Our Early Verdict
Shimano's all-new Dura-Ace R9200 is the best electronic groupset on the market right now
- - 12-speed gearing with plenty of drivetrain options
- - Modular and powerful braking performance
- - Ergonomically-designed control interface
- - At 2506g, it's the lightest groupset of its kind on the market
- - Crisp and responsive shifting
- - Cross-compatibility of certain parts with MTB siblings (chain and rotors)
- - Impressive battery life
- Aesthetics could be bolder
It's been a long time coming but Shimano's new Dura-Ace groupset - the latest instalment of its premium road bike groupset - is finally here and it will indeed take the Dura-Ace R9200 naming convention as well as benefit from 12-speed wireless shifting - just as we referenced back in February. The new groupset was expected to launch last year as part of the company's four-year product lifecycle model but was pushed out to 2021 for reasons many pundits put down to COVID-19. This, however, was more a case of the extensive research and development that went into the proprietary wireless communication protocol, rather than any pandemic-caused factory closures.
Our first sighting of the new groupset in the wild was at the Baloise Belgium Tour where a brace of Scott Addict RC bikes belonging to Team DSM were outfitted in what looked to be pre-production Dura-Ace R9200. While this provided some insight into what to expect from a visual standpoint, nothing hinted at any of the finer details or internal workings - even the maker's name was blacked out in an effort to keep things as incognito as possible. All this suggested its launch was imminent.
In fact, it wasn't long before we were invited to test the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 in the Pyrenean town of Lourdes, France but - as you guessed - COVID restrictions put paid to our date with the Tourmalet and we were sent a Dura-Ace R9200-equipped Scott Addict RC Pro Disc to test here in the UK on home soil instead. After spending time fettling about with the new system and sampling it on our local test roads, here's what we think of Shimano's Dura-Ace R9200 groupset so far.
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A bold evolution
Visually, Dura-Ace R9200 has retained much of the design DNA of its forebear and things are fairly tame as a result - perhaps a little too tame. In fact, Shimano has kept much of the outgoing groupset's hallmark features such as the gloss-black paint treatment and the crankset's four-arm pattern which has been a staple since R9000. The crankset, however, takes on the same angular, geometric design language that's been implemented throughout the R9200 series.
The most significant changes pertain to the front (FD-R9250) and rear (RD-R9250) derailleurs, with the former taking on a sleeker appearance complete with a smoke-look cage. Not only does it weigh just 96g, but Shimano has also reduced the frontal area over the outgoing version by 33 per cent. The rear derailleur is more refined, boasting a one-cage-fits-all philosophy designed to work with cassettes ranging from 11-28 to 11-34T. To simplify the fitting process across multiple bike platforms, the charging port has been relocated to the rear derailleur and the cable is now cross-compatible with the optional power meter. Interestingly, Shimano has not gone with an oversized pulley wheel system. Tim Geritts, Shimano EU Product Manager, was quick to point out the brand sees no benefit going this route. "We [Shimano] only do things when it adds performance and while you can argue the oversized pulley wheel system lowers chain defection, all friction reports are done in a static environment, and the gains are lost on misalignment from lateral movement and momentum."
A focus for the new groupset was to provide a cleaner cockpit interface, and Shimano used its pro athletes for feedback in this regard which has resulted in a super-clean and ergonomic layout. The hoods are raised and textured for better ergonomics but also possess the now-de rigueur inward-tilting aero profile. Shifter control has also been addressed with an increased offset between the two Di2 buttons on the lever, allowing for better differentiation between the up and downshifts, particularly when wearing gloves. In terms of real-word feel, this arrangement feels 'softer' on the hands and supplies an added layer of comfort over the outgoing Dura-Ace which sometimes had a tendency to dig into the palms after an hour or more of riding.
The brake calipers have also been tweaked and look more purposeful as a result, eschewing an underdesigned look for a more sculpted appearance.
