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Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview

  • Know your Bicycle
Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview

Shimano is one of the world leaders in the segment of bicycle component manufacturing. The Japanese multinational company manufactures bicycle gear shifters, derailleurs, wheels, hubs, pedals, shoes and more such performance accessories for cycling. I got a chance to review the Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset, and here’s what I feel about it.

Shimano Ultegra is the “premium” groupset from the Japanese component giant, and sits just below the top-level Dura Ace groupset. The Shimano comes in both the mechanical and the electronic Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence) versions. Top-end carbon fiber road bicycles that are race-ready are usually fitted stock with Shimano Ultegra components, as they are one of the more expensive groupsets from Shimano, and come only on bikes with hefty price tags. But anyone buying a bike at that price point would usually be a seasoned cyclist looking for a pure performance machine, and the Shimano Ultegra never disappoints in that department !I decided to put the mechanical version of the Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset that I got my hands on through a brutal, exhaustive test and see if it was worth its salt. The entire groupset came with the following components.

  • Shimano Ultegra 11-Speed Front and Rear Dual Control brake and shift levers
  • Shimano Ultegra 11-Speed 2X 50/34 front chainwheel crank
  • Shimano Ultegra 2x11 Front Derailleur
  • Shimano Ultegra 11- Speed Rear Derailleur
  • Shimano Ultegra 11- Speed 11-32 cassette
  • Shimano Ultegra Front and Rear brakes
  • Shimano Ultegra Super Narrow SIL-TEC HG-X11 11-Speed Chain

Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview-1
Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview-2

Shimano’s signature 11-Speed gunmetal grey shaded component, the Ultegra is for the serious racer, and as a package, is the best mechanical groupset ever to be churned out by Shimano. In a nutshell, it exceeds expectations when it comes to performance and at the same time, doesn’t burn a huge hole in the buyer’s pocket. With performance that is almost equal to the top-of-the-line Dura-Ace, the Shimano Ultegra is the smart choice in the Shimano range. The front and rear shifting is pretty much perfect and there is also a complete choice of gear ratios including a 32T which you don’t get with Dura-Ace. If you’re looking for a high performance groupset, but don’t intend to shell out extra bucks just for the bling that comes with Dura-Ace, then the Ultegra is perfect for you.

Shimano’s proprietary SIL-TEC friction-reducing polymer treatment coating that has been specially developed to reduce overall effort and speed up shifting and provide an improved overall shifting experience is incorporated into the body of the shifters, the cables and on to the roller plates and pin link plates of the chain of the Ultegra groupset. Weighing a minimal 425 grams, the Shimano Ultegra dual control shift levers have carbon-fibre reinforced plastic brackets and main levers, and the narrower ergonomically shaped hoods make it easier to hold and to handle. The shifting mechanism is precise and sensitive and although it's light, there is still a reassuring feedback from the lever that makes the entire shifting experience a pleasure. Shimano has been doing a lot of work on their shifters, trying to improve the shift feel, shift mechanism and shift response, and the results of their hard work is evident in the “Vivid Shifting” technology in the Ultegra shifters. This tech makes sure that the shift lever resistance doesn’t ramp up when shifting from the smaller gears to the bigger gears, which makes the shifting experience buttery smooth and superbly consistent across all gears combinations.

Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview-3
Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview-4

The Ultegra front derailleur comes with aluminium links and a chrome-plated steel chain guide. A trim position helps avoid chain rub as the chain moves across the cassette. The front derailleur has a long activation arm to reduce the shift effort and it features a support bolt that comes into contact with the frame to stiffen up the structure. The front shifts are much lighter and have an excellent pick-up from the chain and the chainring on the upshift. The only disadvantage, or rather a limitation that I feel the Ultegra front derailleur has is that it allows only upto a 53T chainring to be fitted. Being called the ideal groupset for the serious racers, I feel that this is a handicap for the Ultegra groupset, especially on a Time Trial bike.

The Ultegra rear derailleur mimics the same gunmetal colour of its shifters, and is built with a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic plate and a steel inner-link that makes it durable as well as super light. It is available in both the short cage and long cage versions to suit the chainwheel and the cassette that you are running. It is possible to fit upto a 32T cassette on the long cage version, which would be the ideal choice if you have lots of climbs and inclines on your rides. The shifting is sharp, lightning fast, and super quick and the transition is very smooth, without any jerky or jumpy chain movements. The Ultegra delivers the superior shift experience that is expected of it, at this price point.

The Ultegra SLR-EV Dual Pivot brakes are impressive wheel-stoppers. They are smooth, grippy and all you need are just two fingers pressing on the lever to bring the bike to an instant halt. The arc on the brakes calipers have been made less-pronounced to incorporate aerodynamics, but as a result of that, it only allows up to a 25mm tyre to be fitted on it. The brakes come also with a direct mount version that is very similar to the regular one, and the rear brake also has an aerodynamic BB mountable version for Time Trial / Triathlon bikes. The Shimano Ultegra cassette comes in five different combinations: 11-23T, 11-25T, 12-25T, 11-28T or 11-32T. The cassette, like other 11-speed Shimano cassettes, will need a 11-speed compatible wheelset, a 11-speed crankset and 11-speed shifters to be utilized to it’s maximum.

The Shimano Ultegra 11-Speed chain is super thin and seamlessly moves over the cogs, both on upshifts and downshifts. Shimano’s proprietary SIL-TEC friction-reducing polymer treatment coating that has been specially developed to reduce overall effort and speed up shifting is present on the inner link plates of the Ultegra chain that makes it roll all the more impressively. As with all Shimano 11-speed groupsets, all the components of the Ultegra 11-speed system are cross compatible with the components of the other 11-speed systems from Shimano, namely the 105 and the Dura Ace.

Shimano Ultegra - Complete Groupset Overview-5

The Shimano Ultegra groupset, is Shimano’s second-tier 11-Speed juggernaut and is a definite eye-catcher and touches exactly that sweet-spot of bicycle shifting, with absolutely zero compromises on terms of both performance and aesthetics. It is lightweight, the shifting is crisp and quick, and the braking is truly excellent. The true blue racers are those who would be milking the best performance out of the Ultegra. The not-so-serious road cyclists can however opt for the Shimano 105 groupset, if a 11-speed system is all they need, and save a few bucks in the process. In a nutshell, fantastic shifting, top-end braking and justified performance for its price tag.


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