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A First Look at Shimano’s Cyclocross Group

Published July 21, 2011

SUNCADIA, WA (BRAIN)—Cyclocross dealers and the fans they cater to may want to take a look at Shimano’s new cyclocross group—cantilever brakes, cranks and front derailleur. Shimano’s regional sales manager, Andrew Kempe, unveiled the new components at Raleigh’s dealer event this week, and ‘cross fans are impressed.

Andrew Yee, editor and publisher of Cyclocross, a 6,500-circulation magazine for ‘cross fanatics, said Shimano’s new system is a smart move for the company. “It’s great to see Shimano put its marketing and manufacturing muscle behind cyclocross,” said Yee, after examining the new components.

“It looks like it will be a very competitive option for the serious ‘cross racer,” he added.

Shimano is offering two levels: CX 70 and CX 50. The CX 70 group will be available for aftermarket sale in August. The CX 50 group, a lower price-point option, won’t be ready until next year, Kempe said. The full CX 70 group’s retail price is $465.

Suppliers got a look at prototypes last February, but most 2012 cyclocross bikes now in stock or on the water won’t have the CX 70 components. Raleigh, which has upped its ‘cross line for 2012 from two to eight models, will spec the new components later in the season, said Chris Speyer, Raleigh’s vice president for products and marketing.

A key design and engineering move by Shimano was the new cantilever brakes and the smooth compatibility they offer 7900 and 7970 Dura-Ace shifting levers. The brakes are also compatible with Ultegra’s 6700 levers, and the 105 group’s 5700 levers.

While the brakes will work with earlier model levers, it’s not as smooth. “They’ll work but they won’t feel as good,” said Kempe, noting that the cable-pull ratios are different.

But among the new components, it’s the cantilever brakes that grab your attention. The detailing is superb and the hourglass-shaped span between the brake pads and levers is eye-catching. The smooth shape should help shed mud, Kempe said.

Shimano’s new crankset also offers ‘cross friendly 46/36 chainrings, a configuration popular with racers but up until now not part of the Shimano line. “That’s pretty much the sweet spot,” Kempe said. Racers using Shimano cranks and chainrings had to make do with a 46/39 setup.

The CX 70 group’s crankarms are similar to Ultegra’s hollow-core design while the CX 50 crankarms are solid throughout. The CX 70 front derailleur is also new and will deliver lightening fast shifts with the new 46/36 chainrings. The front derailleur is available in two band widths plus a bolt-on version for braze-ons.

Kempe said Shimano’s decision to move aggressively into the cyclocross market was driven by the sport’s increasing popularity, particularly in the rainy Northwest. Cross Crusade, an eight-race series in Portland, Oregon, attracts up to 1,500 racers per event. “It’s crazy to go and watch that. Right now there are more Cat 4s at a race than elite riders,” he said of the indication that the sport is growing.

In Europe, cyclocross is a spectator sport, but in the U.S. it has attracted legions of active participants. “They are so ‘cross mad here that you can hear them complain about the sunshine,” he said.

--Marc Sani

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