Shimano sees no future for mechanical shifting in its premium road groupset offerings and the new Dura-Ace R9200 has been built around the firm's Di2-only electronic shifting platform as a result. The big news here is the introduction of a wireless interface communication system, which thwarts the need for a wired connection between the controls and drivetrain. Of course, this brings its own set of challenges: namely the shifting delay often associated with wireless systems. Shimano has addressed this by making the signal response and motor actuation faster than before - shift response times are now 58 per cent faster at the rear and 45 per cent faster at the front.
The system as a whole is considered 'semi-wireless' because there's still a need for a central battery to connect the front and rear derailleurs. The latter, however, serves as a wireless receiver from the cockpit and is the control centre of the drivetrain. Going this route has allowed Shimano to move the charging port to the rear derailleur, where a series of LED indicator lights are used to show the battery level.
Speaking of batteries, the central battery is said to provide approximately 1,000km of riding per charge while the wireless shifters (each powered by a widely available CR1632 coin-style battery) will last up to two years before needing to be replaced. There are wired setups available for the inclusion of satellite sprint/climbing shifters and time trial options to help futureproof cockpits down the line.
The move from 11-speed to 12 is something Shimano has had to follow, what with SRAM and Campagnolo both offering an extra cog. The sprocket technology on the cassette has been overhauled with what Shimano calls Hyperglide+. Essentially an evolution of Hyperglide it provides faster, 'shockless' shifts in any gear thanks to a new ramped tooth profile and revised 'sweet spot' gearing between the 6th, 7th and 8th sprockets. Shimano is offering two cassette options: 11-30T and 11-34T which can be mated with three chainring configurations (50/34T, 52/36T and 54/40T). The Japanese company made the decision to bin the 53/39T chainring option citing it was no longer commercially viable, choosing to replace it with the 54/40T option as requested by professional teams. Crankarm lengths span 160 to 177.5mm (Q-factor is 148 mm) while a power meter can be optioned, too.
To help standardise equipment across disciplines, the new Dura-Ace R9200 will not only share its chain with the XTR mountain bike groupset but RT-MT900 brake rotors, too - something we've seen employed by a host of pro teams over the past year. This comes as a result of applying the company's learnings from the mountain biking and gravel arena to improve on-the-road performance. The new braking system has also adopted Servo Wave technology as seen on Shimano's MTB and gravel lever systems. What this does is shorten the stroke in the lever, nullifying the dead spot and improving modulation and control across the braking arc. Other issues pertaining to rotor squeal, and pad and rotor clearance have also been addressed.
There are also three wheelsets to choose from: Dura-Ace R9270 C36, C50 and C60. While the new 12-speed cassette is backwards compatible with 11-speed driver bodies, the same can't be said for 11-speed cassettes and the new Dura-Ace R9200 wheelsets.
In terms of weight, the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 tips the scales at just 21.2g heavier than its forebear - 2,485.3g vs 2,506.5g. Impressive considering the new technology and added sprocket, but what's even more impressive is that it's lighter than its rivals.
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Save the rim brake
Despite the contemporary push to standardise disc-brake actuation, Shimano still sees value in catering for the rim-brake market. This decision was made not only to please many of the professional teams but also as a commitment to the UCI to allow teams the option to choose - well, as long as there is still a demand. Unlike the disc-brake version that has undergone a massive overhaul in terms of summoning better performance and control, no R&D has been put into the rim-brake development whatsoever. In fact, bar the subtle aesthetic update, the rim brakes are exactly the same as the outgoing Dura-Ace.
The new Dura-Ace R9200 is super-intuitive to operate. Everything functions in much the same way as the outgoing system meaning the left paddle toggles between the small and big chainring while the right takes care of movement up and down the cassette. Response time is incredibly fast with no noticeable delay from the moment you summon a cog to the actual engagement - the integrated circuit delivers rapid communication protocols throughout the system.
Our Scott Addict RC Pro Disc came outfitted in the most popular gearing option: 52/36T, 11-30T. The ratios of this drivetrain configuration deliver a good spread that will excel over myriad terrain types including hilly/mountainous roads. While many expected a move to a smaller 10T sprocket at the back to unlock more top end, Shimano has kept the 11T standard across the range. If it's extra speed that you're after you can always spec it with the 54-40T chainring.
