I won’t miss Shimano’s ugliest levers

Lumpy and unloved, RS505 levers die on R7000’s altar

With the very exciting and totally predictable appearance of the new 105 R7000 groupset, which includes its own R7020/7025 hydraulic levers and brakes, we can finally bid farewell to one of Shimano’s least aesthetically pleasing products, the RS505 STI lever.

The lumpen RS505 appeared on the scene way back in 2015, fulfilling the need for a 105-equivalent hydraulic lever at a time when your only other mechanical shifting option was the pricier RS685.

Until the advent of Dura-Ace R9100 (or rather, R9120 and R9170 if we’re being pedantic, and we are), Shimano kept its road disc brake options at arm’s length, declining to grant them full groupset status.

The RS505s were non-series, which means no groupset branding
The RS505s were non-series, which means no groupset branding

Nevertheless, every bike manufacturer on the planet wanted to put discs on their latest road bikes and they needed an affordable option for entry-level and mid-range models, hence the RS505 (and its 10-speed counterpart the RS405).

Don’t get me wrong, the RS505s work absolutely fine. The shifting is hard to fault and the braking is indistinguishable from that of Shimano’s other road hydraulics.

The ergonomics were always slightly more divisive. I never had a problem with them and found the big lumpy hoods at least gave me plenty to rest my hands on.

Some of our testers however didn’t get on well with the square-edged bump created by the bleed port, which can create a pressure point depending on exactly how you grip the lever body.

Lovely bike, not-so-lovely looking levers
Lovely bike, not-so-lovely looking levers

My real beef with the RS505s is their looks — they’re hideous. They make dainty, racy road bikes look oddly front-heavy, and they’re totally out of keeping with the svelte roadie aesthetic I’m desperately trying to cultivate.

We take a look at Shimano's new 105 R7000 groupset

Rest in peace, big guy

Shimano's new R7020 lever, shown on the right next to a non-hydraulic R7000, looks great
Shimano's new R7020 lever, shown on the right next to a non-hydraulic R7000, looks great

With the handsome new R7020 hydraulic groupset likely to feature on many 2019 bikes, the 2018 models with RS505s are suddenly looking rather frumpy.

This is bad news if you run a bike shop and have stock sitting around but it could work in your favour if you’re a customer shopping around for an end of season bargain in a few months, and you can forgive the RS505s their shortcomings.

The 10-speed RS405 isn't any prettier
The 10-speed RS405 isn't any prettier

Given Shimano’s usual pattern of trickling tech down, it seems all but certain that a similar fate will befall the Tiagra-equivalent RS405s in a year or two — Tiagra R5000 (or R6000) anyone?

Will you be pouring one out for the unlovely RS505? Do you like brake levers you can find in the dark? Let us know in the comments.  

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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