Shimano proves it’s not all over for mechanical shifting at the deep end of bike componentry, with 9000 offering a smorgasbord of improvements over its predecessor
New cable route
Alongside the improvements to the gears are tweaks to the brake cable routing, but before you get to that you have to undo two crosshead screws and remove the silver plate that tops the brake lever. This is slightly awkward, but the routing through the hood itself is straight, again making it easier to thread than before. Saying that, if your brake outer comes in at an oblique angle, say because of an aero bar, it can still be tough to thread.
When you come to pull the brake lever you'll feel it's not only super light but also slightly granular. This feeling is odd and if it wasn't so light would be off-putting. It's caused by the ribs that have been added to the mating surface between the inner cable and the outer that it runs in.
Brake like the wind
The shift mechanism is housed in a revised hood shape with a dual compound cover designed to offer better comfort and grip. Frankly, I couldn't tell the difference between the compounds when riding and had no issues with the old design, but it's no worse so that's fine.
When it comes to the brakes, the dual-stud mount that so far Trek is the only brand to capitalise on is another part of the drive for better efficiency and performance. We've not yet used the Trek version and instead stuck with the standard, centrally drilled mount. Shimano is claiming a 10 per cent improvement in the brake performance but I can't say I agree.
When you work out the maths there may very well be 10 per cent improvement but in use I'd have placed it closer to 30 per cent. In fact, they're so good that if you can offer this sort of performance day in, day out, we don't need disc brakes. They are staggeringly good.
If there is one stand-out improvement to the groupset it's the dry-weather brake performance - you have to re-educate your fingers not to pull too hard or you end up coming to a stuttering stop, find it's too much, then have to let it off again and repeat.
Of course Shimano has added that 11th sprocket on the back and that's what plenty of people will be getting excited about. The detail of that 11th gear really comes in making the room for it. The major manufacturers have realised that there is a little extra space in between the dropouts which will allow a slightly wider hub, so the new 11-speed hub measures 1mm wider - 131mm across - and everything slides across a tad to make room. So the chain is no thinner, and therefore no less robust, yet another sprocket has been added.
Attention to detail
In fact, the chain is a top performer, with some of the lowest friction on the market. You'll notice that you no longer get a chain that's coated with ‘grease'; with 9000 it's most definitely an oil, as it spends the first few rides flinging off and covering your frame and rim, ?but it's a worthwhile reduction in drag so you'll just have to get over the extra cleaning.
Most striking of all are the changes that have been made to the cranks. Who can have failed to notice the four-arm spider connecting the chainrings to the crank arm? This is classic Japanese design. With the spider viewed as a clock face, maximum forces are exerted on it between two and four o'clock and between eight and 10 o'clock, so that's where the arms are positioned.
Overall, for the 9000 version of Shimano's Dura-Ace gruppo, the details have been scrutinised like never before. It's quite something that it feels better made than the old 7900, which was already the class leader.
53/ 39 - 11/25
Shimano 9000 11-speed Dura Ace
Shimano Dura-Ace C50
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