There are lots of bike reasons to be happy that you’re probably going to be alive in 2014. Not that we’re jinxing ourselves. In fact we’re staying indoors with the blinds drawn, padding around the Kuku Penthouse in our Assos slippers.
Because I’m the sort of person that experiences actual rage about groupsets, I’m pleased that Shimano will almost certainly release an 11 speed 105 5800 groupset in 2014. Do I know this because I’m a huge industry insider douchebag? No, it’s because that’s what Shimano do.
Dura Ace 9000 blew our tiny minds which its extreme shininess and Ultegra 6800 is continuing the cerebral fellation by being ridiculously good value. Current UK prices are hovering just above the £500 mark with occasional dips below, which in bike dork terms is essentially free. After all, most roadies consider it gauche to leave the house without at least that much invested in their clothing alone, so the fact that I can drape my draisine in 11 speed splendour for less than the price of an iPhone is frankly outstanding.
So what can we expect from 5800? Presumably, a carry-over of the current 11 speed groupsets’ stellar shifting. What’s most remarkable about 9000 and 6800 is the light and quick front changes, achieved using high cable tension and a new derailleur geometry that offers more leverage. The rear shifting is also a considerable improvement on the groupsets they superseded.
I’m not alone in regarding the 7900/6700/5700 generation as an aberration in shifting performance; Shimano had all but perfected things with 7800/6600/5600 but whilst the move to hidden cables was seen as ergonomic and aesthetic progress by most, it came at the expense of feel.
Naturally 5800 will be a little heavier than 6800, a little rougher looking, and a little bit cheaper. Given the aggressive pricing of 6800, I’m curious to see how much cheaper. I’m also curious as to whether 5800 will actually be 11 speed. It’s conceivable that in order to differentiate it from 6800, Shimano might stick to 10 at the back but trickle down the other key features. This would be good news in that 10 speed consumables are inevitably cheaper – 105 is the de facto winter bike groupset for many club riders – but bad news in that Ultegra and DA users would have to continue buying comparatively expensive chains and cassettes.
What else is there to look forward to? I’m hoping that discs for road levers might come of age. Not because I think road bikes need discs, at least not racing bikes, but because they make such a lot of sense for ‘cross and all-road. If 2013 is to be remembered as the year of the brake recalls, maybe 2014 can be the year brakes didn’t suck.
In pro cycling news, there’ll be truth and reconciliation, only it won’t be Truth and Reconciliation because that would be “inappropriate”. UCI President Brian Cookson has also announced that no one will ever again confuse “brakes” and “breaks”.