Is electronic Shimano Ultegra on the horizon?

Rumors suggest second-tier Di2 group is in development

Second tier electronic drivetrain technology is rumored to be on the horizon

Shimano launched their electronic Dura-Ace road groupset, dubbed Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence), last year to acclaim from racers, riders and the press alike. Just about the only issue anyone had with it was the price – over $3,000.

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Rumors now suggest that a cheaper electric groupset based on Shimano’s second-tier road group, Ultegra, may be on the horizon for 2012.

The French wheel building blog Roues Artisanales published a story earlier this month claiming confirmation of a new group that “will probably be called Di2 Ultegra 6770 and will certainly make electronic [shifting] more affordable”.

When BikeRadar contacted Shimano North America for comment, PR manager Devin Walton said he could not confirm the rumors – but he didn’t categorically deny them either. “What they’re tweeting [writing] about is certainly nothing that they’ve heard from Shimano or any Shimano employee,” he said. “So for now, it’s rumor.”

It seems obvious that Shimano would want to capitalize on the accolades and rave reviews given to their Di2 group by bringing its price down and making it available to a wider ridership; this Walton did not deny. But timing is everything and he stressed that if an electric Ultegra group is in the works, it’s much too early to talk about it.

Walton gave 2008’s Dura-Ace carbon crank as an example. “That ended up coming out a year after we announced it,” he said “And then at that point, even though we ended up taking some pre-orders, we ultimately decided that the value was just silly. When you compared it to the aluminum crank it just didn’t make sense, so we never went into production.” 

While no details are known, we imagine that when an electric Ultegra group is unveiled it will likely be a supplemental transmission supported by the current Ultegra 6700 brakes, crank, cassette and wheels, in the same way the current Di2 is supported by Dura-Ace 7900 components.

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BikeRadar’s technical editor, James Huang, predicts that the Ultegra version will be identical in terms of use, actuation and function. “In typical Shimano style, I’m guessing it’ll just be heavier but share the same electrical components internally,” he said.