Shimano’s new flagship group is great, but can it contend with electronic kits?
This article was originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.
Top-level mechanical drivetrains are facing stiffer competition than ever before—not from rival manufacturers, but from increasingly affordable electronic groups such as Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 6770. Dura-Ace 9000 has raised the bar for mechanical—but is it good enough to contend with the computer? We tested Dura-Ace in both a road and tri setup.
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Rear shifting: Gear changes feel familiar—anyone with experience riding Shimano parts will recognize the easy, precise sensation. Instead of the definite click of Sram and Campagnolo systems, gear changes feel lighter. Unlike earlier Dura-Ace groups, the new 9000 kit preserves that delicate sensation all the way up the cassette. Shifting in the three biggest cogs is noticably easier with this kit.
Front shifting: Older mechanical groups required an experienced touch to smoothly change between chainrings, but electronic components completely eliminate the need for finesse. Dura-Ace 9000 inherited a few design cues from Di2 that help it shift with incredible ease. Like Shimano’s electronic groups, it shifts chainrings without special guidance from the rider. Just flick the lever. Pedaling hard out of the saddle or cross-chaining doesn’t cause a hiccup.
Braking: Improving on the stopping performance of Shimano’s prior-generation Dura-Ace group is a monumental task, as Dura-Ace 7900 brakes are outstanding. While these new calipers do not feel appreciably stronger, they are lighter, more compact and potentially more aero thanks to their smaller size.
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Rear shifting: Shimano’s tri kit still uses the same shifter style the company has employed for many years. Shifts with this system are precise and smooth, but not noticeably different than prior Dura-Ace or Ultegra tri component kits.
Front shifting: Jumping to the big ring is easier and smoother with Dura-Ace 9000 than with other mechanical groups. While gear changes take the same amount of time, they happen with less effort. The incredibly robust chainrings help guide the chain through shifts without issue.
Pull the trigger?
Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset costs $265 less than this cable-driven kit, so why pay more for mechanical? It’s a hard proposition to justify. Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 might be the best mechanical groupset in the world, but shift performance is not better than Ultegra Di2. Amazingly, Dura-Ace 9000 is not noticeably worse than Ultegra Di2 when equipped with fresh cables and housing. If you’re not ready for whirring motors and electronic switches controlling your derailleurs, the function and responsiveness of Dura-Ace 9000 make it the peak performer, especially on a road bike.
$2,700 (road group)
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