributors can get their hands on if sourcing new, full groupsets becomes difficult or impossible.  

2023 Shimano CUES drivetrain

When asked if Shimano CUES could have eased the bike industry's supply chain woes during the Covid-19 pandemic, mechanic and reviewer Mike Stead, who penned a glowing opinion piece on the launch earlier this week, said: "Yes, CUES will dramatically ease the burden for shops of stocking many SKUs. 

"Prior to CUES, if a Tiagra or 105 bike needed a chain or cassette, it was a rather specific ask, with almost zero chance of going outside the groupset if a shifter or mech broke. Over lockdown I had customers' bikes waiting months for basic parts like chains/cassettes. I sometimes cannibalised my own bikes or parts bins for workarounds. CUES will forestall anything like that for a long time, in the event of another pandemic.

"It also opens the door to manufacturers like Microshift et al to create ranges of components that only need to support one shift ratio, to be addressing a much larger market. Which further de-risks things and opens options for consumers."

Colin Williams, director at FLi distribution, is much less optimistic, saying: "I can't see how it could have helped really.

"If Shimano can make x components, the fact x is all the same, or made up of different models, it doesn't mean supply is better. It might have been a bit easier to manage, but if the overall quantity was the same, I can't see how it would have solved any problems in any significant way."

It appears there is more to Shimano's thinking behind CUES than simply "creating unique experiences", then; although, we can probably all agree it would be preferable if the supply chain issues of the past three years weren't repeated again in a hurry... 

Arriving at in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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