Yesterday Shimano released the details on their second tier groupset and I think it’s important news. In a way the current iteration of Ultegra (6700) and the recently replaced Dura Ace (7900) were a bit of a miss for Shimano as it appeared that they perhaps focussed on developing Di2. Both of these “older” groupsets moved to concealed cables and both groupsets were criticised for not shifting as well as the groupsets they replaced (Dura Ace 7800 and Ultegra 6600) and enthusiasts talked a lot about not upgrading. It was that shifting quality that in a small way for Ultegra but in a larger way for Dura Ace stayed with them throughout their lives to a greater or lesser extent.I went from 9 speed 105 to Dura Ace 7900 and I always enjoyed it – perhaps partly bathing in the glow of my personal shift to Dura Ace. However, I remember being stunned at how easy the new 4600 Tiagra shifted in comparison (with external cabling). It wasn’t until I tried the new Dura Ace 9000 that I could feel for myself was a big step forwards Dura Ace 9000 is over 7900 in shifting quality – not to mention the 11th cog and better braking or the single BCD for all front ring combinations.This is why Ultegra 6800 is important to me – I’m expecting a big step forward in shifting quality for perhaps even less money than an Ultegra 6700 groupset is now. Again like Dura Ace we will also get an 11th cog, better braking and the same chainring BCD which is another key feature.This new crankset standard also sees Shimano offering semi-compact in Ultegra for the first time 52/36 and it’s a fantastic combination. I’ve been running it all winter on my TK3 using the excellent Praxis Works rings. With the new Shimano design – if you want to change to say 50/34 for a trip to the Alps or to 53/39 for a fast flat sportive – you simply buy the chainrings now – you don’t need to swap chainsets. Very good news. The new Ultegra chainset also sees the Dura Ace-esque shift to the 4 spider cranks. Striking seems the right word until I’ve seen it in the flesh.Other improvements include improved ergonomics, a new front mech design, improved braking performance and a lighter overall weight not to mention 11speed hubs. There’s also a new rear mech option that will allow up to a 32 tooth cassette to compete with SRAM’s WiFLi.
One of the benefits Shimano Ultegra has always offered punters is that it offers much of the performance of Dura Ace for typically around half the price. Trickle down at it’s best!
Having ridden about 4,000km on Dura Ace 7900 I’m not sure that I could personally justify the expense of buying and running Dura Ace again – but I absolutely could with Ultegra 6800. Of course, I’ll be asking Madison if and how I might be able to trial a 6800 groupset when they’re available around September.
Some more excellent coverage on Ultrega 6800 can be found here:
Thanks for reading