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A Closer Look At: Shimano Ultegra R8000 Groupset

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Author: Will Blackmore

A Shimano product launch always garners attention, and for a brand with such a sizable history and background in innovating our sport, we’re always eager to see which direction one of cycling’s biggest players takes. With the Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset finally unveiled and unleashed on the market, the buzzword is customisation.

Whilst this approach may appear a little at odds for the world’s largest component manufacturer, once again, this Japanese brand delivers. With this latest Ultegra release giving you a wide range of choice, you truly call the shots. Disc or rim brake, electronic or mechanical shifting, big gearing or broad gearing, the Ultegra R8000 groupset goes beyond in order to give you the experience you want on your ride. With a quick tour of the groupset, we thought we’d highlight the key changes, improvements, and innovations that make this Ultegra R8000 groupset the headline grabber it is.

STI Levers

Shimano Ultegra R8000 Groupset

 

If pedals and cranks are about unbridled button mashing power, levers are all about refinement, bringing out that delicate, finessed control that channels your effort into a productive, cohesive ride. With the latest Ultegra R8000 range of levers divided principally between mechanical and Di2, Shimano look to cater for the rider at every level, be it in the pursuit of pro-level precision or simply for that reliable and comfortable cockpit control.

 

Mechanical versions split between a Shimano Ultegra R8020 Hydraulic Mechanical STI version and a standard Shimano Ultegra R8000 11-speed pair boasting full mechanical shifting, you’re immediately presented with a choice between disc and rim braking paths. Both options boasting a redesigned internal mechanism that allows cables to be neatly routed under your bar tape, you needn’t longer worry about a cluttered handlebar. The hydraulic version ideal for any rider looking to equip their adventure bike with the best possible disc braking experience whilst being assured of accurate, smooth shifting that can be easily adjusted, fixed and repaired on the road. For the purist and traditionalist, the mechanically actuated standard rim braking option still sits there, shifting sweetly with a smoother overall action. Both options redesigned for improved ergonomics, riding in the hoods has never been so comfortable.

Headline shifting remains, though, with the Di2 line of componentry. Disc and rim braking the point of differentiation between the two choices, a hydraulic disc braking option points towards a greater focus on high quality disc braking within road based setups, and, for the rider wanting to tackle a race and ride in the peloton, an electronic shifting rim brake version still caters for riders sticking with the current UCI stance on disc brakes in competition. An additional iteration created specifically to cater for time trialists

Perhaps most staggering about these electronic STI levers isn’t the braking though, but the impressive programmability, allowing you to make your lever respond perfectly to your needs. Equipped with a Synchro shift technology, you’re able to make both derailleurs respond to the actions input on one lever alone. Giving you singular control over your entire groupset, these electronic shifters live up to their billing as intelligent. Selecting your rear derailleur gearing automatically results your front derailleur adjusting to provide a more seamless experience. A semi-synchronized mode allowing your rear derailleur to work out the correct ratios and select them automatically as you ride, you can be sure that you’re never knowingly underperforming on the road, or riding at anything below optimal on the parcours you face.

Derailleurs

Shimano Ultegra R8000 Groupset

 

Whilst you signal your intent with levers, then actual mechanics of gear changing is the reserve of derailleurs. The creme of the rear derailleurs boasting the lauded electronic Di2 technology, the latest range is uniformly designed using Shimano’s Shadow RD concept, making the derailleur more stable whilst paring back the profile in order to give the rider a more sleek rear mech that’s tucked away a little more in the event that a crash occurs. The electronic iterations also boasting an integrated saver fuse function, you can be sure that all your internal electronics are protected from impacts. All rear derailleurs equipped with four self-lubricating micro-machined fluorine-coated link pivot bushings, the movement across your rear cassette is smoother and lighter, reduced friction translating into more accurate and immediate gear changing.

 

Split between SS and GS rear derailleurs, you can tailor your gear ratios to your ability and preferences. SS rear derailleurs catering for 11-30 tooth rear cassettes and GS set up to give that little bit extra 11-34 tooth gearing, you can ride that more rugged climb with the assurance that you’ve got a little something in reserve.

The all new mechanical front derailleur has been reconceived to mimic the natural force curve of the hand on the lever, leading to a steady arc up and down your chainset, as well as more efficiency and precision when shifting. With the electronic front derailleur edition incorporating an auto-trim feature, you need never worry about front derailleur rub again, as this electronic version instantly adjusts to ensure that clearance is wide and breezy, allowing your drivetrain nothing but silent transmission of power.

Chainsets & Cassettes

Shimano Ultegra R8000 Groupset

 

Chainsets and cassettes are the beasts of burden in any drivetrain, but the Ultegra R8000 options approach the subject with a great deal more attention and scrutiny than that. The chainsets using a HollowTech II bottom bracket and with a redesigned outer chainring offering a lighter weight alongside a stiffer, non-flexing construction, you can be sure that all your power gets transmitted to the road. A range of tooth options equipping you for the terrain that you target on your ride, these chainsets are precision engineered and optimised for easy pick-up when shifting. An enlarged axle diameter going further to reinforce the rigidity of your chainset, you can be sure of total power transfer on your ride.

 

Cassettes offering up a refined tooth shaping to reduce weight, whilst Hyperglide technology assures you of a smooth engagement at every end of your gearing. Designed for use with Shimano’s HG-EV chains, you can be assured of a superior engagement when riding, promoting a more driven, connected feel.

Brakesets

Shimano Ultegra R8000 Groupset

 

With the dichotomy between disc and rim brakes continuing into the Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset, you can be assured of finding the right choice for your demands on the bike.

 

The newly released Shimano Ultegra R8070 Rear Flat Mount Caliper and Shimano Ultegra R8070 Front Flat Mount Caliper have been redesigned with the aim of providing metered, measured and modulated braking force for improved confidence when turning into those corners.Using flat mounting systems and ceramic surfaces to provide better heat management, these disc brake calipers offer a wider rotor clearance, assuring you that drag won’t be an issue on your ride.

Finally, the range is finished with the Shimano Ultegra R8000 Ice Tech FREEZA Centre-Lock Rotor you can benefit from one of the most efficient, effective, and considered rotors yet develooped. Making use of a three layer construction to radiate heat through an aluminium core for much quicker cool down times, these disc rotors improve the life of your calipers whilst offering reduced fade due to better heat management.

For the rider sticking to rim-brakes, sampling the delights of this groupset is two fold. A direct mount and standard mount front and rear caliper bringing the total to four separate options, you can be assured of a strong aluminium construction arranged in a SLR-EV Dual-Pivot configuration, you are gifted an even and strong braking ability. With clearances for 28c tyres, you can tackle that rougher road and still be sure of stopping in a hurry.

Summary

So, what should we take from Shimano’s latest release? Well, clearly, this is a range that caters for just about every configurable you could imagine on a road setup. Pushing new ground in their electronic shifting technology, whilst simultaneously setting the stage for the next generation of top performing disc brakes, Shimano have done well to broaden out the appeal of this groupset, diversify their range, and make each element of this groupset truly work for you as a part of your ride.

 

About the Author

  • Will Blackmore
  • Height: 180cm
  • Weight: N/A
  • About Will Blackmore: Randonneuring, touring, or simply being in the saddle, Will enjoys nothing more than getting up early and tackling hill climbs before breakfast.

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