Shimano has unveiled its new 6800-series Ultegra groupset, which includes an 11-speed drivetrain.
More positive mechanical shifting with a shorter lever throw, a new dual pivot brake with claims for 10 per cent more stopping power than 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, hope to bring much of their most advanced technology to riders beyond the peloton.
Here’s a close look at each component. Expect to find it in your local bike shop this autumn.
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 (when used with the new, long cage rear derailleur, more of which below). The broad choice supports a concept Shimano calls a “rider tuned drivetrain”, offering ratios they believe are appropriate to cycling’s four major riding groups. While it’s possible to achieve broad ratios from 10-speed set-ups (SRAM’s Wi-Fli offers 11-32, after all), doing so from 11 speeds should reduce the gap between each sprocket. The CS-6800 weighs 212 grams in its 11-23 incarnation. Each costs £36.99.
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 setup and bottom bracket) with no loss in stiffness.
Shimano’s commitment to broadening Ultegra’s appeal, as alluded to 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. The classic 53-39 combination 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. The FC-6800 costs £229.99.
A new chain is central to Shimano’s new shifting proposition for Ultegra. The surface is treated with a technology called Sil-Tec, debuted last year with the Dura-Ace 9000 chain, to reduce friction. The CN-6800 chain weighs 253 grams with 114 links, and costs £36.99.
ST-6800 dual control lever
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 a shorter lever stroke than its predecessor. The ST-6800 levers weigh 425 grams a set, and cost £299.99.
RD-6800 rear derailleur
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 are a significant factor 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 and costs £74.99. The long cage 6800 (GS) is required for the 11-32 cassette, and isn’t quite so fetching. It costs £79.99 and weighs 207 grams. 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 STI levers pictured above to deliver a revised actuation ratio and with it a shorter lever stroke. The clamp band incarnation costs £42.99 and weighs 104 grams. The braze-on version shown above is cheaper and lighter: £37.99 and a scant 89 grams.
BR-6810 aero brake
Braking is one of Ultegra 6800’s major advances, 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 aero caliper costs £64.99 each, and its conventional equivalent £59.99 each.
HB-6800 rear hub
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 setup; a system they say offers improved performance, greater durability and easier maintenance. Oh, and ‘digital adjustment’, which we guess means with your fingers. They’re available in 32-hole and 36-hole incarnations, both of which cost £84.99.
The aforementioned hubs provide the centrepiece for the WH-6800 wheelset, handbuilt in-house, which will be available in clincher 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. They’ll cost £349.99 a set.