FEATURES: SHIMANO DURA-ACE GOES 11-SPEED
May 31, 2012


During the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California Shimano unveiled a complete re-design of both of their high-end drivetrains; the brand new 9000 mechanical group, and the re-vamped 9070 Di2 electric group (but, we couldn’t talk about it until now). While the big news for both is the addition of an 11th gear, that’s only one aspect of the many improvements rolled out. While Shimano didn’t have working Di2 groups for us to ride they did have the 9000 mechanical group on hand and ready to ride. In an earlier post we showed photos of the 9000 shifters and derailleurs, but didn’t have any official information from Shimano regarding the new components.  

DURA-ACE 9000 
 
The shifting of the 9000 feels like a blend between mechanical and electronic in terms of lever throw and shift effort. RBA's Neil Shirley got to put the 9000 group to the test in the hills of Northern San Diego County. 

The 9000 components, which will be replacing the four-year old 7900 group, has a host of upgrades. The change to 11-speeds being the most obvious. While the new group's price goes up by $300 to $2,699, it also falls in weight by around 100-grams, down to 1,978 grams. Due to a change in the actuation ratio, the 9000 shifters and derailleurs are not compatible with any other groups. 

 
The 9000 shifter has a narrower hood shape, with a smaller knob on the end than what the 9700 used. Di2 9070 will also share the same hood design. 

Positioning of the cable anchor bolt changes slightly in order to help achieve the reduced actuation. 

The arm where the cable anchors is extended in length in order to help achieve the reduced effort and throw in front derailleur shifting. 

Shifters and Derailleurs: Shimano had two goals for the 9000 shifters: lighter action and a shorter stroke—two things that are hard to attain in unison. To accomplish this, Shimano changed the actuation to get more pull with less shifter movement, while also changing the leverage points on the derailleurs. The front derailleur has a much-lengthened cable attachment arm to get the extra leverage necessary for a more powerful upshift. A new shifter cable equipped with a polymer coating helps aid the light action shifting, it has a ringed contour which causes less surface area of the cable to come in contact with the housing, and thus reduces friction.



Brakes: In order to increase the mechanical power, and reduce flex, the new calipers use a lower pivot point to shorten the length of the arms to increases both power and modulation. The calipers are also optimized for 23mm wide rims, while a thinner pad is available aftermarket to allow for use with up to a 28mm wide rim. The same polymer coating that is used on the shifter cables is also used on the brake cables. 

The new four-arm design employs a single bold circle diameter (BCD) in order to eliminate the need for compact and standard BCD's.

Crank: The smooth lines of the five-arm 7900 crank are replaced by a four-arm design that undoubtedly makes the crank the most eye-catching component of the new group. The Hollowtech II aluminum crank reduces weight by around 50 grams. But their premier (and really brilliant) feature is that there is no longer any need for separate compact or standard versions as one crank can handle gear combos from 50/34 all the way up to a 55/42. Shimano offers six different chainring combinations, in what they call Rider Tuned Gearing Options, which include what should be a quite popular 52/36. The four-bolt pattern is not a standard design, so replacement chainrings will have to be from Shimano. 



The 11-speed cassette has an overall width 2.8mm wider than 10-speed, making a 11-speed compatible rear wheel imperative. 

Cassette and Chain: Obviously the most talked about change is the addition of an 11th cog in the cassette. Over the years one of the more challenging aspects faced by engineers in the move to 9, 10 and now 11 speed cassettes has been how to maintain shifting performance while working within the inherent space constraint of maintaining the 130mm wheel spacing. Shimano’s solution was to design a new cassette body that is 2.8mm longer than that used with the ten speed system. Yes, this means a 10-speed rear wheel will not work with an 11-speed cassette, that is unless you have a Mavic rear wheel. Mavic has been using a cassette body that is 1.8mm longer than the standard 10-speed width, requiring a spacer to be used behind a 10-speed cassette. Without the spacer, the wheel will work with an 11-speed cassette. The cog width stays the same as the 10-speed version, but the spacing between each cog narrows slightly, requiring the 9000 chains side plates to reduce in thickness.


A completely update line of 11-speed wheels called Blade and Speed Concept have been added to the Dura-Ace line. The left side flange has been moved out 7mm to compensate for the wider cassette body, while the OptBalance 2:1 lacing pattern allows spoke tension to increase. Rim width also increases, going from Shimano's older 21mm width up to 23mm for clincher versions and 24mm for tubular. 

