Shimano launches new Dura-Ace and Ultegra
CYCLING WEEKLY|September 02, 2021
Not one but two new 12-speed, semi-wireless groupsets unveiled, writes Simon Smythe
Simon Smythe

Five years in the making - one year longer than the usual product cycle - and following an intense period of speculation, spy shots and secret patents the Japanese component manufacturer has finally revealed the all-new 12-speed, semi-wireless Shimano Dura-Ace 9200.

Not only that, but Shimano has taken the highly unusual step of launching its new second string groupset, Ultegra R8100, simultaneously.

For the first time there will be no mechanical-shifting Dura-Ace option, and the same goes for Ultegra. Both are Di2 only, but it’s a new platform that uses wireless shifters, with new derailleurs wired to a battery in the seatpost. However, both groupsets have rimbrake options.

Those are just the headlines. Shimano is also promising its fastest and most reliable shifting ever, improved aerodynamics, incredible stopping power, the most advanced drivetrain yet and a redesigned wheel line-up.

What it’s not promising is lighter weight: it seems to have called a truce to the race to be lightest, with the new Dura-Ace R9200 groupset just under 100g heavier than than the previous generation. The new Ultegra is 300g heavier than the new top-flight groupset but costs around £1,000 less.

Shimano has broken the new groupsets down into chapters: shifting platform; control interface; brake system; drivetrain system and wheel system.

Shifting platform

“Fastest-ever shifting, absolute reliability, integrated design” are what Shimano is promising with its completely revised Di2 platform.

To improve shifting speed whilst making the shifter-derailleur connection wireless, and still ensuring reliability, the new Di2 platform brings an improved motor design in the derailleurs, which Shimano says decreases the processing speed - the moving time between motor and gear mechanisms, and the transmission performance.

The result is a claimed 58% decrease in rear derailleur operating time and a 45% decrease in the front.

Shimano says the “absolute reliability” is provided by a wired connection “where it makes sense” – the explanation for why it hasn’t gone fully wireless SR AM style.

New smaller-diameter SD-300 wires connect a new Di2 battery located in the seatpost to the front and rear derailleur.

According to Shimano this single battery ensures a stable and high voltage connection to the derailleurs, contributing to the brand’s fastest-ever shifting.

The BT-DN300 battery lasts a claimed 1,000km between charges while the CR1632 coin cell batteries that power the STIs last for approximately 1.5-2 years according to Shimano’s testing.

A fully wired option is also available – and for the rim-braking STIs this is the only option.

The rear derailleur is the star of the new Di2 show. It’s the point at which the system is charged, it provides the connection to the STI shifters via Shimano’s proprietary integrated circuit, the ANT+ connection to other thirdparty devices, and it also replaces the handlebar or in-frame junction box A.

Where the Ultegra derailleurs differ from Dura-Ace is in the construction, with functionality the same. The R9200 front and rear derailleurs weigh 96g and 215g respectively versus R8100 weights of 116g and 262g – a combined 67g difference.

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