Although releasing such news at the beggining of April might affect their trustworthiness, Shimano’s improvements for the road category are as real as they can be. First of all, the 105 groupset joins the 11-speed club, and gets some features present on the Dura-Ace and Ultegra, but Shimano also expands its hydraulic disc brakes range to mechanical groupset.
Shimano 105 gets 11 sprockets
The new generation Shimano 105 will bear the 5800-series number, and will be available starting from June this year. By far, the most important improvement is the 11-speed cassette, but also the new appearance, borrowed from the greater Ultegra and Dura-Ace sets. It’s a move that Shimano applies for some years now, this trickle-down scheme, and even if 105’s quality may have been increased, the manufacturer didn’t use the same material as in the case of the other two sets. So, it looks good, but will it work better than previous generations? Or at least last longer?
Along with the new technologies available on the 5800 Shimano 105 come a lighter action and defined click engagement, thanks to the polymer coated cables and partly because of the redesigned derailleurs and shift levers, according to the manufacturer. Also, the lever can be customized for different hand sizes with a 10mm screw type reach adjust. Last but not least, a longer link arm has been installed on the front derailleur.
Of course, Shimano tells us braking performance was improved by about 10%, and they also feature a direct mount version, but I’d rather emphasise on the bigger clearance designed to allow usage of the 28mm tires, more confortable and more suited for begginers. Keep this in mind please.
Compact and standard cranksets unified
But the new Shimano 105 brings also an improvement less flamboyant than the 11-speed cassette or the cool looks, but more relevant concerning expenses issues: the crankset. Or, to be more accurate, the compatibility of it to both compact and standard formats. So, bye-bye, having to buy different sets of chainrings if you want to swap between sizes. The 105 brings a large variety of teeth number, 34, 36, 39, 50, 52 and 53, and the fact that it’s linked to 3 cassette sizes, 12-25, 11-28 and 11-32, with Shimano already having two rear derailleur cage lengths, means one thing: the future standard of road bikes may look as pictured above. Probably, very soon, 11-speeds will become the default specification, even for lower-placed road bike models. Good news, or not so good news?
Well, it pretty much depends on the pricing and overall durability of the components. As an enthusiat looking for a decent-working set with a reasonable price, it might prove perfect, but as a begginer, it may seem too costly to buy a set that’s probably easy to damage, or at least more prone to timely wear given the loads that the drivetrain will have to face.
Disc brake road bike era getting closer
And Shimano is preparing for it. If until now, the Japanese company’s disc brakes were only available for electronical groupsets, things look brighter for the mechanical groupsets as they are now compatible with this type of brakes.
Rumor used to have it that Shimano launched the hydraulic brakes only for electronical sets because their levers were capable of housing the mineral oil reservoir and brake system, but the fact is that Shimano now managed to squeeze inside the mechanical lever the whole hydraulic system. And all this was done without significantly altering the ergonomical shape. Therefore, the ST-RS685 levers are the ones that make possible using hydraulic disc brakes with Shimano’s 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace mechanical groupsets.
The caliper also suffered modifications being updated and replaced by a new one (BR-RS785). New as well is the cable routing, which instead of running from the lever to the outside of the caliper, now travels to the inside of the caliper (straight type). Ever-present where braking performance is required, the ICE tech rotors are available for these brakes, in 140mm and 160mm sizes.
And rounding-up Shimano’s news for this spring are the WH-RX830 wheels, with 11-speed, purpose-built for hydraulic disc braking, carbon laminated and with a 17c wide rim that corresponds to an outside diameter of 23mm, that will be available starting from September this year.