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Shimano 105 vs Ultegra: Is It Worth It To Upgrade?

Shimano 105 vs Ultegra: Is It Worth It To Upgrade? post image

There comes a time in every road cyclist’s life when it becomes clear* that the quickest way to progress to professional standards of performance is to splash more cash on a random bike component.

(*Not all that clear)

That time occurs before you buy your bike, roughly a week after you’ve bought your bike, then on a weekly basis until you cycle off this mortal coil.

So now is the time to consider whether upgrading from Shimano 105, a perfectly functional bike groupset, to Shimano Ultegra, a perfectly functional bike groupset, will take you from dog-dog to Froome-dog.

It won’t.

But it will be interesting to compare the two. No, it will!

Begin!

Products mentioned in this post:

What Is A Groupset: A Quick Recap

I’ve shown this photo before, but include it again for reasons of laziness.

What is a groupset?

Now a (very) quick canter through the different elements of the groupset:

  • Crankset / chainset – the bit the pedals attach to – chain rings, cranks – that sort of thing;
  • Derailleurs – the bits that move the chain between the different chainrings (at the front) and the various cogs of the cassette (at the back);
  • Shifters – attached to the handlebars – the bit you manipulate with your hands;
  • Cassette – the bit in the middle of your back wheel – lots of teeth;
  • Chain – the, er, chain…

You get the idea.

If you want more of an idea then this article provides a pretty comprehensive overview of the various group sets on the market.

Where In The Range (And Some Naming Conventions)

If Dura-Ace is the top of Shimano’s range of groupsets for road bikes (don’t worry, it is), Ultegra occupies second place in the list; 105 is third.

(For completeness, Tiagra is next, followed by Sora and Claris. And these are the middle names of my daughters as well.)

I think what I’m about to write is something of a cyclo-cliche, but that has never stopped me before, so… 105 is the first of Shimano’s “serious” or “proper” groupsets.

Tiagra and below, despite being perfectly adequate for your first few sportives (probably all your sportives) and for your daily commute, should be eschewed in favour of 105 or Ultegra as soon as your functional threshold power hits 150W.

Or something like that.

In truth, what tends to happen is that you get your first road bike and it comes with whatever it comes with (in my case it was a ragtag set of Campagnolo and Miche components). You finally succumb to the rule of n+1 and you start looking for your first ‘proper’ road bike. Then you start looking into gears a bit more. And you end up getting a bike with 105.

You gaze adoringly at your clean-shiftin’ 105 drivetrain for a couple of years… and then start to wonder, “Would I be faster-stronger-sexier if I had Ultegra on my bike?”. And so the world turns.

We Really Wanna See Those Numbers

If you want to become a Shimano knowledge-sensai, you need to be aware that there is a number that corresponds to each named groupset (okay, need is a strong word).

I imagine there is some sophisticated reason why these numbers are there (like, I don’t know, maybe to identify all the individual components within a given set). It’s most helpful in working out which generation of a given groupset that you’re getting.

Ultegra groupset

This, amigos, is an Ultegra groupset

Fr’instance: 105’s code starts with a 5. The current model is 5800. This helps distinguish it from the 105 groupset on my bike, which is 5700 – the previous generation of 105.

You want to take care when buying individual parts (e.g. replacement parts, a cassette with different gear ratios), that they’re compatible with the gear bits (technical term) that you’ve already got.

By the way, the current version of Ultegra is 6800, whilst Dura-Ace is 9000.

If You Want Electronic …

… Then you gotta get Ultegra.

(Which I reckon is a song lyric waiting to be put to music*).

(*By Kraftwerk, if there’s any justice in the world).

For the time being, only Ultegra, and it’s pro-sibling Dura-Ace, has electronic rather than mechanical gear shifts. Rather than you changing gear physically by pulling on (or releasing) a cable, electronic shifting uses little motors attached to the front and rear derailleurs in order to make the changes.

The electro-versions of Ultegra and Dura-Ace have Di2 added at the end of their names to make it clear that no cables are required (though unlike SRAM’s recently announced wireless electronic system, Shimano does still require the use of wires).

The origin story of the term Di2 is shrouded in mystery…. (okay, I couldn’t be bothered to Google what it stands for).

Given that technology tends to move down the price range over time, plus I’m sure I read an article about it, I can’t imagine it will be long until 105 gets electrified.

Since I know you were all particularly taken by the concept of each groupset have a name and a number, Ultegra Di2 is also known by its East German spy code of 6870.

And yes, Dura-Ace Di2 is 9070 (it doesn’t take an Enigma machine to work out the pattern).

What Price/Spec Of Bike Gets 105 Versus Ultegra

My bike is a Trek Domane 4.3 (the 2013 version), which at the time cost £1,800. The more recent Domane 4.3 retails at £1,500. Both of these versions of the Domane came/come with Shimano 105.

Shimano 105 groupset

And this is the current 105 groupset

The caliper-braked 4.5 (as opposed to the disc brake version, which is more expensive) now occupies Trek’s £1,800 price slot and comes with a mix of Ultegra and 105.

This exciting and highly personal anec-Domane is meant to illustrate that, amongst the major bike brands, the 105-Ultegra price fulcrum seems to come around the £1,800 mark.

Continuing to use the Trek Domane as a yardstick, the Domane 5.2 (again, with caliper brakes) at £2,200 comes with full Ultegra.

The Cannondale balance point (for the Synapse – their Endurance road bike) is somewhere between £2,000 (where the 105 version lives) and £2,500 (where the Ultegra resides). Though since they only do a disc-brake bike, this probably adds £300–400 to each of these price points.

To be clear, though, you can buy a new bike equipped with a full Ultegra groupset for a lot less than this. My brother-in-law has a carbon bike from Ribble with Ultegra that he’s very happy with.

I’ll leave to play around with Ribble’s ‘bikebuilder’ feature on its website, but you can easily spec an Ultegra-toting carbon-framed endurance bike, with reasonable wheels and finishing kit for under £1,500.

So Which Is Better? (FIGHT!)

Ah, the million dollar £400 (or $600) question.

The answer is presumably the Ultegra. The question is whether the difference is worth the money.

Clearly if you want electronic shifting, then Ultegra is, for now, your only option.

The consensus amongst the online cyclo-rati is that there’s not much in it. Indeed, the recent upgrade of 105 from 5700 to 5800 makes it even more comparable to Ultegra, performance wise.

Importantly (very), ‘new’ 105 has the same 4-arm chainset style, a la Ultegra and Dura-Ace, whereas my older version does look different (not as good?).

Wait, What About Weight?

According to Shimano, the full Ultegra groupset weighs a whopping* 2.3kg (2,294g to be precise).

(*Is this ‘whopping’?)

My ‘old’ 105 groupset (5700) tipped the scales at 2,624g – 330g more than the Ultegra. Which in the grand scheme of things (‘things’ being our bellies), is not a huge amount.

And this not a huge amount has been reduced even further for 5800-generation 105. The stated weight figure is 2,445g, essentially halving the Ultegra–105 lard-gap.

Price

To a degree, this is a moot point.

I would guess that most groupsets are bought in conjunction with a new bike. If that’s you, then you’ll be more interested in the price point of the full bike, which I’ve discussed above.

For completeness though, Ultegra (non Di2) has an RRP of £999.99 in the UK and $1,399.99 in the US.

Shimano 105 (the current version) is on at an RRP of £559.99 in the UK and $799.99.

Don’t worry though (who you calling worried?), the actual prices you’ll need to pay are substantially lower. They’re available from Amazon and Wiggle, in some cases for less than half the recommended price.

So Where Does This Leave Us

None the wise, that’s where.

Well, perhaps a little bit wiser.

I’ll certainly be thinking about getting Ultegra (and maybe Di2) on my next bike. But I’m deluded and believe that this might make me a better cyclist.

More rational cyclists might decide to go for the perfectly adequate 105 (and maybe 105 Di2 if/when it arrives) and use the money saved to put towards better (lighter) wheels. This will probably result in a greater overall performance versus a slightly smoother gear change and a 150g weight saving.

