Shimano has launched its new Ultegra R8000 series groupset, but what are the key differences between it and the older 6000 series option?

As you might expect, the new Shimano Ultegra R8000, R8050 and R8070 have benefited a great deal from the trickle down in technology from the Shimano Dura-Ace groups.

It won’t be much of a surprise, Shimano loves to spec it’s latest technologies across its newest products, which is great for those wanting to buy a less expensive groupset, but still get good performance. It does, however, mean that there are now some key differences between the Shimano Ultegra 6800 series and the Shimano Ultegra 8000 series.

Shimano Ultegra R8000 (mechanical) vs Shimano Ultegra 6800 (mechanical)

Immediately noticeable is the looks, and Ultegra has now adopted the wider, chunkier crank arm and sleek dark looks of the Dura-Ace models. This isn’t just aesthetic, though, and the change does bring some marginal benefits in stiffness and weight saving.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Spitting image. Each Shimano series follows similar patterns

There’s currently no word as to whether the crankset will be compatible with Shimano’s power meter, but it is the same Hollowtech design, so logic would suggest so and it is something Shimano did want when launching Shimano Dura-Ace R9100.  

Despite the increasing popularity of electronic shifting, mechanical groupsets are still the bread and butter of the majority of riders, so Shimano as ever looked to improve ergonomics of the levers.

Up front, the hoods and levers have received a redesign so they’re more like Dura-Ace, and should, as result, be more comfortable, slimmer and an overall reduction in girth compared to the old 6800 series hood.

The hoods are now designed with a pattern and no longer smooth, aiding grip if you don’t like riding with mitts. With a more of a kink at the top, like that of DA, creates a better hand position and more room for your hand. Again, this was something we were big fans of on the higher end Dura-Ace.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Ergonomics have been improved

The front derailleur has also seen a major overhaul, and now mimics the far slimmer, almost skeletal Dura-Ace 9100 model. Supposedly, this should now give a much lighter shifting action, and more flexible cable routing options.

The Shimano Ultegra R8000 rear derailleur really drives home the Shadow design of the Dura-Ace rear mech, incorporating the same slant angle and giving slicker, and smoother shifting, reducing cable friction as well as keeping the body up and out of harm’s way.

The medium cage derailleur will now accept an 11-34 cassette, giving much larger gearing options should you head for the hills.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Rear cage similar to that of our off-road counterparts

The mechanical, calliper brakes are still of a dual pivot design but they’ve now been given the extra clearance to accommodate 28mm tyres – a sign that Shimano is well aware of the trend for bigger rubber.

Other, minimal changes include a now sleeker gap between the arms of the brakes, which should give better, more assured performance.

Shimano Ultegra R8050 (Di2) vs Ultegra 6870 (Di2)

Shimano says it has made the shifting for Di2 more intuitive, which means a distinct separation of the upshift and downshift levers, which addresses a minor scruple we had when we first rode the 6870.

Shimano Ultegra R8050 receives the same wireless functionality as the new Dura-Ace model which means they’re now compatible with 3rd party cycling computers thanks Shimano’s E-Tube software. Buttons on top of the hoods now let you remotely switch screens on your cycling computers.

Synchro-Shift, recently introduced to Ultegra 6870, is also being continued on the new model, as is multi-shift, this is programmed through the E-Tube app.

Shimano Ultegra

Slimmer hydro hoods is a welcome sight

Happily, Shimano Ultegra R8050 should also benefit from continued firmware updates for the E-Tube software, including rider profiles, meaning different programs can be ran on a Di2 system for different occasions, whether that’s racing or riding.

Shimano Ultegra R8070 (hydraulic) vs Ultegra 6870 (hydraulic)

The real changes here are with the levers and rotors. We’ve had qualms with the large Ultegra 6870 hydraulic levers for a while but it looks like they may have been shaved down for the new R8070 version. Shimano claim that the bracket has been shrunk for improved ergonomics.

Shimano Ultegra

Updated discs for better stopping power

Other interesting news is the greater reach adjust and free stroke adjustment built into the levers – something Campagnolo has done very well on its recent disc brake groupset launch.

Elsewhere, Shimano claims to have improved the heat dissipating properties of the SM-RT800 rotors thanks to its Ice technologies Freeza properties.

Shimano PD-R8000 vs Shimano PD-6800

That’s right, lets not forget Shimano’s trusty pedals, and the Shimano Ultegra level platforms have undergone a series of revisions.

The 8000 series pedals are now 0.6mm lower in stack than their previous iterations, come with a 4mm longer axle and are a claimed 248g.

Shimano Ultegra ST-R8060 vs Shimano Ultegra ST-6871

The time trial shifters are another area that get a sizeable shake up. They receive a general slimming down thanks to Shimano removing the switch box, and now only have button on the side, rather than the previous two. Despite this, it still remains compatible with Shimano’s Synchro-Shift.