2011 Shimano Tiagra and Acera - First look

New entry-level road and mountain bike groupsets from the big S

Shimano's entry-level road and mountain bike groupsets have been given a significant facelift as improvements to their higher-end offerings trickle down to the Tiagra and Acera groups for 2011/2012.

Smoother shifting and more gears are the major changes promised for Shimano's "gateway" groupsets. Both groups will be given an additional sprocket on the rear; Tiagra will join its 10-speed siblings, while the new Acera will set a minimum nine-speed standard across the Shimano mountain bike range.

Tiagra gets tricked out for 2012

Shimano's tweaks to Tiagra appear to be part of a push to firmly establish that group among its peers. A plethora of options will be on offer for users, with Tiagra-branded double, compact and triple cranksets set to cater for racing, sportive and touring riders respectively.

Tourers and commuters will also have the option of Tiagra flat-bar shifters (a new non-series R780S shifter is also due for release for 105 and Ultegra flat-bar users). But those making use of STI shifters haven't been neglected.

Shimano have improved the ergonomics of the levers, which will now feature fully-adjustable reach settings to cater for smaller hands. A new pull ratio also makes the new brakes compatible with higher-level groups for the first time in several years.

Significantly, however, external cable routing remains a feature of the junior group. The extra gear on the rear will be accompanied by a new 10-speed chain, although Shimano recommend that triple users stick with the current nine-speed chain.

Acera gets more gears

Improvements to Shimano's entry-level off-road groupset are based largely on features available on its higher end siblings. Its triple crankset will feature replaceable chainrings and a new lower-profile rear derailleur. Though still beefier than the Shadow option offered on higher-end groups, this will help to reduce the risk of rock strikes – and resulting cost – for novice riders.

The increased gear range has necessitated a new shifting unit, which features a clearer gear indicator that will offer better readability regardless of lever angle. The greater range of gears should also result in a smoother shift. The brake levers remain integrated with the shifters, with wheel-end work still carried out by V-brake callipers.

Acera is likely to remain the preserve of entry-level complete bikes, where it will provide a cheaper entry point for nine-speed shifting, rather than being sold aftermarket. It's available in black or silver.

Non-series components

Several entry-level, non-series components have had a busy year of development and production. Despite the push to get even beginner riders onto nine-speed setups, Shimano's aftermarket seven- and eight-speed cassettes have gone on a diet. The company have trimmed around 20g off the weight of the sprocket sets, while also increasing the range of available gear ratios.

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