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.
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.
“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].”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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…