New Dura-Ace: Inspired by Classic Technology?

A few days ago Shimano presented their new Dura-Ace group. Many reports focused on Shimano finally matching Campagnolo with 11-speed rear cassettes. To me, other features are more significant: The group reintroduces a lot of classic technology.

Look at the brakes and the pivot location: The new Dura-Ace brakes are essentially centerpull brakes. (The actuation of the Dura-Ace is different, so you don’t need a cable hanger, but what matters is where the lower pivots are located.) Shimano claims that the relocated pivots bring more stopping power and better modulation, which echoes why we prefer centerpull brakes.

Not only does Shimano offer a centerpull brake, but they even offer it for use with brazed-on pivots. From back in the very first issue of Bicycle Quarterly, we have advocated brazed-on pivots to reduce flex and improve stopping power. This also reduces the weight and makes the brakes more elegant. In Shimano’s case, the main advantage appears to be the ability to tuck the brake into the fork crown of time trial bikes. I think it will only be a matter of time until the brazed-on (or glued-on) pivots will show up on road bikes as well.

The new Dura-Ace brakes also are optimized for wider rims – following the trend of professional racers toward wider (25 mm) tires. I am afraid that they still won’t fit over a 32 mm tire with fenders, much less a Grand Bois Hetre, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The cranks are interesting, too, because they only offer a single “Compact” bolt-circle diameter. Just a few months ago, I wrote that it made little sense to offer different bolt-circles for “standard” and “compact” cranks. Shimano obviously agrees, and if you want a “standard” 53/39 chainring combination, you simply put larger chainrings on your “compact” cranks. Shimano also eliminated a spider arm, figuring that five was more than needed.* Maybe in a few years, they’ll remove another arm and reduce the bolt-circle further, to arrive at a modern version of the René Herse cranks?

* When you look carefully, you see that the arms aren’t equally spaced. Shimano’s marketing information states that they don’t need to support the rings during the dead spots of the pedal stroke, when power output is greatly reduced.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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22 Responses to New Dura-Ace: Inspired by Classic Technology?

  1. New classic technology?

  2. Steve Palincsar says:

    Do you think these new “center pull” Dura Ace brakes will have the same “pads rise towards the tires as they wear” issue other center pulls have?

    • Yes, they do – there is no way around it. Modern pads are thinner, so they don’t rise as much before they are worn out, but you just have to watch your pads as they wear. With deep-dish aero rims, you might be able to set the pads lower on the rim… I prefer that over brakes that don’t work well.

      • Fred Blasdel says:

        You cannot set the pads any lower on any of the modern deep aero rims without destroying them in very short order — the carbon outside the defined brake track is extremely thin + unsupported (elastic to the touch!) and also not built with special resins to handle the heat.

        Besides, the recent generations of most of the majors get wider and convex immediately below the brake track for aerodynamic reasons, and most of the other designs slope inward immediately instead.

      • I was thinking of aluminum rims. With carbon rims, you have all kinds of braking issues.

  3. Chris Lowe says:

    I think one other advantage of these hybrid center pull brakes is that two mounting bolts might work better on carbon forks. Always seemed a bit sketchy to have the legs and steer tube all meet in one place then drill a hole right through that junction and bolt on a front brake. BTW brazed/glued on pivots have returned. Both Trek and BMC have started building bikes with them. Hincapie is currently riding a BMC and Cancellara is on a Trek. In both cases the rear brake has been placed down behind the bottom bracket.

    • I saw that – seems like my prediction of racing bikes going to integrated pivots is coming true sooner than I thought… I wish the pivot size was the same as for the old centerpulls. Then you could run a set of Mafac Competition brakes on your Trek Madone and impress everybody with your sub-100 g brakes! And get superb stopping and modulation, too, unlike some “weight-weenie” brakes available today.

      • Alex says:

        Why hasn’t anyone started manufacturing the Mafac brakes again? (hint hint). It can’t be rocket science . . . companies such as Tektro (brakes), Nitto and VP (pedals) routinely produce excellent products after suggestions/designs by people such as yourself or Grant P. Is the name and design still protected/ held by anyone not willing to give it up?

      • wolber says:

        Alex, both Paul and Dia-Compe make a centerpull brake that is a reasonable facsimile of the Mafac Racer.

    • Fred Blasdel says:

      I’m not sure there are any drilled full-carbon forks that pass the EN test regime, especially not with straight 9/8″ steerers.

      The brake hole is generally part of the mold, so even with construction technique where a wound steerer tube is cut and bonded into the crown with extra mass crammed in the bottom, the hole is pretty insignificant. On high end forks there aren’t any subassemblies and the fibers are continuous from the dropouts through the crown and up the steerer, so the hole is nearly irrelevant.

      These direct-mount calipers sure will be cool to integrate on custom bikes, but in practice their use on production bikes works very directly against the real-world goals of BQ and friends — to what could you attach fenders? You could use velcro under the fork crown, but several implementations so far don’t have anything seatstay bridges…

      • If you want fenders on your bike, you probably will be happiest with a bike designed for fenders. The tabs that attach to the brake bolt aren’t a good solution. I am not holding my breath to see Trek design their Madones for easy integration of fenders, unless there is a “GT” category of racing some day that requires them. Then they suddenly would become cool…

  4. Hamish says:

    The new Trek Domane has fender mounts supposedly.

  5. Trek already make a Madone that takes ‘fenders’.. it’s their 3 series. I love the aesthetics of the new Dura-Ace, particularly the crankset and, in typical Shimano fashion, the lack of boy-racer garish graphics.

