The Bike List

Groupsets: Shimano Ultegra (mechanical) 6800, 22 gears

Shimano's Ultegra groupset, last updated in May 2013, is one step up from the 105 groupset and is common on road, cyclocross, commuting, touring and triathlon bikes between £900 and £4000. Shimano Ultegra cassettes feature on bikes more expensive than this but this is usually a cost-saving measure on bikes over £3000. The majority of the materials used throughout are a combination of aluminium and steel. Ultegra also features carbon-fibre-bodied pedals as well as carbon-fibre brake/gear levers which both help save weight.

The dual-control integrated brake and gear levers allow you to operate both brakes and gears from the same position on the handlebars. Shimano Ultegra is a performance groupset, offering race-level performance for those who need it but it is equally at home on road bikes that will never see a race. Shimano Ultegra is usually the first groupset to receive technology improvements from Shimano's top of the range Dura-Ace groupset and as such they both share a number of technologies, with the differentiating factor often being that Dura-Ace is lighter, although typically twice the price. For the majority of competitive and non-competitive road cyclists Shimano Ultegra is an excellent choice. Being a performance groupset, Ultegra doesn't feature a gear indicator as found on Tiagra and lower-end grouspets.

To shift down a gear (to a harder gear on the rear for example) you simply press the paddle located behind the brake lever. To shift up a gear (to an easier gear on the rear) requires the brake lever itself to be pressed inwards, which will also bring the paddle with it. As Shimano Ultegra is a performance groupset, the distance the brake/gear levers must travel to actuate a gear change is less, to allow for faster and easier shifting, as it is on Shimano's 105 shifter. The 6800 series front derailleur has a significantly longer pull arm (again as on 105) which has increased the leverage and reduced the effort required to shift the front mech which is especially noticeable when under load (when riding uphill, for example). The gear/brake levers also follow an arc as they are pressed in to ensure they do not move further away from your fingers as you press through to change gear, a useful feature for anyone with smaller hands and when changing gears on the drops. The reach is also adjustable by up to 10mm for those with smaller hands and does not require the use of plastic shims as on Tiagra and lower groupsets.

Shimano Ultegra features Shimano's new four-arm chainset design which was first introduced on Shimano's top end Dura-Ace groupset. This clever new design allows for 22-speed standard road double (53-39), semi-compact (52-36), and compact (50-34) chainrings to be used on the same chainset. Previously this would have required two chainsets with different BCD's (Bolt Circle Diameters). Any bike that features the new Shimano Ultegra chainset is instantly more versatile, allowing for easy gear ratio changes that can help make a bike more hill-friendly or racing-specific with just a change of chainrings costing around £110-£125 instead of £190 for a new chainset. The introduction of the four-arm chainset has however meant that Shimano Ultegra is no longer available as a triple. The rear derailleur is designed to offer a wide gear range, and will accept cassettes with a large cog up to 32 teeth which, when combined with compact (50-34) chainrings, is ideal for anyone new to road cycling or very hilly areas and offsets the fact that there is no longer a triple.

The previous version of Shimano Ultegra (6700 series) was available with 20 gears or 30 gears in the form of a triple. However, the new Shimano Ultegra (6800) features 22 gears and as such is upwards compatible with Shimano's Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical (non-electronic) groupsets that sits above it. Shimano Ultegra 22 speed is also compatible with Shimano 105 22-speed and parts are therefore interchangeable, allowing for a cheaper 105 cassette and chain to be used for example when replacing worn-out parts. Shimano's 105 22-speed cassette and chain are compatible with both electronic groupsests (Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace Di2) and sometimes appear on more expensive bikes as a cost-saving measure.

Shimano Ultegra is the first groupset to feature a specific wheelset to match the rest of the groupset components. They tend not to feature on many bikes as standard as manufacturers will often put cheaper wheels on even the most expensive bikes to save money. The Ultegra wheelset weighs in at 1640g for the pair (253g heavier than the equivalent Dura-Ace WH-9000, C24 tubeless-compatible clincher wheelset) but cost less than half the price of the Dura-Ace C24s. The Ultegra wheels are suitable for clincher tyres (the most common road tyres) and are tubeless-ready which means they'll also accept tubeless tyres which are becoming increasingly popular on road bikes.

Strengths: Performance that rivals top of the range Dura-Ace at half the price, great choice for racing but equally at home on a normal road ride. Super-wide gear range available with 22 gears on offer, four-arm chainset design offers standard road double, semi-compact and compact chairing options, upwards compatible with mechanical Dura-Ace, smaller gear lever movement required for gear changes, less effort required for front derailleur gear changes.

Weaknesses: Heavier than Dura-Ace, requires 11-speed rear hub so could also require a wheel upgrade if retro-fitting.

Price bracket of bikes that feature Ultegra: £900 to £4000

Chainsets available: Compact (50-34), Semi-Compact (52-36) and Standard Road Double (53-39)

Colour: Gun metal grey

How many road bikes on The Bike List feature Ultegra components or groupset? 34% of all road/racing bikes.

Cost to buy Ultegra 6800 aftermarket components:

  • Road 11-speed STI brake/gear levers: £240
  • Chainset: double/compact £190 (HollowTech II)
  • Road brake calipers (rim brake): £50-£60 each
  • Brake caliper (hydraulic road disc brake without rotor): £50
  • Brake caliper (mechanical cyclocross/road disc brake without rotor): £50
  • Front derailleur: £32-£37
  • Rear derailleur: £60-£65
  • Hubs: front £45, rear £85
  • Cassette (CS-5800): £55-£60
  • Bottom bracket: £22 (HollowTech II)
  • Chain: £28 (CN-6800)
  • Pedals (road) SPD-SL: £110 (carbon body), 260g per pair
  • Wheelset, clincher (tubeless): front £155/700g, rear £175/940g (tyres 19-25mm). 1640g for the pair excluding tyres, tubes and cassette.

Total cost of parts listed above excluding disc brakes but including wheels:
RRP £1297-£1332 (rim brake calliper x2); £967-£1002 (excluding wheels); available online from £500 (with rim brakes but excluding pedals and wheels).

Click here to see all bikes that feature a Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset or parts.

What does Ultegra Di2 offer that Ultegra mechanical doesn't?

Aside from being controlled electronically as opposed to mechanically Ultegra Di2 offers a number of advantages including self-adjusting gears that trip themselves on the fly, eliminating chain rub. Also, gear cables that don't degrade with use, the ability to add satellite shifters anywhere on the handlebar for multiple gear changing buttons in different locations and the ability to programme the buttons to change more quickly or more slowly.

Next groupset up: Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 (electronic) 22 gears