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The Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset brings an extra level of refinement to what was already a brilliant design. The shifting has somehow become smoother, the braking is marginally better, and the system as a whole is far more user-friendly. It might have taken Shimano a few years to catch up with the wireless competition, but it's done it very well.
Whenever a groupset gets launched with an extra sprocket, many of us spend the first year stating that the old stuff is perfectly good enough before finally making the jump to the new stuff and quietly concluding that having an extra climbing gear, or plugging a gap in the middle of the cassette, is actually quite useful.
But when Di2 first launched, it was a proper game-changer. The shifting, when compared with mechanical Dura-Ace, was amazing. It was fast, accurate, good under load and, most importantly, it made a cool noise.
Fast forward to 2021 and the latest Dura-Ace R9200 isn't anywhere near as revolutionary as the original Di2. Okay, there is some very clever wireless shifting going on. We've now got 12 sprockets in a cassette and the disc brakes are pretty brilliant. But if you've got an 11-speed Di2 system and you're looking to upgrade, this is going to be a smaller performance improvement than when you made the jump from mechanical to electronic.
That isn't me having a dig at the R9200 groupset. Not at all. The fact that Shimano has given the new groupset an extra sprocket while also taking away some of the wires, improving the connectivity and making the shifting smoother, is to be applauded. Make no mistake, this, in my opinion, is easily the best road bike groupset on the market.
In my first ride review, I started with the braking, but seeing as most of you probably care more about the shifting, we'll start with the act of changing gears for this full review.
Shimano says that the system is faster, which is impressive in itself given the move from a wired to a wireless system. The old system was already fast, so it was tricky to tell if the claim was true, and after more time on the groupset, I've got two key takeaways.
First, the front derailleur shows the biggest improvement in performance. The motor has been made stronger and the result is smooth movement of the chain between the chainrings, even under some pretty significant load. Changing when accelerating caused no issues.
The second is that the rear derailleur is smoother across the cassette's range. Again, Shimano was claiming a speed increase, but it is so hard to discern an incremental gain. What I could notice, again, was how good the shifting is under load. Want to flick up through the gears while smashing on the pedals? No problem. Need to bail out after a 40-second hill repeat? Easy.
The smooth shifting at the front end is thanks, in no small part, to the chainrings and crank. The Hollowtech design is as stiff as ever and, when combined with the chainring's teeth profiles, creates the perfect platform for shifts that are almost as good as those at the rear.
The drivetrain also runs a fair bit quieter than it used to, and while a lot of this can be attributed to the chain that Shimano has taken from its mountain bike groupsets, you'll get different results based on chain lube used and the quality of your indexing.
I'd also like to give Shimano a hearty pat on the back for taking the satellite or 'sprinter' shifters back to a dumb unit. The design is back to being small and that makes hiding the body under your bar tape easy. The angular design of the buttons is just like it used to be and I love them. Nice one, Shimano.
One thing to note is the death of the traditional racer's ratio of 53/39. Shimano has figured that with the increased cassette size that works with the R9200 rear derailleur, it can increase the chainrings to a 54/40 while still giving riders a friendly climbing gear for the hills. The bonus is that your top gear is now a whopping 54x11 which should help some annoyingly powerful rider to drop me in a crosswind at some point next year. That said, they managed perfectly well with a 53x11.
Your other options remain unchanged, with a sub-compact 52/36 and compact 50/34. If you pair the latter with the 11-34T cassette, you've got a 1:1 gear ratio, and while that's great for us mere mortals, Shimano was actually thinking about the pros when it did this. No more changing to a long cage Ultegra rear derailleur when you have to race the Angliru.
Now, I wouldn't usually talk about indexing the gears in a normal review but the fact that Shimano has made connecting your groupset to the app a fair bit simpler means more people are likely to use the data that the app displays.
From the app, you can see which indexing step your system is currently in. This isn't going to be the biggest news for most people as the majority will take their bike to a shop if, say, they wished to swap the groupset onto a new frame, but for the data geeks out there like me, this info is great. You could do it with the old system but, as I say, more people will be able to access it now.
The process is basically the same, and if you're used to Di2 you'll have no issues. One main change is that the Junction A box is now integrated into the rear derailleur – as is the charging port. That means you've got a function button to press on the derailleur to activate index mode, and once you've done so, there is one other change to get to grips with. Don't go looking for limit screws on the front derailleur as setting the limits is done electronically now and it is a very simple process. The rear derailleur keeps the same B-tension and H/L limit screws.
One quick tip I learned from BetterShifting.com is a great way to be able to index your gears while riding. Sounds niche, but I've done it a few times using the old Junction A box. You can program one of the function buttons on the top of the shifters to act as the function button for your Di2. Top tip.
The indexing point leads me nicely on to connectivity, which Shimano has really improved. Gone is the separate and expensive D-Fly unit and instead, connectivity for the eTube app and compatible head units has been built in. This means you can see stuff like your current gearing and the remaining Di2 battery life, as well as being able to download and perform updates for each of the derailleurs, the shifter and the battery too, when needed.
SRAM's system always stood well above Shimano's in terms of this connectivity, but with the new R9200, Shimano has closed the gap.
