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Road Gear

Shimano launches 12-speed, semi-wireless Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets

Shift speed and braking improvement, D-Fly Garmin control is integrated, and mechanical shifting goes away.

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In September, the latest Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups will begin appearing on complete bikes, and the parts will be available separately later this fall. The big changes include the jump from 11- to 12-speed cassettes, the introduction of wireless communication between shifters and derailleurs (and Garmin computers), improvements in braking, and the elimination of a mechanical shifting option. While Dura-Ace 9200 and Ultegra 8100 have rim-brake and disc-brake options, both are Di2-only.

Ridden and reviewed: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200

Gallery: Photos, weights, and prices of every new Dura-Ace and Ultegra part

Shimano’s competitors SRAM and Campagnolo are already 12-speed with their road groups. SRAM is electronic-only, while Campy has both mechanical and electronic shifting. Both 12-speed and electronic-only are firsts for Shimano road groups.

Shimano has also released new Dura-Ace and Ultegra wheels. While the new wheels are 12-speed only, the new 12-speed groups will work on existing 11-speed wheels from Shimano and other brands.

The functionality between Dura-Ace and Ultegra is virtually identical; Dura-Ace is just lighter (~200g) and more expensive. For example, Ultegra has alloy brake levers; Dura-Ace has carbon levers.

What’s wired and what’s not

The derailleurs are still wired to a single, internal battery.

Unlike SRAM’s eTap system that uses interchangeable batteries on each derailleur, Shimano’s new Di2 configuration retains the single battery that is wired to both derailleurs. Shimano says this allows for longer battery life and svelter derailleur shapes.

The shift levers, however, now talk to the derailleurs wirelessly. Or, to be more exact, the shifters talk to the rear derailleur, which is now the digital hub of the system. Aside from relaying information to and from the front derailleur, the rear derailleur also serves as the charging port for the battery, and it replaces the functions that the old junction box served.

Similar to the old junction box, the rear derailleur has a multi-function button that can be used to check battery life, connect the system via Bluetooth to an app, make adjustments on each derailleur, and change between shifting modes.

The rear derailleur is the hub of the operation.

The rear derailleur also now incorporates D-Fly, Shimano’s system for interacting with third-party systems like Garmin and Wahoo computers. This lets computers display the battery life and gear selection of the Di2 system, and, for Garmin, it also means you can program buttons on the Di2 levers to control the computer. For instance, you could program one button on the top of a Di2 hood to scroll through Garmin pages, and the other button to act as a lap button. Previously riders had to buy a separate D-Fly device and plug it into their Di2 system for this functionality.

Shimano claims the battery will last about 1,000km. The shifters can still be wired into the system for a 50 percent longer battery life.

If set up wireless, the shifters require CR1632 batteries that Shimano claims will last 1.5 to 2 years.

12-speed specifics

In addition to adding another cog in the same spacing as an 11-speed cassette, Shimano also changed the ranges of cassettes cranks. What’s gone are the 53/39 crank and any cassette smaller than 11-28. What’s new are the 54/40 Dura-Ace crank option and the virtual standardization of 11-30 and 11-34 cassettes for both groups. The 11-28t Dura-Ace cassette will not be available immediately.

The 12-speed cassettes will work on any existing 11-speed Shimano-compatible wheel or smart trainer.

Unlike past groups with short- and long-cage options, there is just a single Dura-Ace derailleur and a single Ultegra derailleur.

  • Ultegra R8100 crank options: 52/36 and 50/34
  • Dura-Ace R9200 crank options: 54/40, 52/36, and 50/34

Both groups have a dual-sided power meter option. The meter is identical between the two; as with the other parts, the Dura-Ace model just uses premium materials. The Di2 group and the power meter use the same magnetic charging cable.

Braking

Shimano a few changes to the braking, the big ones for riders being better modulation and reduced noise.

The improved modulation comes from the addition of Shimano’s Servo Wave, a cam design that means the first half of the brake lever stroke moves the pads more quickly to come into contact with the rotor, while the latter half of the stroke makes smaller adjustments.

