Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical and Di2 groupsets — Everything to know

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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Ultegra-branded disc brakes at last, and enhanced Dual Control lever ergonomics

by James Huang

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.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Whereas Shimano has managed to make the latest Dura-Ace mechanical Dual Control levers look nearly identical for both rim- and disc brake setups, the new Ultegra ST-R8020 lever (at right) may still come across as a bit bulky to some. Still, it’s a huge improvement over the non-series ST-R685 Dual Control that was previously prescribed for this configuration. Photo: Shimano.

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.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Shimano has, however, managed to make the new Ultegra Di2 ST-R8070 Dual Control lever for hydraulic disc brakes look (and feel) nearly identical to its rim-brake counterpart. Hood shape and reach are essentially the same for either option. Photo: Shimano.

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.

Updated dual-pivot brake calipers are more compact than before, but yet have enough clearance to officially handle 28mm-wide tires. A small steel bridge joining the pivots reduces flex under hard braking, too. Photo: Shimano.

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.

Direct-mount rim-brake calipers will be offered both front and rear. Photo: Shimano.