Shimano Ultegra R8000 picks up mechanical, Di2 & disc brake Dura-Ace tech

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By Cory BensonPosted on – 11:01 am

After getting teased with new Ultegra components on BMC’s new Teammachine bikes last week, Shimano has made it official. Ultegra gets a similar full overhaul like we saw last summer with Dura-Ace. With a new R8000 series designation the next generation of Shimano Ultegra sticks with 11 speeds, but fills out its line with more shifting, braking & gearing options, plus several technology upgrades. Like R9000, Ultegra’s R8000 series now effectively gets four different complete groupset options – mechanical shifting with either rim brakes or hydraulic disc brakes, and Di2 electronic shifting with either rim brakes or hydraulic disc brakes. There’s even a bit of a fifth option by way of an updated set of Ultegra TT dual control levers for Di2 Synchro Shift, rim brake setups. Check in across the break for a full breakdown of the new components, tech & anticipated availability, including a more chainring options, wider cassette gearing, more lever adjust, and much more…

With the new Ultegra R8000 groupset, Shimano has once again trickled down a lot of their top-tier, race-proven Dura-Ace technologies to the hard working Ultegra level that many more consumers can actually afford. As with the previous generation, Shimano still essentially breaks the group up by either mechanical shifting…

…or electronic Di2 shifting. Of course with the several braking options it gets more complicated than that. For the first time now, Ultegra gets its own hydraulic disc brake dual control levers and it’s more than just a case of printing Ultegra on the lever blades. So let’s first run through the five new sets of dual control levers…

 

Shimano says that all of the standard dual control levers have nearly the same ergonomics, but unlike Dura-Ace it is pretty easy to spot the differences when they are lined up next to each other (from left to right: R8000, R8020, R8050, R8070). While the actual fit in your hand may be similar, there is clearly more bulk in the body and tops of the hoods each for the hydraulic & mechanical shift variants of each. If you need more consistent ergonomics, you’ll likely have to stick with R9000 Dura-Ace.

It is no doubt that these levers are for the most part an improvement over the previous 6800 generation of Ultegra though. In reality that R8000 mechanical/rim brake lever looks wholly unchanged from 6800, with a weight of 438g.

R8020

 

Making the move to the R8020 lever, it is a bit of an update over the non series RS685 mechanical/hydraulics with a slightly more rounded top and the same ergonomically shaped brake lever as the rest of the Ultegra kit, with a new weight of 550g.

One improvement under the hood that seems to make its way onto both the R8000 & R8020 lever is the elimination of in-line barrel adjusters to dial in precise shift cable tension. Instead the new mechanical groupsets offer an allen key adjustment to enable simple & accurate derailleur cable tension setup.

R8050 Di2

On the Di2 front, the new rim brake dual controls gets slimmed down a tiny bit as well, down to 295g for the R8050. They also get a revised lever blade shape so you get consistent feel from one group to the next.

Inside there are big updates too. The new Di2 levers have incorporated a more tactile click with each shift like we’ve seen on Dura-Ace so you get a better feel for the shift whether with gloves, cold hands, or over bumpy terrain. The new Di2 levers are also designed to now work with Shimano’s customizable E-Tube setup, which gives these Synchro Shift functionality.

Also like the hidden hood-top buttons that were even there in the previous 9000 Dura-Ace and more publicly talked about in the R9000 update, the new Ultegra Di2 levers include the top buttons as well. They can be programmed as a third remote shift button or more importantly to control functions on compatible computers like a Garmin Edge GPS or to switch on and off accessories like smart lights.

R8070 Di2

Probably the biggest overall improvement in a dual control can be given to the R8070 Di2/hydraulic brake version, now with a claimed weight of 360g. These controls are significantly improved over the non-series RS785s, with an improved & Ultegra-consistent lever shape, plus a much more narrow body, and smaller volume/shorter hood. It was nice to get rid of the large shiny silver front of the 785s, so we’d guess that inside this lever gets the most benefit from what Shimano worked out on Dura-Ace last year.

In fact, the new hydraulic Di2 R8070 levers also include expanded free stroke & reach adjust to better dial in your brake performance, although it doesn’t appear that the same update was made to the hydraulic mechanical R8020 levers.

Like the rim brake version, the new R8070 levers also get the new hidden top buttons under the rubber top of the hood that allow you to control compatible devices.

R8060 Di2 TT

 

For time trial setups, Ultegra’s Dual control levers get a more sleek solution. It does that by dropping one of the shift buttons altogether, meaning Shimano intends TT riders to take advantage of their Synchro Shift functionality to be able to move through the full gear range on the aero extensions, or program the pair of levers to only operate the rear derailleur requiring you to come back to the base bar to execute a front shift directly. There are still plenty of non-series Di2 remote buttons for those looking for more options in the aero extensions.

All of the Di2 shifter buttons can also be set up to operate multi-shift via the E-Tube app.