If you’re thinking of mixing and matching between the various Shimano ranges, or you’re looking to upgrade one or a couple components on your existing setup, then you might find this arts-icle helpful.

Ult-tell Me About Your Gears

Which is a mangled sub-heading if ever there was one.

As you might have picked up, my trusty Trek is adorned with 105 (5700). Do you ride with Ultegra? Have you tried both?

Share your wisdom in the comments below.

And Finally…

Sportive Cyclist is free to read (and frankly, who’d pay for this crud?).

It does cost money to run though. If you’d like to help me out, you can buy stuff through one of my links and I earn a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything (and might even give you a warm glow inside…).

To that end, please consider clicking the following links and see if there is anything that takes your fancy:

  • If you’re in the market for a new bike: Wiggle has a fine (and well-priced) selection; Ribble Cycles are amazing value and their ‘Bikebuilder’ feature allows you to change components to see the effect on the price.
  • If you’re looking for bike components or clothing, again Wiggle is my go-to website.
  • Finally, if you buy anything on Amazon, I’ll get a commission if you do so after clicking through my link. All you have to do is click here and then forget about it!

Many thanks – every click means a lot to me!

 

Molte grazie!

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Peter Phillipson says:

    Ooh, I seem to be first. Well, I have both – the current iteration of 105 on my Cannondale winter bike and Ultegra on my summer carbon Vitus jobby. I’m no Froome-dog and I’ve only returned to cycling reasonably seriously in the last 3 years but my experience is that there’s little between them (unless, of course you want the electronic do-dah). The newest 105 is very slick and, I suspect, the best value of all Shimano groupsets for serious cyclists. The only gain I can see from upgrading needlessly (ie you haven’t knackered something in your existing set-up) is that Ultegra seems to have a certain cache that is lacking from the ‘lesser'(?) groupsets. Whether that’s important, one must judge for oneself.

  • Jack says:

    I think that by comparing complete groupsets you are doing everyone a disfavor. I too have a Domane 4.3 but 2014 model. It came with 105. I would spend my money getting a comfortable frame with 105 components. As things wear, replace them with a higher grade chain and cassette. Spend the money you save by upgrading the wheelset.
    If you ride significant miles you eventually start replacing components as maintenance items. Once your chain is at .75% wear replace it. Replace your cassette every two chains. That is how I started. The chain became an Ultegra and then the chain and cassette did. Chain only showed very little change, but the new chain and cassette had a very noticeable improvement. I subsequently found a decent deal on used Di2 electronics and was able to slap them on. There was no improvement in performance but the fun factor increased. I found it helped me because my hands are arthritic and it really relieved the pain going to larger cogs. After about 17,000 miles I felt it was time for the chainset and bottom bracket to be replaced and I went with Ultegra at that time – did not notice any change in performance. Still have the 105 calipers, so I think that is the only remnant of the original groupset.
    You talked about wheels and I strongly agree that lighter wheels make a huge performance and fun improvement. That would be the first major upgrade for me. I purchased a used set of Dura-Ace and have well over 10,000 miles on them now. I had to have the front retuned about 750 miles ago. Also I recently came across a used set of Zipp 404s which I bought. I’ve only tried a couple of rides with them and find they accelerate quicker than the DAs but climbing is about the same. The Zipps are deep dish carbon. The Zipps are 2 oz heavier than the DAs. All dressed up with tires and cassettes both sets come in under 6 #.

  • Nick White says:

    My summer bike is all Ultegra, and my winter bike has 105 shifters, mechs and an RS500 crankset. I do think the Ultegra runs slightly quieter and shifts slightly more smoothly, but both seem equally durable (2500 miles on each). Side by side, the Ultegra materials look more premium.

    My advice would be to focus on the frame and get as much 105 on there or better at the start, though I believe RS500 cranks are comparable to 105. Consider Ultegra as parts wear out, bearing in mind there is little reason to change brakes and shifters due to wear so it’s worth ensuring they are what you want at the start. I think the best non-wear upgrade is wheels.

    Just a quick note about brakes: I read recently that while Ultegra were the highest rated rim brakes, 105 use the same mechanical action and should perform the same (I can’t compare as my winter bike has discs).

  • The 105 5800 groupset I bought complete with wheels and tyres for £230 was a real bargain and I found that overall it performed better than my ultegra 6700 groupset except that the brakes are not as well finished. But the shifting was better but I was disappointed with the wheels shimano still do cones and cups for wheel bearings, and the cassette freewheel had lots of play .

    My other wheelsets use proper cartridge bearings all round and never need adjustment, so for my next project (another titanium frame) I will buy up a new just taken off a bike 105 groupset and try and find some good used wheels

  • Richard says:

    Do the two extra gears on the 5800 make a lot of difference compared to the 5700.?

    • The extra spread is useful as I have an 11-32 rear cassette with a compact 50-34 chainset Devon hills are not very forgiving. But would change to a 52-36 chainset on my next build

    • Jantzen says:

      It’s one extra. And it lets one run a larger range cassette. I know because like a jackass I went my traditional 12-25 on my new 11sp cassette and I basically have a 1 tooth jump between cogs. Seriously, how practical is that? It means a lot of constant shifting and often over two cogs. A 12-28 would have been far more practical and although I don’t think I “need” the 28, I do live in a very hilly area and would have embraced the spin if I had that smaller gear. But the extra ‘spacing; between cogs would have been nice.

      There are a lot of new bikes out there with 30 and 32 tooth largest cogs. It might not look traditional hard core but it screams common sense. Just my 2c.

    • Jack says:

      As Jantzen says it is only one extra gear.
      I ride a 10s but many of the people I ride with have 11s. There does not seem to be a great deal of difference between the two. 11s is the newest and will have spare and replacement parts available longer, and that, I believe is the biggest advantage. That being said I think my 10s can last my lifetime (I’m 65 now) plus many years. I live and ride in the Sierra foothills and San Francisco Bay area, so I can use all the help gearing will give me. Presently my bike has a 40 cog with a compact 50-34 crank. The 40 cog is aftermarket, and I took out the 11 cog to make it work. The cassette started as a Deore XT 11-36. The derailleur started as a Ultegra di2 (small cage) which is modified with a Deore long cage. Not all these mods are available with 11s yet. Anyways parts are readily available now for the 10s option.
      Starting with a 105 group is a good idea. As things wear you can upgrade to Ultegra if you want, or you can experiment with changes. The key thing is to enjoy what your bike and to make it comfortable for you. Many are going to disk brakes. I avoid riding in the rain so the added braking power is not something I look for, but you may consider.

  • John says:

    I agree with Jack, start with selecting a frame on a good bike. If that’s 105, fine. Then as things start to wear out upgrade. I did that with a Cannondale and eventually it was 95% Ultegra, the bottom bracket just kept on turning. I will note that my current bike is Ultegra, I got it 2 years back. I remember when test riding bikes that the Ultegra shifters “felt” better than the 105. However I suspect that the 105 would have been fine for many years of fun and excitement.

  • Geovile says:

    Thanks for the article, it came at the right time for me as I am looking for a new bike and still ponder between 105 and Ultegra….
    As you discuss only 11 speed groupsets, my question is about upgrading from 105 10s to 105 11s or even Ultegra 11s? Is any of the upgrades worth? I am a beginner/intermediate riding a Specialized Elite 2014 Hybrid.
    The bike I am looking at is a Pinarello Razha K from 2013 (still new as per the store manager) with 105 5700/Most.
    I am also looking at a Colnago CLX 3.0 Ultegra 2015. Can anyone comment on how the 2 compare?
    I appreciate your comments 🙂

    • Jack Scullion says:

      Buy the bike that is most comfortable for you.
      Regarding 10s vs 11s you likely won’t notice a difference. Most of the change allows closer gearing in the middle of the cassette. Of course the chain is also thinner in 11s. 11s is the new norm and you will be able to easily get parts further into the future than 10s. I would guess you’ll be able to find 10s parts for many years to come. You should check that the rear wheel can be used with both 10s and 11s – this will only come into play if you decide to change later from 10s to 11s. 10s 105 or Ultegra can be used with XT deore cassettes (sometimes derailleur needs to be changed) and this can allow expanded gear ratios for climbing. As far as I know 11s road and mtn are not interchangeable. These are just some points to consider.
      IMHO 105 vs Ultegra should not play a determining factor in your decision. The marginal upgrade in performance does not justify the significant higher cost. When you are due for chain and cassette replacement switch to ultegra.

