Ultimate Components Series Created by System Engineering Shimano’s History of Meeting Challenges That Opened Up a New Era of Racing

Ultimate Components Series Created by System Engineering
Shimano’s History of Meeting Challenges That Opened Up a New Era of Racing

DURA-ACE is the pinnacle of the latest digital technologies and system engineering. The birth of this components series that has continued to open up a new era of racing dates back to 1973, nearly half a century ago. After its success in the U.S. market, Shimano set its sights on Europe as the next market. To make inroads into Europe, Shimano could not ignore the market of road racing, which was highly popular there. Shimano’s challenge of creating premium components for road racing, a totally new field for it, started at this point. In Europe, hard and light aluminum components were already in use by that time. And there, Shimano launched DURA-ACE, a components series that adopted aluminum alloy material, duralumin for the first time. Since then, DURA-ACE has undergone improvement and evolution repeatedly in step with the history of road racing.


DURA-ACE Establishes Track Record in Races to Become Globally Renowned Components Series

Although Shimano made inroads into the road racing market in Europe with DURA-ACE, hardly anyone, even people involved in racing, knew its name at that time. To enhance its market recognition before everything, Shimano provided various racing teams in Europe with DURA-ACE components. In the meanwhile, it successfully signed an official sponsorship deal with a Belgian professional road racing team named Flandria. Feedback received from racers and mechanics after the components were used in real races served as significantly valuable information for development team members to become aware of the severity of real road races. While they made quality improvements one after another based on the feedback, DURA-ACE gradually became more widely known and the number of teams that wanted to use it increased. In 1978, Shimano made the first model change to release the EX series, which featured a freehub, an 11T top gear and many other advanced functions. This cemented the position of DURA-ACE in Europe. The AX series, which was released in 1980, incorporating an aerodynamic design that aimed to reduce air resistance, was received by the market with astonishment. Shimano developed an index system for shifting named Shimano Index System (SIS) for the 7400 series and released it in 1984. This system enabled error-free shifting even in tough races. Then, under the concept of Shimano Total Integration (STI), the Dual Control Lever system, which enables both shifting operations and brake control with a single lever, was released in 1990. Shifting operation enabled while keeping the hands on the handlebar significantly changed the road racing scene. In 2009, Shimano introduced an electronic control system for shifting operation. The shifting control by Digital Integrated Intelligence (DI2) achieves a “complete stress-free” operation and has gained great favor with many racers.

Engineering Innovation Continuing to Pursue Weight Reduction Even by One Gram

Shimano has been striving to make technological innovations in materials and processing technologies for DURA-ACE in order to achieve not only “stress-free” in shifting operation and brake control but also weight reduction, which is directly connected to high speed, the key to victory. Shimano released the 7700 series in 1996, succeeding in achieving both high rigidity and an approximately 500 g weight reduction of the entire components series by introducing the HOLLOWTECH crankset with hollow crank arms.

In the 7900 series, released in 2008, improved rigidity and further weight reduction were achieved by making the outer chainring hollow. In 2012, Shimano released a crankset using hollow bonding technology for its crank arms and outer chainring.

DURA-ACE continues to lead the field of road racing components. It truly reflects the history of challenges overcome by Shimano.


