Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 Groupset | Review

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 Groupset | Review

The full review of the much anticipated Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 mechanical groupset and as expected it’s great.

Shimano Dura-Ace is intended to be the best groupset you can buy. Designed to meet the needs of professional racing, the Dura-Ace name carries with it a reputation as the pinnacle of cycling componentry and the latest groupset, Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, delivers.

It’s a well-earned reputation from the Japanese brand, which invests an impressive amount of research and development in to its flagship components.

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Dura-Ace typically exists within a four-year product cycle, which gives you an idea of how much engineering and testing goes into the finished product. ‘Cycling Weekly’ are periodically treated to a new updated version which culminates in a grand launch somewhere exotic and in terms of excitement and expectation, it is the cycling equivalent of Willy Wonka revealing his latest chocolate bar.

Here is ‘Cycling Weekly’ review of the mechanical version – Dura-Ace R9100. A review of the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9150 will follow, once ‘Cycling Weekly’ have had the chance to properly test it.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100: What’s new?

The first and most striking thing about Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 is without question the visual aesthetic.

Gone are the flowing shapes, with a two tone silver and black finish that adorned Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 and in it’s place is a stealthy metallic black finish that subtly fades to grey (although having met Shimano’s engineers, I doubt this is a homage to 80s synth pop).

The angles and edges are much sharper too, something that is particularly apparent on the rear derailleur.

Despite looking like it fell off Darth Vader’s face the aesthetic of the rear mech has really grown on me. It all looks, very smart, precise and purposeful. On the whole, the looks have divided opinion, but after being unsure initially, I’m a fan.

The previous short cage rear mech was rated up to 28t cassettes, however many professional riders routinely fitted larger sprockets in especially tough stages.

To this end, the new rear mech is now rated up to 30t sprockets, which after extensive consultation, Shimano insists is what the pros want and need.

I tried fitting a 32t cassette and the system did seem to work fine, but if something goes wrong, you won’t be covered by Shimano’s warranty.

With regards to engineering, the new rear mech is probably best described as a short caged version of the mountain bike specific XTR rear derailleur, with a linkage system that connects the unit to the hanger.

This system helps provide a more consistent gap between the upper jockey wheel and cassette sprockets across the whole gear range, irrespective of which front chainring is used.

The new rear mech also sits slightly closer in to the wheel which is designed to help protect it more in the event of crashes. Fortunately I haven’t had any yet, but much like toast, bikes have an annoying tendency to land drive side down.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100: How does it perform?

Set up is significantly different from the previous version. Fortunately Shimano has extensive and detailed service manuals available online that you can consult for free.

I must stress that if you are going to adjust your new groupset or install it, follow these manuals. The limit screws and set up, may look familiar, but there are subtle, but crucial, differences.

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Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 is undoubtedly an improvement over its predecessor, however the difference is not earth shattering. If you already own Dura-Ace 9000, I would suggest you don’t need to rush out and buy the update, as the biggest change is purely visual. I would also suggest, that if you see a discounted 2016 bike for sale with Dura-Ace 9000, don’t be put off that it isn’t the latest components. Dura-Ace 9000 was an excellent groupset and has clearly been difficult to improve upon. That said, the incremental improvements are all positive and I can say with confidence this is the best mechanical groupset I have used to date. SRAM Red 22 is lighter, but the shifting is less assured. Super Record is more romantic, prestigious and arguably cooler, but it doesn’t work as well. Ultimately all three are very good. Dura-Ace R9100 is a groupset worthy of the coveted Dura-Ace badge and adorning ‘Cycling Weekly’ dream builds.