Or are 11 speed gears just another manufacturing gimmick…..?
Technology moves apace and cycling is no exception, yesterday’s Shimano Dura Ace is todays 105.
As in any field, the advances experienced in the professional echelons very quickly become available to the mass market. Look at the mechanical enhancements and accessories we take for granted in our cars that were developed in the F1 and rally arenas.
10 speed gearing has been the norm for many years now on road bikes to such an extent that only
budget ranges now seem to have 8 or 9 speed gearing. Long may they continue, as they are an excellent means for people to try our wonderful sport without breaking the bank before making what can be a substantial investment into a bike.
Carbon frames, carbon rimmed wheels, carbon bars, stems, saddles etc. all made to make a frame as light as possible, to such an extent that some bikes need ballast to meet UCI minimum weight limits.
So, once we have the bike to the lowest weight to gain the best power to weight ratio, and, assuming the wheels are true, wheel and bottom bracket bearings are smooth, tyres are in good condition and at the correct pressure and the rider is pedalling at the optimum, the last main components upon the bike to gain an advantage is the drivetrain.
The main manufacturers all produce 11 speed groupset’s at various qualities and at various price levels!
So what do 11 speed gears mean in reality?
And what are the manufacturers giving us that 10 speed didn’t?
Well firstly the claim is of
- Smoother shifting
- More powerful and responsive brakes
- Lighter chainset
One of the major ‘upgrades’ is the introduction of coated gear and brake cables, both inner and outer cables to aid smooth shifting, and also within the body of the shifters themselves. All this means that gear changes are smoother and braking, most importantly, is more responsive, something very reassuring when descending a favourite hill.
Most 11 speed chains also have this same coating, again to aid smooth shifting and with the smaller jump between gears, there should be less problem of chain snap.
Shifters gain new ergonomics and also a shorter lever arc. This has resulted in both the rear and front derailleurs having different pull geometry, meaning that all components have been radically updated from the 10 speed equivalents.
The cassettes are generally lighter whilst keeping the same thickness, so should have as long a life as the 10 speeds.
One other advantage that may not jump out as an improvement is taking the chainset 4 arm spider, giving the advantage of being able to change chain rings without having to change the whole chainset – so if you’re completing a hilly ride change to a compact and a time trial, change to a standard. One other advantage is the availability on some groupsets of having ‘semi compact’ gearing, for those wishing to push themselves that little bit further.
So with smoother shifting between the gears, more responsive braking and lighter components what’s not to like?
There are some fantastic deals out there on 11 speed groupsets and I’d be to advise on what would best fit your requirements.