While we're on the subject of connectivity, the brains of the system is now housed inside the rear derailleur. I'm not sure how wise a move that is, seeing as how exposed and therefore vulnerable this component is. I've had a few incidents in races where a tyre has contacted my rear derailleur, so much so that the surface has been polished. Would these incidents have caused the cover for the charging port to be ripped off? It's hard to say, but the fact is that if you trash a rear derailleur in a crash, you'd be looking at a £700 replacement.
Probably the most noticeable change to the entire groupset from a visual point of view comes at the shifters. Shimano has gone for a design that uses a sort of faceplate, much like the original non-series R785 Di2/Disc shifters which I still have and like a lot.
The design might take a while to grow on you, but the ergonomics are what we're looking at here and they are really very good. The overall shape has been made 4.6mm longer, a tiny bit fatter and noticeably taller. Apparently, the pros asked for this, but I'm thinking that it has more to do with fitting a CR1632 battery, a hydraulic reservoir and everything else into each shifter.
Whatever the reason, the R9200 shifters are a nice place to rest your hands when on the bike for long rides. The added length does indeed make wrapping three fingers under the shifter body easier for a more secure grip over rough roads, and the new hood texture helps here too.
Shimano has canted the body inboard which achieves its goal of easing pressure on the wrists and while the height of the hoods might also take some getting used to visually, they do offer more purchase when riding with your forearms horizontal. I generally spend quite a bit of time in this position throughout the course of a ride or a race, so having a bit more to hold onto is very welcome.
One thing to note is the new hood material, which Shimano says is better able to return to its factory shape. I used to just superglue my hood back in place at the frontal edges, but after peeling back the new hoods several times to have a good old play with the lever position screws and bleed ports, the hoods have settled back down on their own and everything looks tidy. Little things like this please me.
Shimano has also increased the profile on the actual shifter paddles. I can't say that I have ever had too many issues finding the correct shifter paddle, even with frozen hands in winter or cyclo-cross. But any added difference is welcome in my eyes and finding the paddles is easy.
I am still wondering why Shimano even bothered going wireless. The setup still requires the routing of a few cables between the battery and the derailleurs
Okay, it removes some of the faff associated with setting up an integrated front end and routing through a handlebar, but if you've got one of those tidy-looking front ends then you're going to be routing brake lines anyway. A little Di2 cable is, for any competent mechanic, dead easy to route with a proper tool and most people who end up with this groupset will either have it installed at a shop or get it already built onto a bike they've bought. Maybe Shimano is future-proofing its design, but until brakes become wireless, I don't see this as a real step forward.
The good news is that you can run the system fully wired. I'll be doing that if/when I upgrade to the 12-speed groupset. It's worth it for the 50% bump in battery life.
And the even better news is that this wireless groupset is just as fast, if not faster than the old groupset. That deserves a tip of the hat in Shimano's direction.
The main thing I wanted to see from the new groupset was a set of brakes that worked perfectly. We haven't got that here and I think the rotors are at fault. Yes, the pad clearance has been increased by 10 per cent but that is 10 per cent of a tiny gap. It isn't enough to clear a rotor warped by heat, and while the MT900 rotors are better than the old Dura-Ace design, I still prefer SwissStop or Campagnolo rotors with their solid design. They might be a touch heavier, but they don't seem to warp quite as easily.
This rotor warping results in that annoying ting-ting-ting sound when you come off the brakes after scrubbing off a lot of speed. You can also get a tiny bit of noise if you lean the bike over excessively when sprinting or out of the saddle on a climb. For me, it's an issue that can be solved by using a better rotor, though that will be a change you make based on personal preference.
But away from that, the brakes are pretty much perfect and I love what Shimano has done with the addition of the ServoWave tech from the GRX and mountain bike groupsets. There is now a smaller amount of lever travel before the pads contact the rotor, and as you pull the lever the power progresses with the lever travel. The feeling at the fingertips is brilliant. You can really feather the brakes when you need to be careful with your braking power, but then loads of power is available in an emergency braking situation.
The total lever travel hasn't changed and you can still customise the position of the lever, so riders with smaller hands should be able to access the brakes easily while in the drops without having to stretch for them.
There is also a marginal change to the bleeding of the brakes. There is a new bleed tool, but we haven't been able to get our hands on that yet. From the reports that I've seen, however, it looks to have improved the fit of the syringe onto the bleed nipple, not that I had any issues before.
The position of the bleed nipple on the calliper body has moved from the top to the side to improve access on tight rear triangles. I like this move as it just makes things a little easier. Then, you'll be undoing the bleed port with a hex key rather than a 7mm spanner. Again, it's just a little bit easier to access. Apart from that, you're still just getting the air out of a hydraulic system.
If you'd like to read my in-depth power meter review where we actually dig into the data then you can do so at your leisure. For now, I'll just say that it is easy to get set up, provides consistent and reliable data and Shimano seems to have sorted previous issues with the L/R balance.
It's an easy design to live with and I'd hope to see it coming as standard on most Dura-Ace-equipped bikes. Otherwise, it'd be a rather expensive upgrade.
