Six weeks with 12-speed Wilier, C50 wheels and PRO Vibe EVO
September 2021 Shimano had just announced DURA-ACE R9200 and Ultegra R8100, and reviews appeared online. I knew that it'd take a few months before the first real users got their hands on twelve-speed Di2 bikes, so decided to start updating my content.
I've always had a pretty good relationship with Shimano EU and Benelux, so I thought I'd ask them for a bike. Writing about new tech is easier when you can actually get your hands on that technology, and it doesn't hurt to ask.
Shimano didn't have a bike available at the time, but I was welcome to spend a day at Shimano in Nunspeet to play around with one of their bikes.
After my vacation, sometime in November, I sent Shimano another email - “about that visit". By this time the Coronavirus had picked up again, and Shimano HQ was closed to visitors.
However, Shimano did have a bike I could pick up and take home for a couple of weeks.
And so I did - I picked up this Wilier Filante SLR F2 with DURA-ACE R9200 and DURA-ACE C:50 wheels.
Disclaimer: everything on this page is my opinion. I know my way around Di2 and I'm a pretty competent mechanic, but I don't get paid to work on bikes all day - I build software.
Shimano has not asked for a review or any other favours in exchange for lending me this bike.
What is installed on the bike?
I'll walk through each of these on their own, and ramble on about how I feel and how they compare to the R8050 components on my own bike.
If you happen to be on Instagram, I've also published a couple of pretty big posts on most of these components: instagram.com/BetterShifting.
Installed on this bike is a full R9200 DURA-ACE 12-speed Di2 groupset:
- Front derailleur: FD-R9250
- Rear derailleur: RD-R9250
- Shift levers: ST-R9270 (wireless, disc)
- Battery: BT-DN300
- Electric wires: EW-SD300
- Cassette: CS-R9200 11-30
- Crankset: FD-R9200 50-34
- Satellite climbing shifters: SW-RS801-T
Besides the Di2 components, there are more pretty cool parts worth mentioning:
Finally, I'll also give my overall impression of the bike and R9200 - at the bottom of the page.
Front derailleur - FD-R9250
According to Shimano, the new front derailleur is 45% faster than the previous models.
The previous ones were pretty snappy, and I'm not sure my brain can actually observe the difference in speed. Shimano could even claim it's 80% faster, and I probably wouldn't be able to notice.
However, I definitely notice the new sound. Perhaps this is because I've ridden 6870 and R8050 bikes for years, but the first thing I noticed was the new derailleur sound.
It's a bit… shorter. Makes sense, since the shifts happen in a shorter period of time. Also, the tone is different. As I'm writing this I realise that it is a bit hard to describe how something sounds - so here is a short video of me shifting the FD-R8050 and the FD-R9250.
I like the new sound - it sounds a bit more... sophisticated. Which sound do you prefer?
As for the looks - it's absolutely stunning. The derailleur cage is black, just like the derailleur itself, and the lack of limit bolts makes it look so clean.
Also - and I didn't “see" this until after I gave the bike back to Shimano - for the very first time, the derailleur is actually on straight. Look at the images of my FD-6870 and FD-R8050 below.
See how the derailleurs are aligned with the seat tube?
The derailleur body is in line with the seat tube, and follows the same angle.
Now look at the image of FD-R9250 again:
The derailleur mount is angled, offset from the body a bit. This results in a derailleur body that is actually oriented with its top side up, for once! The bit moving the derailleur plate in and out is angled as well, and I definitely like the way it looks.
Also, it is a lot smaller than the previous front derailleurs.
Performance-wise, I can't fault it either. It just works, all of the time. It's predictable, and performs the shifts you want, when you want.
Remember when I said the lack of limit bolts makes it look really neat and clean? If you're wondering how to set the limits, look no further. I have recently written a guide on installing and setting up the 12-speed Di2 front derailleur.
The specific front derailleur installed on the Wilier was a Prototype, but in all regards identical to the final product. There was only one difference, and that was the wire cover - this prototype didn't have one.
Rear Derailleur - RD-R9250
My Cinelli has an Ultegra RD-R8050 installed on it, and I've never had any complaints. It works well, every single time.
So what does the RD-R9250 get you? First of all, shift speed is even faster than before. Shimano says it's 58% faster than the previous generation. Again, I haven't measured the shift speed, but it feels snappy.