      • Geovile says:

        Thanks Jack for your comments, I appreciate it!
        I am much inclined to go with the current 105 10s configuration and leave more expensive upgrades for later. Might upgrade though to S105 11s now if the price delta is acceptable. And the wheel doesn’t work with 11s.

        • Denise says:

          Hello! I am trying to choose between a 2015 Cannodale CAAD 10 105 for $1100 or a Cannondale CAAD 10 with Ultegra for $1750. I found the upgraded bike at a local shop and the other bike I found online and the person is willing to ship to me for free. I am not certain if I should spend the money now for the upgraded bike. Any help or advise is greatly appreciated. Thank you

          • Jack says:

            What is your skill level and how much riding will you do? The better you are and the more you ride the more you would appreciate the upgraded bike.
            I assume both bikes are 10s.
            Buying from a Local Bike Shop has a value because you’ll be given preferential treatment over someone off the street when you go in for subsequent work. I assume the bike from the LBS is new and the online one used. Again a value to the LBS. If the upgraded bike has upgraded wheels that is a big value. Make sure the upgraded bike has the full Ultegra group – crankset, bottom bracket, chain, brakes, shifters, cassette.
            I assume both bikes are the same size and you are sure the size is correct for you; this is even more important than group.
            If the upgraded bike is 11s and the online one 10s there is a slight value to the LBS bike.
            The upgrade from 105 to Ultegra is incremental from component to component and much can be done as parts wear because parts are interchangeable.
            If it were me, and once again assuming the online bike is used, I would go with the Local Bike Shop. If both bikes are new I would take the information to your LBS and see if they would reduce their price 2-300 or if that embarrasses you just get the online one. If the online bike seller accepts returns if their description is incorrect and pays return shipping then that is a value in their favor.
            Hope this helps and is only my opinion.

          • Denise says:

            Jack thank you so much for you advise, I do greatly appreciate it. Both bikes are new and and both had 22 gears. The bike at $1750 is a size 52 and the bike online at $1100.00 is size 54. The bike online for $1100.00 includes shipping and any fees. The bike at $1750.00 will have tax added to that price. I am on the fence on paying up if it’s not too big of a difference. I have been searching for awhile and my head is spinning. I have been looking at carbon fiber, Trek, Specialized and Cannondale…there’s so MANY options. I started my search last year and it was so overwhelming I just said forget it.
            Currently I am riding a 20 year old mountain bike on paved trails. Right now I ride about 20-30 miles 2-3 days a week. I am hoping to increase both miles and how many times per week, possibly to join a riding group as well. Thank you for any advise I greatly appreciate it.

          • Jack says:

            My two cents worth. Size is most important of the factors you mentioned. I suggest you go to a different bike shop, tell them you are just shopping but not ready to buy and you want to try size 54 and 52 bikes to see which is more comfortable. If one is more comfortable than the other go with that size. If they both seem about the same goes with the smaller size. It is easy to change a couple of components later to make the bike feel like a larger size. You are not riding great distances yet, and you don’t want a poorly fitted bike to destroy your riding enjoyment.

  • Lars says:

    Having ridden both 105 and Ultegra (currently riding Ultegra) I can say, that from my experience that Ultegra:

    – gears runs more smoothly when changing gears (especially on hills) compared to 105
    – feels stiffer than 105
    – brakes better than 105

    But not on a huge margin.

    And I am comparing 105 5700 with Ultegra the Ultegra 6800. I suspect the difference will be smaller when comparing to 5800.

    Ultegra is better than 105 – no doubt about that. But on a limited budget I would prioritize:

    – Frame (really the most important decision)
    – Wheels
    – Saddle
    – Groupset (and I could easily live with 105 5800)

    The upgrade groupset parts as they become worn out.

  • geraldrhodes27 says:

    Hey Andrew,
    Thanks for this comparison. When it comes to purchasing a gift for our babies, nothing says I love you like a new groupo. As we spend more time on the bike and rack up the miles, it makes sense to upgrade assuming your bike fit is dialed in.
    In my experience, the upgrade from 105 to ultegra was significant. If you are just getting started, it will not make a difference. As we begin to understand what we like and what we don’t like, after that 10,000 shift, we begin to appreciate ulegra and it’s smoothness.
    Does the weight make a difference? Absolutely not. Let’s all make a commitment to lose a pound or two around our bellies. There is your performance increase right there!
    And the price. Well, let’s face it. As much as we may protest, we enjoy purchasing gifts for our bikes.
    I agree, when you are ready, or when your bike is ready, make the leap to ultegra.
    Thanks Andrew.

  • Nick says:

    To take a left-field view on all this; people are talking of buying a different sized bike, to get Ultegra, but the most important this is how the bike fits you. A post by Monty from a year or two talked about a custom bike fitting service and that really struck me: for $30-400 you are measured with lasers to ensure the perfect bike fit. This has the potential to maximise comfort and, most importantly, performance far more than by choosing one iteration or another of Shimano’s group sets.

    A final point is that it is well known that last year’s Ultegra is effectively this year’s 105, so a two year old bike with Ultegra is likely to be equal, perhaps inferior to the current model 105. I have tried this myself and can vouch for it.

    In the meantime I’ll go back to my heavy, but rugged Diverge that is probably 6 pounds heavier than most of your bikes, and still runs well on Sora 😉

  • Tim says:

    The heavier groupset will make you stronger because it’s heavier, then later when you upgrade to the lighter more expensive groupset you’ll be stronger and faster. But saying that loosing a few kg/s would be the cheaper option.

  • Danno says:

    That was many words, but I missed the part of describing how 105 performs differently from Ultegra apart from the weight. I’ve got full Ultegra 6800 11 speed, mostly because I bought a year-end clearance Giant for $200 less than my LBS was selling a Domane with 105 10 speed. I doubt I can tell the difference as I’ve only been riding recreationally (75-100 miles weekly) for 2 years. Can you include more on how these two group sets perform?

  • Damir Spanic says:

    Very helpful article as I am looking to upgrade from Sora. Thank you.

  • Jon Hillman says:

    I have a Scott Speedster FL20 with 105 for 2 years and already run through 2 chains and continue to have chain slipping when running the front smaller gear and on the 12, 13, 14 on the rear cassette. I’m thinking this is wear on those rear gears. Given that, thinking that I would need to replace the cassette, I thought I might upgrade to the Ultegra, along with the derailleur and chain.

    Do you think it would be worth it? Seems the cost for the Ultegra set is within 20% of getting 105s.

    • Jack says:

      Has this been happening since new or is it a recent development? Chains and cassettes wear out a lot faster than derailleurs. Also the cables stretch. Go to your bike shop and have them check the chain and the derailleur alignment. Both are very quick checks. The alignment is a quick adjustment.
      If your chain is at or very close to 0.75% stretched change it. If it is over 1% change the chain and cassette.
      Also have them check the chain length. If your this has been happening since new possibly the chain is too long or the B screw needs adjustment. If it is on the long side for your set up talk to them about removing a link. One test I use is to go small/small on the gears – if the chain becomes noticeably slack the chain is too long.
      Have you ever dropped the bike and possibly bent the derailleur or hanger? If not then they are likely ok and I wouldn’t change them.
      Assuming all you have are wear and maintenance issues I would upgrade the chain and cassette to Ultegra and keep the derailleur.

    • Jack says:

      Sorry, I missed the part about already having gone through 2 chains when I posted my first reply. My guess is that your chain is too long, and/or you have a bent hanger or derailleur. Before changing anything I would look for the real problem. Unless your derailleur is bent I wouldn’t change it.

      If your bike shop doesn’t find anything wrong, try having them shorten the chain by one pair of links. This assumes that you are able to go big/big with the shortened chain.

