Shimano’s Dura Ace DNA | Does Top End Cycling Tech Really Trickle Down?

– Over the years, we’ve
often mentioned or touched on the subject of trickle-down
technology in bike tech. Now, Shimano said to me, would
I like to do a video on this? And I jumped at the chance because I’ve always used their components throughout my racing, and also my general cycling career too. So, I had good search
around inside of my workshop and attic, and I found
some real life examples that I can explain to
you what it’s all about. The STI lever. Yeah, that’s right, STI stands for Shimano Total Integration. Named so because of
the integration of both gearing and braking
within one lever itself. Now, the Dura-Ace model
was actually released way back in 1990 as an eight speed setup. Now sadly, I never actually got to own a pair of those shifters myself. Instead, I’ve managed to find an old relic of a bike of mine. This, the Shimano 600 Ultegra lever. It was virtually identical in appearance. This was released in 1992. The only major difference
to most people out there was this front plate here. That was just slightly different because it said 600 Ultegra, not Dura-Ace. Of course, there were
some other differences with materials and also the finish. Then in 1993 came the 105 SC groupset, and these were slightly
different in appearance, I guess you could say, because the STI levers on that bike, they didn’t have these
rather cool faceplates which I liked back in the day. Instead, they had an Allen
key in there instead, which made them easily identifiable. Now you may well be wondering, where on earth is the left hand shifter? Well believe it or not, I never used one. Instead, I just had a standard
aero brake lever on there. The difference in feel,
yeah it was noticeable but I kind of learnt
to live with it really. But one of the reasons I did it was weight because they were pretty heavy
back in day, these shifters. And also, when I was racing in the junior and under 16 categories, you didn’t tend to change the front chain ring that much, because generally, the
racing was eyeballs out from start to finish and
they weren’t that long, so you just, well, accepted it, and if you wanted to change gear, you go down to the down tube there, but I remember these oh-so fondly. It changed everything when
it came to bike racing. Now it took an amazing seven years for Shimano to release
a new Dura-Ace groupset. So in 1997, I remember
this one oh-so fondly. Right, I was working as a
Saturday boy in a local bike shop, and I remember seeing the 7700 groupset for the very first time. And guess what, I’ve got one here. Oh yes. A bit battered, a bit worn, and this one was even on the bike of a
pretty famous bike rider too. Now, the lever’s a really
different approach. Instead of that round faceplate on them, they went angular, they
went, sort of, modern, cutting edge, if you like. But also, it went from
8 speed to 9 speed too, and this really transformed
the shifting, in my opinion, because it made it ever so more positive, the clicks were just, there was something really,
really impressive about it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but just harking back
to it I was so chuffed to actually get hold of a
bike with this on myself. Something else that
they actually introduced around that time too, was
the octalink bottom bracket, so that came with the 7700 groupset. Now, octalink, obviously, there’s got to be an eight
involved in their somewhere, because of octa, so we’ve
got eight little spines here on the actual enlargened
bottom bracket spindle here built inside of the cartridge unit. They matched up with this
inside of this chain set. So, it simply slotted on, and this saw the end of the
square taper bottom bracket, if you like, when it came
to the Dura-Ace range. Then, a year later, the
6500 Ultegra range came out with all the shared technologies, and then one year after that
in 99 came the 105 5 groupset, and then lastly Tiagra
followed suit in 2001 with the 4400 groupset. Now, I’ve got a few of these bits on various bikes, you’re going
to be shown them on screen, and I’m just glad I never
threw anything away. I tend not to ever throw anything away because I think, that’ll
come in useful one day, and well, today it has, despite
what my other half says, she always tells me to clear
out that shed, no, no, no. You lot love this. Right, we’re going to
carry on the journey then, because I absolutely love
a trip down memory lane. 2004, Shimano released the
7800 Dura-Ace groupset, an instant hit, and funnily enough, here’s one I’ve got down here. I don’t know what happened to the brakes, I’ve got some old 7700 ones on here, but the levers, right, we went 10 speed, we went sleek, we went a little
bit more rounded, I guess, than that previous 7700 groupset, but this one was an instant
hit with bikeriders, but why exactly? Well, this chainset. Oh yeah. This one, it tended to
just really catch the eye because there was nothing
like it out there. The chain rings were all filled
in, they looked oh-so cool, and they were then fitted onto
a new bottom bracket stand. That’s right, a new
one, the HollowTech Two. There was never a
HollowTech One, bizarrely, but the HollowTech Two was
done for a very good reason. So, the HollowTech Two
bottom bracket then, what was so different about
that from the octalink? Well, firstly, the actual
bearings of the bottom bracket were outboard from the frame,
so they screwed onto the cups rather than inside of
them, if that makes sense. Now, a couple of reasons
why they did this, firstly, it allowed a
better weight distribution, and also, a more stable
platform for the axle, or torque shaft, if you
like, of the chainset. Now, speaking about that
axle of the bottom bracket, well, it was gone, from
the actual bottom bracket. Instead, it was integrated
into the right hand crank, and then the left hand
crank attached onto it on the other side. This made things way lighter,
and way cooler I reckon too. There’s nothing else like it