My system was set up wireless, like a lot of 12-speed Di2 systems will be. If you're thinking this affects performance - think again! Shifting is immediate. You press a button, and the rear derailleur moves. Instantly. Just like you're used to.
There is one thing that's different when shifting the bike wirelessly though.
The very first time you shift, the system won't respond. It needs to be “woken up", so to speak. This is only the case the very first shift - the rest of your ride you shouldn't notice a thing.
It's not the rear derailleur that is the cause for this - the shift levers that go to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity. So yeah, chances are that you'll have to wake up the system when you start your ride, and after a coffee stop.
No big deal, but something to be aware of.
These new derailleurs have a couple of cool features, like the wire plug cover, and the wire holder.
The plug cover is a nice little extra - it protects the plug and port from sand, dirt, and other contaminants. Besides that, it just makes it all look a bit tidier.
Now something that isn't installed on this bike, but is actually my favourite feature - the derailleur hanger integrated wire holder. This is a neat little clip that you can tuck the Di2 wire behind.
It doesn't work well on every frame though, which is probably why the bike I had here didn't have one.
But hang on - I'm not done with the rear derailleur yet.
It now also acts as the system's main junction. Everything that used to be in Junction A, is now in the rear derailleur. You've got the charge port:
As well as the function button, and the LED.
This does provide some extra challenges tweaking and riding the bike.
If you've ridden Di2 bikes for a while, you might have previously fine-tuned the rear derailleur's micro-adjustment (indexing) while riding, or switched shift modes by simply pressing the button on your handlebar junction twice.
You can't really reach down and press the rear derailleur button while riding, at least not unless you want to lose a finger or two.
There is a workaround - and not a lot of people know about this. You can set up any button or switch on your Di2 bike to act just like that rear derailleur function button.
How? Well, you use E-Tube Project's mobile app to set one of the buttons to “function". You can then press that button to enter adjustment mode, enable BluetoothLE connection mode, or switch to the next shift mode, just like you'd do using the one on the rear derailleur.
Personally, I prefer to set one of the hood buttons to function, and this was in fact already set up when I got the bike. The right hood button was set to D-fly Ch.1, and the left button was set to function.
GG Adjustment Gauge and charger
With DURA-ACE R9200 and Ultegra R8100, Shimano now also gives users a tool to help set the B-screw. This is called the “GG Adjustment Gauge".
No one seems to be 100% sure what that stands for, but it's probably something like Guide Gap Adjustment Gauge. The B-screw sets the distance between the guide pulley and the cassette, after all.
Since I didn't get one with the bike, I used a model made by Chris Heerschap and had that 3D-printed.
The final thing that comes with the rear derailleur is the charger. Unlike the previous charger (SM-BCR2), the new charger (EW-EC300) is just a charging cable.
It's not a PC interface - you'll have to use the mobile app or the SM-PCE02 to change settings and update firmware.
Shift levers - ST-R9270
When the first spy shots of the new levers appeared online, the general consensus was that they were relatively bulky, and a lot bigger than the previous levers.
And yes, they are bigger. They're not just taller, they're also slightly longer (4.6mm longer, in fact).
At first, I thought I would dislike the bigger levers, but they actually feel really good. They look a lot better than my older Ultegra R8070 levers too. Just take a look at the image below:
Note that the new one isn't that much taller than the old one. It just seems that way because that bike's handlebar is higher.
On the old shifter, you can see the whole lever. From the bottom, past the pivot point, to the silver bit at the top.
The new levers look similar to the very first Di2 hydraulic levers - the ST-R785. Except a lot prettier, of course.
What's particularly cool about this is that the look of the lever doesn't change as you adjust the reach. You see, max the old lever's reach and you'll end up with a pretty big gap between the silver plate and the lever body.
Not so on the new lever. It'll always look the same.
Speaking of reach - the new ones are 4.6mm longer. They start at roughly the same point, but extend a bit. This gives you a bit more lever body to wrap your fingers around, and there's more space between the brake lever blade and the handlebar.
These levers have servo-wave, giving you a bit more control when braking, as well as engaging the brakes a bit sooner - there is less of a dead zone.
You can choose to run them wirelessly, or wired. Checking the shift lever battery status (and replacing them) is really easy - you just hold both buttons for 0.5 - 2 seconds and the LED will show you the remaining charge level.
