Most of the group goes together as expected, and Shimano’s done a fair job of making installation easy with guidelines and obvious holes, ports and bolts. They also have Dealer Service Instructions available online – handy since there is very little in the way of instructions included in the box.
Even with all that, there were still surprises. As with the New SRAM Red, a lot of attention is paid to getting the front derailleur aligned properly. And once it’s all together, there’s still more to discover…
INSTALLATION NOTES & DETAILS
When it comes time to mount the front derailleur, you’ll need to be able to align parts of it with the cable. So, the best place to begin is putting the shift levers on the bar and running cables and housing.
Put ’em about where you think you’ll want them and snug them just enough so they don’t slip while running the cables and housing. Shift cables insert from the outside…
…and run into curved slots that feed it out the back, into a housing port. A small cover (blurred in foreground) slots in and is held in place by the hoods. From here, just measure (twice) and cut the housing to get the cables to the business ends of the bike.
Shimano recommends and includes their own new housing and cables, both of which are excellent. The cables are coated and slippery. The ferrules have small extensions to help keep crud out, but they’re a bit oversized. They wouldn’t fit in the petite guides on the Argonaut. Oh, and it’s worth installing an inline barrel adjuster into the front derailleur’s housing…I regret not doing this.
While the instructions aren’t bad, it does take a bit of re-reading to get it right. Assuming you like to follow instructions. In this case, I’d recommend it. Or pay your local bike shop. For the DIYers, here are my helpful hints:
Loosely install front derailleur on frame, snugging bolt just enough to get the outer cage plate a few millimeters above the large chainring. Then, using the support screw to assist, adjust the angle so the top of the outer plate is parallel with the large chainring.
Adust the lower limit screw until the outer plate is parallel and directly inline with the large chainring. At this point, the rear/bottom of the front derailleur’s outer cage plate should be about 1/2 a millimeter inboard of the large chainring. Shimano actually recommends using an allen wrench as a guide, hence the image above.
Remove the fixing bolt from the FD and insert the plastic cable guide tool that comes with the FD. Pull the shift cable through the slot on the tool.
There’s a line printed on the guide. Depending on which side of the line the cable appears, you’ll adjust the converter accordingly, as printed on the bottom of the guide. Our cable hit the guide dead center, in which case it doesn’t really matter which way you set it. Shimano’s PR guy even said you could just install it one way and if the shifting doesn’t feel right, switch it and see if it gets better.
Here’s the adapter shown both ways, along with handy graphics to show where the cable goes in. The cable sits in a groove facing the washer, making it pretty easy to get everything put in the right place. Getting the cable tension correct is key for having both upper and lower trim work. I set it too tight initially and didn’t have the upper trim (I’d click it, but it didn’t budge). This is where the inline barrel adjuster would have come in handy. That, and taking up any cable stretch down the road. If all’s done well, you’re front shifting set up should be complete.
The rear derailleur’s pretty straight forward. Just make sure the shifter is set to 11 (smallest cog position), adjust your lower limit screw and pull the cable taut and bolt it down. Make sure it goes through the groove on the derailleur body. It’s a little surprising how sharp of an angle there is on the cable coming out of the housing insert when you’re on the smallest cog, but it all works pretty smoothly irregardless. (not a real word)
INITIAL RIDING IMPRESSIONS
The new hood shapes are very comfortable. The levers cant outward and are easy to reach in the hoods and the drops. Shifting is precise and the lever feel is incredibly light. With the tight spacing between 11 cogs, one could argue it’s too light, being perhaps a bit too easy to over shift a gear in the rear. But that’s like complaining it’s too easy to paddle shift a Ferrari. It’s freakin’ amazing, and that’s that. It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up to mother nature and father time since Shimano says part of the light feel is due to the new cable and housing.
Front shifting is equally light, which is really saying something. Repeating for effect: Front shifting is virtually as light as the rear. It makes you want to shift the front more frequently because it’s such a non-chore. Beautiful.
Brake pull is also light, even with the spring tension dialed up at the calipers. Credit the extra leverage or the new cables or both, but it’s unlikely you’ll get any finger fatigue with this system. We’ve heard the 9000 mechanical group will make people rethink electronic’s superiority. Having ridden both, it’s a valid argument.
One thing we mentioned in the Unboxed post that we still see as a potential issue is how exposed the shifter’s internals are on Shimano’s mechanical groups.
This pic’s intentionally blown out to show you the same thing rain, dust, dirt and grit will see all too easily. If only they could be disassembled for cleaning…
So far, this is the only bad thing we have to say about the group.
The other thing people seem curious about is whether 11 speeds make any difference. I can say that it is very nice being able to find more of the right gears while maintaining a wide spread. I’m running the 11-28 and it’s fantastic being able to keep my cadence where I want it across a wide range of terrain. But, we suspect 11-speed will trickle across more groups, which means it’s really not a matter of if you should upgrade but when you’ll do it anyway. And I bet you’ll like it.
Here’s a little video showing more about the shifting and braking, including one of the biggest small changes to the group that Shimano never bothered telling anyone about: Reverse lower trim!
Look for a full, long term test write up later in the year.