on the market at the time. Of course, that HollowTech
Two bottom bracket system, it wasn’t all about looks, I remember the pros really liking it, and the reason being the integrated axle, which was enlarged to 24 millimeters, allowed great power transfer. Now, all of this technology,
that was trickled down to the 6600 groupset in 2005,
and then the 105 one in 2006, and Ultegra got the full ten speed, and also HollowTech Two treatment in 2011. 2008, that was a big year. Why though? Well, the Dura-Ace 7900
groupset was released. So, what went? Those external gear cables. Instead, they got rooted
underneath the handlebar tape, it instantly cleaned up
the sleek smooth appearance of the front end of the bike. 2009, Ultegra got the
treatment, 2010, 105, and then, 2015, Tiagra
got the internal ones, but it was still a 10 speed groupset. In 2009, came this, the 7970 groupset. What was that though? Well, it wasn’t a complete
groupset, per say. Instead, it was the
shifters and the mechs, and also some of the cables too, because we had electronic
gearing introduced. It’s quite shocking, really, to believe it’s only been out 10 years. Yeah. And then two years, of course, in 2011, came the Ultegra range with the 6770, and as to this day, it’s not passed down beneath the Ultegra tiering of groupset. 2012, that was a good year! The London Olympics, I remember
that one very, very well. But of course, Shimano, they
introduced 11 speed componentry to the 9000 series groupset,
so the Dura-Ace versions. So, of course we have
mechanical as well as Di2. 2013, Ultegra, that got 11 speed, 2014, Ultegra got 11 speed Di2, and also, 105, that went 11 speed. Of course, just in the mechanical version. We then find ourselves at the
modern day Dura-Ace groupsets, the 9100 versions, if you like. Now these ones, they
had again, a redesign, and also incorporated disc brakes into the actual range for the first time. Before, they were kind
of stand alone product that were bought in when
needed, if that makes sense. Now, something that was
very, very different was the rear derailleur, the
Shadow RD System came in. Now this actually, believe it or not, was borrowed, taken from our
mountain bike loving friends because they were actually
using this way back in 2007. So, nine years later, we got
it, what does it mean though? Well, instead of having the big bolt which bolted it on to your rear drop out, instead it was a more slimmer down affair, and it meant that the
actual rear derailleur could go inwards by over 10 millimeters. Slightly more aero, but
also there’s a link in there that you can remove and
then directly attach it onto a special derailleur
hanger, meaning slightly improved and crispier gear shifts, if you like. I like that. So, Ultegra, that got all
of this tech trickled down into its 8000 series groupsets in 2017, 105, a year later in 2018, that got it in its 7000 serious groupsets. Now, little nugget of information here, because I’m sure some of you are thinking, what about the other groupsets? Well, in 2017, the Claris groupset, which is kind of an entry level one, that got internal cables and got the HollowTech
Two bottom bracket also, meaning that, yeah, trickle down technology
really does happen. Plus, if all of this trickle down tech hasn’t tickled your fancy,
what about this then? In the past couple of
years, I guess you could say that Shimano has
cross-pollinated, if you like, because they’ve bought over
even more mountain bike tech to us drop bar lovers. So, first up, we have the RX800
series of rear derailleurs. And then came the GRX groupsets, they incorporated things
such as a single chain ring, if you like, and also Shadow
RD plus, but what is that? So, the Shadow RD plus
then is a development of the previous model of the Shadow RD in that it actually helps to provide a stabilization platform for your chain when riding over rough terrain. So, with the flick of a
lever, or a little switch, you can actually almost lock
the rear derailleur cage in place, meaning that
the chain is less likely to bounce around and
dislodge when riding over that rough off road that
some of us love to ride on. Now, Ollie, actually did
some GCN Tech Does Science all about this last year, so if you really want to see all
about it, head on over there, not, of course, until
the end of this video. But then, if all this tech does
eventually get trickled down why would you go out and get
a high end groupset instantly? After all, some of you could well remember when Si and Ollie were blindfolded and they tried to tell the difference between 105 and Dura-Ace, it wasn’t necessarily
that straightforward. Well, there’s a couple of things, firstly, the quality of
the materials being used, and then that plays into the next part which is the weight of the components, essentially that is what
makes up the big differences, in my opinion, with these groupsets. And I reckon that tech is passed down across all different industries out there because you do tend to see it happening. I guess from the consumer’s point of view, you really have to
weigh up this, patience, and also the desire, so if
you’ll be patient enough for it to pass on down,
and also, the desire to have that top-end,
really lightweight groupset. Ultimately, we’re all going
to get out grubby little hands on it though at the end of the day. There we are, I hope
you’ve actually enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and also the way I’ve tried to
explain the trickle down tech and how it does happen, because it’s a question we
get asked over and over. If you’ve liked this video, remember to give it a big old thumbs up, share it with your mates too, and don’t forget to check out the GCN shop at, and also remember to
subscribe to the channel, click the notification
bell so you get alerted each and every time we put a video live, and now, for two more cracking videos, how about clicking just down
here, and just down here? Now, I’m going to decide
which of these old beauties to take out for a spin, let me know in the comments which one.