      Once you find the problem change the chain and cassette then adjust alignment and the B screw.

  • bob cratchet says:

    Its time to cut the crap. If you like to show off with your Ultegra with its shinier finish fine. (Harry Enfield I’m considerably richer than you). If you think 70g weight difference in shifters the pair (5800-6800) is going to make you faster than me good. talk of slightly crisper shifting, smoother shifting, faster, easier shifting or difference in durability has me laughing. you could be deluding yourself because you spent all that extra money and would feel a fool if there was no functional difference. what does this turd know I hear you say to yourself in your head.
    well I’ve had 5800 shifters apart next to 6800 shifters, I mean totally apart like they’re not supposed to. There is zero difference in any of the moving parts in shape or function. they appear to be made of the same materials also but I haven’t done a Vickers hardness test. there is no difference that would give rise to a different shifting experience in reality (I studied mechanical engineering degree level at university, I have reasonably trained opinion I think). The sole differences I can see are a different plastic material in the bodies (the shape is identical) and composite plastic levers instead of aluminium alloy. superficial difference in the lever tops which I would guess is to stop you from putting Ultegra nameplates on 105 levers. I can’t help thinking the rest of the poopset is along similar lines.
    For function or longevity is it worth the price, can’t be as they’re the same. If you want to go faster get a bigger engine (legs).

    • bob cratchet says:

      me back, ive got sneaking suspicion the the only difference in the tiagra 4700 mechanism is 10 teeth on the ratchet instead of 11. as far as my eyes can reach looking in a shop display I cant see any difference in the exposed parts of the mechanism. it would cost shimano more to have different production lines than to just put the same parts in several levers it would cost more to make the cheaper levers cheaper. ultegra-change a couple of materials to save a haircut in weight, tiagra-put 10 teeth on the ratchet wheel instead of 11.

  • aaa ooo says:

    i’m considering a Cannondale Slate. It’s considered a “new road” bike, both the 105 and Ultegra versions have hydraulic disc brakes (yay) the one in 105 comes in a puke green, while the Ultegra comes in a muted grey.

    in addition to that, the Brake/Shift hoods on the 105 have a wierd ergonomic feel to them. like a silly hump for your thumbs to get annoyed by.

    that being said, i’m only looking at the ultegra model because of the “better” color option, and the ergonomic design . how stupid is that?

  • Edward Ing says:

    I changed shifters from 5700 105 to 4700 Tiagara keeping the 10 speed drive train. Dreraillers had to be changed to match the shifter. I sold the old parts. So it was a 35£ side grade. But two huge advantages. Precise shifting and much better ergonomics. The 5700 105, 6700 ultegra shifter design was horribly uncomfortable and the reason I changed. The shifting is so precise you don’t need Di2 and that was a bonus.

  • LJ says:

    Not sure if anyone is still active on this post or not, but thought I’d give it a try. I have an aluminum Specialized and now upgrading to carbon. I happened to run into a 2015 Cannondale Synapse 3 the other day, for $2150. I didn’t love it, but did like the price and the components. Today I found a 2017 Trek Silque 5 (I am female) for $2000 but love the color and the frame seems more comfortable. I can tell the components aren’t as “shiny” but almost felt more at home with the 105.
    In reading all these comments one sticks out to me — yesterdays ultegra (i.e. the 2015 Cannondale) is today’s 105 (the 2017 Trek). Is that the case? If it is, I like the look of the Trek more but keep wanting the Cannondale because it has more expensive components and wheelset!
    Any opinions?

    I ride about 80-150 miles a week June – October and hope to do some century rides.
    Thank you!

    • Nick says:

      LJ, yes, still here by default I think. Your logic is impeccable and it is exactly what manufacturers want you to think; whether it be a bike, a car or a computer. The perception of ‘better’ is is always what fuels sales of higher end products.

      There has been plenty of discussion here on the differences (or non-differences) in components, so whether there is any genuine performance difference between the two product lines is a matter for conjecture.

      I say go with your heart, not your wallet. Go with what looks best to you and the one that is the most comfortable.

      • LJ says:

        Thanks Nick! That’s the thing – the price is almost the same but the 2015 has Ultegra and the 2017 has 105. Which I suppose makes sense since one is two years old (but is new).

        My real question is this – are the 2015 Ultegra parts close to the 2017 105 parts? 🙂 If so, I like the 105 bike more.

        So true about what you wrote, seems the Ultegra make a difference for racing and for “looks” to be in the elite crowd. Which I am part of neither!

        • nick says:

          I am very happy to be corrected, but from my understanding of Shimano, and what I have seen posted here, this year’s Ultegra are next year’s 105 – so the 2017 105 should equal (or exceed?) the 2015 Ultegra.

          I’m certainly not elite and with the roads in our area, I ride a Diverge that is 2Kg+ heavier than most road bikes 🙁

    • tychay says:

      It looks like because of the way this is written / appearance on Google that a lot of newer cyclists are taking “yesterdays Ultegra is today’s 105” literally. This should not be the case.

      That expression doesn’t come from literal year, but from model year. Ever since Shimano finally succeeded with index shifting in the 1984, real improvements in groupsets start at the highest end and then trickle down the component line as models are REFRESHED. (Fun fact, Shimano put index shifting first in entry level models pre-1984, it was an abysmal failure until they put it in their top of the line Dura-Ace). Since the model years overlap, Shimano maintains the difference in overlapping years in the form of weight (use slightly different metals/parts on the largest pieces to save weight) and finish (higher groupsets will look nicer and follow finishing trends/colors from the pro-peloton) as well as staggering the technology changes.

      So, for instance, in the article, 11 speed first appears in 2012 in Dura-Ace (9000), then a year later in Ultegra (6800), and then two years later in 105 (5800) and has yet to appear in the Tiagra line (presumably the 4800). Similarly, electronic shifting (Di2) first appears in 2009 (7970), then two years later in Ultegra (6770, but with 10 speed only), and still has yet to appear in the 105 (presumably with the 5870 or 5970). I could probably look up when they changed the crank from 5 bolt to 4 bolt or when they changed the bottom bracket design to have outboard bearings and see a similar trend. These real differences matter because many parts need to change/are incompatible between these lines (for instance from 10-11 speed, you need a thinner chain, new cassette, new rear derailleur, freehub body, and brake/shifter levers, though the crank/chainrings are compatible though Shimano will tell you otherwise). The same trend is appearing in hydraulic disc brakes and changes to the electronic shifting (current model Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are not attached to any groupset, the first groupset to get its own disc brakes will be Dura-Ace).

      What this means is that in the example above the 2017 105 “parts” is the SAME “parts” as 2014 5800 ones, while the 2015 Ultegra is the SAME parts as 2013 6800. Right now other than 200g and some reviewer claims that the rim brakes are better, the only real difference is the available of electronic shifting with the Ultegra 6870 which can be ignored in the case of this commenter. http://road.cc/content/buyers-guide/201326-head-head-shimano-105-v-shimano-ultegra

      Since those are a couple years apart, the difference is EXACTLY what the article is about (comparing Ultegra 6800 to 105 5800). The difference between BIKE model years is in the frame colors, sometimes the changes in a couple parts, and every so often a major frame redesign (in the specific example the Trek Silque 2017 model has Trek’s “IsoSpeed” decoupler applied to the headtube). Shes also comparing two different model bicycles (an endurance carbon bike from Cannondale with a women’s specific endurance carbon bike from Trek).

      In the case of LJ’s specific example, it’s pretty easy to decide: just ride both and then choose the one she likes more, since she is comparing two complete bikes with different designs. The frame geometry, design, and sizing/fit is going to matter more than the components (which is not that much weight and mostly the finish), the only exception is that if the Cannondale Synapse happens to be a disc brake version (in 2015, Canondale made both in the Synapse line).

      • LJ says:

        Thank you for your reply. I did read that about the span being more than an actual year. This was all very helpful, and gives me some more information to consider before making my choice!

