Dura Ace Electronic 7900 First Look: Nice but want to be more Impressed

I love Shimano componentry; always have. As a person who knows that her bikes will always be around, I have the philosophy of “Buy once, buy right”, which includes a drivetrain that I will really enjoy riding. Enter my favorite, Shimano Dura Ace 7800. After having ridden the 7800 Grupo for a couple of thousand miles, I’m more in love now, than when I first saw them. So when I heard that Shimano’s new 7900 grupo was now electronic shifting, I was intrigued. I had to see it and test it myself. Mind you, I have yet to really ride it, so I have no idea how the brakes respond in a real world circumstance. I’ll reserve full judgement until I get a true test ride.

Much slimmer hood design, better for smaller hands

Much slimmer hood design, better for smaller hands

Index finger is on shifter button.

Index finger is on shifter button.

At the Shimano booth, I see that there is a test bike in a trainer, so I hope on for a ride, to see how it feels. The first thing I noticed was how easy it is to switch to a larger chainring; it was literally the push of a button with no effort at all. Niiice. The front derailleur placement happens automatically, so no more adjusting for trim. No more fussing around at all. Impressive. I was also taken with the design of the hoods, and marvel at how I could fit my small hands on and around the hoods, so much so that I wonder if this is a “women’s version”. No just a more aerodynamic one. There’s no cables under the hoods, so it allowed Shimano to play with the design a bit.

Then come two bombshells:
1. This full version of the electronic 7900 isn’t going to be available until January, when it will cost you a whopping $4000.00, not $2400-$2700 as I’d originally heard. That’s the price of an incomplete version of this grupo coming out sooner (in a few weeks), but you’ll probably want to wait until January, and not change out part of your grupo.
2. Battery life: Are you joking? 500 to 1000 miles between battery changes? Yep. For the many +100 mile/wk enthusiasts this would never do. Forget doing long Charity rides, like the nearly 600 miles, week long charity ride, AIDS LifeCycle. ….And where do I get the battery, and shouldn’t I have my bike mechanic check out the electronic system while he or she is changing the battery, and … WAIT a second, what does my bike mechanic know about electronics anyway?! The answer is most probably darn near nothing, at least not right now. There is the Achilles heel.

To me, that makes the Shimano 7900 grupo is like a Tesla car; sure I want one, but it’s too expensive right now without enough benefit, (or qualified mechanics to fix it).

I do, however, reserve the right to change my mind if improvements are made on the battery life (they should make it rechargeable), and as bike mechanics become more proficient in bicycle electronics.


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