The shifting performance is immediate and accurate and there's a discernible difference in the way the chain shifts up and down the cassette when compared to R9100. While the 'clunk' is still there when shifting hard under load, the chain doesn't hold on to the sprocket when moving through the range - no doubt a result of the re-profiled teeth. The derailleur motors still buzz about like before so it's difficult to tell if any noise reduction measures have been implemented but that soundtrack is something many users - this writer included - really enjoy.
The big standout in terms of performance is undoubtedly when it comes to the stopping power. Shimano has radically altered the character of the braking system which, in turn, has completely transformed the way the Scott Addict behaves dynamically - late on the brakes, earlier on the power. The new R9200 series now brings just as much confidence to the descents as it does the straight-ahead or climbs. Brake fade is non-existent, as is rotor squeal and the entire process is rich in modularity and feel. The short-throw brake lever action has allowed the engineers to dial more precision and confidence into the equation, improving your connection with the bike, not to mention providing a clearer picture of what's happening beneath you.
Price and availability
A complete Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset will retail for £3,631.87 / $4,398.86. Stock will become available from October 2021 and Shimano foresees no delays in production or delivery.
|FC-R9200||Dura-Ace Cranksets with Chainrings||$624.99 / £549.99||680g|
|FC-R9200-P||Dura-Ace Power Meter Crankset with Chainrings||$1,469.99 / £1,199.99||754g|
|ST-R9250||Dura-Ace Di2 Shift/Rim Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)||$784.99 / £699.99||N/A|
|ST-R9270||Dura-Ace Di2 Shift/Disc Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)||$1,099.98 / £1,199.98||350g|
|CS-R9200||Dura-Ace Cassette (11-28/30/34)||$359.99 / £329.99||223g|
|FD-R9250||Dura-Ace Di2 Front Derailleur||$449.99 / £399.99||96g|
|RD-R9250||Dura-Ace Di2 Rear Derailleur||$814.99 / £699.99||215g|
|BR-R9200||Rim Brake Caliper Set||$394.99 / £359.98||N/A|
|BR-R9270||Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper Set||$364.98 / £269.98||233g|
|RT-MT900||Disc Brake Rotor (140mm and 160mm)||$81.99 / £59.99||212g|
|WH-R9270-C36-TL||Dura-Ace C36 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$2099.99 / £1,799.98||1,350g|
|WH-R9270-C50-TL||Dura-Ace C50 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$2,099.99 / £1,799.98||1,461g|
|WH-R9270-C60-HR-TL||Dura-Ace C60 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$2,199.99 / £1,799.98||1,609g|
|BT-DN300||Di2 Battery||$184.99 / £174.99||53g|
|EW-EC300||Di2 Charger||$49.99 / £49.99|
|SW-RS801-S||Shift Switch for Drops (pair)||$139.99 / £199.99|
|SW-RS801-T||Shift Switch for Tops (pair)||$139.99 / £199.99|
With Dura-Ace R9200, Shimano has taken everything that was good (and bad) with R9100 and improved it, considerably. While the outgoing groupset is still an excellent offering, the new version is without a doubt a more refined, more intelligent ecosystem that improves rather than revolutionises the user experience. Compared to its rivals from SRAM, Campagnolo, and FSA to a lesser extent, Shimano has edged ahead with Dura-Ace R9200 despite doing nothing intrinsically fancy. Instead, Shimano has merely addressed any areas of concern - namely the braking system and lever/control interface ergonomics, not to mention introduced a better gearing and shifting performance. What we get is the best road bike groupset currently available.
We'll be updating this first ride review in the coming weeks as we spend more time with it - the update will also include impressions on the Dura-Ace R9270 C50 wheels so be sure to check back soon.
Tech Specs: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset
- RRP Disc: Starting from £3,631.87 / $4,398.86
- Speeds: 2x12
- Chainrings: 50/34T, 52/36T, 54/40T
- Cassettes: 11-30T, 11-34T
- Brakes: Disc / Rim
- Function: Semi-wireless, Di2 electronic only
- Rivals: SRAM Red eTap AXS, Campagnolo Super Record EPS, FSA K-Force WE
What is a hands on review?
'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.
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