In the wireless era, can wires end up being a step forward? Shimano tests that theory with the long-anticipated Dura-Ace 9200 groupset, which combines a fully-wireless cockpit with derailleurs that still connect (via thinner wires) to a central battery. While the will-they-won’t-they wireless story takes much of the spotlight, Shimano has honed the 9200 groupset with a nearly overwhelming list of refinements to make your ride better.
Shimano claims the newest member of the Dura-Ace family — which is exclusively Di2 while making the leap to 12-speed — is its fastest shifting system ever. It’s packed with neat technology and user-friendly touches. But the question remains: Is a semi-wireless system a strong counter to wireless drivetrains? That boils down to what unique advantages each system can offer. Here’s what Shimano’s Dura-Ace 9200 promises.
Let’s get straight to the wireless, shall we? The shifters now ditch wires altogether and integrate a coin-cell battery that should last up to 2 years. The shifters communicate wirelessly with the rear derailleur, which is in turn connected via wires to a central battery (as is the front derailleur).
The hood ergonomics have been updated too, with a slightly taller profile to give riders a more stable hand position. And taking rider feedback into account, there is now more offset between the individual shift paddle buttons so you can more easily differentiate between the two.
The front derailleur looks and feels much smaller than the previous one because, well, it is.
Shimano says it has trimmed the frontal area by 33%, which also reduces weight by 96 grams. According to Shimano, the front derailleur shifts 45% faster than the previous Dura-Ace Di2 front derailleur.
The rear derailleur is the real gem of the 9200 groupset. Many of the elements scattered throughout previous Di2 systems now get integrated here — such as the charging port, ANT+ connection that replaces the EW-WU111 wireless unit, and the junction box.
The button on the rear derailleur now controls Di2 functions, and the LED lights indicate which shifting mode you’re in, as well as whether you need to charge the system or not.
The RD-R9250 integrates Shimano’s Shadow system. This adds tension to the derailleur pulley, which in turn aids in chain retention. On top of that, the derailleur itself has a smaller frontal area (by 33% over the previous version), and it drops 96 grams too.
The cage is also noticeably longer. That allows more gearing options (more on that in a moment) both in the cassette and chainrings.
Wires and batteries
The front and rear derailleurs are both connected to a central battery in much the same way as previous Di2 systems. The system gets charged via the rear derailleur rather than a separate junction box component, a marked switch from previous generations.
Shimano notes that you can run a fully wired system if you prefer. This is a nod to the growing e-bike segment, in which a fully wired system makes more sense and offers the most battery life possible.
With the leap to 12-speed comes some new gearing options. The Hyperglide+ cassette still sticks with an 11-tooth cog at the highest end, but adds a 34-tooth option on the other end. You can also opt for the 11-30 cassette if you don’t need the big bail-out gear.
Shimano also revised the tooth counts on some cogs in between. The 6th, 7th, and 8th cogs on the cassette have been revised to allow super-smooth shifts between these ‘sweet spot’ gears. Ramps on the cassette cogs allow you to shift smoothly, even under load.
The new cassettes come with a new spline pattern, but Shimano says these cassettes are backward-compatible with Dura-Ace R9100 11-speed freehub bodies. That means you can use the new groupset on your previous wheels.
Up front, Shimano now offers a new 54/40-tooth chainring combo. That’s pretty stout, and is likely intended for pros and aggressive racers. Other options include 50/34 and 52/36.
Cranks with and without power meter
Shimano offers both a power meter crank and a non-power option. Both cranks feature Shimano’s Hollowtech II technology to keep weight to a minimum without sacrificing strength. The cranks come in a variety of lengths ranging from 160mm to 177.5, and the q-factor measures 148mm.
The dual-sided power meter gets a 1.5% accuracy increase in the strain gauge, compared to the previous Dura-Ace power meter. Shimano says you should get about 300 hours of ride time between charges.
Shimano may have ditched cables when it comes to shifting, but it will still offer a rim brake option for the new Dura-Ace groupset. That said, all the new technological developments take place on the disc brake side.
Shimano brings its Servo Wave technology in the brake levers over from the mountain bike side. This offers riders a shorter free stroke and more immediate engagement between brake pads and rotors. Shimano says this also offers more modulation for greater braking control in high-speed situations.
