Every year or so Shimano sets up shop in a Manhattan hotel to display their wares to the media elite and hoi polloi, and I dutifully shuffle my way over for some off season content for the site. This year’s invitation came with the promise of a lap of Central Park on Ultegra Di2, so I was doubly excited. Little did I realize that my +1 and I would be showered with an obscene amount of schwag – shoes and pedals for me, jackets, multi tools, tires for both of us. So in the interest of full disclosure let me tell you that some of my take will be donated as prizes for our roller party/junior fundraiser, but the shoes and pedals will have to be pried from my cold dead toes. Hey, I’m only human, a human that likes schwag.
So here’s the shots of Shimano’s wares, be sure to look with a jaundiced eye.
A nice little torque wrench for $120.
Cute little multi tool. We’ll give away one of these at the roller party.
Pro components continue to expand, and will include components designed for specific riders, like a stem made just for Cavendish.
35mm deep carbon tubulars. 1346 grams, $2,200.
The carbon/aluminum clincher is 1664 grams, also $2,200.
Tubeless comes to the Ultegra level. Unlike their Dura Ace counterparts, these are not clad in carbon. 1651 grams, $700.
Dura Ace carbon pedal. Carbon trickles down to Ultegra as well, for $300 instead of $400.
I have an older version of these SPD sandals which I love for getting around in the summer. The new version has a more supportive upper that should produce even freakier tan lines.
The top of the line SH-R315 heat moldable shoe, $380.
The SH-R191, not moldable, $220.
The SH-R241, moldable, $300.
Two of the moldable pieces in the uppers.
The inside of the heel cup has a cat’s tongue fabric that’s smooth when your heel slides in, rough on the way out. This and the moldable cup keeps your foot locked in.
Velcro straps are staggered to avoid pressure spots.
My shoes getting easy baked.
A tube gets strapped to the shoe, a bag goes over your foot, a strap closes everything up and the air gets sucked out. The pressure is surprisingly strong – this isn’t ‘uncomfortable’, it’s downright painful.
Plastic toecaps cover the front so the toe area stays nice and roomy. Those red stickers can be added to the bottom of the insoles to build up the arches.
All done. 3 rides in and they make me want to ditch my beloved Lakes. I used to wonder how ‘custom’ the fit could be if only the uppers are moldable (Lakes and Bonts have moldable soles), but I’m a believer now. The fit is perfect – nice and roomy in the toes, snug around the heel. The pedal platform is way more stable than Speedplays. The insoles didn’t give me enough arch support, even with the add-on stickers, so I went back to my trusty Sole inserts. Complaints? The ratchet is pretty straightforward, I wish it had Sidi’s half-click release. They’re also much harder to clip into for a Speedplay convert.
Finally we get to Ultegra Di2. These aluminum levers are one of the ways Shimano kept the price down.
Wiring is improved on Ultegra Di2 (the next Dura Ace Di2 will use this style wiring). The connectors are waterproof without heat shrink tubing, and the wires themselves are thinner. The entire system can be plugged into a diagnostic tool to check for troubleshooting, and you can reprogram the buttons if you want.
The front derailer is also the brains of the operation. Di2 does some smart things like auto trim the front derailer to avoid chain rub. For shifts into the big ring, Di2 overshifts before settling back. Dropping down, Di2 gently eases the chain down before completing its motion. This should lessen the chance of chain drop compared to mechanical shifting, which simply slams the derailer down to the lower limit stop.
Another way Shimano reduced cost for Ultegra was by sourcing existing motors instead of making their own. The Ultegra rear derailer is quite a bit clunkier than Dura Ace.
This Orbea was made specifically for Di2 and had super clean wiring.
We took the bikes out for a lap of Central Park, and Di2 performed just as advertised – it’s quick and accurate, and requires less finesse from the rider. My +1 declared it as good as Dura Ace Di2′. Its best feature, however, is the $1600 price tag for an upgrade kit.