Shimamo 9100 - Quick Ride Thoughts

Back in the fall I got the chance to test out the Shimano Dura Ace 9100 groupset. It is coming to the market for the upcoming season, and represents the next step in the evolution of Shimano road components. The technical details of this group have been extensively covered elsewhere, so I am going to focus on my initial ride impressions and thoughts.

A quick aside on naming conventions for the new Dura Ace. It is called the 9100 series, with the following variations:

  • 9100 Mechanical shifting/Rim brake
  • 9120 Mechanical shifting/Disc brake
  • 9150 Electronic shifting/Rim brake
  • 9170 Electronic shifting/Disc brake

For my test ride, the only available version was the "conventional" set up: the 9100 Mechanical/rim brake version. This was fortuitous for 2 reasons: One, I have been riding mechanical Dura Ace 9000 for the past 4 seasons, so I am familiar with the current standard, and two, I have never been a fan of Di2, so any impression on the new Di2 will likely be biased.

Quick hit thoughts:

  • Shifting: Evolutionary changes here. The shorter lever throws are noticeable, leads to a quicker feeling shift, however marginal. Action is still quite light.
  • Cranks: Look beefier than the previous generation, but maybe a little less elegant. They say stiffer, no real way to tell. Still uses a 24mm spindle, it would be nice for Shimano to go to 30mm.
  • Rear Derailleur: Has a "Shadow"clutch mechanism from the mountain side. Never noticed it (which is a good thing), but wasn't doing a ton of gravel/bumps. It is a nice addition and there is no real downside to having it. It has increased capacity for larger cogs: 30 tooth, up from 28.
  • Front Derailleur: Redesign. Long arm is gone, but leverage (as shown through shift effort) seems about the same. The integrated cable tension adjustment is a really nice touch.
  • Brakes: They did feel more powerful, as claimed. Other updates include room for larger tires, and a clever re-design of the quick release lever, making it slightly more aerodynamic. 

Ultimately, the new Dura Ace 9100 group is a very nice drivetrain, with a number of upgrades that distinguish it from its predecessor, however, none of those features are "must haves" in my mind. If you happen to be in the market for a high end groupset, then it is worth a look. However, if you are looking for a performance edge over current systems, your money would be far better spent elsewhere.

The real "news" of the 9100 series is the disc brake systems. Previous Shimano hydraulic systems were "non-series" meaning they did not meet the standards to be "Dura Ace". With the introduction of the 9120 and 9170 sytems, Shimano feels that they are refined to a point to fit the Dura Ace name in terms of performance, ergonomics and, aesthetics.