Clues to Shimano's Future Development

Shimano released two new groupsets today in a major overhaul of its product. I cover that elsewhere. But hang with me for a few paragraphs on this brand’s nomenclature, because I think there is a tell for the numerologists among us.

Shimano has two naming conventions when it refers to its groupsets. There is the model name, and we know these, do we not? Dura Ace, Ultegra, 105, GRX, SLX and so on. These don’t change much. But yesterday’s Dura Ace is different from today’s so, Shimano chooses to differentiate between groupset editions by adding letters and numbers to the names of components.

Today Shimano released Dura Ace R9200. The R in R9200 is for road. Mountain bike groupsets begin with M, and the M9100 is the current XTR groupset manufactured.

Electronic shifting is given the suffix “50”, so, Dura Ace derailleurs are given the numerical designation 9250, and today’s newly launched Ultegra derailleurs bear the numerical designation 8150. Mechanical stuff like chains, cranks and cassettes retain the double-ought numerical scheme: 9200 and 8100 respectively. Anything with hydraulic brakes, which include brakesets and wheelsets, are suffixed “70”, so, 9270 and 8170 respectively.

Each has some letters in front of the part identifier, BR for brakes, CS for cassette, and so on. So, an Ultegra brakeset would be, in Shimano’s parlance, BR-R8170. The BR in BR-R8170 is for brakeset; and the R8170 means “road” and the “8100” vintage). Had you purchased current model Ultegra yesterday, before today’s launch, you’d have been buying BR-R8070, because as of yesterday that was Shimano’s current Ultegra hydraulic road brakeset.

A Dura Ace cassette in this new groupset would be CS-R9200 because it’s a cassette, it’s a road product, it’s 9200 series and “double ought” because a cassette is mechanical, not hydraulic or electronic. A rear derailleur would be RD-R9250: rear derailleur, road, and if it’s “50” its electronic, so, the 9250 series.

You might think the shifters would be given the “50” designation because they control electronic shifting, but a new Dura Ace shifter is ST-R9270 because, remember, it’s also part of the hydraulic brake system.

This Dura Ace series, 9200 replaces 9100/9150, which replaced 9000/9050, and these major updates occur at pretty regular 4- or 5-year intervals, plus or minus a year (9000 was launched in early 2012, 9100 in 2016).

The other piece of nomenclature is not a part of any part label or designation, it’s descriptive of a technology, like Servo Wave in its hydraulic brakesets. Shimano’s electronic shifting technology it calls Di2, and which stands for Digital Integrated Intelligence.

There is one intriguing element to the nomenclature in today’s launch and it’s this if you’ll hang for another paragraph. For the last decade, prior to today’s launch, Shimano always launched a groupset with both a mechanical and an electronic version. So, with Dura Ace, you had mechanical 9000, launched in 2012, along with 9070 (this was the designation for electronic at that time). These were Shimano’s first 11-speed groups. Ultegra’s 11-speed was launched a year later, with 6800 and 6870 (Di2). In 2016 Dura Ace 9100 came out, which was mechanical, along with 9150, and with that launch the electronic suffix was moved to “50” from “70”, and that “70” became the suffix attached to anything hydraulic. A year later Ultegra 8000 came out (mechanical) and 8050 (electronic). When you bought a groupset, if you bought a group with electronic shifting you bought a 9150 or 8050 groupset. If you bought those groups as mechanical shifting, you bought a 9100 or 8000 groupset.

With today’s launch, the groupsets are 9200 and 8100, Dura Ace and Ultegra respectively. If you follow Shimano’s convention, that should be the groupset designation for the mechanical versions of those groups. If you want an electronically shifted version of those groupsets you should be asking for 8150 and 9250. But… no. There is no mechanical version of Ultegra and Dura Ace launched today. Those 9250 and 8150 numerical designations only attach to derailleurs, that I’ve seen, and will attach to little else. The groupsets are simply, and only, 9200 and 8100. There’s really no place to go, in the nomenclature, for mechanical shifting for these groupsets.

Of course you never know, and I may live to have egg on my face over this, but my clearest read of the body language, as expressed by Shimano’s naming conventions, is with this launch we’ve seen the last of Dura Ace and Ultegra mechanical groupsets.