The name DURA-ACE was coined from “duralumin (aluminum alloy) and durability” plus “ace.” In 1973, it started to be provided to a professional road racing team, taking the first step as a road racing components series. Gaining active cooperation from the team, the engineering and manufacturing departments made concerted efforts to pursue unprecedented quality in terms of design and functionality, thereby gradually enhancing recognition of DURA-ACE.
Released as a components series for track races. Changing the chain pitch from the industry standard 12.7 mm to 10 mm allowed size reduction of the front chainwheel and sprockets, achieving significant weight reduction. An Australian cyclist John Nicholson, who rode a bicycle equipped with DURA-ACE 10, won the world professional sprint cycling championship in 1976.
DURA-ACE EX 7200 series
Utilizing the experience gained in races with the initial models, Shimano improved the shifting performance and the Maintainability. This was a series of products developed in line with the concept of system components of “A bicycle is not a collection of parts, but a collection of mutually functioning components,” and was reputed to be the “starting point of components series.” It featured a freehub and an 11T top gear, which are now the industry standard, and many other epoch-making advanced functions.
DURA-ACE AX 7300 series
The AX 7300 series featured an aerodynamic design that aimed to reduce air resistance, a never-ending challenge in cycle racing. Aerodynamic shapes and weight reduction of each component were thoroughly pursued. To maximize the effects of aerodynamic designs, Shimano even built a large-scale wind tunnel laboratory inside the company, a significant investment at that time. This showed how seriously the management at that time worked on aerodynamics.
DURA-ACE 7400 series
In the 7400 series, Shimano thoroughly pursued functions for winning races and focused on improving its basic performance. Furthermore, it developed Shimano Index System (SIS), in which an index system was incorporated into the shift lever. This system, which enabled quick, precise and reliable shifting, truly marked a milestone in shifting system history. In 1990, the Dual Control Lever system was created by the development based on the concept of Shimano Total Integration (STI), which is a concept of systematically integrating technologies of individual functional components and thereby pursuing further value as a system. This system enabled both shifting operations and brake control with a single lever. The development of Dual Control Lever significantly changed the road racing scene after that.
DURA-ACE 7700 series
Under the concept of “stress-free,” Shimano developed the DURA-ACE 7700 series by reviewing the fields of weight reduction, durability and operability. Shimano was thoroughly committed to the design by eliminating the slightest rattling of each component, as well as incorporated a 9-speed HG cassette sprocket, hollow crank arms and other state-of-the-art functions. Compared to the previous model, an approximately 500 g weight reduction of the entire components series was achieved.
DURA-ACE 7800 series
Pursuing an amalgam of the three S’s of “Speed,” “Smooth” and “Strength,” Shimano aimed to fully convert the rider’s power into driving force. The Dual Control Lever system, designed based on ergonomics, achieved levers that were easy to control and grip. The HOLLOWTECH II crankset achieved both weight reduction and excellent rigidity by integrating the bottom bracket axle. Shimano enhanced performance and quality from a variety of angles by imparting a beautiful finish with a special print logo and developing a rear 10-speed drivetrain system.
DURA-ACE 7900 series
DURA-ACE 7970 series
Shimano undertook further pursuit of achieving high precision, rigidity and smoothness by developing HOLLOWGLIDE, a hollow outer chainring construction, and completely embedding the shifting cable under the handlebar tape. Furthermore, it developed a new system that combined Shimano’s metalworking technologies with electronics, called “Digital Integrated Intelligence” or DI2 for short, and released a DI2 version. By providing racers with a “complete stress-free” function, it offered a new possibility to the road racing scene.
DURA-ACE 9000 series
DURA-ACE 9070 series
Using the three Cs of “Concentration,” “Control,” and “Confidence” as key words, Shimano aimed for new heights to improve rigidity, durability, precision, operability and other aspects of performance by fully re-engineering every component across the system. It realized overwhelming weight reduction by adopting a four-arm crankset construction achieving a high hollow ratio. The following year, Shimano released its DI2 version. The E-TUBE system linked DI2 with a PC, enabling the rider to customize shifting operations. This model was further sophisticated from its predecessor, featuring the expanded shift switch and the improved specifications of the internal system.
DURA-ACE R9100 series/
R9150 series
Under the concept of “System Supremacy,” Shimano pursued supreme system components performance. Adopting disc brakes helped achieve faster racing speeds. The black graduated design, coming from Japanese ink wash painting, expresses the flow of power. This represents a commitment to expression distinctively Japanese. A diverse lineup of the shifting system (mechanical / DI2) and brake system (rim / disc) is offered according to the riders’ needs.