Shimano added its Servo Wave braking to Dura-Ace.

This technology works in tandem with a widening of the brake pads by 10 percent, to give the rotors more clearance and therefore less chance to rub and make noise. Hard braking can often cause rotors to expand slightly as they are heated.

Shimano also simplified that bleeding process. The lighter Dura-Ace caliper is made of a single piece of metal; the Ultegra caliper is two pieces bolted together.

For piston material, Shimano changed from ceramic to resin. The pad material remains unchanged.

The pads sit 10% further apart than on outgoing Dura-Ace.

Lever ergonomics

In addition to the Servo Wave addition, Shimano also extended and curved the shape of the hoods. The hoods are 4.6mm longer than the outgoing road Di2 levers. They are still not as long as Shimano’s GRX Di2 hoods, but about halfway between those and the outgoing road levers.

On the top of the hoods, which houses a programmable button, the shape curves inwards slightly instead of the more symmetrical vertical shape of the outgoing levers.

The new Shimano brake lever hood curves inward a bit.

The shift buttons also get a little bit longer, and the smaller button is a bit more pronounced, extending further from the bigger button and featuring a substantially different texture.

Shifting

Shift logic remains the same as current Di2: while the buttons can be programmed to do anything, the default set-up mimics the outgoing mechanical shifting, with the left lever controlling the front derailleur and the right lever controlling the rear.

Similarly, shift speed remains programmable between five actuation speeds, and the rider can opt for Synchro or Semi-Synchro shifting as well as standard shifting. Synchro shifting lets a rider just press ‘up’ or ‘down’, and the system will make the necessary adjustments at the front derailleur to keep up with smooth progressions at the rear derailleur. Semi-Synchro adjusts the rear shifting slightly when shifting the front to minimize the change in cadence.

Shifting is substantially faster, Shimano claims.

The news is that shifting is now faster, to the tune of 58 percent faster at the front and 45 percent faster at the rear, which Shimano claims make for shifts at less than 0.1 second and 0.2 seconds, respectively.

Satellite shifting has carried forward, with ‘tops’ or ‘drops’ buttons plugging into each lever. Each lever can now only handle one satellite shifter, though, so you can’t have sprinter shifters and satellites on the tops of the bar simultaneously.

Lastly, Shimano has made some HyperGlide+ shaping tweaks to its cassettes that helped lead to the claimed improvements in shifting speed and smoothness.

Mechanical gone, rim brakes unchanged

Also following what SRAM has done, Shimano has now abandoned mechanical shifting for its top two groups. For 2022, only the third-tier Shimano 105 will have a mechanical-shift configuration.

While disc brakes have become ubiquitous on road bikes, some of Shimano’s sponsored WorldTour teams still like racing with rim brakes, which allow for a lighter overall bike and faster wheel changes. And for that reason, in part, Shimano has continued with rim brakes with its 2022 groups.

You can still use cables for braking — but no longer for shifting on Dura-Ace and Ultegra.

The ‘new’ rim brake levers and calipers are the same as current models.

Compatibility with 11-speed

Shimano is aware that not everyone will use its new wheels, so the new Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups work with existing 11-speed wheels and trainers — anything with a Shimano-compatible freehub body.

The new Di2 system uses smaller wires than the current Di2 system, and therefore isn’t cross-compatible with any of the existing parts — except for the triathlon/time trial extension shifters, and those require a step-down adaptor.

New wheels

Shimano now has tubeless Dura-Ace and Ultegra carbon wheels. Both get 21mm internal rim widths and hooked-bead rims that work with standard clincher and tubeless tires.

Both Dura-Ace and Ultegra wheels come in 36, 60, and 60mm depths with a 2:1 spoke pattern.

Dura-Ace and Ultegra weights and prices

For a component-by-component breakdown of claimed weights and U.S. prices, please check out the Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 gallery.

And for a subjective analysis of the new Dura-Ace R9200 group, please check out our review of the Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 groups.