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Shimano (Finally) Launches 12-speed Road

13639 Views 109 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  Oldteen
Thought it’d happen at EuroBike, and it did:

Campy and SRAM: “What took ya so long?” 😀

But Shimano’s elimination of mechanical shifting in Ultegra and Dura Ace might annoy some ppl.

And, no 53/39-ish option in Ultegra anymore? I personally don’t use it, but, oy. 😕

That said, at least they put the 16t cog back into their main road cassettes (11-28, 11-30) instead of going for the 10t. That was probably a good choice that’ll make most riders happy. 🚴
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I imagine the hold up for shimano was perfecting wireless. Going 12sp was really no big deal, they already had that on the MTB side.
For better or worse, 12spd road is a big deal... because that drives the upgrade cycle, aka cha-ching!! far as the component-makers go. 💵 💵 💵
I meant no big deal.. as in not hard to do. It was already 'done'. They could've released a 12sp group a while ago, but were holding out to release it with wireless Di2.
I know, just keeping things in perspective. Gotta keep your eye on the 'big game'.

Which seems to be... add a cog every 4-5 years so ppl buy whole new drivetrains or even bikes, and ALSO make everything more complex, expensive, and 'motorcycle-like'... hydraulics, electronics, etc. etc.

The new DA group (no power meter or wheels) is $4,300-ish. Ouch.
That's what people said about 5 speed.
And what they said about 6 speed....
And what they said about 7 speed....
I realize that for many ppl, that’s dead-on.

But, as someone who rode a double century with 6-speed back in the day, and was seemingly ALWAYS finding that the perfect gear was dead-halfway between two cogs the entire ride (aka unavailable) … I can honestly report that I was never happy with 6-speed. 👎 🤬

That said, we do seem to be deep in diminishing returns land nowadays re: # of cogs, except for maybe use in 1x drivetrains.
The no mechanical option still has me feeling caught off guard though.
This disappointed me too. 😟

AND the fact that they did this not only for DA, but Ultegra, too.
I think its a mistake to go all-electronic on both Dura Ace and Ultegra. Ultegra has always been Shimano's bang for the buck group. Now its $2400. I guess they'll be selling a lot of 105?
+1. Expected them to do it on DA, but not Ultegra as well. Now Ultegra’s expensive. 😕

There’s GRX… but it’s not 12-spd. And has a worse (wider) Q-factor.
…Presumably they still have the option of offering 12-speed with mechanical shifting in the future, should there be any demand for it. On the other hand, 12-speed might simply have tolerances that demand the perfection of shifting that Di2 enables.
Oh sure… which is why Campy’s had 12-speed mechanical for over 3 years now. 🤷‍♂️
I could be wrong of course, but I bet 105 12-speed [mechanical] gets released as part of the regular cycle in 6 months to a year.
I hope you’re right. 🤞🏼
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No more Shamano Ultegra or DA mechanical, then I will no longer buy anything from Shamano
I’ve said it before, but I can’t emphasize enough how much I think no 12-speed mechanical Ultegra, at the least, is premature/obnoxious/a mistake. 😕

12-spd 105 mech might be coming next year (maybe but who knows), and even 12-spd Ultegra mech could possibly eventually be released (though I doubt it). But this is still a royal diss to mech customers.

Problem is, if you want 12-spd mech road, the only significant alternative right now is Campy… and many ppl who’ve existed happily in Shimano/SRAM world have a fear of switching to Campyland, for whatever reason.

So, it’d be nice if SRAM undercut Shimano by releasing a 12-speed mech road group well before they did.

Now that might hit Shimano in the pocketbook, and make them sit up and pay attention. 📢
Good luck with that.
Not sure what else mech group devotees are supposed to do (aside from adamantly refusing to buy e-shifting components/bikes, a course which they were probably following already).

Judging from Velodog’s article, it seems Shimano has firmly placed its finger in the wind as to what to do next… it’s likely that customer feedback will help decide which of the following Shimano will release to fill the huge price gap between Ultegra Di2 and 11-spd mech 105:

1. 105 Di2
2. Ultegra mech
3. Both

Not to mention whether 105 mech gets updated to 12-spd, or dies at 11.

