Shimano’s Slow, Steady Arrival to 12-speed

Shimano’s official launch of its new Dura-Ace and Ultegra group sets was one of cycling’s most long-awaited announcements.

The release of the Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 group sets, bringing Shimano into the realm of 12-speed group sets, came two and a half years after its closest competitor, SRAM, made the leap.

Campagnolo has already taken the next step, announcing its 1×13 Ekar gravel groupset back in September 2020.

Shimano’s unrushed progression into 12-speed has come with unrivalled shifting speeds, according to the official statement Shimano issued for the launch on 1st September.

It also came with news the R9200 would be the first Dura-Ace incarnation that would only be available in Di2 only, driving a major nail in the coffin for manual shifters.

Highlights of the R9200 group set also included a wireless shifter-derailleur connection, greater battery life, more ergonomic cockpits and larger 54-40T chain rings – for more efficient transfer of power and to ‘help pro riders respond to ever increasing speeds’.

An updated E-TUBE app allows customisation of Di2 settings.

The announcement confirmed Ultegra R8100 will share the same revised Di2 platform as Dura-Ace R9200, as well as inheriting a full power meter option and full-carbon tubeless disc wheels for the first time.

It was notable that Shimano simultaneously unveiled the new Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups, breaking away from its usual practice of staggering their releases.

However, Shimano’s stronghold in the market was reflected as much by what the announcement didn’t say.

In many ways, the progressions with the R9200 and R8100 systems were just bringing Shimano into line with its competitors.

SRAM Red eTap AXS was launched with a 12-speed, wireless system on 6th February 2019, followed soon after by Force on 3rd April 2019.

The fact Shimano took another two and a half years to follow suit is testimony to its dominance of the market and its confidence in maintaining that fancied position.

The ultimate timing of Shimano’s unveiling does beg one question; why did Shimano sacrifice production capacity to tool up and launch two new group sets at a time when it already has approximately 400-day back orders for its products?

Since around April 2020 due to the covid induced bike boom, Shimano products have been snapped up as quickly as it can produce them.

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