The groupset includes RT-MT900 rotors, which combine with a 10% wider brake pad stance to help reduce noise in the braking system.
Perhaps most excitingly for the home mechanics among us, Shimano has separated the bleed port and valve screw for a much easier bleed procedure. There’s no need to remove the caliper from the frame for the bleed procedure, and separating the bleed port and valve screw helps prevent the bleed hose from separating from the system unintentionally. A new funnel and bleed spacer is required to perform the bleed procedure correctly.
The revised wheel lineup focuses on drag reduction and rigidity increases. A direct engagement hub reduces overall weight by 45 grams and increases hug engagement by 63%, according to Shimano. Rather than a pawl and ratchet system, the direct engagement freehub features two locking interfaces that provide more immediate power transfer.
The wheels are all available as a tubeless or tubular option. There are three rim heights:
- C36, with a 36mm rim height, intended as a climbing wheel
- C50, with a50mm rim height, intended as an all-around wheel; 5.1 watt drag reduction versus C40-TL; dropped 161 grams
- C60, with a 60mm rim height, Shimano’s most aero wheel intended for sprints and pursuits
All of the tubeless rims feature a 21mm inner rim width to capitalize on optimal aerodynamics when paired with the most popular tire sizes.
Ultegra gets a makeover too, borrowing a lot of technology from the Dura-Ace groupset. Most notably, Ultegra also makes the leap to 12-speed, and an Ultegra power meter is available for the first time ever. And Ultegra wheels are now available in tubeless carbon for the first time.
Like Dura-Ace, the Ultegra groupset is semi-wireless; the wireless shifters communicate with the rear derailleur, which is wired to a central battery and the front derailleur.
Other improvements mirror the Dura-Ace groupset, like the new brake bleeding procedure, shifting performance, hood ergonomics, and more. The difference between the two systems largely comes down to weight, with Dura-Ace coming out on top as the more feathery option.
Can a semi-wireless system beat a fully-wireless system?
It’s clear from Shimano’s launch materials that the company isn’t as focused on the wireless piece of the system as much as perhaps the general ridership is. Shimano’s approach to wireless has always been cautious, and it has made clear it wouldn’t do a wireless drivetrain unless it made sense for the overall performance of the groupset.
Instead, shifting speed seems to be the primary focus. That isn’t surprising, given Shimano’s history of speedy shifting, especially when it comes to front derailleur shifting. That behooves racers of course, though it’s questionable whether the general riding public will notice much of a difference between the previous Dura-Ace generation’s lightning-fast shifting and the new Dura-Ace’s even lightning-faster shifting.
Knowing Shimano’s history of unparalleled innovation, I feel confident the groupset will do everything Shimano promises. Fast, smooth shifting seems all but guaranteed. And the switch to wireless shifters certainly takes out some setup complication — running wires from the shifters to the derailleurs was always a dreaded affair — but otherwise, many will ask: why not just go fully wireless and completely avoid setup complications?
The answer comes down to battery life and speed. Shimano has noted over and over that the wires allow a significantly longer battery life, and significantly faster shifting. So a wired setup makes a lot of sense here. In that case, why ditch the wires to the shifters, especially given you’ll still need to run hydraulic hoses from the levers to the brakes? So I would argue that while wireless shifters will dominate conversation around the new groupset, the advantages of going wireless here doesn’t stand out as the most significant development of the new Dura-Ace.
Instead, the massive integration into the rear derailleur seems most exciting, and it seems to me as though perhaps Shimano has more tricks up its sleeve in the near future regarding what this derailleur is capable of. Will we see a fully-wireless option in the near future? I wouldn’t count it out.
That said, the brake refinements, hood ergonomics, gearing options, and power meter are all reasons to get excited about the new Dura-Ace. And the shifting speed may very well blow me out of the water with its performance. So while I do feel a bit let down that Shimano hasn’t committed to a fully wireless system, I am indeed excited to see how the new Dura-Ace system performs in the real world. It’s possible I’ll forget all about the wireless debate altogether once I’m rolling and experiencing the uber-refined shifting platform.