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Shimano launches new Ultegra R8100 groupset alongside Dura-Ace

Close up of Shimano Ultegra R8100 chainset
(Image credit: Irmo Keizer / Andreas Dobslaff - Shimano)

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

Close up of Shimano Ultegra R8100 shifters

Shimano's new Ultegra shifters are wireless (Image credit: Irmo Keizer / Andreas Dobslaff - Shimano)

Semi-wireless

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). 

Close up of Shimano's new 12-speed Ultegra cassette

New Ultegra gets 12 sprockets in an 11-30 or 11-34 configuration (Image credit: Irmo Keizer / Andreas Dobslaff - Shimano)

12-speed

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. 

Close up of the Shimano Ultegra brake caliper

The new bleed port is outward facing, easing the bleed process for mechanics (Image credit: Irmo Keizer / Andreas Dobslaff - Shimano)

Brakes

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. 

A close up of Shimano's Ultegra R8100 crankset

The Ultegra crankset remains in line with Dura-Ace design DNA (Image credit: Irmo Keizer / Andreas Dobslaff - Shimano)

Chainset

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. 

Wheels

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.

MSRP $MSRP £Weight
Drivetrain
FC-R8100Ultegra Cranksets with Chainrings$314.99£299.99711g
FC-R8100-PUltegra Power Meter Crankset with Chainrings$1,159.99£999.99769g
ST-R8150Ultegra Di2 Shift/Rim Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)$424.99£399.99
ST-R8170Ultegra Di2 Shift/Disc Brake Lever Set (Left and Right)$809.98£699.98391g
CS-R8100Ultegra Cassette (11-30)$111.99£119.99297g
FD-R8150Ultegra Di2 Front Derailleur$259.99£249.99116g
RD-R8150Ultegra Di2 Rear Derailleur$409.99£379.99262g
Brakes
BR-R8100Rim Brake Caliper Set$162.99£159.98
BR-R8170Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper Set$170.98£179.98282g
RT-MT800Disc Brake Rotor (140mm and 160mm)$55.99£49.99 (each)212g
J-Kit Brake SetUltegra Hydraulic Disc Brake Set (Calipers and Levers) - Front$536.99£449.99
J-Kit Brake SetUltegra Hydraulic Disc Brake Set (Calipers and Levers) - Rear$536.99£449.99
Wheels
WH-R8170-C36-TLUltegra C36 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset $1,399.99£1,259.981,488g
WH-R8170-C50-TLUltegra C50 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset $1,399.99£1,259.981,570g
WH-R8170-C60-TLUltegra C60 Tubeless Disc Brake Wheelset $1,399.99£1,259.981,649g
Di2 Parts
BT-DN300Di2 Battery$184.99£174.9953g
EW-EC300Di2 Charger$49.99£44.99
SW-RS801-SShift Switch for Drops (pair)$139.99£119.99
SW-RS801-TShift Switch for Tops (pair)$139.99£119.99

Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.