First ride: Dura-Ace 7900

Can it live up to its promise?

James Huang departs the Tour de France for the official Dura-Ace 7900 launch in the lush green hills of Ebnisee, Germany to gather some first impressions (and some impromptu interval training).


All in the palm of our hands

Of all the updates unveiled for Dura-Ace 7900, we’ve held the highest hopes for the changes to the new STI Dual Control levers.  Now that we’ve logged some actual saddle time, we can confirm that the revised shape is everything it’s cracked up to be, at least in terms of ergonomics. 

The body’s markedly increased girth overall and flatter top yield a far more comfortable perch than 7800’s overly concave shape and the knob at the top of the lever still offers a good place to set your palms when you’re trying to go aero even without the benefit of the old version’s exposed cable housing to hook your thumbs around.

The carbon lever blade’s outward cant is a more natural fit, too, and the long-awaited reach adjustment proved rather handy on the PRO anatomic-bend bar we used during this initial testing.  Even before bringing the levers closer to the bar, though, the new shifter’s larger paddles down below offers bigger targets that are easier to find when you’re in the drops and going hard. 

Rear shifts actually feel identical to 7800 with the usual incredibly light and smooth action we’ve become accustomed to from Shimano.  Considering the concealed derailleur housing’s slightly more convoluted gear cable routing, this should be probably be viewed as an improvement. 

Even so, we had hoped for a little more here.  Shimano claims a 20 percent shorter throw for the main right-hand lever but if that’s the case, it’s hardly noticeable.  As compared to Campagnolo and SRAM’s newest Red group, Dura-Ace 7900’s lever throws seem far longer, especially for upshifts.  The XTR group’s more advanced Instant Release and Multi-Release functions have been skipped over here in the name of weight saving, too, which means you can still only upshift one gear at a time (Red obviously has the same limitation but its far shorter throw still makes for faster multiple upshifts).  In a distinct step backwards, you can now only downshift two gears at a time, not three as with 7800. 

One undeniable star of the group is the