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Shimano doesn't rule out 12-speed mechanical road groupsets

With new versions of Dura-Ace and Ultegra being Di2 only, how will Shimano plug the price gap to mechanical 105?

Shimano has just about left the door open for introducing a 12-speed mechanical groupset for the road, although it has reiterated that it is firmly focused on Di2 at the top of its range for the time being.

> Read all about the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset here
> Read all about the new Shimano Ultegrea R8100 groupset here 

Shimano finally announced new versions of its two top-level groupsets, Dura-Ace and Ultegra, last week. Both Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 are 12-speed and Di2-only. In other words, there are no options for mechanical shifting in either.

2021 Ribble Endurance AL e Shimano 105 - crank.jpg

That leaves a big price gap between Ultegra R8100 Di2 and Shimano’s third-tier 105 groupset which is mechanical only. Shimano has said in the past that it has no plans to offer Di2 electronic shifting at 105 level although, of course, strategies can change over time as technologies and markets develop.

As we speculated about on the road.cc Podcast last week, the logical plug for this gap would be either a 12-speed mechanical version of Ultegra, or perhaps a Di2 version of 105. 

We asked Shimano whether it could confirm that it's not its intention to offer mechanical versions of the 12-speed groupsets.

“We see 12-speed Dura-Ace and Ultegra as racing and performance riding groupsets where the advantages of electronic shifting really come to the fore,” said Shimano’s Ben Hillsdon. “This is what a significant amount of competitive and performance bike riders are looking for and where we can add real value to a customer’s ride.

“However, we will continue to make 11-speed Ultegra mechanical groupsets available at least into 2022. As well as serving current 11-speed road riders, these groupsets also serve cyclocross riders, plus the cassettes and chains are used with GRX 2x11 drivetrains."

GRX is the name given to Shimano’s gravel groupsets.

“We always make decisions after listening to our customers, which includes bike brands, retailers and consumers,” said Ben Hillsdon. “Never say never but for now the market direction is firmly towards Di2, which offers advanced performance for competitive racing or endurance cycling.”

What do you reckon? That’s not quite ruling out the possibility of mechanical versions of the new 12-speed groupsets.

2022 Shimano Ultegra drivetrain - 1

Shimano is always incredibly cagey about products prior to launch, rarely giving us any clues as to what is planned, but if there are definitely no 12-speed mechanical versions of Dura-Ace and Ultegra on the way it could easily have ruled them out. Shimano has never been shy about telling us what isn’t coming, just averse to telling us what is under development.

> 34 bikes equipped with new Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets

The other option, of course, would be to update Shimano 105 to 12-speed but leave it mechanical. Seeing as the vast majority of the new features of new Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 are based on the Di2 shifting as opposed to the braking, it’s hard to see next generation mechanical 105 benefiting much from trickle down technology from Shimano’s recently launched products.

shimano r7000-hydraulic shifter

The latest version of Shimano 105 is R7000 series which was introduced in 2018. Seeing as Dura-Ace, Ultegra, and fourth tier Tiagra have all been updated since then, you’d imagine that 105 will be the next groupset to see a revamp. That’s the usual Shimano way. In normal circumstances we’d be expecting this in 2022 although whether this will be affected by the global pandemic and its associated supply problems – and the fact that two top-level groupsets have just been revealed – remains to be seen.

What do we reckon is coming next after Shimano’s top three road groupsets, then?

  1. Mechanical versions of 12-speed Dura-Ace R9200 and/or Ultegra R8100
  2. A Di2 version of 105
  3. An updated 105 that’s mechanical only
  4. Something else entirely

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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29 comments

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matthewn5 | 2 years ago
0 likes

My guess is Shimano think - hope? - that GRX will mop up the majority of people who previously wanted a mechanical Ultegra road group and will now (Shimano think) want a mechanical gravel group. After all, that's where all the growth is at the moment, isn't it?

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Simon E | 2 years ago
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This week's Cycling Weekly devotes 8 pages to the new groupsets, and a large chunk of it is from an interview with Madison PR manager Mike Anderson.

I'm not a devotee of the latest hardware (I have Sora & 10 speed 105 and cheap alloy rim-brake wheels on my bikes) but even I found it interesting.

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HiFi | 2 years ago
1 like

Boo-hoo.. Flagship bike products (framesets, groupsets, wheelsets) are carbon for good reason. Just switch to one of Campag's all-carbon mechanical 12x groupsets. Lighter/stronger actual carbon, not pretend black-painted alloy.

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Sam3 | 2 years ago
4 likes

This is a no-brainer. Of course they will have mechanical versions of 12 speed. However...at the current time..... they are supply chain-constrained and running well under their previous manufacturing output capacity.

So of course at the current time, any new product releases from them will prioritise on pumping out the most expensive and profitable versions from that limited manufacturing capacity.

