Today Shimano has announced the next generation of their enormously popular and successful Ultegra groupset. Ultegra is the tier down from the top of the range Dura Ace level and typically brings most of the performance of the highest tier to a much more affordable price point. In my view, Ultegra is the best value, high performance groupset you can buy and this new version should only further cement this.
Ultegra 8000 takes the best bits from the new Dura Ace R9100 groupset and brings them to a lower price point at generally not too much extra weight. That’s generally the “catch” with Ultegra, it’s slightly less “blingy” than Dura Ace, about 60% of the price for 90% of the performance.
For those of us, who either can’t afford to buy Dura Ace or like to buy the best bang for buck, Ultegra 8000 is the next level of this for Shimano fans. It also brings the new aesthetic styling of Dura Ace R9100 to a lower price point. I really like the look.
We get a new stiffer crank design, inspired by Dura Ace, a new front mech design that’s more compact to work with better across a wider range of framesets, new levers with better ergonomics, more compact disc brake units and the new style rotor. There are also now, shift buttons built into the top of the Di2 levers (caliper and disc brake).
Of course you also get synchro and semi-synchro shifting but you can get that on the old Di2 Ulegra with the battery and Bluetooth adapter upgrade.
The caliper brakes are now compatible with 28mm tyres, which to me is the only disappointment with this new version. Dura Ace R9100 manages 30mm clearance with it’s calipers and I was hoping for 32mm for Ultegra as we see more bikes having room for wider tyres. This really means that if you want to run wider than 28-ish mm wide tyres you’re either going to have to go long drop or more realistically disc brakes. Maybe that’s the way it should be? For example the new BMC Teammachine race bikes, will supposedly fit 28mm tyres, so these new Ultegra brake calipers should be just fine.
In fairness, most of the improvements in Ultegra R8000 fall into the marginal gains camp – but small improvements are all welcome. It might not be enough to tempt you to replace your 6800 series Ultegra but if you’re running anything older, it’s all good. Also if you’re buying a new bike this year, you get to decide whether to wait for these small gains and cosmetic updates, or buy now. It’s a nice problem to have and you won’t be going wrong either way. The new front mech is a lovely design and that may work with a frame better than the long arm 6800 version but for most bikes, either will be fine.
Like the new Dura Ace there are plenty of combinations to choose from, as long as you don’t want a 1×11 groupset, which is still missing from the line up.
Ultegra R8000 rim brake, mechanical shifting
Ultegra R8050 rim brake, Di2 shifting
Ultegra R8020 hydraulic disc brakes, mechanical shifting
Ultegra R8070 hydraulic disc brakes, Di2 shifting
Also updated and tweaked are the Ultegra pedals and Ultegra wheels – both of which have been big sellers and very highly regarded. There’s a small weight reduction on the new pedals and a slightly bigger one on the wheels thanks to new and lighter hubs (which give an 80gm saving).
Shimano Ultegra groupsets and components are typically long lasting, easy to maintain and cheap to run. I suspect Ultegra R8000 will continue this tradition.
I’ve tried to calculate weights of the various major combinations versus Ultegra 6800 and Dura Ace R9100, if you need anything else, please leave me a comment.
Ultegra R8000 will be available in rim brake form from June 2017 whilst Di2 and disc brake variations will begin arriving in August and you’ll see a lot of 2018 model year bikes with new Ultegra from around now – including this BMC Teammachine, that’ll be able to drop the disguise now 😊
As soon as I have pricing, I’ll update this but expect it to be quite close to Ultegra 6800, Brexit and currency fluctuations excepted