The entire groupset will retail for $1250 and be available at the end of June.
Let the Dura-Ace 9000 trickle down begin. On Tuesday, Shimano unveiled its new 11-speed Ultegra 6800, calling the latest iteration of its tier-two road components a group that "offers Dura Ace form and function, but at a more approachable price."
In this case that price is $1250 versus $2700 for the top-end 9000 group. Ultegra 6800 will start shipping at the end of June, according to Shimano road product manager Dave Lawrence.
"One of our biggest challenges was to take what we have in Dura-Ace and translate it into Ultegra," explained Lawrence about the new groupset that weighs in at a claimed 2274 grams, 35 grams less than Ultegra 6700. "This time we feel we've been really successful in bringing Dura-Ace technology to the Ultegra level. Almost every piece has picked up features and benefits from the 9000 group. In years past we had to compromise on a few things to make sure we hit our price points."
Like Dura-Ace 9000, Ultegra 6800 offers a wider range of gearing options. The new standard rear derailleur works with cassettes from 11-23 to 11-28, while the new Ultegra GS mid-cage rear derailleur allows riders to run an 11-32 cassette, a feature that Dura-Ace does not offer. And of course there is that extra cog.
Why 11? Greater gear progressions, says Shimano. Now you can run an 11-25 and drop in a 16-tooth cog, or you can add a 28-tooth climbing gear and still have close ratios.
"One of the first questions we always get is what is the advantage of going from 10-speed to 11," said Lawrence. "The answer is these great gear progressions. For instance if you run an 11-25, now you get to drop in a 16-tooth cog and keep your 11-25, or you can add a 28-tooth climbing gear and you still keep a relatively close ratio. So in my case, with the new Ultegra, I don't have to change out wheels or swap cassettes anymore. I can race my local crit and do my long Saturday morning ride with same cassette."
That breadth of choice is also found in the new Ultegra 6800 crank, which utilizes the same four-arm spider and interchangeable chain rings first seen on Dura-Ace. That means you can run 53-39, 52-36, 50-34, or even 46-36 gearing on the same crank.
The trickle down is also seen in shifter ergonomics, which Lawrence says is the most noticeable change from the 6700 group that was released four years ago. "It's a direct relation to what we did with Dura-Ace 9000," he said. "We've really fine tuned the shape of the hoods and lever. The hood shape, the blade shape, the angle of the blade and the stroke are nearly identical. People will also really notice the light action required to shift, it's a dramatic improvement, especially with the front derailleur."
More ergonomic and better functionality.
Shimano claims that required Ultegra 6800 lever throw force has decreased by 13 percent. The component maker also redesigned the front and rear derailleurs, and added a new polymer coated cable set to further ease the force required to move the chain around. The new front derailleur has the same longer lever arm of 9000, which according to Shimano, reducing front shifting effort by 35 percent over the previous generation.
The new group also has 10mm of lever reach adjustment to allow for cockpit customization. "The old version you had to use shims because we needed to do a cost down in production," admitted Lawrence. "Whereas this time you get the exact same reach adjustment as with Dura-Ace."
The Ultegra 6800 brakes also borrow from Dura Ace, featuring the same two-axle symmetric pivot design, which Shimano claims reduces friction and improves efficiency, with up to 16 percent more braking power and better modulation than the previous generation. Also like 9000, Ultegra 6800 brakes are offered in standard and direct mount versions.
The new Ultegra 11-speed chain is thinner and is claimed to be more efficient thanks to Shimano's Sil-Tec treatment, which the component maker says is an advanced surface plating that lowers friction, quiets the chain and increases chain life.
The narrower chain necessitated by the 11-speed system dropped 14 grams.
Finally the new package of Ultegra branded goods also includes pedals (MSRP: $200), which remain carbon-bodied and receive new graphics, and an updated 11-speed compatible tubeless wheelset (MSRP: $750) that Shimano claims tip the scales at 1640 grams. That's a 12-gram reduction over the previous edition thanks largely to a new hub shape. The updated Ultegra wheels also feature a cone digital adjust system that eases adjustment and reduces axial force from the quick release.
"Sometimes it's just about learning to use a material in a more efficient way," answered Lawrence when asked how the various weight gains were made. "We are really big in forging and being able to come up with a new way to forge a material or a new process. Also in the case this group, we were able to scrub some weight in the bottom bracket by adding a few more ball bearings but making them smaller."
That change netted a 26-gram difference, with another 14 grams being shed by the new narrower chain, which was needed to satisfy the needs of the 11-tooth cassette. [A full comparison of Ultegra 6700 and 6800 weights can be found below.]
"Whenever we are in development of Dura-Ace, Ultegra is always in the back of our minds," explained Lawrence. "There is always the consideration of how will this translate down to the line. Is this a technology that we know can trickle down? That's really important, because if you make something really cool for Dura-Ace but you can't execute it for Ultegra it can be disappointing. We always want to be able to get down to Ultegra and even 105. With this new group, we really feel like it stands on its own. It gets almost everything that Dura-Ace has to offer. You really wont miss anything. We are really proud of this group."
Complete Price Breakdown
Shifters -- $400
Front derailleur -- $60
Rear derailleur (short cage) -- $100
Crankset -- $320
Bottom Bracket -- $35
Brakes -- $175
Cassette (11-28) -- $110
Chain -- $50
Wheels -- $750
Pedals -- $200
Complete Group -- $1250 (not including wheels and pedals)
Rear Derailleur: 189 grams
Front Derailleur: 89
Shift Levers: 447
Crankset/Bottom Bracket: 791 (170mm cranks, 53-39 chainring)
Cassette: 209 (11-23)
Chain: 267 (114 links)
Total: 2309 grams
Ultegra 6800 (with net gain or loss)
Rear Derailleur: 195 (+6)
Front Derailleur: 89
Shift Levers: 425 (-22)
Brakes: 335 (+18)
Crankset/Bottom Bracket: 765 (-26)
Cassette: 212 (+3)
Chain: 253 (-14)
Total: 2274 grams (-35)
11-23 = 212 grams
11-25 = 232
12-25 = 243
11-28 = 251
11-32 = 292
Ultegra 6800 Wheels (without QR)
Front = 700 grams
Rear = 940
Front Hub = 158
Rear Hub = 336