Shimano 105 is for me a benchmark of price vs quality in road cycling. We had it’s most popular version, R5800, in our workshop and we used it for a long time, I had it on some of my bikes and some of the test bikes we received. My opinion was always the same: it works great, easy gear shifts, good brakes and elegant looks, all with the advantages of a 2×11 system. Ready to race and ready to face any challenge, 105 is close to Ultegra and Dura-ace when it comes to materials and weight and maybe a bit of it’s ergonomics and functionally the difference is minimal.
In 2018 Shimano decided to improve an already excellent product: this is how the new Shimano 105 R7000 came to be, the groupset takes technologies and looks from more expensive components and brings them to a more accessible price range.
Shimano surprised us and sent us the new groupset, which we immediately mounted on our Cannondale CAAD with great enthusiasm and we took it out on the road for testing…
I thought R5800 is an elegant and good looking groupset, but after first contact with R7000 I have discovered there was great effort put into the new components, specially the crankset and STI levers. But next to looks there’s some interesting technical changes that we are about to analyze.
The STI combined levers are the most important components of the groupset and they suffered the biggest changes. Their ergonomics was greatly improved. The lever body is thinner and more ergonomic and it’s rubber hood has anti slip thread, so now it looks a lot like Ultegra. That’s where the looks of the lever itself is also taken, which is now a shiny grey with Shimano 105 written along it. Otherwise the levers keep their precise shifting that we are accustomed to.
The crankset, the second element that gives the groupset it’s visual identity, was radically changed and now it looks a lot more like it’s more expensive counterpart, Ultegra.It is available in it’s usual combinations: Clasic – 53/39, Semicompact – 52/36 and Compact – 50/34. There are no subcompact or cyclocross versions for now. But still, the 3 available combinations should cover any cyclists needs. Functionally, there are changes to the smaller chainring which now allows wider tires without touching the chain, but also allows shorter chainstays, two important aspects for modern bikes. The 743 gr weight for semicompact version, that we tested, is very good! We have also noticed less friction on the crank arms than previous models which started to loose their pain if we did not protect them.
The front derailleur was also changed in this direction, to allow wider tires. Shimano recommends using it together with the new crankset because little changes in it’s geometry cause some problems for older derailleurs.
An absolute novelty is a small screw that allows setting up tension in the cable, all experimented cyclists know that because this was missing, the front derailleur was always harder to set up.
The rear derailleur suffered major changes, the biggest being adding the Shadow technology. This system, specific to MTB components, allows the entire derailleur body to be placed more inward, toward the wheel, thus reducing the risk of hitting it. If until lately this was nonsense for a road bike, the latest trends of adapting a road bike for off road conditions probably convinced Shimano to move in this direction also. Another change for the Shadow system is where the cable enters the derailleur, now a more direct route reduces the length of the cable which offers off road bikes better resistance to mud and water, very useful for cyclocross and gravel bikes. It is available in SS (short cage for 11-25 and 11-30 cassettes) and GS (long cage that can serve a 11-34 cassette).
The cassette, receives next to the classic versions of 11-28/30/32 and 12-25 a new version of 11-36. The novelty here being that it contains a spacer that can be removed so the cassette can be used on a mountain bike, generally this being impossible for 11 speed road cassettes. The chain is still one sided but is treated with SIL-TEC on the inside which reduces friction when changing gears.
The brakes, received a new look, similar to Ultegra, more aerodynamic and better rigidity. 105 brakes always seemed to me the starting point of advanced braking, the previous model being everything you needed to descend confidently even the most challenging mountain roads. The new version, next to it’s great looks keep the same great braking performance, maybe a bit improved but hard to put into numbers. Also, in order to adapt to latest trends, depending on frame geometry, they allow the use of wider tires.
105 pedals were always a great piece of technology, the previous version being carbon built. Now, they shed some weight but haven’t lost any of their performance. I prefer Shimano SPD-SL compared to Look, I believe they are more rigid and simpler to use, but the cleats are more complex and prone to being consumed faster.
In conclusion, the new 105, R700, is definitely more beautiful, more modern and more ergonomic than the old R5800, working at least as good as the old groupset. It is however more suitable to gravel bikes, it allows for wider tires and a more modern frame geometry. I don’t believe there are any technical needs to move from R5800 to R7000 but there are definitely esthetical reasons. From this year also, Shimano 105 is still the benchmark for amateur performance groupsets, but now better looking and more versatile.
- crankset: 714-158 gr
- shifters: 251 gr
- Rear derailleur: 225-232 gr
- Front derailleur: 95 gr
- cassette: 269-379 gr
- chain: 252 gr
- brakes: 348 gr
- pedals: 265 gr
In total, the new groupset is 150 gr lighter than the old one.