R8000 mechanical derailleurs

Paired with the five new dual control lever options are of course four new derailleurs. The most obvious shift is the move to the low-profile Shadow design brought over from the mountain bike, first to Dura-Ace and more to Ultegra as well. The updated design tucks the rear derailleur more underneath and inline with the cassettes and out of harm’s way in the event of a crash. Both mechanical & Di2 rear derailleurs are also offered in two different cage lengths to work with either 11-25 to 11-30 cassettes (short cage – SS) or 11-28 to 11-34 cassettes (long cage – GS.)

Curiously, the mechanical front derailleur doesn’t get the revised & rotating Dura-Ace design layout, but still has been reshaped with a shorter arm to better clear the latest crop of wide road tires.

R8050 Di2 derailleurs

Both new rear derailleurs get a striking angular design aesthetic, very similar to the new Dura-Ace, minus the carbon cage. An added benefit of the Shadow layout rear derailleurs is of course the ability to mount then to direct mount derailleur hangers buy removing that upper link. As we saw with the new BMC Teammachines (at the top of the article), the more integrated derailleur hanger design can be made both lighter and offer more precise shifting, while also neatly integrating with QR or thru-axle setups.

Like the mechanical front derailleur, the new Di2 version also gets updated cage shaping to better work with the wider possible range of Ultegra chainring combinations. Both Di2 derailleurs can be set to work together with the various degrees of Synchronized Shifting modes, or run traditionally on their own.

R8000 cranks

The new asymmetric crankset again takes design cues from Dura-Ace. Technically it isn’t a big change from 6800, but the new Hollowtech II 4-arm layout does claim a bump in stiffness, while also shedding 2g from 6800, down to 674g for a compact.

More importantly, when compared to Dura-Ace you get more chain ring size options (which are compatible with R9000) so you can opt for standard 53/39, mid-compact 52/36, compact 50/34, or cyclocross 46/36, all with Shimano’s Hollowglide rigid hollow big rings.

R8000 & HG800 cassettes

11 speed cassettes for the new group are for the most part unchanged in  six standard offerings: 11-25, 11-28, 11-30, 11-32, 12-25 & 14-28. But a new wider range 11-34 HG800 cassette is also being made available for those looking for proper gravel-ing gearing. The 11-34 is actually designed to fit on the narrower freehub body of a mountain bike hub, so it is able to do double duty with an included spacer for 11-speed road hubs as well.

Finishing out the drivetrain, Ultegra doesn’t get a new chain, instead sticking with the carry over HG701.

R8000 brakes

Like shifting there are a lot of braking options in the new Ultegra groupset. On the rim braking front, there is not only the standard dual-pivot design (360g per pair) that incorporates the same internal stabilizer from Dura-Ace between the arms to reduce flex and produce improved braking efficiency…

 

But  there is also Ultegra’s own direct-mount dual-pivot calipers. Both versions have ample clearance for 28mm tires and slightly more compact designs, although the under bottom bracket version appears unchanged.

On the disc brake side, the new Ultegra hydraulic brakes look very close to Dura-Ace, although unsurprisingly in a slightly more bulky caliper. Stopping power is said to carry over, and the new R8070 hydraulic calipers appear to be only available as direct mount, with finned Ice-Tech backed brake pads.

The rotors are the same we saw last Friday and share the same completely closed layout for efficient heat transfer to passing air as the latest Dura-Ace, only in clean anodized aluminum (silver). A pair of the disc brake calipers add 280g to the appropriate dual control levers, plus another 212g per 160mm rotor.

R8000 SPD-SLs

Ultegra also gets a new carbon set of  SPD-SL pedals that look a lot like their Dura-Ace counterpart, offering a more pro-fit and even a 4mm extended axle option. They drop pedal stack down 0.7mm over the 6800 offer and shave down 12g to a claimed 248g.

Ultegra wheels

Rounding out the new Ultegra, there are a pair of new wheelsets as well. The tubeless carbon WH-RS700 stick with an aluminum braking surface (625g front/943g rear), while the new tubeless WH-RS770 disc brake wheels get full carbon rims carbon laminated alloy rims and 12mm thru-axles (735g front/904g rear.)

Inside of the new wheels are also new hubs in both RS700/770 versions, that shave about 60g per wheelset over 6800 with new machined flanges & straight pull spokes. The disc brake version will also be available separately with standard round flanges (& aero spoke friendly lacing), centerlock rotor interfaces, and 12mm cup & cone thru-axles (125g front/302g rear).

With its lightest setup being Di2 paired with rim brakes, the new Ultegra R8000 claims a complete weight with wheels of 4071g, for an 85g saving over Ultegra 6800. Compared to the new top-level, lightest Dura-Ace groupset+wheelset combo (3566g), the new Ultegra only gives up ~500g to R9100.

(For more accurate comparison to other groupsets, that R8000 rim brake Di2 group should weigh 2,255g if we subtract the RS700 wheels & pedals.)

As to when we can actually buy it all, the new Ultegra R8000 mechanical shift & rim brake components will start to arrive at distributors by the end of this month (June 2017), while the Di2 and disc brake components will begin to make their way to consumers in August 2017.

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