Strengths: • Slick, quiet, stiff, light, durable, looks good on a steel frame (the current crop of 10 speed looks oversized and doesn't compliment the slim lines of a steel frame in my opinion; I think it's one of the nicest looking groupsets ever).
• Still plenty of 9 speed components available; chains and cassettes can be had very cheaply.
* Some manufacturers (Microshift & Sunrace) still make 9 speed Shimano STI compatible units as of 2010, so it's not the end of the world. I'm quite pleased with my Microshift SB-R109 units; they are probably 105-level quality, but do just fine.
Weaknesses: Uninstalling octalink cranks and BB gives me the willies from past experiences of stripping threads on an MTB Deore LX crankset circa 2003. You have to be very careful not to over tighten the crank bolts, and be sure to use a high quality crank puller tool.
Replacement Ultegra 9 speed jockey wheels becoming obsolete or hard to find, the same for 9 speed road chainrings as they are now being slowly phased out by 10/11 speed systems, though I think 9 speed chains on 10 speed rings work fine... or so I'm told.
I can only comment on the Ultegra 6500 crankset, bb, front and rear mechs, which I've had for about 4 years (the crankset a few months - I got it very cheaply NOS).
Firstly, I notice a slight difference in stiffness over my Shimano 600 (6400) cranks and BBUN72 square taper BB. There's also a weight saving of 40g or so for 6500 crankset & octalink BB combined. There is less lateral pull on the rear mechs jockey wheels over the lower Tiagra 9 speed rear mech I had been using. The 9 speed Ultegra cassettes are awesome - can be had cheaply too. I even bought another for my mountain bike. The front mech is light and has an effortless feel to it. Well, I just don't see the point of moving up to 10 speeds quite just yet, I'd rather save me money. The latest Ultegra 6700 (2010) groupset is one ugly MF in my opinion! If i do upgrade, well, it'll be Campy Centaur for me. O.K the Hollowtech 2 technology is a lot easier to install and uninstall compared to Octalink, but I'm not so sure on the stiffness advantage - I can't really tell much difference, its rather minimal. I weight 75kg if it means anything. Maybe on my MTB bike it's more noticeable over uneven terrain when frame flex is tested. In any event, the current Dura Ace track groupset (2010) still utilizes the Octalink BB design, so It can't be that bad or outdated can it?
Bike Setup: 17-year-old Swiss made lugged Columbus Thron steel frame w/chromed fork, Ultegra 9 (Cranks, F & R mechs, cassette), Tektro r740 calipers, Microshift 9 speed STI shifters, SRAM 9 speed chain, Deda 215 bars, ITM seatpost, 3TTT quill stem, spoon Saddle.
a Road Racer
Date Reviewed: October 25, 2009
Strengths: The precise shifting and controlled braking are the best features of this grouppy.
Weaknesses: The chain wears quickly and the 12/25 wasn't a climbing rig but the bang for the buck is AWESOME.
I have ridden 2500 km's on my 10 speed TCR A1 and have found the ultegra never misses a beat. The shifting is precise and the brakes are easily controlled on the descents. I had to change the rear cassette from 12/25 to 12/27 but that was for ease on climbs.
Strengths: Weight, finish, price, precision and reliability. Considered "Dura Ace 2.0"
Weaknesses: No longer produced(since 2007). Replacement shifter hoods and caps are harder and harder to come by.
This is the review for the original Shimano Ultegra 6500 9-speed STI groupset...as this review is intended. However, instead of getting the Ultegra 39/53 FC-6500 Octalink BB crankset- I opted for the more "modern" Hollowtech II type FC-R700 34/50 compact cranks...which is still considered an Ultegra level part. And, all I can say is WOW!!!
Each turn of the cranks is met with a massive surge of forward motion. No pedal stroke is wasted with these stiff cranks. Combined with the new, wider Ultegra PD-6620G SPD-SL pedals, you get instant and linear power transfer, unlike many other clipless pedals that have way too much power-robbing float.
The shifters are simply precise, distinct and never skips. The brakes stop as well as their Dura Ace counterpart...all without the high price. Both front(braze-on) and rear(short cage) derailleurs engage their cogs/chainrings even well BEFORE your finger leaves the shifter paddles!!!
With the comparable Dura Ace 7700 9-speed group...all you are getting is an average weight reduction differential of between 40-80 grams, per component. Paying many hundreds MORE for this is simply not worth it. Ultegra 6500 is just as durable, reliable, even race-able and a much BETTER VALUE for any rider who is not paid to ride.
In conclusion, if you feel no need for the added weight of 10-speeds, then the Shimano Ultegra 6500 9-speed gruppo is more than good enough to justify riding for many miles to come.
Interchangeability: I switched out my crank and bottom bracket for a DA 180mm (the 180 doesn’t come in Ultegra). Cassettes, chains, brake pads, etc. are all interchangeable with DA and the newer 105.
Weaknesses: I’m trying to think of one …
OK how about this: some times the rear doesn’t downshift (to the larger sprocket) instantly when you are in the middle of the cassette, and it takes two clicks on the shifter instead of one. Maybe I could try to adjust it, or lube the cable or something. Naaah, couldn’t be my fault.
I can’t imagine why I would need to upgrade to Dura-Ace.
The bike is now 2 years old with about 8,000 miles on it. I had the cables replaced after about 3k and intend to have that done again this winter.
I run a 12-27 cassette for street/road/training and the 11-23 and the Shimano WH-550 wheels that came with the bike for races.
The heart of the system is the shifters and they work nicely. I suppose the derailers are heavier than DA. Brakes work fine. Replace the pads when they get noisy. Grit picked up when it’s wet makes the brakes wear fast.
I’ve probably changed the chain a lot more than I ever needed to, generally at a bout 2,000 miles. The Park Chain gage said so, not because I noticed any problems. Better than breaking a chain out in the middle of nowhere. I can’t understand how people have problems with Shimano chains. I don’t try to take them off and clean them, just wash, wipe, and re-oil from time to time.
If you carefully follow the Shimano instructions you can adjust the rear derailer to be nearly silent, and I like that.
I’m a total Shimano fan. About the only thing I don’t like are the nipples being on the wrong ends of the spokes on the wheels. I chose an Ultegra rear hub for my custom, heavy-duty road training wheel.
Weaknesses: Almost a pound heavier than the Campi Record, but I dont fell the weight difference. Besides, so what?? I'm a 115 pound rider! Im already light! I dont need to spend big $$ to give my bike a diet! Ain't I already about 20-70 pounds lighter than many cyclists?
This review is for the Ultegra 6600 (10-speed). So far its awesome! Shifts real quick when upshifting, even quicker in downshifting! Click, blink, and bam! You're in the next gear! Almost 100% power goes to the rear wheel, since the crankset is one of the stiffest cranksets in the world today, even compared to carbon ones! Brake power is so good, I was going 40+kph, and pressing on the brakes with force (not too much or the wheels will lock) and in less than 3 second, I'm going 0 kph. The Ultegra simply can't be matched!