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Shimano Releases 12-Speed, Semi-Wireless Derailleurs With Tri Compatibility

Shimano has (finally) joined the 12-speed shifting ranks with a setup that's lighter, faster, and semi wireless.

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.

Triathletes should be excited, as the new derailleurs will work with their existing 11-speed bar-end and brake-bound shifters through the use of a step-down adaptor (EW-AD305 below, available now for $21) to match up the new wiring size. That said, Shimano does not have any information on any new 12-speed-specific versions of their bar-end satellite shifters or base-bar brake shifters, so the adaptor is the only hope for triathletes looking to go to 12 in the near future.

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.

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.

Shifting

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.

Shifting is substantially faster, Shimano claims.

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 without 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, check out the Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 gallery.

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