The road cycling world was expecting a revolution when Shimano announced their mid-level but highly acclaimed 105 groupset will go electronic, with the new 105 Di2 groupset. 105 have been the groupset that defined price and functionality level, and feared the competition, being the best bang for the buck. Logically, the R7100 series could be the milestone that will democratize the electronic groupset for the masses. Why not? Shimano could destroy the competition, as they have advantage of mass producing fast and cheaper then others, especially Campagnolo. Even the FSA would not be relevant anymore – I doubt it is, now.
Unfortunately, 105 Di2 groupset, at least the first iteration of it, R7100 series, have been a major miss for most.
Shimano 105 Di2 groupset price: it is not cheap.
The main selling point of mechanical 105 groupset is, it offers great value for the price. Now, 105 Di2 costs 1300€ in some discount sites. R7100 groupset costs ~1900$ in USA, which is 800$ cheaper than Ultegra 8100 Di2, and almost half the price of Dura Ace 9200 Di2. Is it cheap enough? I doubt so. SRAM Rival eTap AXS with disc brakes costs %30 cheaper, but aso 300 gr heavier. Is it expensive, under such circumstances? Compared to other electronic groupset options, it’s not expensive, but not cheap, too – I’d probably buy SRAM Rival eTap instead, 300 gr is no huge deal for me, probably for most of the world, too – or, pay extra 800$ for the Ultegra 8100 Di2.
Thing is, people were expecting a revolutionary electronic groupset that will cost as much as a mechanical groupset. That didn’t happen, and I doubt won’t in the future, unless Chinese manufacturers come up with great products. Actually, making a electronic groupset is cheaper, because you don’t have to make precise, tiny, mechanical parts like shifter parts. We’ re paying the premium over mechanical, just to have something “different”.
Shimano released the previous mechanical 105 groupset, R7000, almost 5 years ago, and was about 1000$. You get extra 1 gear: R7000 was 11 speed, while R7100 is 12 speed. And let’s not forget the inflation. I believe 105 Di2 will entirely replace the mechanical 105 groupset, and the price will be around 1200-1300$ in the long run, or maybe less. So, with this prices, it’s somewhat a win for roadies, and totally a win for Shimano. But trying to sell this at 1800$ is not possible, and would be a huge setback for Shimano. People would probably go SRAM Rival eTap for cheaper, or look for cheaper mechanical Campagnolo options like 2×12 Chorus, which is under 1000$ – that would left Shimano out in the cold, because they don’t have any replacement for mechanical 105, which to me, a bad marketing decision.
Is 105 Di2 7100 wireless? I mean, really wireless ?
No. It’ s semi wireless. Is it a big setback? This depends on your choices. For me? Yes.
Why? I’m picky. I want freedom of choice. Paying 1800$ for a groupset doesn’t mean I wear pink bibs, or buy the latest carbon fiber frame with a crooked bottom bracket. I may want to install this on my Bianchi Caurus frame, made before 105 ever existed. I never thought I’d choose SRAM over Shimano, especially in a road groupset, but being both cheaper and really wireless, it’s a no brainer for upgrades.
But there is also another way for Shimano, like phasing out 105 as a off-the-shelf groupset, but rather, making it the most viable electronic groupset for ready-to-buy bikes. If they can supply R7100 at a really good price, bike makers would be after it. Imagine 2 bike makers, having same image and price, one having electronic groupset. That’s a great leverage. And generally, that’s what Shimano does – make deals, and make groupsets rain, while others try to compete.
Does 105 R7100 have rim brakes? No – like your new frame…
I’m not a fan of disc brakes, probably said this a million times. Yet, I’m not stupid. Disc brakes are even worse for road bikes, but will become the norm in the blink of an eye, so get used to it. Even the cheapest frame, made in China in the basement of 2 high school students, will have disc brake mounts, very soon.
So, whether we like it or not, we won’t have a choice of brakes, unless it’s disc brakes. Under such circumstances, I do not complain. I just cry silently.
You can have brain damage, easily.
We have thick skulls to protect our brains, and cage made out of bones to protect our hearts: because if any of the two gets damaged, game over. So, where would you put the main controller, the brain of the system in an electronic groupset? Right, yes! Rear derailleur, of course. The most vulnerable, statistically most damaged part, the one that has no chance of repair.
Another major no for 105 R7100 for me. We are talking about the part that is over 300$, and double the price of the front derailleur, which is the obvious choice to place the “brains” in.
The electronics of the electronic groupset
Each of the shifter takes 2 CR1632 batteries, that is advertised as good for 3.5 to 4 years. I highly doubt that, my Swiss watch with the best battery, which is also Swiss, Renata, does not last that long. And that watch has some clever features like going into sleep mode, and stopping any watch movement.