I've written a guide on this very subject, so read that if you want to know more. Hydraulic 12-speed Di2 levers have one EW-SD300 port, and one satellite shifter port. The SD300 port can be used to run the system wired, and wasn't used on my bike.
(rim brake levers have two SD300 ports)
Something that's pretty cool about these wireless levers - if you run them wired and for some reason the wire gets disconnected or broken, it'll automatically switch to wireless mode - neat!
The satellite shift port has the SW-RS801-T climbing shifters connected to it, and that's what I'll talk about next.
PRO Vibe Evo handlebar // satellite shifters
I have a 38cm wide PRO Vibe Aero Alloy handlebar on my own bike, and a 110 PRO Vibe stem. That is just right for me, but I'm not picky - I used a 40cm handlebar last year.
The PRO Vibe EVO handlebar that came with the bike is 40cm wide, and has a 105mm long ‘stem'. Its reach is 80mm, which is 2mm more than on my PRO Vibe Aero. In the end, they're pretty similar - I think there's a total difference of 3mm.
Not that it matters, really. The Wilier is a size s (48), while the Cinelli Veltrix I ride is a size 54. The reach of the two bikes is actually very comparable (2mm difference), but the Cinelli's top tube is 1cm longer, and it has a 3cm higher stack.
The Cinelli's position is a lot more upright, and it was always going to feel different anyway.
Anyway, let's get back to the PRO Vibe EVO.
When it was first released, I thought it looked very nice - futuristic and different.
I also thought it looks a bit big, possibly a tad chunky.
Turns out it isn't. Not really! In fact, I have grown to love the handlebar, and may even get one myself, despite the hefty price tag. It feels sturdy, and stiff, while at the same time it doesn't bounce around like crazy when the roads get rough.
I did experience some brake hose rattle, or possibly the satellite shifter wires rattling in the handlebar. This could probably be resolved by using something like the Jagwire internal housing damper, as I have done on my own bike.
If you're wondering how well the handlebar works with your bike and its cable routing, here's an image showing the three different routing options:
Now, option A1, would only really be an option if you're not installing satellite shifters. The other two options are pretty good though, Option B routes the wires/hoses outside the frame, in front of the head tube. Option C lets you run wires and hoses through the headset or steerer tube.
The satellite shifters, SW-RS801-T, are pretty nice. I found that there are two methods of pressing the button.
You can either press the button with the tip of your thumb, or gently nudge it using the side of your thumb. Don't quite understand what I'm trying to say here? I get that, so here's a video of me shifting using the satellite shifters: .
I prefer the gently nudge method, but which method works for you depends on the size of your handlebar, the location of the satellite shifters, and the size of your hands.
Twelve-speed satellite shifters are connected directly to the main shift levers, and therefore shifting is immediate. There is no delay, just like you're used to.
It may look like there is a delay in the video embedded above, but that's just my Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt that's a bit slow picking up the gear changes.
You won't have to replace or charge their batteries, because the satellite shifters are just simple switches - no batteries required.
DURA-ACE C50 Wheels and Cassette
Let's start with the looks - the white DURA-ACE C50 text works really well on these 50mm carbon rims. It has bladed spokes, and can be set up using either inner tubes, or tubeless. (there is a tubular version too, if that's your thing)
I sort of expected to be blown all over the road during crosswinds, but that didn't happen at all. And yes, riding the bike in December and January meant it saw some pretty bad weather.
During these windy rides, there was no difference in stability at all between these 50mm rims and my own 30mm Duke Road Runners. At least I didn't feel any.
And yes, I did set a couple of new personal bests on local Strava segments. Whether that was because of the wind, the aero bike, or these wheels, I can't tell really. Probably a combination of all three, to be honest!
Straight-pull, bladed spokes
While I personally prefer a good old J-bend spoke, I do like how these straight-pull spokes look.
I checked the spoke tension on both wheels using my Wheel Fanatyk tensiometer. Spoke tension on both wheels was a little lower expected (and specified in the Shimano manuals), even taking into consideration that the tyre was installed and inflated.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing - higher spoke tension does not automatically result in a better wheel - but it's worth mentioning either way.
Spoke uniformity was really good on the rear wheel, but the front was a bit messy. The wheel was still true and properly dished, but there were high/low tension spoke pairs.
Note that these wheels were not brand new - they have been ridden around by journalists and other media folk before, and there is no way to tell what happened to the wheels before I got my hands on them.
