We sit down with company bosses in Japan to discuss future plans

With its position as the world’s biggest component manufacturer, we’re always keen to see what Shimano has up its sleeve, so the chance to travel to Japan to ask the company bosses what was around the corner was one not to be missed.

>>> Shimano: we’ve tested wireless shifting but there’s no demand for it

We sat down with Takao Harada from Shimano’s component division to ask where next for Shimano in 2016 and beyond.

Shimano 105 Di2?

The obvious place to start might be Di2 for Shimano 105. Making an electronic version of the ever-popular groupset available for the masses might seem like a no-brainer, but Shimano wants to ensure it not only hits a price point but also is useful to a large volume of the cycling community.

>>> Are electronic groupsets necessary?

“That is our dream, yes, because that is better for the rider who just joined cycling and who just started to ride on the the road,” Harada explained. “If we make higher quality, yes, if we make 105 electronic, we will attract more customers.”

Watch: Shimano Ultegra review

“Now Ultegra and Dura-Ace Di2 work for the product man, the more dedicated pro racers and enthusiast. But if we make 105 we don’t just put the price down, we try to give more value.  We should be thinking of how we give enjoyment [to the rider].”

>>> Patent reveals what the new Shimano Dura-Ace groupset might look like

So it seems that Shimano is mainly concerned about making electronic 105 better value rather than just bringing out a cheaper version of Ultegra Di2. But Harada says that the company isn’t concerned with any possible future release taking sales away from its more expensive options.

“No, we don’t think about it. How we give the benefit to our customers is the most important.”

A women-specific groupset?

A curve ball when visiting Shimano was Harada’s “dream” to create a more comfortable cockpit for women cyclists with different specs to the men’s version, like smaller gearing and suitable ergonomics to increase comfort and confidence.

>>> Are women-specific bikes necessary?

“It’s my dream [to make more women’s product]. Once the rider puts it on their bikes, how does it feel more comfortable? Especially for grip, the cockpit, how do we give a comfortable ride. Now Dura-Ace and Ultegra mechanical and Di2 works well, but our next step is what works well for ladies. We want to create a more comfortable cockpit.”

We’ve been told ideally this would follow the same model as the men’s format, having performance ranges like Dura-Ace and Ultegra, whilst also creating more wallet friendly and robust options like 105 and Tiagra.

Power meters built in to groupsets?

Shimano has been talking power meters within its own product since 2008. This could mean – following the product launch cycle – that we could expect the component manufacturer to dip its toe into the competitive power recording market this year with the expected upcoming new version of Dura-Ace. This could cause problems for the independent or aftermarket meters but would work well for the Shimano-sponsored teams.

Even firms such as hi-fi specialists Pioneer are getting in on the act these days (Watson)

Could we see neater integration of power meters into groupsets in the coming years? (Photo: Watson)

“I think a power meter is one option, more work [is needed] in performance. I think our dream is a power meter,” said Harada.

We certainly seem to be on the same page as Shimano in this area, having predicted built-in power meters as one of our bike trends to look out for in 2016.

12-speed groupsets?

It does seem that Shimano has been very busy, testing out all possibilities for the next step in technology and development. Though it doesn’t want to launch something new for the sake of it. The market must need it first.

>>> Do we need 12-speed gears?

“We can make 12-speed, it is possible, but there needs to be confidence in the system,” explained Harada, referring back to confidence once again. Suggesting that teams see this as a jump too far, for now…

  • PotbellyJoe★★★★★

    There’s different sizing for cranks, frames and handlebars, why has it taken so long for a S/M/L option to happen for brifters? That would already address the gender issue to some extent. Sure it means more inventory issues for the shops/production, but it would make more sense than an entire Shimano 105F series.

    A compact crank with interchangeable chainrings and current cassette options should already be enough gearing variability for most riders. A cyclocross outer 46 instead of a 53 or 50, 12-32 is a lot of gear in the cassette. That just takes a keyed-in bike shop that is willing to work with their consumers.

  • ridein

    Shimano could always make a 105 level Di2 group that is more “woman-friendly”.

  • ummm…

    I do think it Is. But that is only one man’s opinion. If it is suitable for both men and women then the diff is in how it is marketed.

  • Martin Archer

    Shorter top tubes for a start. I know a guy that has bought a womans bike because the geometry fitted his body shape better than mens bikes. You can faff around with shorter stems, but it is not ideal. Why would you not want a bike that fits you better? Just because it says its a womans bike, does not mean it is just “marketing dreck”.