I hate seeing these batteries in all wireless shifters. I know they’re handy to use, but lots of extra pollutants for the environment, for a sport that is meant to be eco-friendly. Not just that, too: silly, PTFE-loaded chain lubes, lots of grease overuse, lots of plastic clothing…
Funny thing is, Di2 cannot integrate with Hammerhead Karoo anymore. You know why? Because SRAM bought Hammerhead. That’s not fair, SRAM.
The electronic system uses a BT-DN300 battery, which is common amongst all Di2 groupsets. And also, 2 wires to connect derailleurs to this battery unit.
I highly doubt this groupset has anything different than Ultegra 8100 Di2.
So, the system works this way: shifters send shift signals to a receiver, conveniently placed in the rear derailleur, which is also connected to a battery placed in the seatpost. BT-DN300 battery is also connected to the front derailleur. So each cable both carries current and electronic signals.
The battery is charged from the rear derailleur, with a proprietary cable.
105 R7100, in mechanical terms
We are gradually seeing cassettes getting bigger, so are the rear derailleur cages. RD-R7150 is the only rear derailleur option, with a 300 gr of weight and blunt design. This derailleur can handle 11-36 cassettes. Yes. The cassette is the max option for MTB maybe a decade ago. If you want to rush out and buy the cassette, the model number is CS-HG710-12. 12 speed, 11-36. The good thing about cassettes is, they fit 11-speed freehubs. The standard cassette option is 11-34.
I sometimes laugh at what the industry and media is doing, if I’m under sedatives. First, they come up with compact road doubles, saying triples are garbage – then they found out most people cannot ride with them. So, they brought the biggest cassette they made a decade ago. Brilliant.
There is no 11-28 or 11-25 cassette available now, for the groupset that is meant for road bikes.
Disc brakes are improved, as they say, but how? By increasing pad clearance by 10%. Wow. Isn’t that a confession that disc brakes rub? It all started with Dura Ace, I mean, fixing the problem they created. It’s also noted that initial contact is now faster. In brake-speak, that means, higher diameter master cylinder (brake lever) pistons. To compensate for pad clearance, I believe stroke should be increased a bit, too. Shifters look ugly, as all hydraulic shifters look, but it’s still impressive to fit a bigger master cylinder into such cramped volume.
The crankset of choice is FC-R7100, which is nearly 200$ – if you want something cheaper, out-of-series FC-RS520 comes to the rescue, which is 1/3 cheaper. Not bad. The biggest chainring front derailleur permits is 52T, and 16T difference. So, the theoretical limit is like, 52-36t.
What 105 Di2 groupset means for Shimano, and roadies in general ?
I think it made Ultegra Di2 obsolete for most people: 2 derailleurs are only 70 gr lighter at Ultegra, shifters? Like 70 grs. So, 800$ extra for 140ish grams. Many people would probably mix and match cranks and chains, then buy 105 Di2 upgrade kit, still cheaper and better than Ultegra. If we ever see 105 Di2 upgrade kit, which is basically only electronic parts with no other mechanical parts included (like cranksets, chains, cassettes, etc)
On the other hand, 105 Di2 is a valuable OEM tool for bike makers. Eventually, this will create a pressure on both bike makers and Shimano to lower prices, because most people will shy away from a 105 Di2 equipped bike, which is over 1000$ expensive then mechanical 105 bike.
Should SRAM or Campagnolo worry ?
In a circuit race, especially in foul weather or poor visibility, being in second place is the best thing, because who’s leading the race should be much more careful and tackle every problem first – you just observe the tail lights, and its movement. And in the event of a failure, you just pass. Leading the race is always a big pressure.
I think Shimano will make electronic groupset market much bigger, which others cannot do by themselves. In return, it would be Shimano who is getting the hit most: if there were no electronic groupsets, Shimano would be #1 by a huge margin, and keep it that way. It has better front shifting than SRAM, better shifters than SRAM, better cranks than SRAM, lighter than SRAM, and cheaper than Campagnolo, and better than most categories compared to Campagnolo. But electronics evens it out – mostly. You can easily compensate for where you fail, thanks to electronics: cars with crappy brakes became much more driveable with ABS, for example. And ESP was a game changer.
Should we worry as customers ?
Yes. We will have 2 points of failure instead of 1: mechanical failures is still a thing, now count in the electronics, too. Reliability will improve over time, though.
The first impact will be inflated prices, and perfectly fine bike frames piling up in waste, just because they don’t have disc mounts or compatible seat tubes to carry batteries.
Repairs and maintenance will be more expensive too, batteries will fail in a few years, derailleur motors or their flimsy cogs will break, and in 105 Di2, broken rear derailleurs will cost a lot.