Is Shimano Defrauding It's Customers?

How is that for an attention grabbing headline? While it is dramatic, it is not meant to be click-bait; it is a legitimate question. It is in reference to a controversy brewing regarding the latest generation of Dura Ace wheels. Specifically, how the rim brake clincher wheels are in fact re-badged versions of the previous generation.

Admittedly, I am a little late to this story: the first reports started popping up on the forums in January. You can read the latest here, and here

While this may seem like a relatively minor quibble, the issue is based on the fact that there has been a significant amount written about how these "All-new" wheels (called the C40 and C60) have significant changes over the previous C35 and C50 wheels.

Here are screen shots from the 2016 and 2017 Shimano Catalogs:

As you can clearly see, there are significant differences between both the reported width and depth of the 2 pairs of wheels. To me, the increase in width from the C35 to C40 wheels takes them from a "non-starter" to "serious contender" in the "all-round" wheel category. If only they were real.

It certainly seems that this was not a planned strategy from Shimano, as evidenced by the printed catalogs shown above. All of their press releases from the trade show circuit (and following media write ups) listed the clincher wheels as having the updated specs. The prototypes that I saw at Eurobike were the updated dimensions. So what happened?

On the production side, any number of things could have caused the change, the realities of bringing a product to market can ruin even the best laid plans, however, it is surprising given Shimano's size and experience.

To me, the most significant issue here isn't so much the change in specification, but the lack of communication regarding the changes.

If these were available for sale in January, Shimano would have known of the production changes in December at minimum. So issue a release before you ship them to retailers. Or, short of that, tell your retailers so they can list them appropriately before they put them up for sale. Based on the forums, it seems that the retailers had no idea that the wheels were changed until customers started asking questions.

(As of this writing, I checked 7 online retailers and 2 still listed the C60s as 60mm deep/24mm wide specs.)

Surely they could have found a better way of handling this situation without directly alienating their customer base. Somebody at Shimano has clearly dropped the ball on this one. In today's market, customers expect some degree of transparency and communication. No one likes to feel like they have been tricked, and the lack of public response is telling: either they have no idea how to handle the situation, or they do not care. Neither is a good look, especially for such a major industry player. Maybe they feel, as one colleague put it, "too big to fail".

Others are frustrated by lack of "mainstream" media coverage thus far, claiming collusion with Shimano to keep things hush. While I can't comment on other sites, I think this is an important topic to address (However, I don't have an editor or advertisers to answer to, so it is easier for me to throw a little shade Shimano's way, grin). Again, a quick survey of online content providers resulted in a mixed back. For example, on March 29 CyclingTips.com updated their initial report on Dura Ace 9100 to include the new information, while others (such as road.cc) still have their original articles up unchanged.

I will be following this story closely in the coming weeks so see if Shimano responds in any way. Maybe this is making a mountain out of a molehill, but I feel that this situation goes well beyond the industry's typical "white lies" of claimed weights and aero gains. They need to step up and publicly declare the changes in a way that reaches the majority of the buying public. The same way that they got the word out when the first announced the C40 and C60 wheels.