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Shimano 105 or Ultegra?
Choosing a groupset for your next bike? This article offers a detailed comparison of the differences between the Shimano 105 and Ultegra groupsets.
Shimano’s new 105 (5700) and new Ultegra (6700) are both great groups for road and triathlon use. In the big picture, the Ultegra group is 220 grams lighter (which is a little more than ½ a pound) and costs $300 more than the 105 group. We’ll break down a number of detailed differences next.
On Triathlon Bikes
For Tri bikes with aerobar extensions, both groups will use 10-speed Dura Ace bar end shifters and an aftermarket TT brake lever.
For Road Bikes
For Road bikes with STI shift/brake levers, there will be differences between the two groups. Cosmetically, Ultegra boasts a carbon shift/brake blade while the 105 sports an aluminum blade. On the inside, Ultegra’s lighter, harder internals and higher quality bushings and springs account for lighter shift action and better brake modulation. Considerations on weight but most importantly feel are largely based upon the internal mechanism. The higher quality the internals, the more precise and longer lasting the mechanism.
An Ultegra lever will shift and brake better and will typically last longer than a 105 lever.
One of the biggest improvements with the Ultegra group lies within the crankset. Its new Hollowtech crankarms and Hollowglide outer chainring are actually hollow structures that facilitate some of the crispest front shifting in the industry. The chain ring bulges slightly acting as a ramp for Ultegra’s asymmetrical chain to climb up onto the big ring. The up shifts are stiff and quick. The chainring’s shape blends nicely into the body of the Ultegra crankarm. The overbuilt structure of the crankset coupled with the chainring has far more of an advantage in power transfer over the 105 which doesn’t sport a hollow outer chainring.
Ultegra offers crisper shifting and better power transfer.
With brakes, we notice some nice improvements with the Ultegra: a robust redesigned barrel adjuster; a spring tension adjustment absent on a 105 caliper; and a better brake pad compound. Ultegra’s barrel adjuster might simply be nicer from the perspective of a mechanic. The spring tension adjust on the other hand yields an advantage with internally routed frames where rear brake “drag” is noticeable. This adjustment allows for more spring tension on the rear brake and a smoother brake. Again, better quality springs and in this case, pivots allow for more braking power. Brake pad quality is another significant factor in the performance of Ultegra brakes over 105.
Ultegra offers better brake pads, better component quality.
Chains and Cassettes
With chains and cassettes, the differences are slight but still affect performance. An Ultegra chain has a better, nickel-like finish and a stronger riveting process than allows for a laterally stiffer chain. 105 chains have a duller finish and due to a different riveting process, are more “flexy.” An Ultegra cassette substitutes the aluminum lock ring for the steel one found on a 105. In addition, the machining of the ramps on the aluminum cogs of an Ultegra cassette are held to tighter tolerances. Weight differences here are subtle but in these categories, it’s all about shift quality.
In short, an Ultegra chain will shift better than a 105 chain.
Differences in derailleurs are largely accounted for by springs and pivots. Higher quality springs and pivots allow for solid, instant engagement in shifting. Derailleurs undergo a ton of force, loads and movement.
Ultegra derailleurs will yield better shifting and ultimately will last longer.
With these facts, you can better make the decision as to if the ~$300 more for the Ultegra group is worth it.
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