First Ride: Shimano R9100 Dura-Ace Mechanical

From Bicycling.com

Shimano R9100 Dura-Ace

Shimano released an update to its top-end mechanical road group in June. (For a detailed rundown on what’s new, you can read our post from the launch.) This week, we got a first ride on the rim-brake groupset from Las Vegas to the Outdoor Demo at Interbike in Boulder City, Nevada. (To keep up with the latest gear & tech news coming out in the bicycling world, be sure to subscribe!)

I’ve been riding the Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical group on my personal road bike for the past several months. R9100 is largely a refinement rather than an overhaul, so unsurprisingly, the new group feels very similar to the 9000 group I’ve come to know well. But there are some differences.

For starters, both front and rear derailleurs are new. The front derailleur has been redesigned into a smaller form, in part to provide more tireclearance and to tuck the cable away. It also has an integrated adjuster for cable tension, taking the place of the traditional dial adjuster. The rear derailleur borrows Shimano’s Shadow technology from the mountain bike world, bringing it further inward under the cassette for protection in the event of a hit or crash, and to improve shifting performance. It also has a longer cage to accommodate anything from an 11-23 to 11-30 cassette, allowing the rider to change cassettes for different rides or races without swapping derailleurs.

With two new derailleurs, it’s remarkable that R9100 still shifts very similarly to 9000. But as before, it’s smooth, precise, and quiet. Shimanosaid shifting in the front should require slightly less effort, and it does, which I particularly noticed when shifting from the small to the big ring. Our other test rider noted and liked that all of the paddles required slightly less throw.

The new group also received textured hood covers, and slightly different shaping. The difference is subtle, but generally made the bar feel a little more supportive on my palms when I had my hands behinds the hoods, and provided good additional grip for riding gloveless. (It was a cool day, so I didn’t get to see how they felt when my hands got a little sweaty.)

There was no steep climbing on our test ride, but where there was some gradual ascending, the 30-tooth cog on the new 11-30 cassette made it a little easier to spin uphill than the 11-28 I usually ride. The ratio increase compared to the 11-28 is noticeable—but it’s small enough that I would be happy riding the 11-30 as my everyday cassette.

The brakes received longer arms so that they now officially fit up to 28mm tires (if your frame will clear them), and Shimano says the calipersare stiffer, too. I was impressed by the power of the R9100 rim brakes. Particularly when I was coming to a quick stop, they had enough additional bite compared to my 9000 rim brakes that I felt myself adjusting how hard I pulled on the levers. While I’d like to ride them more and on carbon rims (we were riding aluminum), the initial impression from our 18-mile ride is that this is one of the quickest-stopping rim brakes I’ve ridden.

Of course, we’re also eager to try the new Dura-Ace R9100 hydraulic disc brakes and the Di2 group, and to get a version in for long-term testing. Look for a full review in the coming months on Bicycling.com.

From Bicycling.com