Simon says: why I lament the obvious demise of high-end mechanical groupsets

With the launch of Shimano 105 Di2 R7150, high-end mechanical groupsets seem more likely to be a part of rim brakes as an out of date know-how for efficiency street bikes.

It has been over three years since one of many three main producers (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo) introduced a brand new mechanical street groupset, whereas we have seen the introduction of 4 digital groupsets within the interim.

There are undoubtedly some clear benefits to battery-powered gearing on bikes, particularly these designed for going quick.

However with the most cost effective digital groupsets (105 Di2 R7150 and SRAM Rival eTap AXS) costing greater than double what their mechanical predecessors did, I am nonetheless not satisfied they are a delicate funding for the performance-conscious rider on a price range.

Fancy gears do not make you any sooner

Digital groupsets might look cool, however they will not make you a sooner rider.

Digital groupsets can avoid wasting weight, the ergonomics could be nicer, and their cutting-edge tech is extra more likely to make different cyclists look admiringly at your prized possession each time you are taking it out.

They often make organising a motorcycle simpler, too, and customarily require much less upkeep, which is not one thing to be sniffed at in the age of internally routed all the pieces.

To get very particular, having to take away (after which later reinstall) the gear cables on my time trial bike merely to check out a special set of aero extensions is a trouble I might gladly be rid of.

For essentially the most half, nevertheless, having an costly, digital drivetrain does not make your bike any sooner.

105 R7000 is, essentially, nonetheless a fantastic groupset.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Crucially, somebody utilizing Shimano 105 R7000, Ultegra R8000 or Dura Ace R9100 (the newest – ​​and probably final – era of high-end mechanical street groupsets from Shimano) would not have been meaningfully deprived in a race situation in comparison with somebody utilizing their digital equivalents, Ultegra Di2 R8070 or Dura Ace Di2 R9150.

With the distinction in value between mechanical 105 R7020 and the brand new 105 Di2 R7150 being round £900 at RRP, a bicycle owner with the price range for 105 Di2 would have a big quantity left to spend on issues that may make a far better distinction to efficiency ( equivalent to aerodynamic biking package, virtually tyres and aero wheels), by choosing the mechanical groupset.

It will be a disgrace if the choice to spec up a high-performance, budget-friendly street bike on this means is not a viable choice for for much longer.

Simon has by no means felt held again through the use of a mechanical 105 rear derailleur on his time trial bike.
Simon Bromley / Instant Media

In any case, after I flip as much as an occasion, I would gaze longingly on the odd Large Trinity or Trek Velocity ​​Ideaand really feel my Planet X Exocet 2 is a small handicap, however I by no means really feel my mechanical 105 R7000 rear derailleur is holding me again.

I am not setting the world of time trials alight, in fact, however we want look no additional than the modestly specced Rose X-Lite utilized by Tom Bell to win the 2021 Nationwide Hill Climb Championships.

With its Shimano Ultegra R8000 rear derailleur and shifters, its drivetrain prices a fraction of an digital equal, but the efficiency of these parts was clearly adequate to compete at a particularly excessive stage.

What are our choices?

SRAM nonetheless affords three high-end mechanical groupsets, however all are getting a little bit outdated.
Robert Smith / Instant Media

If 105 Di2 does symbolize the tip of the road for high-end mechanical street groupsets, what choices does the budget-conscious bicycle owner have left?

In the interim, inventory of present parts will seemingly proceed to be out there (throughout the limits of the continued International provide chain disaster).

SRAM lists three mechanical groupsets (Drive 22, Rival 22 and Apex) as a part of its present product vary, though these groupsets are all considerably lengthy within the tooth.

Likewise, it is doable producers (whether or not the massive three, or smaller corporations equivalent to rotor) are engaged on new mechanical street groupsets we’re merely but to listen to about.

Even when we do see a brand new mechanical street bike groupset from Campagnolo, I anticipate it will not be that reasonably priced.
Matthew Loveridge / Instant Media

Campagnolo, for instance, confirmed its dedication to mechanical with the launch of its Ekar 13-speed gravel groupset in 2020.

Might we see options from that groupset carried over to the Italian model’s subsequent street groupset?

Campagnolo Refrain 12-speed May be an interesting choice, however its RRP of round £1,600 (for the disc brake model) is firmly in digital groupset territory, and subsequently probably not what we’re searching for right here.

Good ol’ Tiagra and Sora should not be neglected.
Oliver Woodman / Instant Media

Alternatively, then, it is maybe value acknowledging that the mid- to lower-range mechanical groupsets supplied by the likes of Shimano are additionally glorious.

Group units equivalent to Tigra 4700 different Sora R3000 provide glorious bang for buck.

Would I be any slower if I used both of these drivetrains on my race bike? Most likely not. 9- and 10-speed groupsets had been, in any case, as soon as the head of street biking know-how.

Are both of these two more likely to discover their approach to my race bike? Most likely not. Shamefully, I am an excessive amount of of a snob.

You by no means know, although. Earlier than I used 105 R7000, I used to swear by Ultegra for my ‘race’ bikes. Instances change.

Will I ever go electrical?

I will not deny 105 Di2 makes the lure of an digital groupset extra tempting than ever.

As somebody who loves new bike tech, I am positively the target market, and may fully perceive why so many cyclists have already taken the plunge.

The worth-to-performance ratio nonetheless feels onerous to justify personally, however the hole is closing quickly and if the know-how finally turns into accessible at a fair cheaper price level (or BikeRadar’s head honchos give yours actually an inflation-busting pay rise), then I will undoubtedly be eager.

Within the meantime, although, I will be cleansing my bike, waxing my chains and eking out each final kilometer from my mechanical drivetrains, hoping this is not their final hurrah.

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