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100 thoughts on “Shimano’s Dura Ace DNA | Does Top End Cycling Tech Really Trickle Down?

  1. My first "high end" road bike was a Trek OCLV with 6500. That generation 7700/6500 groupset was such a massive leap forward in technology…the drivetrain was so incredibly bullet proof. It's no wonder that generation lasted 7 years before being replaced.

  2. Jon, in regards to Hollowtech, "Hollowtech 1" was actually the technology of the crankarm itself. Shimano was the first to figure out how to forge hollow tubes into crank arms, essentially making the center of the arms hollow and lighter. Some of the mountain cranksets from that era (M751 and M571) has the original Hollowtech logo on them. I think it was too gawdy even for Shimano to stick that logo on road groups.

  3. I disagree that there was nothing else like the 7800 2-piece crank with integrated shaft on the market at the time. Bullseye tubular steel cranks were integrating the shaft into the right crank arm in the late 1980's, a quarter century before Shimano (though the BB bearings were not external like the 7800). Of course this was mtb gear.

  4. Watching this video has given me an idea for another. Since we have this cross pollination, is there a way to identify areas where to spend or save on a group set? For example, if you start with ultegra is it worth going up or down a tier (or sticking) for components? I.e. go for dura ace shifters but 105 cassette and ultegra derailleur. This can be based on ideas of performance and weight against cost. It could also be done separately for campag and sram.

  5. Fantastic job, Jon. I find your videos so informative being a life long Shimano person this one was awesome.


  6. It's time for a new Dura Ace (9200)… 12speed and microspline freehubs with a 10 teeth sprocket instead of an 11 teeth…

  7. Most of us will never notice or be able to capitalize on the differences between the groupsets.

    I ride Chinese and r7000 because I can't justify 8k$ on a bike. If I could (or just had that kind of disposable income), I would buy the absolute best money could buy. Even if it netted me zero time/speed improvement.

    Others that can afford it, don't.

    It's probably partially vanity, partially necessity, partially need.

    Regardless I think we all benefit.

    I would probably be on tiagra now if it were 11 spd. I'm saving my pennies for an electronic disc bike next. That will probably be the last bike I ever buy, so I'm going to spend a little more than comfortable.

  8. Hi Jon I've always wondered, due to the trickle down teck would modern day tiagra be equal or even superior to the 20 speed dura ace? Would there be any weight difference or difference in feel or performance? Also does number of gears trump hierarchy? For example is it better to have 11 speed 105 over 10 speed dura ace? Again any difference in weight and performance. Sorry about the long message! Maybe one for the tech clinic

  9. How athletic and muscular those riders were on the photos from 25 years ago. Not like the starved bones and skin guys like today!!