And the rest will have to wait for a long time. Or a recession. 

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IanEdward | 2 years ago
1 like
Quote:

where the advantages of electronic shifting really come to the fore

Wait - drifting back to your team car in a massive gear frustratedly kicking your rear mech is a performance advantage? 😂

Seriously though, I totally get that there are maintenance/setup advantages, but compared to a well set up mechanical groupset, what are the performance advantages, slightly reduced finger fatigue from easier shifting?

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jn46 replied to IanEdward | 2 years ago
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Advantages are people don't need to learn how to shift gears properly whilst climbing.

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IanEdward replied to jn46 | 2 years ago
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Well I guess stages have been lost by poor shifting technique *cough*Schleck*cough* and didn't realise e-shifting could mitigate for crappily timed shifts...

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Demonix | 2 years ago
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Either 105 will go Di2 and 12spd or Shimano will make a 12spd mechanical 105 and bump Tiagra to 11 SPD on next revamp. Given current shortages of bikes and components a £2-2.5k bike with12speed mechanical 105 is most likely leaving Ultegra and Dura-Ace as the top tier electronic 12spd groupsets on the £3k plus dream machines. As a recreational rider am not too fussed about shelling out the exorbitant amounts for a bike equipped with Di2, am quite happy with mechanical 105 on road bike and xt on MTB. Unless the electronic groupsets become more widely adopted and vastly cheaper I will pass for time being.

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xernobyl | 2 years ago
2 likes

If they just made it compatible with MTB 12 speed for gravel would be lovely.

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planetjanet | 2 years ago
2 likes

Sheer madness. This nutty obsession with 'stuff', simply designed to milk cash from middle class middle aged men, is killing the sport for young people who think they must have this or that gear to get anywhere cycling. Do a survey on the average ages of people joining cycling clubs, it will be telling. I see so many males obsessing about irrelevant gear and talking about it at coffee stops but ask them to race or do Time Trials and they're nowhere to be seen. The cycling community needs to tell the bling suppliers to stop treating customers like idiots. Or maybe they are idiots and fully deserve to have their wallets lightened.

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grOg replied to planetjanet | 2 years ago
2 likes

ha, ha.. males have always been and will always be like this.. status and ego.

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EddyBerckx replied to planetjanet | 2 years ago
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planetjanet wrote:

Sheer madness. This nutty obsession with 'stuff', simply designed to milk cash from middle class middle aged men, is killing the sport for young people who think they must have this or that gear to get anywhere cycling. Do a survey on the average ages of people joining cycling clubs, it will be telling. I see so many males obsessing about irrelevant gear and talking about it at coffee stops but ask them to race or do Time Trials and they're nowhere to be seen. The cycling community needs to tell the bling suppliers to stop treating customers like idiots. Or maybe they are idiots and fully deserve to have their wallets lightened.

 

those middle aged men then sell their fancy gear to the kids at a massive loss later when they upgrade.

stop being so cynical and stop judging people, there's more choice for kids now (and cheaper bikes) then years ago when I didn't start road cycling because they cost a fortune (80's)

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Blackthorne replied to EddyBerckx | 2 years ago
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Please show me these massive losses. What you say is not reflected by reality. I've never seen a previous gen Dura Ace or Di2 remotely attainable to the masses even in second hand guise. 
 

I agree that bikes are on the whole better now than 10 years ago but I honestly at the time I never pointed the finger at my 105 shifters and thought they were holding me back. Mostly the thinking was I needed a lighter frame, better wheels, etc. 

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caw35ride replied to Blackthorne | 2 years ago
1 like

With the exception of shifters, I recently collected a new/NOS Ultegra 6800 groupset and found real bargains along the way. Should Shimano introduce a mechanical version of this 12s Ultegra groupset, I would imagine that there would be a consequential and buyer-friendly shift in the market for used and NOS R8000 components.

FWIW, I settled for 105 5800 shifters in the end, the shifting with this combo is really good.

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matthewn5 replied to Blackthorne | 2 years ago
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Blackthorne wrote:

What you say is not reflected by reality. I've never seen a previous gen Dura Ace or Di2 remotely attainable to the masses even in second hand guise. 

I put together an immaculate 9070 series Di2 groupset last year, a mix of perfect second hand and some new components, for £795. That's about the cost of a new Ultegra 8000 mechanical group. Bargains are to be had, if you take your time.

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Secret_squirrel replied to planetjanet | 2 years ago
2 likes
planetjanet wrote:

Sheer madness.

I would argue that cycling is a broad enough church to tolerate all types. Having 12 speed available doesn't negate anything less. 

