This is a 46tooth chainring for Dura Ace 7800. Shimano introduced this item without any fanfare, but this is the first item that Shimano ever produced specifically for cyclocross.
Thursday night I attended the Shimano tech seminar in Portland, and I learned that this chainring is not a fluke. Shimano recognizes that cyclocross is no longer a fringe sport for kooks; it is a serious growth sport and a viable market. Shimano will have more products for cyclocross.
The cyclocross market, by Shimano’s numbers, exploded this year. That 46t ring was so hot 2008 that the year’s supply blew out months ago; Shimano won’t have anymore units to distributors until April next year. With that much interest in the sport, Shimano can finally commit to marketing cyclocross products to their own high standards of quality, performance, and system integration.
The Shimano representatives were necessarily coy about what new products will be coming and when, but they hinted that brakes could be the first item. Also, they admitted that since the new Dura Ace 7900 levers pull more cable than any previous generation Shimano road lever, the new DA levers are thus inadvertently more suited for cantilevers.
I’ve got some more tid bits from the tech seminar to report later.