The 28mm vittoria tyres inflated to 29.30mm on these 21mm (internal) width rims.
External rim width is 28mm, by the way.
Ultegra wheels come with a freehub body that will take both 12-speed and 11-speed cassettes, but since the DURA-ACE wheels are meant for those who “never compromise", they will take 12-speed cassettes only.
Twelve-speed cassettes have this neat feature - a set of nudges on the last two sprockets - that makes it almost impossible to put the lock ring on wrong. These slot into each other, and there's only one way the last bits of the cassette will connect.
There is an ‘adhesive ring' that attaches to the back of the cassette. It's very much essential, so make sure you install it. If you don't, you may max out the micro-adjustment settings on your rear derailleur - or end up with weird shifting behaviour.
What kind of weird behaviour you ask? The Wilier had a bit of an issue where it would shift an extra gear, in the middle of the cassette. Basically, it'd shift from the 5th to the 7th sprocket, and then immediately back to the 6th - the gear it was supposed to shift to.
I asked Shimano about this, but they hadn't heard this feedback before. Shimano did mention that setting up these systems is a bit harder and finicky, due to the tighter tolerances. They're probably right, and the problem went away when I adjusted the gears a bit.
RyanW (Rhino's Workshop) posted a similar experience on Weight Weenies. At first he couldn't get rid of this extra shift all, but after checking the adhesive ring and tweaking the adjustment settings, it was all good.
Brakes… about those new brakes
They're technically not Di2, but they're on the bike - and were part of the R9200/R8100 release, so here we go.
The hydraulic disc calipers were redesigned, servo wave was added to the shift levers, and Shimano switched to (MTB) rotors - MT800 and MT900.
As a result, there is a shorter free stroke, less heat deformation, quieter operation, and 10% more clearance between the disc rotor and brake pad.
Speaking of rotors - the MT800/MT900 rotors weigh less than the older Ultegra/DURA-ACE rotors, warp less, and apparently make less noise as well!
If you're looking to upgrade your current calipers to the new system - you can!
A few weeks after the initial release, the Shimano compatibility information was updated, and it turns out the BR-R9270/BR-R8170 calipers are in fact compatible with the old shift levers.
Users on the Weight Weenies forums have put this to the test, and reported that it's all good.
Before you rush out to your nearest local/online bike shop though, keep in mind that part of the 10% extra clearance probably comes from the servo-wave on the new levers, and that the increased clearance is only 10%.
Don't get me wrong - 10% is great! Any improvement is definitely welcome! However. 10% extra of 0.5mm is only 0.05mm. It's still great, but it won't magically make all your problems disappear.
Besides the braking, maintenance has been made easier. There is now a bleed port and valve screw, making it less of a hassle to get all the air out of the caliper.
Also, there is a new bleed funnel, one that doesn't require that silly adapter.
So how does the braking feel? Pretty good! Now… I've gone from riding indoors a lot straight to riding the Wilier, and I didn't realise there was a difference in breaking until I got back on my Cinelli.
Brakes definitely engage a lot sooner on the new system, I noticed that immediately as I got back on my own bike. And no, my bike's brakes don't need to be bled ;-).
Clearance does indeed seem better, just like Shimano claims. I haven't measured the clearance, but riding out of the saddle and sprinting didn't cause the usual pinging noises.
There is a subtle difference between the Ultegra and DURA-ACE caliper. While the Ultegra is a two-part component just like before, the DURA-ACE caliper is machined from a single cold-forged block.
This improves stiffness, according to the Shimano website.
I just think it looks nice :)
Battery, Wires, Crankset
I haven't done a whole lot with these, I have to say.
See, the battery and wires are just that - battery and wires. I've seen and held the battery at Eurobike last year, and there isn't a whole lot to play or experiment with.
Still, in case you haven't read about the battery before, here goes:
It has three ports, instead of just the one on the BT-DN110. This means that you no longer need a B junction, or any junction box at all.
The derailleurs and shifters (if you run them wired) just plug into the battery, and that's it - two wires, two derailleurs, and a battery.
One important thing to know is this: all three ports of the battery must have either a wire connected to them, or a dummy plug. If you leave any port ‘unused', the system won't respond.
The new wires, EW-SD300, are essentially the same as the old wires. They're thinner, and the plug is different - but internally they're the same.
