The new top dog: Synchro shifting, an integrated power meter and hydraulic disc brakes – is the all-new Dura Ace R9150 Di2 groupset really that much smarter than its predecessor and just how important is the idea of a complete system for the Japanese brand? Shimano invited us to the media launch of their top of the line Dura-Ace disc brake groupset on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Here’s our run-down of how it rides and the answers to the most important questions.
Over the course of three days packed with workshops, meetings and rides with Shimano-sponsored pros, we got an insight into the Di2 universe of the new Dura-Ace groupset. The more we learned, the more we were hit by the realization of just how much R&D goes into such a project. While Shimano may have envisioned treating their media guests to some appreciated winter sun, Spain wasn’t going to make life easy, throwing rain, low temperatures and even some snow at us.
Pro gear and cold feet
Even before Shimano’s Di2 & Road Cycling product manager Tim Gerrits had regaled us with the finer points of the new Dura-Ace R9150 Di2, we were already in the saddle of some of the world’s most enviable bikes and at the mercy of the erupting rain clouds. As the sponsor for multiple teams in the pro peloton, Shimano put a huge arsenal of bikes at our disposal. We began with Peter Sagan’s signature S-Works Venge ViAS Disc Di2 model, before clipping into a Bianchi Specialissima Di2, and checking out the coast roads from Calpe towards Jávea.
The order of the day was glasses on and see what the legs can do. But here’s what we took from the rides: The groupset shifted with its familiar rapid-fire precision. The first braking moment on the now wet roads doubled as a firm but polite handshake with the upgrades on this groupset: the hydraulic disc brakes delivered a powerful braking performance in the 4°C rain showers and the brand new C60 tubular wheels munched the tarmac well, another good bit of the bike that pushes you to go faster. With an aero design, they do their bit to ease the onslaught of the wind, which is unable to make up its mind where it wants to come from. Despite their deep rims, they’ve got a well-considered design that proves less susceptible to side-winds that other similar profiles. Shimano’s STI shifters clearly have that great, ergonomic design but with our hands at the mercy of the dropping temperatures, we were unfortunately already numb to the comfort.
What makes the new better than the old?
“We’ll admit that it’s not easy to keep furthering the development and improving a groupset that’s already the standard in the professional side of the sport,” explains Tim as a welcome to the presentation.
“But I can state with pride that this is a task that we’ve succeeded in doing.” For Tim, the idea of creating a complete system was key to the development. There’s also the option of using the shifter to flick through other functions – such as your Garmin or bike lights, and there’s an app that lets you program the particular functions you want to access.
You can link your phone via Bluetooth too. For those riding with power meters, the integration goes beyond expectation with just a tiny visible display to show charging and activation of the power meter.
The battery is waterproof and fixed into the crank axle. Impressively, cranks with the powermeter are only 70 g heavier than without. According to Tim, this is thanks to the construction of the drivetrain: “Many watt measuring systems are mounted as an afterthought between the drivetrain and the cranks, which makes an impact, albeit a minor one. Our approach is to create the whole drivetrain and construct a crank directly with a powermeter.”
“The mountain bike sector is ripe for the plucking in terms of inspiration,” continues Tim. “The hydraulic disc brakes have been specially developed for use on the roads. And to keep weight to a minimum, 140 mm disc brakes are often used. As over-heating can be an issue not just on long descents, Shimano have also designed a new aluminium cooling body to improve heat management and lower the temperature of the rotors by an average of 30°C compared to former road discs. The braking performance is predictable and well modulated, and the overall weight is pretty light so definitely ready to race. That’s why they can carry to the Dura-Ace seal of approval,” he outlines. In our eyes, Shimano’s latest offering is one with a long future ahead of it.
Synchro Shift – what is it?
Synchronized Shifting is a new function with the aim of simplifying shifting between the right gears. Shimano want riders in a position where they can focus on what really matters. While this was initially developed with triathletes in mind, Syncho Shift is now a staple feature on all of the Dura-Ace R9150 groupsets. There’s a button in the bar ends that lets you switch between three settings:
1 Full Manual: Regular shifting.
2 Semi Synchro: With each shift changing between the front rings, the derailleur moves one or two shifts, either up or down, to minimize disruption and try to match the ratio.
3 Full Synchro: You can go through all of your gears using the rear shifter and the system decides when to shift the front mech accordingly. You can set when the front mech will shift by using the app. This mode still lets you use the front shifter, so you can override the automatic shifting. There’s no specific sound or anything when the front mech is shifting, so this takes some getting used to – especially if you’re on a tough climb. It’s worth mentioning there’s also the option to get a notification on your Garmin if it’s linked it. We’ll probably be leaving the fully synchro mode for timetrials and triathletes.
For who, and for when
Don’t be fooled into the thinking the Dura-Ace is just for the pros. Shimano understand that its number user is the everyday rider who is unwilling to compromise on performance. Even Shimano’s Tim Gerrits finds it tricky to define the average Dura-Ace customer: “It’s our philosophy to not compromise. The R9150 Series is incredibly special and equally as versatile. Today you’ll see it in the sun-drenched pro tour peloton and tomorrow at a local cycling kermesse in the snow and mud of Belgium, the next day even in the churned up dust of a gravel race near your home.” Take from that what you will, but here’s our conclusion: If your bike has drops and you’re looking for the ultimate groupset to match your King Cage bottle cage mount and Chris King headset, then this is it! The Dura-Ace R9150 Series is ready for every imaginable riding adventure.
“We see the Dura-Ace R9150 Series as a complete package,” explains Tim. “That’s why we prioritized how all the parts work together rather than optimizing individual components. At the end of day, it’s the sum of the parts that gets you from A to B in less time. Of course, in marketing terms, it’s not as sexy as saying that we’ve made the lightest whatever, but… well!” To this logical argument, there seems little else to say.
Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 Hard Facts
Crank length: 165 mm to 180 mm (in 2.5 mm increments)
- 621 g (170 mm, 53–39 T, excluding BB)
- 609 g (170 mm, 50–34 T, excluding BB)
Q-Factor: 146 mm
Bottom bracket: 65 g
- Gearing: 11-speed
- Ratio: 11–25 T, 11–28 T, 11–30 T, 12–25 T, 12–28 T
- Weight: 175 g (average)
- Clamps: 23.8 mm/24.2 mm
- Finish: coated
- Weight: 230 g (mechanical pair), 360 g (hydraulic pair)
Weight comparison R9150/R9100 vs. 9070/9000
|New Dura-Ace Di2 (R9150)
|Dura-Ace Mechanical (R9100)
|Dura-Ace Di2 (R9070)
|New Dura-Ace Di2 (R9000)
|Crank without BB
|Total without cable
|Total with Cable
We reckon that expectations surrounding the new Dura-Ace R9150 Series are going to be sky-high, with riders eagerly awaiting even more high-tech and high powered performances. Yet as the current Dura-Ace series has already pushed the limits of what is technically possible in terms of hardware, the task is never going to be easy. However, the R9150 Di2 has proven on our test rides to be far more than just a polished next generation. Shimano are confident that disc brakes are going to cement their position in the pro tour peloton (Tom Boonen is proof of this), along with intelligent software, connectivity and digital integration of components. The new Dura-Ace is one that we’d recommend without hesitation, and the R9150 Di2 will be a serious breakaway companion that thinks in alignment with you.
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Words: Photos: Wouter Roosenboom