  • Altimis Nuel

    HELL YEAH 105 Electronic groupset! take my damn money, who care about expensive stuffs pro-wanabe thingy. I just want a better riding experiences!

  • blemcooper

    I agree that SRAM has “done it right”, or at least “more right” than Campy & Shimano’s current offerings.

    But the real benefit for the non-pro/enthusiast is simpler shifting. Forget about having separate front and rear controls, have just “harder” and “easier” buttons (fully automatic may be a bit too far). Let the group set know what size the chain rings and cassette are, and it figures out whether it needs to shift the rear, the front or both, and have it all be smooth, no jamming or overshifting issues.

    Anybody who actually cares about or wants the control between front and rear shifting falls into the enthusiast category, even if their wallet doesn’t afford them that in reality, and they make do with mechanical groups (or “old school” electronic groups as they go on closeout/OEM/take-offs sale :-).

  • Richard Hughes
  • richard

    As a man with a small child id love a “women’s” specific groupset. Ots a massive problem , yes he referenced smaller gears (mint) think junior restrictions. But mainly he is talking a better fit for smaller cockpit. Try to look at the positive rather than look to be outraged.

  • Mike Williams

    I’d be very careful screwing around with your seat post and saddle position to accommodate the wrong top tube length since it could put strain on your knees. You could end up with the wrong stem length for your riding style. Its why people get custom built bikes or why some manufacturers offer the same bike with 2 different top tubes (which mine did the year after I bought my bike and I would have loved to get the shorter one).

    If I were a really short woman, I’d be appreciative of them offering a range of by men’s standards XS, XXS and XXXS bikes rather than taking my chances of finding an unwanted mens bike in stock. I’ve seen them even offer 650b versions of the bike — although I have a friend who is 4’10” and she insists on riding a 700c bike which makes it look like she stole her brother’s bike so I guess you can’t please everybody.

    The good news for women is that there is no law against riding a “man’s” bike so you have more chances of finding a better fit.

  • ummm…

    their are some geometric differences surely. what are they that cant be solved using ungendered parts?

  • Mike Williams

    I guess you’d have to wait and compare your setup to these hypothetical shifters/levers. fwiw: I am a pretty strong and have normal sized hands for a 5’10” guy and I find it a bit of a strain upshifting my Ultegra FD (I have the older model that doesn’t allow me to bring the lever in so I lose my leverage).

    As for the gender specific geometry’s and componentry, there are inarguable differences in male/female body size distributions so I don’t see how you could complain about manufacturers making accommodations for them. Ski manufacturers do it and even something as seemingly unisex as snowshoes have men’s and women’s models.

  • ummm…

    i dont have huge hands. do i need to change my shifters? if i look at my winter trainer with its compact gears and comfortable reach then what im hearing is that im riding a womens bike. this is obvious marketing dreck. it does nothing but target a specific consumer with some faux gender poopoo. its like womens bikes having a lower top tube.

  • ummm…

    should i buy a womens gear set if i get passed by a woman? shimano doesnt make these gear sets for elite athletes as they dont BUY them. whats wrong with a unisex compact set, that already exists? the idea that since elite male and female athletes have different top end performance doesn’t say that a man and a woman that will be buying the product have such a difference. if one can put down X power you get the appropriate set, no matter the gender.

  • Dave Koesel

    You do understand that women produce less absolute power and lower wt/kg than men in both the general sense and at the pinnacle of sport. I don’t think Shimano is suggesting a shrink-it-and-pink-it approach but just as Tony Martin and Kristin Armstrong have different component requirements so does Mr. Consumer and Ms. Consumer.

  • Darren Turner

    105 Di2’s Take my money now i want it

  • Mike Williams

    I assumed it would be changes to the shifters/levers to accommodate smaller hands (a petite female riding acquaintance prefers SRAM double tap because it is easier to shift the FD). But I agree they should have been more specific so it wouldn’t just be a pink-it marketing ploy.

  • ummm…

    womens specific? smaller gears? female targeted marketing is so insulting. a female saddle. makes sense. female groupset? oh dear. being a consumor of cycling news sites makes me feel like im a 3rd wave feminist these days.

  • Richard Braginton

    no demand for a wireless, battery interchangeable , groupset ’cause what we like is sliding batteries into bike frames and faffing around with cables…yeah right…sram have done it right now everybody else play catchup