    • Glad you like the look of the new Dura-Ace. To me, the two-color paint job with “speed lines” is pretty far removed from the “form follows function” aesthetic that makes bicycles so visually appealing.

      • Steve Palincsar says:

        These days, I think “form follows function” can be translated as “as long as the bike still rolls down the road and sells well, it doesn’t matter how ugly it is.”

  6. GuitarSlinger says:

    These new bits from Shimano look as good as they’ll no doubt function . I’m thinking these might not look out of place even on the most classic of frames : assuming function being the priority over ” purist ” ideals . Perhaps Cycling considering taking a page out of the current Hot Rod & Custom scene of the ” Resto Rod ” ? ( classic looks with modern technology ) Now that seriously appeals to me . A stunning classic steel ( for the ride ) frame with modern bits hung off it . And back in my Serotta , Colnago etc days 25c was my tire of choice …… so not such a huge compromise in comfort and stability .

    Hmmmmn . This has the thought processes jumping . Perhaps its time to move on from my current ride ? Hmmmmn .

    • It’s interesting that you equate the swoopy “character lines” of the new Dura-Ace with function. They do not reflect the stresses that the components are subjected to, but the desires of the marketing department to match on an equally swoopy Orbea frame.

      If you want function, the old Mafac Competition brake shown in the post is at least 33% lighter than the Dura-Ace, while essentially offering the same function. If you used titanium bolts on the Mafac, the advantage would increase further. The Mafac brake is a functional design: The lower arms are beefy to resist the twisting as the brake pads are dragged along by the rim. The upper arms are tall and slim, since they only are stressed in one plane by the cable pulling upward. There is nothing except the logo that does not serve a clearly defined function.

      I bet that the new Dura-Ace cranks are heavier than an old (or new, for that matter) René Herse crank, even though the BB with its huge, hollow spindle is lighter (but has much smaller bearings).

      I think the new Dura Ace’s appearance has been inspired more by modern car design than by function. I have no doubt that the components will work well, but the appearance of modern bicycles no longer reflects the engineering and function that underlies them. But then, most hot rod cars aren’t about function and performance any longer, either.

      • marmotte27 says:

        I feel exactly as you do about most modern frames and components, especially Shimano. Round about 2005 I started to find all the bikes in cycling magazines really ugly, which coincidentally corresponds to the complete dissappearance of steel as a mainstream frame material. The stiffness-craze had taken over.

        How refreshing therefore to discover BQ and the fact that there were not only aesthetic reasons to prefer the bikes I like but also technical ones.

        Nowadays even Campagnolo are making less and less really aesthetic components, apart maybre from the Athena groupset which is even nicer than my 2007 Centaur. I find myself more and more drawn towards randonneur bikes who nowadays represent the real beauty in the cycling world.

      • GuitarSlinger says:

        Well seeing as how I’m a function first , form second kind of a guy , your words and advice as to other equipment options are well worth considering .

        ( I am …. if I haven’t said this in an earlier comment ; an Adherent to the Shaker Philosophy of : First make it work … then make it as beautiful as possible without diminishing its functionality one single bit )

        So maybe a new/old Classic steel frame with a mixture of past and present ( not all from the majors ) equipment ?

        As to my comment on Shimano’s ‘ functionality , that had nothing to do with the Dura Ace’s looks ( I only said it looks good ) and rather everything to do with my previous experiences with the brand vs Mavic,Campy etc ( e.g. more reliable and durable ) All my past experiences adding up to the conclusion /assumption ( possibly wrong ) that this new Dura Ace package would live up to its previous reputation

        Believe it or not Jan , I am , despite having been such a supporter of all things Moulton in the past , am considering the possibility of making the change back to a diamond frame bike . steel as stated and therefore am considering carefully what mix of components to place on said bike .

        Partly for the beauty of the diamond ‘classic ‘ frame , partly because I’m a bit tired of standing out as well as having to track down tires bags etc for a rare bird , and partly due to my keeping up with your site and you’re reminding me unwittingly just how much I’m missing a good ol’ diamond frame under my buns

  7. Conrad says:

    I prefer the looks of polished aluminum. The reason for anodized or painted black parts is to match the aesthetic of black carbon fiber, or because it is cheaper to finish them that way?
    I was disappointed but not at all surprised to see that Shimano went to an 11 speed cassette. Drives me crazy to see that. Every time the chain gets thinner it is weaker and less durable. I get twice as many miles from an 8 speed compared to a 9 speed chain. I have seen Campagnolo Record 11 speed cassettes for nearly 500 bucks! Can someone tell me what advantage there is to having an 11 speed cassette (versus 10, or really even 9?) Besides neutral support at races. I’m screwed there with my 9 speed cassettes. And as Jan said somewhere else, if you have to change a wheel in an amateur race it is doubtful you’ll make it back to the pack anyway.

    • There are two reasons for anodizing: The most important is protection against corrosion. That is especially important for 7000-series aluminum, which otherwise can suffer from stress corrosion cracking. However, you need to make sure the anodizing stays intact, otherwise, you still have the problem.

      Most modern Shimano parts appear to be painted, not anodized. That is a cheaper finish than polishing, but I think the main reason is fashion. The lighter colors appear to be printed, similar to a rubber stamp. It’s not an easy process to manage on a part with a complex shape, but after the initial investment, you can produce large numbers with minimal labor.

  8. Kevin Humphreys says:

    Shimano’s 600 chainset was originally 3 arm:
    http://www.velobase.com/ViewComponent.aspx?ID=4BC1BB89-8749-4F24-AB72-2C3CBB7DAB42&Enum=115&AbsPos=9
    I wonder why they changed to 5 and whether they’ll ever get back to 3?

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