Road Gear

Shimano patents suggest wireless, 12-speed coming

Shimano Dura-Ace wireless 12-speed drivetrains may be on the horizon, according to recently approved patents.

It’s been a long time coming, as with all the best things from Shimano. According to patents filed recently, Shimano looks to be ready to release to the world a 12-speed Dura-Ace drivetrain that finally ditches the wires, to compete with SRAM’s wireless eTap AXS system.

Of course, patents are one thing. Actual product is another thing entirely. Shimano files massive amounts of patents, and while some of those products make it to market eventually, countless others never do.

Still, it seems a safe bet that Shimano will want to compete directly with its main rival, SRAM. Both SRAM and Campagnolo have evolved past 11-speed, while Shimano has lagged behind. And the eTap ecosystem has grown by leaps and bounds while Shimano has stuck with its Di2 system on its Dura-Ace level drivetrain.

The change to Dura-Ace seems long past due. In fact, we’ve been conjecturing that Shimano might be ready to update its system since before this year’s Tour de France. And Road.cc published some blurry photos back in October from Remco Evenepoel’s Instagram feed that may have shown Shimano wireless derailleurs.

According to the patents filed on July 22nd and published on November 5, 2020 — first reported by CyclingTips — it seems Shimano is still experimenting with the Dura-Ace design and layout. There are several locations for coin cell batteries noted in the drawings, for example. One is in the shifter paddle and another is under the hood. There’s even an option for eliminating shifter batteries altogether, using one of the shift paddles to generate power for the transmitter.

Speaking of batteries, it appears Shimano has once again masked its final intentions for Dura-Ace with various iterations for derailleur batteries. For perspective, SRAM’s eTap system uses dedicated batteries on each derailleur, which can be easily removed and swapped. It’s convenient for charging, but more importantly, you can swap batteries should one of them die mid-ride.

Shimano appears to have iterations that lend a dedicated battery to each derailleur. But other details in the patents reveal that there may simply be one dedicated battery to power both derailleurs — more akin to the current Di2 system that uses a single battery to power the entire system.

It’s not clear what wireless protocol the Dura-Ace system will use. (SRAM developed its own wireless protocol called Airea for its eTap ecosystem.) Nor is it clear what kind of driver body the new system will use, though it’s likely with the leap to 12-speed, Shimano will use its Microspline driver. That of course presents some problems for backward-compatibility.  There are tons of gearing options mentioned in the patents, and a 9-tooth cog is a possibility on the cassette.

Triathletes and TT fans will be happy to know that Shimano’s patents also show a shift layout for your TT bike, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given how many teams and athletes Shimano sponsors at the highest levels of the sport.

Of course, Shimano is tightlipped on its plans, and a spokesperson told us “Unfortunately, Shimano does not comment on future technologies or products. Sorry we can’t share anything.”

Stay tuned for more info on the new Dura-Ace system as we get it.