Hot on the heels of Shimano's launch of new Dura-Ace R9200, the Japanese brand has followed up with what it describes as the "real-world application of those technologies," with an update to its second-tier groupset, Ultegra.
Shimano Ultegra has long lived in the shadow of Dura-Ace, quietly borrowing its headline-grabbing technologies, building it into a groupset constructed from lower-quality, heavier materials and thus making it available at a lower price point. That lower pricepoint makes it more accessible than Dura-Ace, and past iterations of Ultegra have promised many of the same performance credentials as its more expensive counterpart.
The same applies with Ultegra R8100; this latest iteration, which boasts all of the same headline features as its more premium stablemate, including a shift to electric-only, 12-speed and semi-wireless. In fact, today's launch sees the gap between Ultegra and Dura-Ace close further than ever before, as Shimano has introduced a couple of new features to the tier-two groupset that have previously been reserved for the brand's top-tier offering, including a power meter and carbon-fibre wheels.
Overall, depending on specification choice and excluding wheels, the weight penalty with Ultegra will be around 300g compared to Dura-Ace. Given there is also a cost-saving in excess of £1,000 / $1,500, the tier-two choice will undoubtedly be an exciting proposition for anyone looking at the latest Shimano road groupsets with a view to upgrading their road bike groupset.
Just like Dura-Ace, new Ultegra gets the same 'semi-wireless' Di2 platform, which sees shifters connect wirelessly to the rear derailleur, which is then wired to the battery and front derailleur. The rear derailleur (RD-R8150) acts as the master, housing the hidden charging port, LED indicator and function button.
Just like Dura-Ace, Shimano says this has helped to increase reliability, optimise battery performance and increase shifting speed, claiming an increase in shift speed of 58 per cent at the rear derailleur, 45 per cent at the front, and a battery that will last 1,000km.
This is achieved using the same BT-DN300 battery, SD-300 wires and "high security, fast processing and low power consumption proprietary chip circuit" that Shimano says "significantly decreases the chance of interference from external devices."
According to Shimano, the only difference comes in the construction, resulting in components that are heavier. The front derailleur weighs 116g (versus 96g for Dura-Ace), and the rear derailleur weighs 262g (versus 215g).
Perhaps the most obvious, but most important step for Shimano Dura-Ace was a jump from 11 to 12-speed cassettes, bringing it back in line with SRAM and Campagnolo's road offerings, and the same has been immediately applied to Ultegra.
Like Dura-Ace, Ultegra comes with a choice of two cassettes, 11-30 and 11-34, both of which will be well received by climbers. Just like their more expensive siblings, these cassettes feature Hyperglide+ technology, which uses ramped tooth profiles and is said to increase the smoothness of shifting under load.
An 11-30 Ultegra cassette weighs 297g (versus 223g for Dura-Ace), and despite getting a new spline pattern, remains compatible with 11-speed freehub bodies.
Shimano has looked to its 12-speed XT mountain bike range for the chain, meaning Ultegra R8100 will use the CN-M8100 to simplify the purchase process for customers.
The next area of mimicry comes at the brakes, with Ultegra following the same blueprint as Dura-Ace once again.
Rim brakes remain here too, however, it's in the disc brakes where development has been performed. This includes the introduction of Servowave technology, which offers a shorter free stroke and improved modulation; as well as the same 10 per cent increase in pad clearance and switch to mountain bike rotors (RT-MT800) which Shimano claims results in a quieter overall system.
Ultegra also gets the same new caliper design, which sees a separate bleed port and valve screw for easier bleeding. The calipers weigh 282g, versus Dura-Ace's 229g.
There's more of the same when it comes to the chainset, with Shimano once again taking its Dura-Ace features and packaging it into a slightly heavier construction. However, it's here where Ultegra begins to bridge the gap to Dura-Ace with the introduction of the CS-R8100-P, Ultegra's first power meter chainset.
This - and the non-power-meter version - are available in 'compact' 50/34 and 'semi-compact' 52/36 chainring configurations, foregoing the new 54/40 combination that has been introduced within Dura-Ace.
While the Ultegra chainsets clearly follow the same DNA styling as Dura-Ace, there is a discernible difference, with the Ultegra being slightly more square in its shaping, and slightly more grey in its finishing colour.
Here the gap to Dura-Ace is closed further, with the new Ultegra groupset getting its first-ever taste of carbon-fibre wheels.
