Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thanks, Shimano

Shimano released details on the new 7900 Dura-Ace group yesterday. I'd like to take the opportunity to officially say "thanks" for two things:

1) In a serious tone, thanks for preserving the breadth of offerings included in this kit. You've kept the tri/tt crowd happy by not only providing bar-end shifters, but also carbon bar-end brake levers! Yay! But you didn't stop there. You also made the STI levers shorter throw and reach-adjustable, included like eleventybillion possible crankarm length and chainring tooth combos, and even carried on with downtube shifters! Hooray!

2) In an ironic tone, thanks for changing the cable ratios. I haven't seen anyone writing about this yet, but I'm assuming this essentially means none of the new stuff will be compatible with any of the old stuff. Now what remains will be to see what you do with Ultegra, 105, etc. Will they adopt the new cable ratios immediately, leaving all us slightly outdated cyclists with a dearth of new equipment compatible with our old stuff? Or, will they trail by a few years, recreating the 8-speed days when you couldn't mix certain components between Dura Ace and the rest of the line?


Emily said...

Yea downtube shifters, way to go Shimano. They're bound to come back around into style someday. I have them on my current commuter bike (a much-modified old trek road bike) and think they rock. Maybe not the best for beginner riders but they sure are easy-care.

smartypants said...

Problem is, find a road frame with (proper!) mounts for downtube shifters, and the wider rear spacing that this group requires. I know they are out there, but just not really mainstream. And of course I suppose you could always bend up an older, narrow frame.

Still though, I applaud their efforts - especially in this day and age of planned obsolescence. I mean, we don't see Microsoft producing software that would run on a 286 any more!

Emily said...

I could be wrong but I believe a lot of tri bikes use this too, and I think some Profile areobar mounts are essentially downtube mounts. Five year old tri bikes could be the market Shimano is aiming at, not the OldTenSpeed gallery types.
Of course I could be totally wrong. This happens frequently.

smartypants said...


I believe you're thinking of Profile Design's Swift Shift, which adapts downtube shifters for use on close-ended aerobars. That device is, indeed, intended for downtube shifters.

However, the majority of tri bikes with shifters mounted on the aero bars use bar-end mounted shifters, as seen here. Of course, bar-end shifters are basically just downtube shifters with plugs bolted on. Since Dura-Ace has been available with both options (downtube and bar end) for quite some time, I would speculate that the Profile Design product mentioned above is intended for people who want to built a tri/tt bike around a really old parts group, i.e. 6-speed Dura-Ace or something. Since, if you wanted shifters on your aero bars and you were using a modern group, you'd just procure bar end shifters instead of downtube shifters.

I almost wrote about this in my original blog post, so thanks for bringing it up! Tri/TT bikes are definitely a very strong part of the target market for bar end shifters. Despite the fact that Campagnolo have offered bar-end shifters appropriate for building a tri bike around one of their kits, Shimano absolutely rules the Tri/TT market - I don't think I've ever actually seen a Tri/TT bike in person with campy kit. However, SRAM's new Red kit obviously aims at taking hold of the higher end of that market (by including spiffy carbon bar end shifters and brake levers), so it will be interesting to see if Shimano ramps up their efforts in the near future. It's arguable that the parts included in the 7900 group are a step in that direction, since this is the first time Shimano has offered a complete kit (including brake levers) for aero bars, at least that I'm aware of.