Some older TT components and sprint shifters are compatible with the new 12-speed system, but you'll need the EW-AD305 adapter.
The crankset is slightly heavier than the previous generation crankset. This should make it slightly more sturdy, and possibly stiffer… if you can actually notice that - I know I can't :).
Either way, it felt pretty good - and I like the way it looks too. At first, I thought I preferred the look of the Ultegra crankset… but I now actually appreciate the DURA-ACE version more. Its shiny finish looks great!
So how about the bike, and 12-speed Di2
I rode one of Shimano's 12-speed bikes at Eurobike last year, and while it all worked as expected, I didn't really get to do any serious riding back then. Sure, it shifted. There was an extra gear. That was all I could tell really.
Having spent six weeks with this bike has really made me appreciate the smaller things in the new Di2 systems.
Yes, they have 12 sprockets (or cogs, if you like).
And yes, it's wireless.
But it's also so much more.
People often complain that Shimano is rather late to the party. SRAM got into the whole wireless shifting before Shimano did, and 12-speed has been around for a while too now.
Shimano has really thought things through with the new system though, and it shows.
There are lots of little, subtle, changes and improvements.
All of these make sense - Shimano didn't just go “oh, let's change everything just for the sake of changing things".
The EW-SD300 wire standard is a lot nicer than EW-SD50, and it's time to say goodbye to EW-SD50.
BT-DN300 batteries have three ports instead of just the one, and that is exactly the amount of ports you need.
I love that every 12-speed Di2 system now has BluetoothLE/ANT functionality. It makes installing and setting up the front derailleur a lot easier.
Speaking of front derailleurs - it looks stunning, and very clean, due to the lack of limit bolts.
Even though the shift lever batteries last for about two years, I ran through the process of replacing them anyway. It takes about 30 seconds, and you don't need to re-pair the levers when you're done.
And sure, the rear derailleur is now also the main junction, instead of just a rear derailleur. The button will be hard to press while riding, so you cannot change synchro shift modes on the fly. Fortunately, Shimano has thought of that too, and you can now program any button to act just like the one on the rear derailleur!
The downside of all this functionality in the rear derailleur is, of course, that you really really really don't want that to break down. They're expensive, and without the rear derailleur the system just won't work.
Not that I have ever broken a Di2 rear derailleur - not even on my MTB - but it's something to be aware of.
Junctions, junctions, wires
No more junctions! Finally! While this may seem like a small thing, I love the fact that there are no more junction boxes. Just the two wires.
Most people will only build a bike once, and therefore wireless shifting will only really save you time once or twice… but it looks a lot nicer too. Also - fewer wires and junctions in a Di2 system means fewer (potential) points of failure.
I've seen (badly installed) systems fail before because wires were not plugged into the shift levers properly, or because Di2 wires got stretched and looped around the head tube…
You can run the system wired, and yes to rim brake riders that is the only way - but I suspect very few people will.
Running the system wired does improve battery life by up to 50%, but for most people the 1000-2000km you can ride with a 12-speed Di2 system will be plenty.
Backward compatibility, please?
If there is one thing I'm less happy with, it's backward compatibility. You see, almost none of the previous 11-speed components will work with the new 12-speed system (more info here).
You cannot connect an 11-speed shifter to the 12-speed systems. It just won't work.
And that is just fine.
It's time to say goodbye to EW-SD50 wiring and these older components.
I don't expect Shimano to continue support and testing for all (more than 50!) 10-speed and 11-speed shift units.
However, I would like Shimano to make the 12-speed levers backward-compatible with the 11-speed components. In fact, this may even be necessary in a couple of years, when 11-speed shift levers stock has run out and people have to replace broken levers.
SRAM did something similar a few months ago, because it just makes sense.
So pretty please, Shimano?
Final thoughts and thanks!
Wrapping this up, I have to say I had a great time riding the R9200 Wilier. I expected to do a lot of tinkering and experimenting with the Di2 and not do a whole lot of riding… but I rode more than I initially expected.
It was a lot of fun, and definitely of great help writing guides and pages, and tweaking them for 12-speed Di2.
I won't replace my 11-speed Di2 soon (my wife wants a new bathroom first :)), but I'll definitely make the jump to 12-speed Di2 at some point.
The PRO Vibe EVO handlebar and DURA-ACE wheels felt great too - a great set of components to go with R9200 and R8100 Di2.