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Shimano today announced the much-anticipated redesign of its workhorse Ultegra groupset. In typical Shimano fashion, the new Ultegra R8000 groupset is a close cousin to its Dura-Ace R9100 big brother in terms of both design and functionality, including the same updated four-arm crankset design, enhanced Di2 electronic shifting capabilities, and — finally — true Ultegra-branded hydraulic disc brake controls and calipers in both mechanical and electronic variants.
Data-minded cyclists will be disappointed to hear that there is no Ultegra crankarm-based power meter option confirmed as of yet, but R8000’s heavier weight and less elaborate finish relative to Dura-Ace R9100 will nevertheless make it vastly less expensive — and, undoubtedly, will keep it as popular an option as ever for performance-minded riders on more reasonable budgets.
Update (09/2018): Read our in-depth review of Shimano Ultegra R8000.
Ultegra-branded disc brakes at last, and enhanced Dual Control lever ergonomics
Ultegra-equipped riders who wanted to use hydraulic disc brakes were previously relegated to Shimano’s non-series R685 and R785 levers and calipers, which were perfectly respectable but nonetheless a departure from the complete groupset ethos. This time around, Shimano has at long last added proper Ultegra-branded levers and calipers to fill things out.
As was the case with the latest Dura-Ace groupset, the new hydraulic disc-compatible Ultegra levers (ST-R8070 for the Di2 version; ST-R8020 for the mechanical one) boast more refined ergonomics that address the R685/R785 levers’ often-polarizing fit. Both hydraulic lever bodies are smaller in diameter and shorter in reach than before, bringing it more inline with other Shimano levers. The shifter paddles have been enlarged across the board for easier access while in the drops, too, and the Di2 buttons now have stronger clicks for more tactile feedback. Rubber hoods also gain a textured finish for improved grip across the board.
According to Shimano, both levers also get a wider range of lever reach and free stroke adjustment. For the first time at the Ultegra level, Di2 levers will also get the so-called “hidden” buttons atop the lever peaks, which can be used to control either the derailleurs or compatible accessories such as computers and lights.
In addition to the refined shape, internal changes to the Dual Control levers for mechanical drivetrains yield a 24% reduction in shift lever throw as well.
Overall, these new levers should not only feel better in the hands, but at first glance, they also look much more refined.
The calipers will be offered exclusively in flat mount formats front and rear, both featuring compact forged aluminum bodies and Shimano’s trademark finned pads to help keep the mineral oil-based system from overheating. Additional heat management capability comes courtesy of the new RT800 rotors. As before, these use a three-layer construction with stainless steel skins sandwiching a more thermally conductive aluminum core, but now with the same radical fan-like extensions as was first seen on Dura-Ace. Edges will be rounded across the board, and at least for now, the new rotors will be offered exclusively in Center Lock splined fitments in 140mm and 160mm diameters.
Rim brake users shouldn’t feel let down, though, as Shimano has updated those as well. The new forged aluminum calipers will be offered in standard and direct-mount fitments, both with more compact shapes and tighter gaps between the linkage arms that should lend a sleeker appearance.
Standard dual-pivot models also get the same reinforcing bridge between the pivot axles as Dura-Ace to reduce flex when the brakes are applied, and both the standard and direct-mount calipers are officially rated for tires up to 28mm-wide.
Revamped front and rear derailleurs for both mechanical and Di2 transmissions
Ultegra R8000 will use redesigned derailleurs across the board, although they’ll thankfully retain compatibility with current levers.
Just as with Dura-Ace R9100, the new Ultegra RD-R8000 mechanical and RD-R8050 electronic rear derailleurs move to a Shadow configuration adapted from Shimano’s mountain bike components. The lower-profile parallelogram should help shield the mechanism from damage in a crash, while its longer length also provides more chain wrap around each cassette cog for reduced drivetrain wear and more consistent shift performance across the range.
Also trickling down is the so-called Direct Mount mounting interface, which hangs the derailleur further back from the frame than before for improved shifting and greater chain wrap across the cassette range.
For now, a short aluminum link keeps both rear derailleurs compatible with frames built with standard hangers. Those should slowly start to go away as frame manufacturers begin to build specific hangers to suit, though, with the added benefits of a sturdier mounting platform and more clearance for faster wheel changes. Notably, BMC has already started to offer its latest Teammachine SLR01 with a Direct Mount hanger.
To accommodate extra-wide cassette gear ratios, Shimano will offer the new Ultegra rear derailleurs in two cage lengths instead of the single one currently featured on Dura-Ace. The shorter SS version will handle cassette cogs up to 30T, while the longer GS variant will officially accommodate up to a 34T sprocket.
While changes to the Ultegra FD-R8050 Di2 electronic front derailleur are more cosmetic in nature, the mechanical version undergoes a more dramatic transformation. As with Dura-Ace, the new Ultegra R8000 front derailleur abandons a traditional lever arm in favor of the same spool-like assembly that was introduced last year. In addition to being lower in profile for better leg and tire clearance, the new mechanism directly incorporates a handy cable tension adjustment so inline adjusters are no longer needed. Leverage ratio refinements reduce the amount of hand effort required to shift, too.
