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.
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.