  • A Barton says:

    Hey all, Thank you for your contributions. Of the the articles on the web, this one answered my question best about whether or not I’d made a mistake by purchasing a new Cannondale Synapse with 105 after 24 years of riding two bikes that had, in succession, a 1993 model bike with Shimano 600 (which I believe became Ultegra the next year) and just plain Ultra on my 2004 model bike. My local REI (US cooperative outdoor equipment chain of stores) priced the one I ordered at $1799, a ridiculously low price, and an expert there said I’d be surprised at how good the model 105 group-set is nowadays, and that I’d probably not be disappointed.

    Back in the day, there was a big difference in smoothness of shifting, also weight between the groupsets. Also braking performance and feel, which of course is really important over the long haul.

    I surmise that, compared to my 2004 Litespeed Titanium, which has about 22,000 miles and thus has lost some of its comfort to metal fatigue, I will probably not notice much difference between my 13 to 14 year old Ultegra set and the current 105 set in any of the above areas (definitely not in weight, since my Ti has a triple X 9 gear setup).

    That said, i will report back when I get some conclusive impressions.

    I certainly saved enough to replace the brakes if I feel they are really inferior on the 105 compared to what I am used to.

    Now will I ever like Carbon as much as Titanium? That’s another question, and something I’m, going to find out (and REI gives you a few months to try it out, then you can still return it, thus my snapping up the bargain price without having a bike there to try out on the spot-REI is a seriously great company!!)

    That I am still asking these questions at age 66, and still riding at least 2K miles a year while working full time tells you how great a sport biking is!!

  • Sam says:

    So I recently picked up a 1991 Cannondale SR800 that is wearing 105 (1055). The front caliper is nearly hosed, so looking to upgrade, and for $90 shipped I can have Ultegra 8600 calipers. The bike was originally 600 Ultegra, so would be a nifty trick to upgrade to an Ultegra drivetrain over the long haul. That said, my bike is setup for 126mm dropouts and is a 7 gear rear with downtube shifters. What model Ultegra can I upgrade to as parts begin to fail? I don’t mind spending $90 for calipers…the best brakes you can buy is never a bad choice in my opinion.

  • whydoubt says:

    Some misc thoughts: Titanium frames are essentially permanent; ie, there is actually zero measurable loss of resilience over time, especially from the miniscule stresses a bike frame feels, compared to radical loads of say an airplane. If you feel a difference, it is a placebo effect. My soft tail Ti mtb is going on 17 years, and the flexing chainstays move hundreds of thousands of times with no apparent change. Fatigue would show as a ‘set’ as a permanent sag, simply not there at all. Aluminum would have snapped long ago, with any flexing at all. The dents also reveal how many carbon frames might have been trashed in those years. Keep the road Ti, forever.
    Components have generally improved, but not across the board equally. Pedals are lighter, wider, and Shimano bearings have never failed me. The earlier SPD-SL (three-bolt style) pedals had flat plastic plates that can be replaced for like .99, but of course Ultegra were slightly different shape from the Dura-ace, so you needed to clip a corner off first-trivial. The newest all have stainless plates which should last much longer, but again look different on each model, a totally cosmetic aspect that pisses me off, and so far I have NOT found these plates to be available separately; cleats being plastic should wear first, but another quibble with the designers and the young customers who never experienced old school parts that could actually be serviced and rebuilt.

    • dyerjohn says:

      Yup you’re exactly right but I there’s one thing to keep in mind with “keeping a frame forever”. I had a Cannondale 2.8 from the mid 90’s. OK, it was aluminum, but I don’t ride that hard to cause frame issues : ) After 10 or so years I upgraded from low end 105 to Ultegra and things were excellent. Then another 10 years pass by and it’s time again, the right shifter wasn’t shifting that smooth anymore. But, by then it was 11 speed all around and the rear fork distance has move out a couple of millimeters. So I was faced with buying 10 speed stuff that was fast becoming obsolete and impossible to service or a new bike. New bike it was.

      There has to be a limit to rear wheel spacing and a limit to the number of gears that are useful. Maybe 11 speed is it. I’ll know in 10 or 20 years!

  • Peter Phillipson May 8, 2016, 4:09 pm

    Ooh, I seem to be first. Well, I have both – the current iteration of 105 on my Cannondale winter bike and Ultegra on my summer carbon Vitus jobby. I’m no Froome-dog and I’ve only returned to cycling reasonably seriously in the last 3 years but my experience is that there’s little between them (unless, of course you want the electronic do-dah). The newest 105 is very slick and, I suspect, the best value of all Shimano groupsets for serious cyclists. The only gain I can see from upgrading needlessly (ie you haven’t knackered something in your existing set-up) is that Ultegra seems to have a certain cache that is lacking from the ‘lesser'(?) groupsets. Whether that’s important, one must judge for oneself.

  • Jack May 8, 2016, 8:14 pm

    I think that by comparing complete groupsets you are doing everyone a disfavor. I too have a Domane 4.3 but 2014 model. It came with 105. I would spend my money getting a comfortable frame with 105 components. As things wear, replace them with a higher grade chain and cassette. Spend the money you save by upgrading the wheelset.
    If you ride significant miles you eventually start replacing components as maintenance items. Once your chain is at .75% wear replace it. Replace your cassette every two chains. That is how I started. The chain became an Ultegra and then the chain and cassette did. Chain only showed very little change, but the new chain and cassette had a very noticeable improvement. I subsequently found a decent deal on used Di2 electronics and was able to slap them on. There was no improvement in performance but the fun factor increased. I found it helped me because my hands are arthritic and it really relieved the pain going to larger cogs. After about 17,000 miles I felt it was time for the chainset and bottom bracket to be replaced and I went with Ultegra at that time – did not notice any change in performance. Still have the 105 calipers, so I think that is the only remnant of the original groupset.
    You talked about wheels and I strongly agree that lighter wheels make a huge performance and fun improvement. That would be the first major upgrade for me. I purchased a used set of Dura-Ace and have well over 10,000 miles on them now. I had to have the front retuned about 750 miles ago. Also I recently came across a used set of Zipp 404s which I bought. I’ve only tried a couple of rides with them and find they accelerate quicker than the DAs but climbing is about the same. The Zipps are deep dish carbon. The Zipps are 2 oz heavier than the DAs. All dressed up with tires and cassettes both sets come in under 6 #.

    • Damir Spanic August 19, 2016, 10:17 am

      This is some serious riding you put on! Congrats. Interesting and thoughtful comment.

  • Nick White May 9, 2016, 7:07 am

    My summer bike is all Ultegra, and my winter bike has 105 shifters, mechs and an RS500 crankset. I do think the Ultegra runs slightly quieter and shifts slightly more smoothly, but both seem equally durable (2500 miles on each). Side by side, the Ultegra materials look more premium.

    My advice would be to focus on the frame and get as much 105 on there or better at the start, though I believe RS500 cranks are comparable to 105. Consider Ultegra as parts wear out, bearing in mind there is little reason to change brakes and shifters due to wear so it’s worth ensuring they are what you want at the start. I think the best non-wear upgrade is wheels.

    Just a quick note about brakes: I read recently that while Ultegra were the highest rated rim brakes, 105 use the same mechanical action and should perform the same (I can’t compare as my winter bike has discs).

  • roninsteelblog May 9, 2016, 9:21 am

    The 105 5800 groupset I bought complete with wheels and tyres for £230 was a real bargain and I found that overall it performed better than my ultegra 6700 groupset except that the brakes are not as well finished. But the shifting was better but I was disappointed with the wheels shimano still do cones and cups for wheel bearings, and the cassette freewheel had lots of play .

    My other wheelsets use proper cartridge bearings all round and never need adjustment, so for my next project (another titanium frame) I will buy up a new just taken off a bike 105 groupset and try and find some good used wheels

  • Richard May 9, 2016, 12:05 pm

    Do the two extra gears on the 5800 make a lot of difference compared to the 5700.?