  10. Bizarrely, there was a Hollowtech (1) before the 2.
    It came together with the Octalink standard. Hollowtech is the "Hollow forged" cranks. It wasn't so apparent on the road cranks. But you did see the "Hollowtech" logo, on all of the MTB Octalink cranks.
    What's also been forgotten is "Flightdeck". Which was a speedometer, with rpm, heart rate, and also showing you what gear you are in.
    It could be operated with "Flightdeck" STI levers. It was complete flop, and you can still get those useless devices, for rices that are still way higher than what they're worth. Perhaps this was the first kind of "Digital Integration", hence the electronic shifting becoming Di2?

  11. Hollowtech1 is a clever method of casting hollow crank arms. They were light and strong. Had a set on my MTB. Great interesting video. Who doesn't love a rummage in a shed.

  12. Great video Jon. I loved your enthusiasm at explaining it, as well as actually getting to see some bikes from your collection.

  13. One thing I'm amazed with is the inter-group compatibility! I have a Franken -Cervelo that I created from a circa 2000 P3: It's a 2×9-speed with Ultegra 6500 rear derailleur, Dura-ace 7700 front derailleur, Sora R3000 STI levers, Dura-ace 7800 BB and crankset and a Stages Dura-ace 9100 left-hand crankarm. It's my commute/year round training bike and I find it shift 99% as well as my race bike. Precision engineering and manufacture at its finest!

  14. The Hollowtech "one" technology refers to crankarms made empty inside(hollow in some sense) for less weight. Maybe the "second" version is named after the empty inside axis, a hollow axis, you name it…

  15. Hi Jon,

    Awesome video! I also love all the retro tech videos.

    How about a video of the most revolutionary and the least discussed Shimano groupset, The “Shimano 7300 serie” AKA: Dura Ace AX from 1981. This aero groupset was mind-blowing and changed the game completely.

    In my opinion, this groupset pushed Campy to make the Corsa Record groupset which lead to the legendary Delta brakes. What do you think?

    PS: I am a Campy guy and I am lucky enough to own both groupsets: the 1st generation Campy C-record from 1984 and the Shimano AX 6300 from 1981.

  16. This is great information. Example: I bought a used bike with Dura-Ace 7800 from 2004. it needed replaced. I decided (against a lot of people online saying if it had Dura-Ace put Dura-Ace on it) to go with 105 7000. It is an amazing groupset. Now, i can show this video to prove that i did upgrade.

  17. I always thought hollowtech also referred to the way the arms are forged, there's hollowtech MTB cranks that use octalink bb

  18. Never understood why their groupsets retain that long sweep for a single slow gear change on the inner paddle, it's crap. Campagnolo went to five clicks instant change over ten years ago. It's almost as if they went fast on innovation then ten years ago gave up. I suppose Di2 changed all that as it does all that Campagnolo manual can do …. if slightly less refined

  19. sigh the nostalgia. Ultegra's 8-speed was my first STI. I had them until 2 years ago. Shifting was very smooth and the braking, in my opinion was smoother and more sensitive then the current 9000 series -with the exposed cabling.

  20. Don't forget the best kept secret.. Sora 3000 shifting is quite crisp if 9 out back suits you!! and the levers are nice! … for a great bargain 😉

  21. Jon, correction at 5:12: Yes, there was indeed a Hollowtech I; The hollow crank arms on the previous generation cranksets (6500/7700, etc). There were stickers on every crank. Hollowtech II refers to the addition of the new hollow BB axle that is now attached on every drive side crank arm from 7800 dura ace onward. This is from the Shimano website: "HOLLOWTECH technology is an ultra-lightweight hollow crankarm created by SHIMANO with the company’s own proprietary forging technology that also maintains rigidity. The addition of HOLLOWTECH II technology integrates the bottom bracket axle with the right crankarm for more stiffness and a weight savings to achieve a high-dimensional balance."

  22. This trip down memory lane has made me sad 'cause I remember when Shimano introduced index shifting on their down-tube shifters and now I feel like a dinosaur 🙁

  23. Lance Armstrong rode with right STI/left downtube shifters for at least a few of his TdF wins. Not sure when exactly he switched to using 2 STI levers, but think it may have been when 7800 came out.

