Road Cycling

Shimano rolls out 11-speed Ultegra

Shimano has unveiled its new 6800-series Ultegra groupset, which includes an 11-speed drivetrain.

The Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset. ©Shimano

More positive mechanical shifting with a shorter lever throw, a new dual pivot brake with claims for an additional 10 per cent stopping power over its predecessor, and 11-speed compatible, hand-built wheels, feature among the line-up.

While Ultegra 6800 is clearly influenced by Shimano Dura Ace 9000, most obviously in the new, four-arm chainset, Shimano is branding the group as ‘The true spirit of the sport’ and, by offering a significantly expanded range of gear ratios, including an 11-32 cassette, hopes to bring much of its most advanced technology to riders beyond the peloton.

Here’s a close look at each component.

CS-6800 cassette

The 11-speed Shimano CS-6800 cassette

It’s not often a cassette is the most significant component in the release of a new groupset, (well, for a year at least, since the launch of Dura Ace 9000), but the extra sprocket on this new Ultegra cassette will be a welcome addition for riders seeking wider ratios. The CS-6800 will offer plenty: 11-23, 11-25, 12-25, 11-28, and a whopping 11-32. The broad choice supports a concept Shimano calls a “rider tuned drivetrain”, offering ratios they believe are appropriate to cycling’s four major riding types.

FC-6800 chainset

The new four-arm Ultegra chainset is heavily influenced by the top-tier Dura Ace 9000 version

The FC-6800 chainset is the most striking addition to what must be said is a highly attractive groupset. It’s the obvious beneficiary of the trickle down model employed by Shimano: the Japanese giant debuted the design last year with the release of the 9000 iteration of its top-tier Dura-Ace group. Its engineers make similar claims for the Ultegra incarnation: reduced weight (765 grams with the largest 53-39 tooth set-up and bottom bracket) with no loss in stiffness.

Shimano’s commitment to broadening Ultegra’s appeal, discussed above in relation to the cassette, can be found here, too, in a choice of four ratios, each of which is compatible with the crank. 53-39 is intended for racing, the semi-compact 52-36 has been designed with sportive riders in mind, the compact 50-34 is for the touring market, and there’s a cyclo-cross specific 46-36 set-up too. A triple is expected early next year.

CN-6800 chain

The symmetrical (read: non-directional) CN-6800 chain

A new chain is central to Shimano’s new shifting proposition for Ultegra. The surface is treated with a technology called Sil-Tec, which debuted last year with the Dura-Ace 9000 chain, to reduce friction.

ST-6800 dual control lever


The new ST-6800 STI lever, with claims for reduced throw and more positive click

A trickle down from a trickle down, the slimline hoods on these ST-6800 dual control levers follow the contours of Dura Ace 9000, whose leanness resulted from the positive feedback afforded the first incarnation of Di2. Slim hoods are easier to achieve with electronic controls, so chapeau to Shimano for whittling down a mechanical shifter, filled with the necessary paraphernalia of cable pull mechanisms, to such honed proportions. Shimano claim enhanced stopping power when operating the brakes from the hood position, too, and short lever stroke than its predecessor.

RD6800 rear derailleur

The short cage incarnation of the Ultegra 6800 rear mech (the long cage is pictured in the gallery at the foot of this article)

Two completely redesigned derailleurs (the front mech, pictured below, has taken on a Dura-Ace 9000-esque appearance) are billed as lighter and more compact than their predecessors, and a significant piece in an equation that delivers shorter lever throws. We’ve featured the more elegant 6800 (SS) mech above, which tips the scales at a claimed 195 grams. The long cage 6800 (GS) is required for the 11-32 cassette, and isn’t quite so fetching. You’ll find it in the gallery at the foot of the page.

The FD-6800 front mech has been designed to work with Shimano’s new PTFE -coated cables and the ST-6800 dual control levers pictured above to deliver a revised actuation ratio and consequent shorter lever stroke.

The Ultegra 6800 front mech bears more than a passing resemblance to its Dura Ace 9000 cousin. Pic: © Shimano

BR-6810 aero brake

The new Ultegra aero brake. Pic: © Shimano

Braking is one of the major concerns of Ultegra 6800, evidenced by the inclusion of a revised, standard caliper, and front and rear aero brakes, for which Shimano has also produced 105 equivalents (that’s the BR-5710, part code fans). The Ultegra aero brake has direct mount options for fork (front) and chainstay (rear) and claims for increased modulation.

The rear version of the BR-6810 aero brake caliper, suitable for chainstay mounting. Pic: ©Shimano

HB-6800 rear hub

The freehub body on the FH6800 hub accommodates the matching CS-6800 11-speed cassette

Where are you going to store that eleventh sprocket? Shimano would doubtless recommend their CS-6800 freehub, one that, like its front wheel counterpart (see the gallery at the foot of this article for a picture of the HB-6800), continues Shimano’s unswerving devotion to a cup-and-cone bearing set-up, a system they say offers improved performance, greater durability, and easier maintenance. Oh, and ‘digital adjustment’, which we guess means your fingers.

WH-6800 wheelset

The WH-6800 wheelset rolls on 11-speed compatible hubs. Pic: ©Shimano

The aforementioned hubs provide the centrepiece for the WH-6800 wheelset, hand-built in-house, which will be available in tube and tubeless incarnations. Stiffness is promised from the deep hub flanges (and consequent reduced spoke length) and off-set rims, said to reduce the wheel dish and difference in tension between driveside and non-side spokes.

UK pricing and availability ia not yet available. We’ll update the article when details emerge. Expect to see 6800 in your local bike shop this autumn.



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