    • roninsteelblog June 13, 2016, 10:02 am

      The extra spread is useful as I have an 11-32 rear cassette with a compact 50-34 chainset Devon hills are not very forgiving. But would change to a 52-36 chainset on my next build

    • Jantzen July 12, 2016, 5:38 pm

      It’s one extra. And it lets one run a larger range cassette. I know because like a jackass I went my traditional 12-25 on my new 11sp cassette and I basically have a 1 tooth jump between cogs. Seriously, how practical is that? It means a lot of constant shifting and often over two cogs. A 12-28 would have been far more practical and although I don’t think I “need” the 28, I do live in a very hilly area and would have embraced the spin if I had that smaller gear. But the extra ‘spacing; between cogs would have been nice.

      There are a lot of new bikes out there with 30 and 32 tooth largest cogs. It might not look traditional hard core but it screams common sense. Just my 2c.

    • Jack July 13, 2016, 3:24 am

      As Jantzen says it is only one extra gear.
      I ride a 10s but many of the people I ride with have 11s. There does not seem to be a great deal of difference between the two. 11s is the newest and will have spare and replacement parts available longer, and that, I believe is the biggest advantage. That being said I think my 10s can last my lifetime (I’m 65 now) plus many years. I live and ride in the Sierra foothills and San Francisco Bay area, so I can use all the help gearing will give me. Presently my bike has a 40 cog with a compact 50-34 crank. The 40 cog is aftermarket, and I took out the 11 cog to make it work. The cassette started as a Deore XT 11-36. The derailleur started as a Ultegra di2 (small cage) which is modified with a Deore long cage. Not all these mods are available with 11s yet. Anyways parts are readily available now for the 10s option.
      Starting with a 105 group is a good idea. As things wear you can upgrade to Ultegra if you want, or you can experiment with changes. The key thing is to enjoy what your bike and to make it comfortable for you. Many are going to disk brakes. I avoid riding in the rain so the added braking power is not something I look for, but you may consider.

  • John May 9, 2016, 12:12 pm

    I agree with Jack, start with selecting a frame on a good bike. If that’s 105, fine. Then as things start to wear out upgrade. I did that with a Cannondale and eventually it was 95% Ultegra, the bottom bracket just kept on turning. I will note that my current bike is Ultegra, I got it 2 years back. I remember when test riding bikes that the Ultegra shifters “felt” better than the 105. However I suspect that the 105 would have been fine for many years of fun and excitement.

  • Geovile May 9, 2016, 3:39 pm

    Thanks for the article, it came at the right time for me as I am looking for a new bike and still ponder between 105 and Ultegra….
    As you discuss only 11 speed groupsets, my question is about upgrading from 105 10s to 105 11s or even Ultegra 11s? Is any of the upgrades worth? I am a beginner/intermediate riding a Specialized Elite 2014 Hybrid.
    The bike I am looking at is a Pinarello Razha K from 2013 (still new as per the store manager) with 105 5700/Most.
    I am also looking at a Colnago CLX 3.0 Ultegra 2015. Can anyone comment on how the 2 compare?
    I appreciate your comments 🙂

    • Jack Scullion May 9, 2016, 7:31 pm

      Buy the bike that is most comfortable for you.
      Regarding 10s vs 11s you likely won’t notice a difference. Most of the change allows closer gearing in the middle of the cassette. Of course the chain is also thinner in 11s. 11s is the new norm and you will be able to easily get parts further into the future than 10s. I would guess you’ll be able to find 10s parts for many years to come. You should check that the rear wheel can be used with both 10s and 11s – this will only come into play if you decide to change later from 10s to 11s. 10s 105 or Ultegra can be used with XT deore cassettes (sometimes derailleur needs to be changed) and this can allow expanded gear ratios for climbing. As far as I know 11s road and mtn are not interchangeable. These are just some points to consider.
      IMHO 105 vs Ultegra should not play a determining factor in your decision. The marginal upgrade in performance does not justify the significant higher cost. When you are due for chain and cassette replacement switch to ultegra.

      • Geovile May 9, 2016, 7:51 pm

        Thanks Jack for your comments, I appreciate it!
        I am much inclined to go with the current 105 10s configuration and leave more expensive upgrades for later. Might upgrade though to S105 11s now if the price delta is acceptable. And the wheel doesn’t work with 11s.

        • Denise July 13, 2016, 3:37 am

          Hello! I am trying to choose between a 2015 Cannodale CAAD 10 105 for $1100 or a Cannondale CAAD 10 with Ultegra for $1750. I found the upgraded bike at a local shop and the other bike I found online and the person is willing to ship to me for free. I am not certain if I should spend the money now for the upgraded bike. Any help or advise is greatly appreciated. Thank you

          • Jack July 13, 2016, 1:37 pm

            What is your skill level and how much riding will you do? The better you are and the more you ride the more you would appreciate the upgraded bike.
            I assume both bikes are 10s.
            Buying from a Local Bike Shop has a value because you’ll be given preferential treatment over someone off the street when you go in for subsequent work. I assume the bike from the LBS is new and the online one used. Again a value to the LBS. If the upgraded bike has upgraded wheels that is a big value. Make sure the upgraded bike has the full Ultegra group – crankset, bottom bracket, chain, brakes, shifters, cassette.
            I assume both bikes are the same size and you are sure the size is correct for you; this is even more important than group.
            If the upgraded bike is 11s and the online one 10s there is a slight value to the LBS bike.
            The upgrade from 105 to Ultegra is incremental from component to component and much can be done as parts wear because parts are interchangeable.
            If it were me, and once again assuming the online bike is used, I would go with the Local Bike Shop. If both bikes are new I would take the information to your LBS and see if they would reduce their price 2-300 or if that embarrasses you just get the online one. If the online bike seller accepts returns if their description is incorrect and pays return shipping then that is a value in their favor.
            Hope this helps and is only my opinion.

          • Denise July 13, 2016, 8:39 pm

            Jack thank you so much for you advise, I do greatly appreciate it. Both bikes are new and and both had 22 gears. The bike at $1750 is a size 52 and the bike online at $1100.00 is size 54. The bike online for $1100.00 includes shipping and any fees. The bike at $1750.00 will have tax added to that price. I am on the fence on paying up if it’s not too big of a difference. I have been searching for awhile and my head is spinning. I have been looking at carbon fiber, Trek, Specialized and Cannondale…there’s so MANY options. I started my search last year and it was so overwhelming I just said forget it.
            Currently I am riding a 20 year old mountain bike on paved trails. Right now I ride about 20-30 miles 2-3 days a week. I am hoping to increase both miles and how many times per week, possibly to join a riding group as well. Thank you for any advise I greatly appreciate it.

          • Jack July 13, 2016, 10:30 pm

            My two cents worth. Size is most important of the factors you mentioned. I suggest you go to a different bike shop, tell them you are just shopping but not ready to buy and you want to try size 54 and 52 bikes to see which is more comfortable. If one is more comfortable than the other go with that size. If they both seem about the same goes with the smaller size. It is easy to change a couple of components later to make the bike feel like a larger size. You are not riding great distances yet, and you don’t want a poorly fitted bike to destroy your riding enjoyment.

  • Lars May 9, 2016, 8:06 pm

    Having ridden both 105 and Ultegra (currently riding Ultegra) I can say, that from my experience that Ultegra:

    – gears runs more smoothly when changing gears (especially on hills) compared to 105
    – feels stiffer than 105
    – brakes better than 105

    But not on a huge margin.

    And I am comparing 105 5700 with Ultegra the Ultegra 6800. I suspect the difference will be smaller when comparing to 5800.

    Ultegra is better than 105 – no doubt about that. But on a limited budget I would prioritize:

    – Frame (really the most important decision)
    – Wheels
    – Saddle
    – Groupset (and I could easily live with 105 5800)

    The upgrade groupset parts as they become worn out.

  • geraldrhodes27 May 30, 2016, 12:50 pm

    Hey Andrew,
    Thanks for this comparison. When it comes to purchasing a gift for our babies, nothing says I love you like a new groupo. As we spend more time on the bike and rack up the miles, it makes sense to upgrade assuming your bike fit is dialed in.
    In my experience, the upgrade from 105 to ultegra was significant. If you are just getting started, it will not make a difference. As we begin to understand what we like and what we don’t like, after that 10,000 shift, we begin to appreciate ulegra and it’s smoothness.
    Does the weight make a difference? Absolutely not. Let’s all make a commitment to lose a pound or two around our bellies. There is your performance increase right there!
    And the price. Well, let’s face it. As much as we may protest, we enjoy purchasing gifts for our bikes.
    I agree, when you are ready, or when your bike is ready, make the leap to ultegra.
    Thanks Andrew.