Riding the 9000

Shimano U.S. Vice President Wayne Stetina took us for an exclusive extended test on the 9000. After 11,000 feet of climbing in 86-miles we had a good feel for the new group. 

At the press event, only two bikes were available for rides, so needless to say, an extended test was out of the question. But thanks to Wayne Stetina and his love for any opportunity to ride his bike, he took us out on his favorite ride so we could get an exclusive extended test on the 9000. The ride ended up being the ideal grounds to test braking and shifting under power. The brakes ended up being the most powerful road caliper we’ve ever used. But power is only part of it. Modulation is equally important in order to control the braking power and avoid losing traction between rubber and road. Once we knew what to expect from the brakes, we could come into the corners a lot hotter with the confidence that we could get on the brakes hard and still have plenty of modulation control. 

As noticeable as the braking performance is, it’s the front shifting where we felt the biggest difference in the 9000 group. With all the short steep climbs of the day, we must have shifted in and out of the big-ring 100 times over the course of the ride, and not once did we experience a dropped chain, or chain suck, even with ill-advised shifting methods from time to time. The light action and short throw of the shifters give it a feel somewhere between 7900 and Di2, blending the feel of mechanical with the ease of electronic. Look for a full ride assessment in the September issue of Road Bike Action Magazine (available mid-July). 

DURA-ACE DI2 9070

Shimano had an Argos-Shimano team bike on hand with Di2 9070, but it wasn't ready to be ridden. 

Since Shimano’s initial Dura-Ace Di2 7970 launched back in 2009, the Di2 family has now grown with the introduction of the lower-priced Ultegra for 2012. Coming hand in hand with the 9000 mechanical release, the second-generation Dura-Ace Di2 group also made its debut, but unfortunately wasn’t quite ready for us to ride. Both Dura-Ace groups still share the same crank, brake calipers, cassette, and chain, with the shifters and derailleurs being the only difference. Here’s a look at some of the features of the lighter weight and more integrated Di2 9070, which will be available in December. 

* Price: $4,139 (complete group) Weight: 2,047 grams (includes external battery and wiring)
* An internally mounted seatpost battery option will be available, which will bring claimed weight 10-20 grams below the 9000 mechanical group (with cables). Some seatposts will be able to be retrofitted for the internal battery, but Shimano’s PRO line will offer a seatpost equipped for the battery unit. 
* The shift levers have 8mm of increased surface area to help differentiate between the two shift levers. The larger shifter will be especially helpful when wearing thick winter gloves. Hood ergonomics change slightly, and will be the same as the 9000 hood shape. Of course, it will be 11-speed.
* Both front and rear derailleurs use smaller and more efficient motors, allowing derailleur size and weight to drop. 
* The E-tube wiring harness Shimano developed for Ultegra Di2 will be shared by Dura-Ace Di2, which will have an optional external E-Tube junction. The junction box mounts under the stem and is the charging (battery removal is no longer necessary for charging) and diagnostic port. 
* Multiple shifter add-ons are available, including sprint shifters, satellite shifters, and TT shifters. They simply plug into the junction box, which comes in either a three or five-port option depending on how many add-on shifters you want to run. 10-speed Ultegra Di2 will also be compatible with the junction box and add-on shifters. 
* Shimano will introduce an ANT+ touch screen Flight Deck computer that will integrate with the Di2 digital system via the 5-port external junction box, showing battery life and gearing. 
* E-tube Project Software allows you to program multi-shift functions; for instance, one push of the shift lever could take you from your 11 to the 25. Also, the Project Software allows you to change an add-on shifter from 11-speed, to an Ultegra Di2 compatible 10-speed. Unfortunately, the software is not Mac compatible. 
* The current Dura-Ace Di2 7970 will not be compatible with the new Di2 9070 due to the updated E-tube wiring. 


Hood ergonomics change with the 9070, as does the size of the shift buttons.

Due to newer, more efficient motors in the derailleurs, overall size and weight has                  been reduced. 


An ANT+ touch screen Flight Deck head unit will integrate with 9070 to show battery life and gearing. 


A three and five port external junction box will make the E-tube wiring a more modular system. 

Add on shifters, such as the aero bar shifters, can be used with the E-tube wiring harness. 

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