In the first part of this article, we discussed the myriad of advanced features of the new XTR 9100 components, and now we’re ready to dive into the world of road and e-bike novelties!
Beside the XTR set we discussed previously, the other dynamite news from Shimano at the Eurobike was the introduction the R7000 105 road group set. Just as we have come to expect from the Japanese brand, the new 105 inherited many advanced features of the higher end models, receiving much more than just a mere facelift. A broad array of technology has been integrated in the progressive midrange 105, the most important for today’s road bike market being the introduction of a dedicated hydraulic brake system. Previously the group set was often complemented with the non-series RS-505 shift-break levers, which was certainly an affordable option, but performance wise and aesthetically below par compared to the rest of components.
The brand new 7020 brake lever is much more aesthetically pleasing design and has better handling and feel. There is practically very little difference between this hydraulic ”brifter” and top-end Shimano offerings. The size and the shape is very similar, and the oil bleed port has also moved to the top of the lever, thereby improving hand comfort.
The crankset also inherited the design elements of the more expensive siblings, conveying a more substantial impression than on the previous 5800 series. Despite having more pronounced appearance, it manages to be 25 grams lighter. The 4-screw asymmetric spider design is also shared with Ultegra and Dura Ace models, and the familiar chainring tooth combinations are also the same (53-39, 52-36, 50-34). However, the planes of the chain rings have been moved slightly outboard, so the new R7000 is now compatible with the new road disc brakes standard specifying 410mm chain stays and 135/142mm dropouts.
Though it received little publicity, the front derailleur of the 5800 series was revamped by the Japanese giant in 2017. The FD-R5801 model already had built-in cable tension adjuster and a compact mechanical design that leaves more room for the tires. Compared to this previous version, the 7000 front “mech” offers little in the way of innovation, continuing to provide all the previously mentioned features with the added wheel clearance.
On the other hand, the 7000 series rear is significantly different than its predecessor, as it received the Shadow design familiar from the Shimano MTB range. This offers several advantages: the derailleur body has less protrusion from the plane of the frame, and it can also be used with direct mount frame dropout hangers. My only gripe with this design is purely aesthetic: I feel it’s somewhat difficult to get accustomed to the visual appearance of the new derailleur shape. The RD-R7000 comes in two pulley cage lengths, the short SS version can handle up to a 30T sprocket size, while the GS (middle length cage) can even cope with a MTB-sized 34T cog.
It’s not hard to guess that the above-mentioned derailleur variants have their matching rear cassette versions. Shimano will offer an 11-30T model for general use which seems to be a great combination of gears with ideal jumps in between. Apart from the wider gear range, the 11-34T model also has the advantage of being compatible with the previous 10-speed cassette bodies, so it can also be used on older wheelsets, MTB wheels, making it an ideal choice for gravel bikes. In this application the extra wide range is an additional bonus.
The new hydraulic brake system – specific the 105 group set – will come exclusively as a flat mount type. Concerning traditional rim brakes, there is a new direct mount with dual-bolts, as well as a conventional single-bolt version.
I find it odd that Shimano continues to produce the R7000 components in two colors: silver and black. Somehow I think the new shapes are less suited to the former, but a design option is always welcome.
Another new development on the road component side is the Ultegra RX rear derailleur, which debuted this year, intended primarily for gravel and cyclocross riding. Available in both conventional mechanical and electric-operated Di2 versions, it virtually copies the Shadow RD+ technology which has dominated the MTB scene for past few years. Just as with its MTB siblings, Ultegra RX features a switch to increase the spring tension of pulley cage. This results in a tighter chain, so there is less chance of accidental chain derailment from the chainring. So it’s well-suited to single ring (one-by) transmission setup. Among the disadvantages is the added weight: the Ultegra RX rear derailleur is approximately 50 grams heavier than the conventional design. Other than this, there is a small loss of efficiency due to the overly tight chain initiating increased friction at the axis of the spring. Despite all these negatives, I would immediately replace an existing conventional rear derailleur on a one-by gravel bike for trouble-free operation. The added bonus is the clutch switch, so – unlike the competition’s offerings – this derailleur can be used in a two chainring setup with a front “mech”.
Last but not least, Shimano announced the expansion of its electric drive range with some more affordable offerings. Although the original E8000 E-bike drive system was fairly late to enter the market, its flawless operation and rational design have cased sleepless nights for the competing brands. Just by looking at the specs, the E8000 motor may not look outstanding, but this proves to be more than sufficient in practice. I will never forget the experience when I rode a STEPS-equipped E-MTB on loose surface, discovering that “drifting” is not unique to specially-built cars! Best of all, the Shimano electric drive system does not take anything away from the cycling experience, it is perfectly tuned to supply just the right amount of torque to assist pedaling.
This year, a more affordable E7000 drive model has been introduced, which borrows most of the features found on the E8000 in a more affordable package with very little concession. For example, instead of hi-tech hollow forged crank arms, the new “budget” system is fitted with plain forged aluminum arms, as well as the mode selector switch and display utilizing a simplified design. Concerning power, the E7000 offers 250 W with a maximum torque of 60 Nm. It is not known whether the industry-leading torque sensor and the encoder resolution will see any changes, this is something we’ll only be able to answer once having a chance to take the new system for a proper test ride.
This year also saw the complete redesign of the electric drive intended for trekking and city bikes, this latest iteration bearing the E6100 model name. The motor unit is quite similar to those found on the MTB versions, the weight is similarly 2.8 kg and the installation parameters are also identical. The range of options have seen major improvements: in addition to the standard Shimano display, the new drive system uses ANT + and Bluetooth communication standards with the D-Fly (EW-EN100) unit. So it can be paired with many popular cycling-specific head units from other vendors as well as via smartphones.
Additionally, an electronically controlled internal hub gear will also be available under the Nexus Inter-5 model name. It can work in completely automatic mode, where the information from the electric drive system is used to select the most suitable gear during the ride. It adapts perfectly to the terrain and the endurance of the rider, making it ideal for urban and novice bikers.
Another novelty in Shimano’s E-bike drive range is the E5000 series. Having premiered after the Eurobike exhibition, so we have yet to see it or try it in person. It will represents the entry level from Shimano on the E-bike market. According to the manufacturer, all the novelties mentioned in this article will be available from this autumn.
Paul Lange of Hungary