  • Nick August 7, 2016, 10:53 am

    To take a left-field view on all this; people are talking of buying a different sized bike, to get Ultegra, but the most important this is how the bike fits you. A post by Monty from a year or two talked about a custom bike fitting service and that really struck me: for $30-400 you are measured with lasers to ensure the perfect bike fit. This has the potential to maximise comfort and, most importantly, performance far more than by choosing one iteration or another of Shimano’s group sets.

    A final point is that it is well known that last year’s Ultegra is effectively this year’s 105, so a two year old bike with Ultegra is likely to be equal, perhaps inferior to the current model 105. I have tried this myself and can vouch for it.

    In the meantime I’ll go back to my heavy, but rugged Diverge that is probably 6 pounds heavier than most of your bikes, and still runs well on Sora 😉

  • Tim August 7, 2016, 10:57 pm

    The heavier groupset will make you stronger because it’s heavier, then later when you upgrade to the lighter more expensive groupset you’ll be stronger and faster. But saying that loosing a few kg/s would be the cheaper option.

  • Danno August 15, 2016, 2:56 pm

    That was many words, but I missed the part of describing how 105 performs differently from Ultegra apart from the weight. I’ve got full Ultegra 6800 11 speed, mostly because I bought a year-end clearance Giant for $200 less than my LBS was selling a Domane with 105 10 speed. I doubt I can tell the difference as I’ve only been riding recreationally (75-100 miles weekly) for 2 years. Can you include more on how these two group sets perform?

  • Damir Spanic August 19, 2016, 10:18 am

    Very helpful article as I am looking to upgrade from Sora. Thank you.

  • Jon Hillman September 6, 2016, 3:32 pm

    I have a Scott Speedster FL20 with 105 for 2 years and already run through 2 chains and continue to have chain slipping when running the front smaller gear and on the 12, 13, 14 on the rear cassette. I’m thinking this is wear on those rear gears. Given that, thinking that I would need to replace the cassette, I thought I might upgrade to the Ultegra, along with the derailleur and chain.

    Do you think it would be worth it? Seems the cost for the Ultegra set is within 20% of getting 105s.

    • Jack September 16, 2016, 3:34 pm

      Has this been happening since new or is it a recent development? Chains and cassettes wear out a lot faster than derailleurs. Also the cables stretch. Go to your bike shop and have them check the chain and the derailleur alignment. Both are very quick checks. The alignment is a quick adjustment.
      If your chain is at or very close to 0.75% stretched change it. If it is over 1% change the chain and cassette.
      Also have them check the chain length. If your this has been happening since new possibly the chain is too long or the B screw needs adjustment. If it is on the long side for your set up talk to them about removing a link. One test I use is to go small/small on the gears – if the chain becomes noticeably slack the chain is too long.
      Have you ever dropped the bike and possibly bent the derailleur or hanger? If not then they are likely ok and I wouldn’t change them.
      Assuming all you have are wear and maintenance issues I would upgrade the chain and cassette to Ultegra and keep the derailleur.

    • Jack September 16, 2016, 3:44 pm

      Sorry, I missed the part about already having gone through 2 chains when I posted my first reply. My guess is that your chain is too long, and/or you have a bent hanger or derailleur. Before changing anything I would look for the real problem. Unless your derailleur is bent I wouldn’t change it.

      If your bike shop doesn’t find anything wrong, try having them shorten the chain by one pair of links. This assumes that you are able to go big/big with the shortened chain.

      Once you find the problem change the chain and cassette then adjust alignment and the B screw.

  • bob cratchet October 11, 2016, 1:27 am

    Its time to cut the crap. If you like to show off with your Ultegra with its shinier finish fine. (Harry Enfield I’m considerably richer than you). If you think 70g weight difference in shifters the pair (5800-6800) is going to make you faster than me good. talk of slightly crisper shifting, smoother shifting, faster, easier shifting or difference in durability has me laughing. you could be deluding yourself because you spent all that extra money and would feel a fool if there was no functional difference. what does this turd know I hear you say to yourself in your head.
    well I’ve had 5800 shifters apart next to 6800 shifters, I mean totally apart like they’re not supposed to. There is zero difference in any of the moving parts in shape or function. they appear to be made of the same materials also but I haven’t done a Vickers hardness test. there is no difference that would give rise to a different shifting experience in reality (I studied mechanical engineering degree level at university, I have reasonably trained opinion I think). The sole differences I can see are a different plastic material in the bodies (the shape is identical) and composite plastic levers instead of aluminium alloy. superficial difference in the lever tops which I would guess is to stop you from putting Ultegra nameplates on 105 levers. I can’t help thinking the rest of the poopset is along similar lines.
    For function or longevity is it worth the price, can’t be as they’re the same. If you want to go faster get a bigger engine (legs).

    • bob cratchet October 11, 2016, 3:29 am

      me back, ive got sneaking suspicion the the only difference in the tiagra 4700 mechanism is 10 teeth on the ratchet instead of 11. as far as my eyes can reach looking in a shop display I cant see any difference in the exposed parts of the mechanism. it would cost shimano more to have different production lines than to just put the same parts in several levers it would cost more to make the cheaper levers cheaper. ultegra-change a couple of materials to save a haircut in weight, tiagra-put 10 teeth on the ratchet wheel instead of 11.

  • aaa ooo January 23, 2017, 6:33 pm

    i’m considering a Cannondale Slate. It’s considered a “new road” bike, both the 105 and Ultegra versions have hydraulic disc brakes (yay) the one in 105 comes in a puke green, while the Ultegra comes in a muted grey.

    in addition to that, the Brake/Shift hoods on the 105 have a wierd ergonomic feel to them. like a silly hump for your thumbs to get annoyed by.

    that being said, i’m only looking at the ultegra model because of the “better” color option, and the ergonomic design . how stupid is that?

  • Edward Ing February 14, 2017, 4:58 pm

    I changed shifters from 5700 105 to 4700 Tiagara keeping the 10 speed drive train. Dreraillers had to be changed to match the shifter. I sold the old parts. So it was a 35£ side grade. But two huge advantages. Precise shifting and much better ergonomics. The 5700 105, 6700 ultegra shifter design was horribly uncomfortable and the reason I changed. The shifting is so precise you don’t need Di2 and that was a bonus.

  • LJ February 21, 2017, 12:49 am

    Not sure if anyone is still active on this post or not, but thought I’d give it a try. I have an aluminum Specialized and now upgrading to carbon. I happened to run into a 2015 Cannondale Synapse 3 the other day, for $2150. I didn’t love it, but did like the price and the components. Today I found a 2017 Trek Silque 5 (I am female) for $2000 but love the color and the frame seems more comfortable. I can tell the components aren’t as “shiny” but almost felt more at home with the 105.
    In reading all these comments one sticks out to me — yesterdays ultegra (i.e. the 2015 Cannondale) is today’s 105 (the 2017 Trek). Is that the case? If it is, I like the look of the Trek more but keep wanting the Cannondale because it has more expensive components and wheelset!
    Any opinions?

    I ride about 80-150 miles a week June – October and hope to do some century rides.
    Thank you!

    • Nick February 21, 2017, 8:50 am

      LJ, yes, still here by default I think. Your logic is impeccable and it is exactly what manufacturers want you to think; whether it be a bike, a car or a computer. The perception of ‘better’ is is always what fuels sales of higher end products.

      There has been plenty of discussion here on the differences (or non-differences) in components, so whether there is any genuine performance difference between the two product lines is a matter for conjecture.

      I say go with your heart, not your wallet. Go with what looks best to you and the one that is the most comfortable.

      • LJ February 21, 2017, 3:15 pm

        Thanks Nick! That’s the thing – the price is almost the same but the 2015 has Ultegra and the 2017 has 105. Which I suppose makes sense since one is two years old (but is new).

