Revamped front and rear derailleurs for both mechanical and Di2 transmissions
Ultegra R8000 will use redesigned derailleurs across the board, although they’ll thankfully retain compatibility with current levers.
Just as with Dura-Ace R9100, the new Ultegra RD-R8000 mechanical and RD-R8050 electronic rear derailleurs move to a Shadow configuration adapted from Shimano’s mountain bike components. The lower-profile parallelogram should help shield the mechanism from damage in a crash, while its longer length also provides more chain wrap around each cassette cog for reduced drivetrain wear and more consistent shift performance across the range.
Also trickling down is the so-called Direct Mount mounting interface, which hangs the derailleur further back from the frame than before for improved shifting and greater chain wrap across the cassette range.
For now, a short aluminum link keeps both rear derailleurs compatible with frames built with standard hangers. Those should slowly start to go away as frame manufacturers begin to build specific hangers to suit, though, with the added benefits of a sturdier mounting platform and more clearance for faster wheel changes. Notably, BMC has already started to offer its latest Teammachine SLR01 with a Direct Mount hanger.
To accommodate extra-wide cassette gear ratios, Shimano will offer the new Ultegra rear derailleurs in two cage lengths instead of the single one currently featured on Dura-Ace. The shorter SS version will handle cassette cogs up to 30T, while the longer GS variant will officially accommodate up to a 34T sprocket.
While changes to the Ultegra FD-R8050 Di2 electronic front derailleur are more cosmetic in nature, the mechanical version undergoes a more dramatic transformation. As with Dura-Ace, the new Ultegra R8000 front derailleur abandons a traditional lever arm in favor of the same spool-like assembly that was introduced last year. In addition to being lower in profile for better leg and tire clearance, the new mechanism directly incorporates a handy cable tension adjustment so inline adjusters are no longer needed. Leverage ratio refinements reduce the amount of hand effort required to shift, too.
Enhanced Di2 functionality
by James Huang
Trickle-down is once again the theme here, with Shimano taking the latest Di2 enhancements given to its flagship Dura-Ace groupset and incorporating them into the Ultegra level.
Shift performance hasn’t changed much at all in terms of how the chain physically moves between the individual chainrings and cassette cogs, but the semi and full Synchro shift map options first introduced with Dura-Ace Di2 earlier this year will now come stock (current Ultegra Di2 6870 users have been able to add those features with a new battery and D-Fly wireless unit as of April). Semi-Synchro mode automatically shifts a prescribed number of cassette cogs to compensate for front shifts instead of having to do it manually as usual, while full Synchro shift mode acts as a sequential gearbox, using just two buttons in total and automatically shifting the chainrings as needed to deliver the requested ratio; both modes are optional and can be switched on and off while riding.
Once again, Di2 users will have the option for remote shift buttons for both sprint and climbing applications.
When coupled with the wireless D-Fly unit, Ultegra Di2 users will also be able to program nearly every aspect of the system via Shimano’s latest e-Tube app (which now works with both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets), including specific functions for each shifter button, the number of rear compensating shifts in semi-Synchro mode, and when to shift up front when riding in full-Synchro mode.
Time trial racers and triathletes interested in using the new Ultegra Di2 groupset will want to get well acquainted with those programming features, too, as the latest components for those disciplines are fully optimized around the enhanced shift maps — so much so, in fact, that Shimano has only incorporated one shift button per side on the base bar-mounted brake/shift levers in an effort to reduce their size and weight relative to the current version.
New four-arm cranksets, wider-range gearing options
by James Huang
Shimano has carried over the previous Ultegra groupset’s striking matte/glossy, dark grey finish, but there’s no mistaking the more modern, Dura-Ace-like aesthetic. This is most obvious in the new crankset, which retains an asymmetric four-arm chainring mounting pattern and hollow-forged aluminum construction, but with radically oversized dimensions throughout that Shimano claims provides greater rigidity while nevertheless shaving a couple of grams relative to the current version.
As before, that same four-arm spider will be shared across all four chainring combination options — 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T, and 46/36T — and the outer rings will again feature a deep-profile, hollow structure to boost shift performance. Just like on the latest Dura-Ace R9100 crankset, Ultegra R8000 will feature an inner chainring that is shifted slightly inboard to reduce drivetrain interference on disc-equipped bikes while still officially allowing for chainstays as short as 410mm. Available crankarm lengths will include 165, 170, 172.5, and 175mm.
Despite the prevalence of BB30, PF30, and BB386EVO-equipped frames, Shimano is sticking to its long-standing 24mm-diameter, hollow chromoly bottom bracket spindle configuration; there is no 30mm-diameter version available, and Shimano will continue to rely on third-party solutions to fit its cranks into frames with oversized bottom bracket shells.
Gravel and adventure riders will note the distinct lack of smaller sub-compact or single-ring drivetrain options on Ultegra R8000, but Shimano has at least expanded the range of available 11-speed CS-R8000 rear cassette choices. These will include the more traditional road variants (11-25T, 12-25T, 11-28T, 14-28T), but also ones more specifically aimed at long and steep climbs (11-30T and 11-32T). In addition, there’s an extra-wide 11-34T option (CS-HG800) that will fit on Shimano/SRAM-compatible 10-speed freehub bodies, which will allow gravel and adventure riders the freedom to use mountain bike wheelsets and hubs.
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