Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870 groupset - first look

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Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870 groupset – first look

Shimano has unveiled the new 6870 edition of its electronic Ultegra groupset.

The latest iteration of the Japanese component manufacturer’s second-from-top component group moves to 11 speeds, following a trend set by the top-tier Dura-Ace groupset, and latterly by the mechanical Ultegra 6800.

The Shimano Ultegra 6870 groupset

The electronic incarnation – registered as 6870 – differs only from the mechanical groupset in its dual control levers and the front and rear derailleurs. In all other aspects  (the four-arm chainset, 11-speed cassette, dual pivot brakes, 11-speed compatible wheelset, chain), the groupsets are the same. Click here for a detailed look at each component.

Today, we’ll take a close look at each of the 6870 derailleurs and levers, claimed to be more compact, lighter than their predecessors, and with greater ergonomics. Its E-tube plug-and-play cables support programmable shifting.

ST-6870 dual control lever

Notable reductions have been achieved in the size of the STI levers, which are visually slimmer and felt notably smaller in the hand when we rested our sticky mitts upon them at a press launch held at the Milton Keynes headquarters of UK distributor, Madison.

The Shimano Ultegra ST-6870 dual control lever

Aesthetics are well and good, of course, but Shimano claim more significant gains in performance. The multi-shift facility – press and hold the button for shifting across the entire block –  is now standard, after being made available only as a post-launch firmware upgrade for 6770. It’s also programmable when used with E-tubes, allowing you to set the number and speed (five settings: “slow” to “very fast”) of the shifts.

The Shimano Ultegra Di2 ST-6870 dual control lever costs £309.99 a pair with E-tubes, or £299.99 a pair without.

RD-6870 rear derailleur

The most obvious development of the new 6870 groupset is the very compact rear mech, now barely larger than its mechanical equivalent. The more svelte profile we suspect will remove at a stroke the only lasting criticism of 6770: its bulky appearance.

The Shimano Ultegra RD-6870 rear mech

Shimano claim a weight saving on 6770 (we’re expecting the figures soon), but the principal advantage is its ability to handle the new 11-speed cassette, in a range of ratios from 11 to 32 teeth for the GS version and a still impressive 28 teeth for the SS version pictured above.

The RD-6870 is the chief beneficiary of the E-tube supported programmable shift option, and now claimed to offer “lightning fast” changes. Shimano say a built-in crash protection facility will remove the mech from harm’s way in the result of a damaging collision.

The Shimano Ultegra Di2 RD-6870 rear derailleur costs £219.99.

FD-6870 front derailleur

Another far more slender version of its predecessor, the FD-6870 is now an attractive addition to your steed, rather than a necessary evil for those unable to resist the self-correcting charms of a front mech able to eliminate chain rub by its own efforts.

The Shimano Ultegra FD-6870 front mech

The trimming function is now programmable, though such is the effectiveness of 6770, we’re expecting performance gains no more than marginal in this area.

Where the FD-6870 may represent a greater step is in its claims for silent shifting. The servo noise on the 6770 was a little irritating, but a small price to pay for its unnerving accuracy.

The Shimano FD-6870 front derailleur with E-tubes costs £199.99.

E-tubes

The technology that supports the programmable shifting is provided by the discrete plug-and-play cables that unite the shifters and dual control levers and in the dedicated software that supports them.

The Shimano Ultegra 6870, junction box, photographed at the press launch

A belated addition for 6770, Shimano have made programmable shifting a centre-piece of 6870, and extended it to every aspect: any shift button in the groupset can be programmed, whether it be those of the ST-6870 lever pictured above, or the ST-6871 lever intended for the aerobars of time trial machines (and priced at a cool £309.99).

Shimano will sell E-tubes in a host of configurations too numerous to list here. Handlebar cable sets with a five port junction controller for TT set-ups will cost £119.99; cables and a three port junction controller for conventional drop bars will cost £89.99.

A complete cable set, with options for external or internal cable routings, a battery mount, and junction box, will cost £209.99.

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Shimano
Madison

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