So, why not pipe up and say something? It costs nothing. 🤷‍♂️

And it may help avoid a possible world where Tiagra will soon be Shimano’s top mech group. 😳
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Nice article from the BikeSnob NYC guy:

Taping your nips? Do tell!
We just entered the Dark n’ Weird Side of RBR… 😮
So, electronic shifting is better because it eliminates cables?
No, it’s better because it costs a lot more and racers use it. 😛
Wait now, I’m susceptible to that argument. Except, well... It’s heavier and less aero? Pure pain!
Yeah, sometimes I forget that my sarcasm sounds pretty much like how they market it. 😟
All of this is starting to make me like Campy more… 🤔
As I said... "If it made financial sense to cater to the small minority of luddites.. they would. But it doesn't. So they won't." Both SRAM and Shimano note that people just aren't buying mechanical.
Electronic dominance
No one can deny that mechanical shifting has a sizeable advantage over electronic shifting in terms of serviceability and often weight (particularly at anything other than flagship price points). However, in conversations with countless product managers from various bicycle brands in recent months about consumer preferences, the answer is always the same: when given the option, so few people are actually buying the cable-actuated stuff that it’s impossible to justify keeping it around from a financial point of view.

One only has to look at SRAM’s recent product development to see evidence of this trend in real time.
It’s been a very different story for SRAM’s mechanical road groupsets. Despite plenty of love and loyalty from hardcore enthusiasts, it’s basically a case of the highly vocal minority.
The current generation of SRAM’s Red 22 mechanical groupset hasn’t been updated since its last revamp in 2013.

From an engineering standpoint, it wouldn’t take much for SRAM to update its mechanical road groupsets to the 12-speed format....
In all likelihood, SRAM has the resources to do this, and you’d better believe that if the demand (and profit margins) was there, the company would make it happen. However, SRAM has clearly decided the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and its OEM partners apparently feel the same way (though that hasn’t kept third-party tinkerer Ratio Technology from doing it on a retrofit basis).

As promised, Di2’s shift performance is uncannily faster and more precise, it’s more consistent over time than mechanical setups, and many riders just prefer the lighter feel of short-stroke buttons instead of bigger levers with more throw.

I anticipate that — unlike with Ultegra — Shimano will continue to offer 105 in a mechanical version, which will assuredly also make the jump to 12-speed. If only to keep OEM product managers happy, I would guess that the new 105 mechanical would hold pretty firm on the end cost, or maybe just increase slightly. Nevertheless, it seems likely that — at least as far as Shimano is concerned — 105 will now be the brand’s top mechanical offering.
Interesting that you quote James Huang.

Here’s the same exact guy in a different article:

So why do I still prefer mechanical drivetrains on my own bikes, then?

There are a lot of reasons why electronic drivetrains are superior. Unlike braided steel cables and plastic-lined housing that constantly stretch, squish, and abrade, wires aren’t subject to wear over time. Aside from periodic battery charging, electronic drivetrains are practically maintenance-free. They also don’t care if it’s cold or wet or muddy, there are heaps of customization options, they’re more consistent, and so on.

But electronic drivetrains have always left me a little cold. When I push a button on an electronic shifter, it does exactly what I tell it to do, but at the same time, it also doesn’t tell me anything in return.

I’m hardly averse to advancing technology: I’m a big believer in disc brakes, I usually prefer carbon-fiber frames, and I almost never ride without a GPS computer.

But when it comes to bicycle transmissions, it’s just that I prefer the feel of physically doing something with my hands.

When I push on a standard Shimano Dura-Ace lever, I can feel the derailleur moving at the other end. When I release the ratchet on a SRAM DoubleTap lever, I’m rewarded with a loud “click.” When I slam the thumb lever on a Campagnolo Ergopower lever, I know exactly how many gears I’ve selected by how far my finger has moved.

Electronic systems may work better, but it doesn’t speak to me.

There’s also the undeniable appeal in the simplicity of a mechanical drivetrain: a lever moves a cable at one end, and another component at the other end of the cable moves in kind.

I can see and hear what’s going on, and problems are easily diagnosed (and fixed); the same can’t be said of electrons traveling at light speed through a copper wire.

Yes, I know that mechanical drivetrains require periodic maintenance to keep everything in tip-top shape. Yes, I know my prized stash of Gore Ride-On sealed derailleur cable-and-housing sets will eventually run out.

And yes, I know that in many ways I’m nursing a dinosaur and turning a blind eye to the future.

But I spent 14 years as a bike shop mechanic and still do all my own work. I enjoy doing bike maintenance, not needing a computer inside my garage, and that stash of Gore Ride-On cables is big enough to last me a lifetime.

For me, it’s like an automatic transmission versus a manual one in modern automobiles. While the former has advanced to the point where the latter is essentially obsolete, there’s a level of user engagement that comes with one, but not the other, that still justifies its existence in the eyes of the faithful.

Don’t get me wrong; I love electronic drivetrains, I really do. I have the utmost of admiration for what they’ve become, for their technological superiority, for their merciless pursuit of engineering perfection. From a purely functional standpoint, they are, without doubt, better.

