Best Shimano innovations (2/2)


Let’s go with the second part of this massive Shimano’s history review. I am sure this time some of the trademarks will catch you off guard.

20. Shimano Custom-Fit®. Winter sport disciplines have been using heat-moldable insoles in boots for over 20 years. In 2007, Shimano was the first company to offer this technology in several models. As with ski boots, the idea here is to provide added comfort inside the stiff footwear eliminating those spaces and irregular contacts keeping the foot in place better, which also improves performance. Check out this interesting video:

The insole is first heated up in a special oven and then molded it to the shape of the foot by another vacuum device.

The insole is first heated up in a special oven and then molded it to the shape of the foot by another vacuum device

19. Servo-Wave®. Ideally on MTB rim brakes the pads should be set for generous rim clearance. This affects the brake lever actuation disminishing initial cable pull mechanical advantage. On the other hand, a brake system with too little initial mechanical advantage will push the shoes against the rim quickly, in response to a small amount of hand lever movement, but won’t push them hard enough at the end. Shimano introduced in the mid 90’s Servo-Wave levers with variable mechanical advantage that increases as the lever is pulled. Brake levers will pull more brake cable at the start of the lever stroke than at the end. Servo-Wave therefore gave improved separation between the brake shoes and the rim, delivering the same braking power as systems that have a constant ratio between lever movement and cable pull. Servo-Wave has also appeared for the first time in 2008 on a hydraulic Shimano XT lever.

Servo-Wave lever with three adjustment positions

Servo-Wave lever with three adjustment positions

18. Dual-pull front derailleurs. A modified design in the lever that routes the cable coming from the shifter towards the pinch bolt was introduced successively in all Shimano front derailleurs since 2003. A simple feature that allows any frame to work with any derailleur regardless of its routing. Dual-pull and shim adapters for different tubes sizes reduced the alarming growing variety of mechs in Shimano’s catalog, in particular those in the low range groupsets.

Different cable routings for down and top swing front derailleurs

Different cable routings for down and top swing dual-pull front derailleurs

17. Superglide®. Hyperglide’s brother Superglide came into existence a year later, in 1990. Superglide chainwheels were sold in sets designed to work together to facilitate front shifting. The first incarnation consists of a specially low tooth profile segments (twice repeated in opposite places of the chainring) inspired in the Uniglide system, and ramps design that only let the chain drop at the two points of lower pedal stroke pressure.

Late Shimano 80's adverts looked like this

Late Shimano 80’s adverts looked like this

16. Shadow-Plus®. The incomplete Shadow rear derailleur type was launched in 2008 for both XTR and Deore XT 25th anniversary gruppos as an option. For the trained eye, Shimano’s Shadow similarities with Sram mechanisms somehow confirmed that Sram was on the right direction for years ahead. Shadow came on stage in order to diminish cage movements for those riders that are most at home on technical trails. But left a lot of them unhappy failing at shifting smoothness and cages still bouncing. Unexpectedly, Shimano added a “plus” for the 2012 version. New models use a clutch mechanism to partially lock out the lower cage by increasing the friction. This reduces chainslap, making the chain less likely to come off on rough terrain and improves shifting consistency.

For ease of wheel disassembly the clutch can be enabled or disabled with the upper golden lever

For ease of wheel disassembly the clutch can be enabled or disabled with the upper golden lever

15. Uniglide®. Uniglide was incorporated to Shimano’s slang with the invention of the freehub. It specifies a new way to attach spockets onto the hub in a symmetrical 9 splines pattern along its body circumference. At the same time, Uniglide featured new characteristics on chains and sprockets towards the modern gear performance we now enjoy. These cassette sprockets used teeth that have been cut shorter in height than most of the others and a twisted tooth design. Chains were made of bent outer plates to achieve a wider opening every other link. Different spacer´s width between sprockets permits to configure a system from 5 to 8 speed. Sprockets smaller than 14 teeth used a built-in spacer. 15 teeth and bigger were reversible. Unlike its successor (Hyperglide cassettes), the smallest sprocket is at the same time a self locking ring as it goes threaded holding everything together.

First Hyperglide body hub ends had both internal and external threads to work also with older Uniglide clusters

First Hyperglide body hub ends had both internal and external threads to work also with older Uniglide clusters

14. Mega 7®. Due to the constraints of room to provide access to the bearing cone and fit a freewheel removal tool, it was impossible for years to produce a freewheel with anything smaller than a 13 tooth sprocket. It was quite startling when in 2001 Shimano re-engineered the freewheel introducing the Mega 7, suitable for 11-12 tooth sprockets. For example, a bizarre 11-13-15-18-21-24-34 (known as MegaRange) setup, provided a reasonable step between cogs for crusing with the exception of the innermost 10 tooth jump for the steepest ascents. After winning the 80’s war against the freewheel, the well established Shimano Freehub wasn´t afraid anymore of competitors for the higher end bikes segment, but in the meantime, the company had lost attention in the lowest. Note that MegaRange does not necessarily implies Mega 7. It has to be present the slim black lockring at the end and one 11 or 12 tooth sprocket! The unknown gem of Mega 7 is also known as Type C freewheels, like the Hyplerglide-C cassettes that allow up to 11 tooth sprockets. The design has been copied by other companies.

Note that MegaRange does not necessarily implies Mega 7. It has to be present the slim black lockring at the end

Unfortunately Mega 7 has been discontinued few years ago due to high cost of production. The picture above is just a MegaRange freewheel.

13. UN Bottom brackets. In 1992, Shimano unveiled the sealed bearing cartridge bottom bracket for indistinct use with their road and mountain groups. A new saga series of “UN” bottom brackets hit the roads and trials with great success despite mechanic’s skepticism and the hassle of a new tool in the workshop, the famous TL-UN72. The non-serviceable unit demonstrated to last as long as the old units with no re-grease bearing service requirements.

One of the products that Shimano could not patent

One of the products that Shimano could not patent

12. Hollowtech®. A manufacturing technique that has sourced lighter and stiffer cranks all of a sudden in 1996. There are more patents than you may think for producing hollow cranks. But then again, Shimano was the first one to introduce it with no recall issues in almost 20 years of existence. Don´t confuse Hollowtech with Hollowtech II and their crazy hollow axles and outboard bearings.

The inside of a primitive Hollowtech LX crank

The inside of a primitive Hollowtech LX crank

11. Ice Tech®. In 2011 a full revamped XTR brakeset (new master cylinder, pistons…) benefited also from an ingenious 3 layer disc rotor with aluminium core design and brake pads with heatsinks incorporated. Focused on heat dissipation, IceTech introduction has resulted in virtually zero brake fading, reduction of noise and increased pads life expectancy. You might think I am a little bit cheeky positioning such a new technology on here… time will prove.

My ex-headmechanic Seun gave me these cool fridge magnets imitating the new brake pad fins desing

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