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huntswheelers | 2 years ago
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Was talking with a customer about this....he said no way he was paying what they want for di2 12....he's got tons of cash he spends with me ..lives in a rural £2.5m home.....he's not scared to spend money on bikes at all, custom build Chris King Cielo di2 Ultegra for him just now...a new 5 yr old frame shipped from a small shop in mi west U.S.... if a 12 speed mechanical is out there he might go for it....if not I can see him going eTap in the future....

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Surreyrider | 2 years ago
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“However, we will continue to make 11-speed Ultegra mechanical groupsets available at least into 2022. As well as serving current 11-speed road riders, these groupsets also serve cyclocross riders, plus the cassettes and chains are used with GRX 2x11 drivetrains."

Actually sounds like the door is about to close rather than the other way round. Road CC seems to be alone among the bike media in trying to push the idea of Ultegra mechanical continuing for the road. If Shimano is going to catch up with SRAM, 12-speed Di2 105 will be a thing to rival Rival.

What I do agree with Road CC on is the big jump in price/performance in the range now. Don't know how that will be overcome - continue with 11-speed 105 mechanical maybe? Or perhaps give Tiagra a mechanical boost and effectively give it a 105 11-speed mechanical makeover?

 

 

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JL77 | 2 years ago
1 like

Most likely, as Rival has gone AXS: Offer 105 Di2 (12 speed). And keep 105 mechanical in 11-speed on sale, or perhaps tweak it here and there and offer it as 12-speed mechanical next to the Di2 version.

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Secret_squirrel replied to JL77 | 2 years ago
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JL77 wrote:

Most likely, as Rival has gone AXS: Offer 105 Di2 (12 speed). And keep 105 mechanical in 11-speed on sale. 

I think this is most likely and almost identically matches Sram. Although they still sell Force 22 mechanical too afaik.

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kil0ran | 2 years ago
2 likes

I wonder if they can make a road double 12 speed shift and trim reliably enough on an HG freehub. Tolerances must be getting very tight.

Perhaps instead we'll see Microspline which allows them to compete with Ekar with a 10T small cog and expanded range for the gravel market. 

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Jaap replied to kil0ran | 2 years ago
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I think a di2 GRX update is more likely than a mechanical GRX update. 

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kil0ran replied to Jaap | 2 years ago
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Yeah, absolutely, although the idea of hanging a £600 mech out over rocks and trails would mean a "No" from me. But I guess SRAM are doing OK with AXS.

It's a big reason why I didn't build my XC bike with XTR Di2.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Jaap | 2 years ago
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Jaap wrote:

I think a di2 GRX update is more likely than a mechanical GRX update. 

I think GRX DI2 is almost a dead cert for 12speed.  GRX mechanical will only go 12 if 105 does, though arguably GRX 800/600 1x gets more benefit from 12 speed (wider range) than 105 does (less teeth jumps) so should be more of a priority.   Probably sells a fraction of the volume 105 does though.

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Secret_squirrel replied to kil0ran | 2 years ago
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kil0ran wrote:

Perhaps instead we'll see Microspline which allows them to compete with Ekar with a 10T small cog and expanded range for the gravel market. 

That was probably the biggest surprise - not using Microspline for Road.   If I was Shimano I'd push GRX to 12 speed but using microspline for those lovely MTB ranged cassettes.

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EddyBerckx | 2 years ago
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12 speed 105 mechanical that is lighter than the current 105 groupset - inbetween 105 and ultegra in other words...but badged 105. Or 205. 106?

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anke | 2 years ago
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The current 105 and the - running out - mechanical Ultegra have been confusingly close -- probably closer than Ultegra mechanical and Ultegra Di2. With Shimano's new groupsets often being revised versions of the previous higher level groupset, Shimano might just introduce a 12 speed 105 mechanical, with technologies, ergonomics and weight of the current Ultegra mechanical groupset - leaving some room for improved Tiagra, Sora, Claris beneath...

Or, they might do something entirely more confusing...

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Steve K replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
1 like
Nigel Garrage wrote:

I reckon a 12 speed Ultegra mechanical in 2022, and keep 105 11 speed mechanical. There is hardly any difference between 105 and ultegra anyway save for a couple hundred grams so this will be more of a differentiator.

That seems the most logical to me - two 12 speed electronic offerings, and then mechanical 12 speed (ultegra), 11 speed (105) and 10 speed (tiagra).  Gives a decent range of spec and price - as you say, 105 and ultegra mechanical are very close at the moment.

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Woldsman replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
1 like
Nigel Garrage wrote:

... One issue you're going to have is that manufacturers have always liked to mix and match ultegra and 105 components if that's the road they are going to go down

That's a very good point - one that hadn't occurred to me because I'm still in denial about 11-speed. 

A few years back I got a brand new entry level carbon bike with 6700 brake levers and rear mech, 5700 front mech and 4600 cassette.  

Where will it all end I wonder. 

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