But for the type of riding that I typically like to do, getting from Point A to Point B as quickly and efficiently as possible isn’t as important as how much I’m enjoying the space in between — and as far as cycling goes, my interaction with my machine is a big part of that.

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Yeah, when I get on my electronic shifting bike I suddenly become some sort of joyless cyborg.
You mean, like a Terminator? 🤖
Well, my take on it...

First off, I'm not willing to call all the ppl who still prefer mechanical 'luddites'.

A 'luddite' is someone who hates all new technology no matter what. While there are maybe a few ppl in the "6-speed friction was so great, why'd we ever change!" crowd (aka 'git off mah lawn'), most just see e-shifting and mechanical as options on a menu, and decide between them on the merits.

As in:

Compnonents Makers: Pssst! Hey buddy.

Consumer: Yeah? What?

CM: Got a new product for ya. Will significantly improve front shifting. Won't do much for rear shifting since it's so good already, but still, a little maybe. Will also let you shift better under power.

Consumer: Cool. How much more expensive?

CM: Oh, like $1000. And it needs batteries. And it’s a bit heavier.

Consumer: Uhh, I dunno. If I was like racing or rich or something, maybe...

CM: What?! You a luddite or somethin’, man? Get with the program! Don't you want to use the same stuff the PROS use?

Consumer: I don't really care what the pros use. My stuff already works very well, and I have a budget.

CM: You are dead to me. And my marketing team says you're a dork that we can't spend any more time or effort on anyways.

So, yeah..... 😕

I also don't really buy into the notion that EVERYTHING that comes from the components makers or bike manufacturers is automatically PROGRESS! or INNOVATION!!

I mean, sometimes it is, but sometimes it's just marketing driving a trend for the sake of having a talking point and making $$.

Can you remember the early '90s, when bike makers starting spec'ing their bikes with super-narrow tires? Not just the 49cm 'little guy' bikes, the whole LINE of sizes, spec'd with 700x20, 700x19, even 700x18 tires. Remember that?

Yeah, it was pinch-flat-palooza. Augh.

Was the STUPIDEST 'performance trend' EVER, but it got rammed down our throats for a couple of years, 'til everyone could see that super-narrow tires sucked, and the industry woke up and went back to 700x23 (and 25). And nowadays, thanks to the 'gravel' movement, plenty of ppl want tires much bigger than that.

Point is, it's not always about 'innovation'. A lot of times it's more like, "Gee, how can we drive more and more technology into our products so we can raise prices and demand and get higher margins and bigger profits?".

And then of course, there's just 'being different to be different', aka providing marketing talking points. Both things lead to 'solutions in search of a problem', or at least 'solutions that solve MINOR problems, for lots of money."

And bike-makers are right there in cahoots with the component makers on this, because more expensive (but accepted by the consumer) component groups allow bike makers to raise their prices/margins/profits too. Notice how expensive road bikes have become in recent years? Even before covid? Heck, even going back to the Lance days.

Point is, few ppl really want to sell you something that's relatively cheap, durable, reliable, and simple. Not if they can endlessly ram more technology in there and jack up the price... even if the benefit-to-cost ratio suffers as a result, and even if the spirit of the bicycle as a 'practical, simple, elegant machine' gets lost.

And thus 'progress' in bikes/components is the same as it is in so many other consumer-driven product fields... two steps forward, one step back, one step sideways, and a breakdance layout spin just for the hell of it.

Now, if you personally LOVE e-shifting, hydraulic disc 'breaks', and ever more more MOAR tech, great. Go to it. It's your money, not mine. But considering how relatively easy it would to sell mechanical groups alongside the 'bleeding edge, cost no object' ones, Shimano's (and so far, SRAM's) stance on 12-speed mechanical seems pretty obnoxious and $$$-myopic.

Yes, their product managers can say, "But mech doesn't sell", but that seems pretty self-serving, aka of course they'll say that. They have to. And it may even be true at the high end.

But I know hardly anyone who wanted mechanical Ultegra to go away completely, and get replaced by a much more expensive e-shifting-only version. And I suppose I'll know fewer ppl still who'll want the same thing to happen to 105, and eventually, Tiagra, Sora, etc. etc.

Given the aggressive tactics and attempted assaults on my wallet, you know what? Maybe those cranky luddites actually had it right all along.

Now, where'd I put my 6-speed friction shifters?... 🚴‍♂️
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I would be PERFECTLY happy if Shimano releases a 105 12-speed groupset. I honestly don't give a crap about buying any theoretical high priced 12-speed mechanical groupset.
What if the only 105 12-speed released is a relatively high-priced 105 Di2?

Or is that the product you’re hoping for?
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