The range's naming structure and the design of the wheels are, once again, borrowed from above, but while Dura-Ace has remained committed to tubular technology and rim brakes, the Ultegra wheel range is not. As a result, there are only three wheelsets in the range, all of which are disc-brake compatible, tubeless-ready clinchers.
The first is the shallowest of the three, the C36, which weighs in at 1,448g (versus 1,350g for the Dura-Ace equivalent) and sits at 36mm deep. The second is the all-rounder C50, at 50mm deep, weighing in at 1,570g (versus 1,461g). The third is the aero offering, at 60mm the C60 weighs in at 1,649g, just 40 grams more than the Dura-Ace equivalent.
Pricing, availability, and weights
Shimano Ultegra will be available in October 2021.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Header Cell - Column 1||MSRP $||MSRP £||Weight|
|Drivetrain||Row 0 - Cell 1||Row 0 - Cell 2||Row 0 - Cell 3||Row 0 - Cell 4|
|FC-R8100||Ultegra Cranksets with Chainrings||$314.99||£299.99||711g|
|FC-R8100-P||Ultegra Power Meter Crankset with Chainrings||$1,159.99||£999.99||769g|
|ST-R8150||Ultegra Di2 Shift/Rim Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)||$424.99||£399.99||Row 3 - Cell 4|
|ST-R8170||Ultegra Di2 Shift/Disc Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)||$809.98||£699.98||391g|
|CS-R8100||Ultegra Cassette (11-30)||$111.99||£119.99||297g|
|FD-R8150||Ultegra Di2 Front Derailleur||$259.99||£249.99||116g|
|RD-R8150||Ultegra Di2 Rear Derailleur||$409.99||£379.99||262g|
|Row 8 - Cell 0||Row 8 - Cell 1||Row 8 - Cell 2||Row 8 - Cell 3||Row 8 - Cell 4|
|Brakes||Row 9 - Cell 1||Row 9 - Cell 2||Row 9 - Cell 3||Row 9 - Cell 4|
|BR-R8100||Rim Brake Caliper Set||$162.99||£159.98||Row 10 - Cell 4|
|BR-R8170||Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper Set||$170.98||£179.98||282g|
|RT-MT800||Disc Brake Rotor (140mm and 160mm)||$55.99||£49.99 (each)||212g|
|J-Kit Brake Set||Ultegra Hydraulic Disc Brake Set (Calipers and Levers) - Front||$536.99||£449.99||Row 13 - Cell 4|
|J-Kit Brake Set||Ultegra Hydraulic Disc Brake Set (Calipers and Levers) - Rear||$536.99||£449.99||Row 14 - Cell 4|
|Row 15 - Cell 0||Row 15 - Cell 1||Row 15 - Cell 2||Row 15 - Cell 3||Row 15 - Cell 4|
|Wheels||Row 16 - Cell 1||Row 16 - Cell 2||Row 16 - Cell 3||Row 16 - Cell 4|
|WH-R8170-C36-TL||Ultegra C36 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$1,399.99||£1,259.98||1,488g|
|WH-R8170-C50-TL||Ultegra C50 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$1,399.99||£1,259.98||1,570g|
|WH-R8170-C60-TL||Ultegra C60 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset||$1,399.99||£1,259.98||1,649g|
|Row 20 - Cell 0||Row 20 - Cell 1||Row 20 - Cell 2||Row 20 - Cell 3||Row 20 - Cell 4|
|Di2 Parts||Row 21 - Cell 1||Row 21 - Cell 2||Row 21 - Cell 3||Row 21 - Cell 4|
|EW-EC300||Di2 Charger||$49.99||£44.99||Row 23 - Cell 4|
|SW-RS801-S||Shift Switch for Drops (pair)||$139.99||£119.99||Row 24 - Cell 4|
|SW-RS801-T||Shift Switch for Tops (pair)||$139.99||£119.99||Row 25 - Cell 4|
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As the Tech Editor here at Cyclingnews, Josh leads on content relating to all-things tech, including bikes, kit and components in order to cover product launches and curate our world-class buying guides, reviews and deals. Alongside this, his love for WorldTour racing and eagle eyes mean he's often breaking tech stories from the pro peloton too.
On the bike, 30-year-old Josh has been riding and racing since his early teens. He started out racing cross country when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s and has never looked back. He's always training for the next big event and is keen to get his hands on the newest tech to help. He enjoys a good long ride on road or gravel, but he's most alive when he's elbow-to-elbow in a local criterium.