That's a tidy segue into the topic of money... As Shimano's top-end groupset, it's no surprise to learn that Dura-Ace R9200 is rather expensive, costing £4,281.87 with a power meter and £3,631.87 without, a difference of £650 which I'll come to in a minute. That's up on the R9170 Di2 groupset by £149.06 for the complete groupset with the power meter included, and £499.06 without.
The significant price increases come at the cassette (£219.99 to £329.99), rear derailleur (£549.99 to £699.99) and the front derailleur (£329.99 to £399.99). The power meter has actually reduced in price from £1,499.99 down to £1,199.99.
SRAM's RED eTap AXS electronic 12-speed disc groupset costs £3,794 with a power meter included, and £3,349 without, making it £487.87 cheaper for the power version and £282.87 cheaper without power. All of these prices are at RRP.
Shimano's Dura-Ace R9200 groupset still beats Campagnolo's Super Record EPS electronic 12-speed groupset with disc brakes by £476.13 for the non-power option.
Let's imagine for a minute that I had an amount of money that would have bought me a superbike about 10 years ago, where would my cash be going? I'd be forking out the extra money to get Shimano over SRAM. I still think Shimano is the king of electronic shifting; I prefer the hood ergonomics, the gear ratios and, to a lesser extent, the method of indexing the gears.
If you're looking at a bike with the groupsets installed and wondering whether to go for SRAM or Shimano then, in the case of the 2022 Cervelo R5, you'll find an identical price of £11,699. After you've finished wincing at the price, the only difference you'll notice is that the Shimano-equipped bike is missing the power meter, which is very disappointing. Currently, bikes being offered with a choice between Shimano or SRAM's top-end groupsets are few and far between. Will the addition of the power meter increase the cost of the top-end Shimano-equipped bikes by £650? That would present a significant gap between your options.
Realistically, though, if you haven't got Dura-Ace money then, like me, you'll probably be looking at getting the majority of the tech we see here at Ultegra level. If you have got Dura-Ace money then you're not going to be disappointed with the new 12-speed stuff. It is fabulous.
Sounds like a great groupset, doesn't it? Good, well, you can't have it yet. You can just about get your hands on a bike with the new groupset, but we're not expecting to see many groupsets available on their own until well into 2022. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a new bike...
The best gets a bit better, it's as simple as that
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 Di2 Disc Power Meter Groupset
Size tested: 52/36, 172.5mm, 11-30
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Shimano: 'Shimano's new shifting systems use wireless technology where it makes sense for both day-to-day life and ultimate performance. Freeing the shift levers from the rear of the bike cleans up the cockpit and simplifies the build process. Meanwhile, connecting the derailleurs to an internal main battery ensures absolute reliability by maintaining stable voltage while also improving Shimano's already lightning-fast shift speed that has made Di2 a staple of the WorldTour pro peloton.
New Di2 dual control levers feature dramatic, all-new ergonomics and act as the wireless command center. Both DURA-ACE and ULTEGRA levers have a longer, slightly curved hood body for a more comfortable and secure grip. Shift buttons are easier to reach and differentiate with extended switches and an increased offset between them. With better access and faster shifting, you'll always find yourself in the right gear.
The backbone of these two new groupsets is the game-changing HYPERGLIDE+ shifting technology. First introduced on Shimano mountain bike groups, this unique chain-and-cassette interface smoothly guides the chain up and down the cassette for fast and precise shifting in both directions '' even under extreme pedaling load.
Both DURA-ACE and ULTEGRA also welcome new braking systems, which are quieter, easier to maintain, and deliver superior control. Improvements start with the addition of Shimano's proven SERVO WAVE technology. First developed for mountain bikes, SERVO WAVE provides a quick initial bite, then slows down lever force generation for better modulation.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Front Brake: Shimano Dura-Ace 9270 hydraulic disc brake calliper with Shimano RT-MT900 160mm rotors
Rear Brake: Shimano Dura-Ace 9270 hydraulic disc brake calliper with Shimano RT-MT900 160mm rotors
Brake Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9270, hydraulic
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9250, 12-speed
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9250, 12-speed
Shift Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9270, 12-speed
Chain: Shimano CN-M9100, 12-speed
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-R9200, 11-30, 12-speed
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace 9200-P 52/36 172.5mm
The hood ergonomics are really good. These are comfy places to rest your hands on a long ride.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty much flawlessly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
My fear when we saw rumours of a wireless Shimano groupset was that the shifting would be slower. Shimano has managed to make it faster and smoother at the same time. It's bloody brilliant.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'm still not a fan of Shimano's top-end rotors. While the brakes are quieter after a period of heavy braking, you can still warp the rotor a little and get that annoying ting-ting-ting.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
See my value section in the review for a full breakdown, but it is a bit more expensive than the last Dura-Ace groupset with some significant price increases to individual components. You can save a bit of cash by going for SRAM Red eTap AXS, but Campagnolo's Super Record EPS will still set you back more money.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Shimano has made the shifting better and the braking a bit better too. It's done so while adding an extra sprocket to the cassette and making things semi-wireless. That is incredibly impressive and the result is that the best groupset on the market, in my opinion, just got even more brilliant.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
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.