Enhanced Di2 functionality
Trickle-down is once again the theme here, with Shimano taking the latest Di2 enhancements given to its flagship Dura-Ace groupset and incorporating them into the Ultegra level.
Shift performance hasn’t changed much at all in terms of how the chain physically moves between the individual chainrings and cassette cogs, but the semi and full Synchro shift map options first introduced with Dura-Ace Di2 earlier this year will now come stock (current Ultegra Di2 6870 users have been able to add those features with a new battery and D-Fly wireless unit as of April). Semi-Synchro mode automatically shifts a prescribed number of cassette cogs to compensate for front shifts instead of having to do it manually as usual, while full Synchro shift mode acts as a sequential gearbox, using just two buttons in total and automatically shifting the chainrings as needed to deliver the requested ratio; both modes are optional and can be switched on and off while riding.
Once again, Di2 users will have the option for remote shift buttons for both sprint and climbing applications.
When coupled with the wireless D-Fly unit, Ultegra Di2 users will also be able to program nearly every aspect of the system via Shimano’s latest e-Tube app (which now works with both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets), including specific functions for each shifter button, the number of rear compensating shifts in semi-Synchro mode, and when to shift up front when riding in full-Synchro mode.
Time trial racers and triathletes interested in using the new Ultegra Di2 groupset will want to get well acquainted with those programming features, too, as the latest components for those disciplines are fully optimized around the enhanced shift maps — so much so, in fact, that Shimano has only incorporated one shift button per side on the base bar-mounted brake/shift levers in an effort to reduce their size and weight relative to the current version.
New four-arm cranksets, wider-range gearing options
Shimano has carried over the previous Ultegra groupset’s striking matte/glossy, dark grey finish, but there’s no mistaking the more modern, Dura-Ace-like aesthetic. This is most obvious in the new crankset, which retains an asymmetric four-arm chainring mounting pattern and hollow-forged aluminum construction, but with radically oversized dimensions throughout that Shimano claims provides greater rigidity while nevertheless shaving a couple of grams relative to the current version.
As before, that same four-arm spider will be shared across all four chainring combination options — 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T, and 46/36T — and the outer rings will again feature a deep-profile, hollow structure to boost shift performance. Just like on the latest Dura-Ace R9100 crankset, Ultegra R8000 will feature an inner chainring that is shifted slightly inboard to reduce drivetrain interference on disc-equipped bikes while still officially allowing for chainstays as short as 410mm. Available crankarm lengths will include 165, 170, 172.5, and 175mm.
Despite the prevalence of BB30, PF30, and BB386EVO-equipped frames, Shimano is sticking to its long-standing 24mm-diameter, hollow chromoly bottom bracket spindle configuration; there is no 30mm-diameter version available, and Shimano will continue to rely on third-party solutions to fit its cranks into frames with oversized bottom bracket shells.
Gravel and adventure riders will note the distinct lack of smaller sub-compact or single-ring drivetrain options on Ultegra R8000, but Shimano has at least expanded the range of available 11-speed CS-R8000 rear cassette choices. These will include the more traditional road variants (11-25T, 12-25T, 11-28T, 14-28T), but also ones more specifically aimed at long and steep climbs (11-30T and 11-32T). In addition, there’s an extra-wide 11-34T option (CS-HG800) that will fit on Shimano/SRAM-compatible 10-speed freehub bodies, which will allow gravel and adventure riders the freedom to use mountain bike wheelsets and hubs.
All of those cassettes will use chrome plated steel cogs, with the largest ones mounted to a mix of aluminum and composite spiders.
Updated wheels and pedals
Changes to the current Ultegra SPD-SL are decidedly modest, including new pared-down (and non-replaceable) stainless steel wear pads on the molded carbon fiber composite body, a 0.7mm reduction in stack height, 12g of weight savings, and the option for 4mm-longer spindles for riders that need a wide Q-factor for proper biomechanics.
Accompanying the new Ultegra R8000 groupset are two new wheelsets as well, both built with new tubeless-compatible carbon fiber-and-aluminum laminate rims and updated, lighter-weight hubs. The WH-RS700 (replaces WH-6800) is intended for rim brakes and features quick-release axles and a 15mm internal rim width. The WH-RS770, meanwhile, is disc-specific with 12mm thru-axles front and rear, and a slightly more generous 17mm internal rim width to better match with the all-road bikes Shimano expects those users to be riding.
Prices, availability, and claimed weights
Claimed weight for a complete Ultegra Di2 R8000 groupset (with rim brakes and pedals) is 4,071g — 85g lighter than the equivalent Ultegra 6870 Di2 groupset, and 505g heavier than Dura-Ace R9170. Shimano estimates that Ultegra R8000 components and wheels should begin arriving in stores this month, with complete delivery by August.
Individual component weights and US retail prices are as follows (pricing for other regions is TBC):