Where new DURA-ACE is designed for those who are looking for every competitive advantage possible, new ULTEGRA is the real-world application of those technologies. The R8100 series shares the same DNA as the R9200 series, offering incredible performance across all functions, combining the science of speed pillars to help riders achieve greater performance than ever before.
ULTEGRA developments, like DURA-ACE, can be broken down into five development areas: shifting platform, control interface, brake system, drivetrain system and wheel system. Let’s take a look at those areas one by one:
ULTEGRA shifting platform
ULTEGRA R8100 shares the same revised Di2 platform as DURA-ACE R9200 to improve shifting speed whilst making the shifter-derailleur connection wireless, and still ensuring absolute reliability.
New Dura-Ace and new ULTEGRA share the same platform so ULTEGRA users benefit from:
The same new Di2 platform which improves the motor design in the derailleurs, decreases the processing speed (i.e. the moving time between motor and gear mechanisms) and the transmission performance to enable Shimano’s fastest-ever shifting. This results in a 58% decrease in ULTEGRA rear derailleur operating time and a 45% decrease in ULTEGRA front derailleur operating time over the previous DURA-ACE RD-R9150 rear derailleur.
Absolute reliability from a wired connection where it makes sense. New smaller diameter SD-300 wires connect the Di2 battery (BT-DN300) to front (FD-R8150) and rear derailleurs (RD-R8150). One internal battery makes for a simple charging solution and ensures a stable and high voltage connection to the derailleurs, contributing to Shimano’s fastest-ever shifting. Tests show that the BT-DN300 battery lasts for 1000 km between charges. The STI shifter buttons are powered by coin-style CR1632 batteries which last for approximately 1.5-2 years of usage.
A high security, fast processing and low power consumption proprietary chip circuit, which significantly decreases the chance of interference from external devices.
The new ULTEGRA rear derailleur is now the point at which the system is charged (replacing Shimano’s SM-BCR2 charger) and it provides the wireless connection to STI shifters and other 3rd party devices (replacing the EW-WU111 wireless unit). Plus its integrated design provides the control point for changing Di2 operations and Synchronized Shifting modes, replacing the previous handlebar or in-frame Junction-A (SM-RS910) button.
Where the ULTEGRA derailleurs differ from DURA-ACE is in the construction. The DURA-ACE R9200 front and rear derailleurs weigh 96 g and 215 g respectively, versus ULTEGRA R8100 weights of 116 g and 262 g, resulting in a combined 67 g difference.
ULTEGRA control interface
For climbing, sprinting or time trials, Shimano has balanced ULTEGRA’s comfort, looks and aerodynamic gains with unparalleled ergonomics.
New ULTEGRA 2x12-speed wireless hydraulic disc brake shifters (ST-R8170) now come with a raised head portion with a slight inward curve and increased area between the shifter and the handlebar to bring improved comfort and control. This provides riders with better index finger and thumb grip on the hoods and better 3-finger grip behind the brake lever, whilst still giving easy access to the shift lever in the drops. Offset between Di2 buttons on the lever has also been improved, allowing for better differentiation between the up-shift and down-shift button, especially with gloves or wet fingers.
ULTEGRA ST-R8170 shifters operate with a wireless connection, powered by CR1632 coin batteries. This wireless connection allows for a simple installation procedure and no shift cable ports in the frame or handlebar. Together with internal hose routing, it allows for a beautifully clean cockpit.
ST-R8170 are compatible with new minimized remote shifter buttons. Shimano’s sprint (SW-R801-S) or climbing shifter (SW-R801-T) can be used with a clamp band or can sit integrally in the handlebars with a specific port, such as the new PRO Vibe Evo bar. These new more compact satellite shifter options either attach to the drops via a 100mm cable (SW-RS801-S) or to the tops via a 260 mm Di2 cable (SW-RS801-T).
The control interface of course offers some handy customization options thanks to an updated E-TUBE app which is now compatible with ULTEGRA R8100-series. Much like previous versions, E-TUBE Project version 4.0.0 allows for preferences such as Synchronized or Semi-Synchro shifting, Multi-Shift, shifting speed and STI shift button mapping to be set up on the go. Also connections with 3rd party cycle computers can all be set up to display Di2 information.
Again, small differences in the construction account for a weight difference of 41 g between DURA ACE ST-R9270 shifters (350 g) and ULTEGRA ST-R8170 shifters (391 g).
ULTEGRA drivetrain system
ULTEGRA has two new 12-speed HYPERGLIDE+ cassettes in 11-30 and 11-34 ratios. The 11-30 cassette in particular has been optimized with a revision in the ‘sweet spot’ gears between the 6th, 7th and 8th sprockets to keep the Shimano hallmark of smooth and consistent gear steps.
Combining this with quick and shockless shifting thanks to clever ramped profiles on the cassettes brings smoother gear changes, even under heavy load, no matter whether you’re moving up or down the cassette.
The result is that there is no longer any need to back off an acceleration or time an easy pedal stroke with your shifts. Riders can now put the hammer down and shift even faster, with smoother cadence and better speed transition thanks to ULTEGRA cassettes with HYPERGLIDE+ technology.
ULTEGRA cassettes come with a new spline fitting pattern, which is also backwards compatible to Shimano 11-speed freehub bodies, meaning that new ULTEGRA R8100 components can be used on the previous Shimano 11-speed wheels.
For the first-time ever, ULTEGRA chainsets come with the option of a power meter. The FC-R8100-P offers up to 300+ hours of ride time thanks to an integrated, waterproof and rechargeable Li-ion battery. Dual-sided data is provided by Shimano’s proprietary strain gauges on both crank arms. ULTEGRA powermeters uses Bluetooth and ANT+ technology to transmit data.
Power meter and non-power meter cranksets come in either 50-34T or 52-36T gear combinations with crank arm lengths of 160, 165, 170, 172.5 and 175 mm. The ULTEGRA power meter crankset weighs 769 g, which is only 21 g heavier than the DURA-ACE power meter at 748 g.
The ULTEGRA R8100 chainset is complete with the same 12-speed chain used on Shimano’s XT M8100 series, simplifying inventory requirements for retailers and riders.
ULTEGRA brake system
Shimano’s new ULTEGRA brake components offer more fine-tuned control through the tighter, faster and more aggressive cornering lines found in road racing situations. With the addition of SERVO WAVE technology to brake levers, taken from Shimano’s MTB and Gravel braking systems, riders have a shorter free stroke and are able to get a more immediate connection between brake pads and rotors, allowing for more feathering or modulation of the brakes, resulting in more speed carry-through and more confidence in technical situations.
In addition, brake noise reduction has been improved through 10% wider brake pad and rotor clearance and a switch towards Shimano’s RT-MT800 rotors. The result is a quieter system, achieved through less heat deformation of the rotor and less temporary interference between the pad and the rotor.