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Matthew Loveridge: Shimano 105 Di2 should have SRAM worried

Shimano's new mid-range electronic groupset could be a Rival killer

Matthew Loveridge
30 Jun 2022

It’s finally here. 105 Di2 has been mooted for years because it’s an easy sell – a groupset for the regular rider who wants the benefits of electronic shifting (set and forget adjustments, faultless precision, bragging rights) but isn’t necessarily a racer or someone with very deep pockets.

R7100 looks set to deliver on that promise, although in a world where demand for components still routinely outstrips supply, actual pricing isn’t going to dip to the levels once expected of 105.

Not so long ago, complete Shimano groupsets were routinely available for not much more than half their RRP but these days you can easily pay full retail, and that’s if you can find in-stock components at all.

There’s no point lamenting this – what matters is how 105 Di2 street pricing stacks up against the competition (ie, SRAM Rival eTap AXS), and how much complete bikes with the new drivetrain end up costing.

Count 'em. 12 glorious sprockets. Image: Shimano

So what of 105 R7100’s spec? There’s nothing remotely surprising about it, but there’s lots to like. As ever, it’s got the important bits from the flagship and second tier drivetrains, but weighs a chunk more and doesn’t look as special.

The fact that R7100 is electronic and disc-only at launch will doubtless raise eyebrows and offend purists, but rim brakes aren’t actually dead yet ­­– you can still have a choice of Dura-Ace and Ultegra calipers, not to mention 105 R7000, which doesn’t look set to disappear immediately.

With R9200 and R8100 having made the jump to 12-speed, it was inevitable that R7100 would follow suit, and the trickle-down of tech means we can expect the same shifting brilliance offered by Ultegra and Dura-Ace.

SRAM's eTap AXS groupsets deserve praise for their original approach to gearing

For all I appreciate the breadth of SRAM’s eTap AXS groupset offering with its thoughtful gearing options and idiot-proof setup, Shimano took a clear lead with shifting quality when it went 12-speed, particularly when it comes to front derailleurs. It’s so good.

Assuming this carries over to 105 Di2 – and there’s not much doubt it will – SRAM should be worried.

Saying that, gearing options for R7100 are comparatively limited. As a road-only groupset, there’s no 1× crank, and at launch there isn’t even a semi-compact double option.

We appreciated Shimano's special edition silver GRX Limited groupset, but another gear would be nice too. Image: Shimano

Now that Shimano’s top three road drivetrains are 12-speed, the mismatch between road and gravel ranges appears even starker. It’s perverse that the brand offers three different 2×12 groupsets, but the 1× options are all 11-speed.

105 Di2 is a hugely welcome launch and I’ll be shocked if it’s not a very good groupset, but 12-speed GRX can’t come soon enough.

Main image: Shimano

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