One of the questions I get while working in the bicycle shop is when is all this gear madness going to end? Do you really need nine speed cassettes? What's the deal with Dual Control? Well........that's more than one question! I get them all, and now it would seem that the folks at Shimano might finally be listening.
In a recent Tech Report on cyclingnews.com , a link is given at the bottom of an article about Shimano's 2007 product that takes you to a Norwegian site sporting some pictures of XT and LX rear derailluers and trigger shifters! Also noted is the fact that the redesigned rear derailluers are "high-normal", or as the Cycling News fellow calls it "top-normal". This is significant in that Shimano has been trying for years to get the industry, shop mechanics, and consumers to get behind the "rapid-rise" rear derailluer, or low-normal rear mech. This means that instead of the spring tension of the derailluer pulling the derailluer into the faster gears, as normal derailluer would, the low-normal derailluer uses spring tension to pull the derailluer into the lowest gear. The point here is that, this seems to be a retreat from the former direction Shimano had been headed in.
What is going on here, probably, is that bike companies were not keen on speccing Dual Control, and Rapid Rise rear derailluers because that meant that they would have to use the rest of Shimano's proprietary parts to be compatible. This essentially eliminated any way for the product spec people to pick and choose componentry that would make their bicycles competitive on the showroom floor with other companies that were not using the All Shimano- All the time speccing philosophy. So, Shimano seeing sales going to other places, had to introduce components that can be mixed and matched with other companies components, allowing freedom of choice for product spec managers once again.
Sure, this means that it looks as though Shimano is "taking a step backwards" in the eyes of the press, and perhaps some consumers. In reality, it's about regaining market share lost to companies like SRAM, who are taking large bites out of Shimano's market share. With Shimano's bicycle parts division taking a hit last year, and SRAM's road group looming on the horizon, Shimano is going to do whatever it takes to lure the bike companies back into the fold. By default, the consumers will come along with them. Does Shimano really care what you and I, the trail biker, think about trigger shifters vs. Dual Control? Nahhhh........It's about money, big money, to be made or lost in the product spec wars. The thing is, it just might end the madness.
The efforts of Shimano and the demands of the product spec managers just might work out to create an end to the proliferation of cassette cogs and answers to shifting questions that were never asked. Maybe.
..........or maybe I'm just a dreamer!