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by James Huang
June 8, 2017
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.
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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.