On the face of it, the Shimano Dura-Ace (7800) has everything that I like in a derailleur. It is very quietly very competent, with new parallelogram plates widened at the p-knuckle for added rigidity. It is beautifully made with thin shell-like forms combined into a smooth and reassuringly robust whole. And it is beautifully finished with a smokey-grey polished look. It builds on the restrained sophistication of the Shimano Dura-Ace (7700) with that added rigidity and a loss of a good 15g in weight. Classy.
But I found it surprisingly hard to take an interesting photograph of the (7800). And if you asked me, out of the blue, to name the most impressive Dura-Ace models, I probably would not mention it. I might not even immediately remember it.
How can this much talent be so anonymous? Perhaps it comes from this Dura-Ace looking too similar to the derailleurs in the lower priced groupsets. There was a time when I could not readily tell Audi saloon cars apart. They were all essays in suavely restrained curves. But the A4 looked like the A6 looked like the A8. The difference lay in the size, and you needed a tape measure to tell which was which. Something similar may be going on here.
Or perhaps the classic, polished metal, slant parallelogram derailleur aesthetic had simply run out of steam. Perhaps there was no more to say. Perhaps it really was time for the unrefined rawness of the early Di2 designs, with all those levers hanging out the bottom, or for the uncoordinated awkwardness of the Shadow treatment of b-pivot.
The Shimano Dura-Ace (7800) may even turn out to be an under appreciated and timeless classic. It's the last all aluminium, all polished Dura-Ace derailleur, completely devoid of meaningless stylistic tics and over-engineered gadgetery.
This is a handsome example of the long cage Shimano Dura-Ace (7800 GS).
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