        My real question is this – are the 2015 Ultegra parts close to the 2017 105 parts? 🙂 If so, I like the 105 bike more.

        So true about what you wrote, seems the Ultegra make a difference for racing and for “looks” to be in the elite crowd. Which I am part of neither!

        • nick February 21, 2017, 3:29 pm

          I am very happy to be corrected, but from my understanding of Shimano, and what I have seen posted here, this year’s Ultegra are next year’s 105 – so the 2017 105 should equal (or exceed?) the 2015 Ultegra.

          I’m certainly not elite and with the roads in our area, I ride a Diverge that is 2Kg+ heavier than most road bikes 🙁

    • tychay February 28, 2017, 7:00 pm

      It looks like because of the way this is written / appearance on Google that a lot of newer cyclists are taking “yesterdays Ultegra is today’s 105” literally. This should not be the case.

      That expression doesn’t come from literal year, but from model year. Ever since Shimano finally succeeded with index shifting in the 1984, real improvements in groupsets start at the highest end and then trickle down the component line as models are REFRESHED. (Fun fact, Shimano put index shifting first in entry level models pre-1984, it was an abysmal failure until they put it in their top of the line Dura-Ace). Since the model years overlap, Shimano maintains the difference in overlapping years in the form of weight (use slightly different metals/parts on the largest pieces to save weight) and finish (higher groupsets will look nicer and follow finishing trends/colors from the pro-peloton) as well as staggering the technology changes.

      So, for instance, in the article, 11 speed first appears in 2012 in Dura-Ace (9000), then a year later in Ultegra (6800), and then two years later in 105 (5800) and has yet to appear in the Tiagra line (presumably the 4800). Similarly, electronic shifting (Di2) first appears in 2009 (7970), then two years later in Ultegra (6770, but with 10 speed only), and still has yet to appear in the 105 (presumably with the 5870 or 5970). I could probably look up when they changed the crank from 5 bolt to 4 bolt or when they changed the bottom bracket design to have outboard bearings and see a similar trend. These real differences matter because many parts need to change/are incompatible between these lines (for instance from 10-11 speed, you need a thinner chain, new cassette, new rear derailleur, freehub body, and brake/shifter levers, though the crank/chainrings are compatible though Shimano will tell you otherwise). The same trend is appearing in hydraulic disc brakes and changes to the electronic shifting (current model Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are not attached to any groupset, the first groupset to get its own disc brakes will be Dura-Ace).

      What this means is that in the example above the 2017 105 “parts” is the SAME “parts” as 2014 5800 ones, while the 2015 Ultegra is the SAME parts as 2013 6800. Right now other than 200g and some reviewer claims that the rim brakes are better, the only real difference is the available of electronic shifting with the Ultegra 6870 which can be ignored in the case of this commenter. http://road.cc/content/buyers-guide/201326-head-head-shimano-105-v-shimano-ultegra

      Since those are a couple years apart, the difference is EXACTLY what the article is about (comparing Ultegra 6800 to 105 5800). The difference between BIKE model years is in the frame colors, sometimes the changes in a couple parts, and every so often a major frame redesign (in the specific example the Trek Silque 2017 model has Trek’s “IsoSpeed” decoupler applied to the headtube). Shes also comparing two different model bicycles (an endurance carbon bike from Cannondale with a women’s specific endurance carbon bike from Trek).

      In the case of LJ’s specific example, it’s pretty easy to decide: just ride both and then choose the one she likes more, since she is comparing two complete bikes with different designs. The frame geometry, design, and sizing/fit is going to matter more than the components (which is not that much weight and mostly the finish), the only exception is that if the Cannondale Synapse happens to be a disc brake version (in 2015, Canondale made both in the Synapse line).

      • LJ March 2, 2017, 3:16 am

        Thank you for your reply. I did read that about the span being more than an actual year. This was all very helpful, and gives me some more information to consider before making my choice!

  • A Barton April 12, 2017, 10:06 pm

    Hey all, Thank you for your contributions. Of the the articles on the web, this one answered my question best about whether or not I’d made a mistake by purchasing a new Cannondale Synapse with 105 after 24 years of riding two bikes that had, in succession, a 1993 model bike with Shimano 600 (which I believe became Ultegra the next year) and just plain Ultra on my 2004 model bike. My local REI (US cooperative outdoor equipment chain of stores) priced the one I ordered at $1799, a ridiculously low price, and an expert there said I’d be surprised at how good the model 105 group-set is nowadays, and that I’d probably not be disappointed.

    Back in the day, there was a big difference in smoothness of shifting, also weight between the groupsets. Also braking performance and feel, which of course is really important over the long haul.

    I surmise that, compared to my 2004 Litespeed Titanium, which has about 22,000 miles and thus has lost some of its comfort to metal fatigue, I will probably not notice much difference between my 13 to 14 year old Ultegra set and the current 105 set in any of the above areas (definitely not in weight, since my Ti has a triple X 9 gear setup).

    That said, i will report back when I get some conclusive impressions.

    I certainly saved enough to replace the brakes if I feel they are really inferior on the 105 compared to what I am used to.

    Now will I ever like Carbon as much as Titanium? That’s another question, and something I’m, going to find out (and REI gives you a few months to try it out, then you can still return it, thus my snapping up the bargain price without having a bike there to try out on the spot-REI is a seriously great company!!)

    That I am still asking these questions at age 66, and still riding at least 2K miles a year while working full time tells you how great a sport biking is!!

  • Sam June 14, 2017, 10:45 pm

    So I recently picked up a 1991 Cannondale SR800 that is wearing 105 (1055). The front caliper is nearly hosed, so looking to upgrade, and for $90 shipped I can have Ultegra 8600 calipers. The bike was originally 600 Ultegra, so would be a nifty trick to upgrade to an Ultegra drivetrain over the long haul. That said, my bike is setup for 126mm dropouts and is a 7 gear rear with downtube shifters. What model Ultegra can I upgrade to as parts begin to fail? I don’t mind spending $90 for calipers…the best brakes you can buy is never a bad choice in my opinion.

  • whydoubt September 18, 2017, 7:41 pm

    Some misc thoughts: Titanium frames are essentially permanent; ie, there is actually zero measurable loss of resilience over time, especially from the miniscule stresses a bike frame feels, compared to radical loads of say an airplane. If you feel a difference, it is a placebo effect. My soft tail Ti mtb is going on 17 years, and the flexing chainstays move hundreds of thousands of times with no apparent change. Fatigue would show as a ‘set’ as a permanent sag, simply not there at all. Aluminum would have snapped long ago, with any flexing at all. The dents also reveal how many carbon frames might have been trashed in those years. Keep the road Ti, forever.
    Components have generally improved, but not across the board equally. Pedals are lighter, wider, and Shimano bearings have never failed me. The earlier SPD-SL (three-bolt style) pedals had flat plastic plates that can be replaced for like .99, but of course Ultegra were slightly different shape from the Dura-ace, so you needed to clip a corner off first-trivial. The newest all have stainless plates which should last much longer, but again look different on each model, a totally cosmetic aspect that pisses me off, and so far I have NOT found these plates to be available separately; cleats being plastic should wear first, but another quibble with the designers and the young customers who never experienced old school parts that could actually be serviced and rebuilt.

    • dyerjohn September 19, 2017, 12:43 pm

      Yup you’re exactly right but I there’s one thing to keep in mind with “keeping a frame forever”. I had a Cannondale 2.8 from the mid 90’s. OK, it was aluminum, but I don’t ride that hard to cause frame issues : ) After 10 or so years I upgraded from low end 105 to Ultegra and things were excellent. Then another 10 years pass by and it’s time again, the right shifter wasn’t shifting that smooth anymore. But, by then it was 11 speed all around and the rear fork distance has move out a couple of millimeters. So I was faced with buying 10 speed stuff that was fast becoming obsolete and impossible to service or a new bike. New bike it was.

      There has to be a limit to rear wheel spacing and a limit to the number of gears that are useful. Maybe 11 speed is it. I’ll know in 10 or 20 years!

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