  24. Only Brit riders ziptie bits of rag and tissue to their chainstays. I know it's to protect them from your drab weather and deplorable road surfaces, but still it just looks bloody amateur.

  25. Buying new groupsets is the same as buying new computers. If you want a laptop with 64GB of RAM, you either drop a couple of grand on a mobile workstation right now, or you wait 10 years until you can get that in a $500 laptop.

    Now, where did the RSX and RX100 groupsets come into play? I'm curious because I have them on one of my bikes! (… and if you're curious, my main computer is a netbook with an Intel Haswell i3 and 4GB of RAM.)

  26. surprised the flight deck integration lasted as long, only remembered being wowed and using them around 2001 and not since then

  27. my bike has a mix of Shimano Sora, Tiagra and even 105. all of which are from the early 2000s. after almost 20 years, they all still work super well!

  28. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 mister grubby hands! 👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾

  29. Shimano would be committing ritual suicide releasing Di2 at 105 level and I am guessing they know it. The fact that 105 is good quality and bog basic in terms of tech is why it remains affordable and value for money. The minute you try and bling it up on mass, it will be priced out of reach of the punters who keep asking for it.

  30. Nice video. Unfortunately Shimano equipped bikes are totally boring, despite the fact that they are usually deliver good quality for the money. Doesn't make sense to pay for Dura Ace anymore. 105 nowadays is better than Dura Ace 5 years ago and everybody but Ineos riders can easily get rid of those 500 gr in body fat.

  31. I first saw STI levers on a Shogun Katana at my LBS in the '90's. I don't remember the year, but I do remember I was there to ogle the Giant bikes I'd ogled in the Giant catalogue that was made to look like a telly guide. Good memories … I just wish I could remember 'em.

  32. Hi Jon,

    If you are interested to put your grubby little hands on a Dura Ace 7400 groupset, I have one mounted in my Look KG 86.. the same as Ollie tried some GCN videos ago.

    It's fully equiped with dura ace : groupset (of course), headset, seatpost, hubs. Even brake pad mounts dura ace.

  33. poor old Tourney grouppo has its STI lever update ignored. 🙁

  34. Only just removed the DA7800 from my winter bike as rear mech finally gave up working – bullet proof stuff.
    Going back (much) further I found some really old Shimano 600AX bits in a tin in my garage. Not in the best condition now, but a trip down memory lane to when I was racing as a juvenile/junior.

  35. Any ideas as to when the next Dura Ace will be released? One would assume it will be 12 speed at the back as a minimum, to keep up with the competitors?

  36. What can I do for my small hands with Shimano Hydraulic brake levers? I've got them adjusted pretty close, but that adjustment screw doesn't seem to have a stop on it, and I don't want to get too close to the end of it. Is there a shape of handlebar that allows closer hand position on the drops, but keeps the clearance on the hoods – so that the shifter still allows a finger to hold the bars under the lever? I nearly always ride on the hoods, but on very bumpy ground downhill I want to ride on the drops.

  37. Oh lucky Shimano to have this extended ad. I wouldn't mind so much if you did the same for Campag ….but I won't hold my breath.

  38. Tiagra 4400 shifters came stock on my road bike back in 2006. They now run on my gravel bike. Not as smooth as my 105 5800 groupset, but they still work!

  39. I have been lucky enough to acquire my last couple bikes with Dura Ace 7800 installed. It's such a loverly group. I have no desire to move up to 11-speed just yet; I'm waiting until the 7800 breaks beyond repair. Maybe in another decade or so…

  40. Great segment. I'm riding Dura-Ace 7900 and, frankly, I don't see any reason to change anytime soon.

    As always, thanks much for sharing.


  41. Many still consider the 7800 shifters to be the best ever made. Very low friction and easy maintenance, plus they were great to hold onto in the invisible aerobars positon. Still see a lot of these in use at the CX races. Simply shift much better and less sensitive in harsh conditions.

  42. How about Sante? I had a Sante front hub. It was the most amazing… it was the the most beautiful… it was a front hub.

  43. I'm pretty sure Shimano just asked for the last 3minutes of the video on their briefing, yet Jon Cannings came to save the day! Thanks Jon!

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