Shimano 105 vs Ultegra vs Dura Ace – Which Cycling Set Rules?

Shimano has long dominated the rider industry with their highly innovative and versatile collection of cycling sets. With more than just these three options, Shimano pedals are world renowned and a popular must-have for every avid cyclist. Which of their set models, do you think, rules the rest?

In my job as a fitness coach, I have had the pleasure of using other Shimano models such as Tiagra, Sora and Claris which are entry-level grade and therefore fall in the more affordable price bracket.

While these entry level grade pedals served me perfectly well on recreational and part-time, fun-loving cycling experiences, the Dura Ace, 105 and Ultegra grades gave me the feeling of cycling like a pro when I went for racing competitions. Their main distinctions are in their weight, material build, aesthetics and some design and finishing.


What are the differences between the Shimano 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace?

 
105 R7000
Ultegra R8000
Dura Ace 9000
Chainring
One-piece
Inner and Outer pieces
Inner and Outer pieces
Brakes
Disc brake calipers
Disc brake calipers
Disc brake calipers
Cassette
53/39t
50/34t
11/30t
Derailleurs
Mechanical
Mechanical/Electronic
Mechanical/Electronic
Weight
2,286 grams
2,156 grams
1,807 grams
Material
Fiberglass, aluminum, nickel plated steel
Carbon fiber, anodized aluminum,
Titanium
Price

Shimano 105 vs Ultegra vs Dura Ace – How they compare

Trickle Down Effect

Shimano’s top-quality cycling sets are the Dura Ace type and the company has been observed to be creating the Ultegra and 105 R7000 prototypes from the technology basis of the Dura Ace. Currently the three models are separated by weight, manufacturing process and materials used.

It is true that some of the current designs in 105 and Ultegra are technological upgrades from the original Dura Ace, and a lot of riders still appreciate that they canexperience the light weight and finely finished qualities of original Dura Ace pedals.

The pedals are all 11-speed and they are compatible with rim brakes or hydraulic disc brakes. Some like Ultegra and Dura Ace are electronic shifting capabilities and are classified as Di2 groups.

All Shimano cycling sets have a relation to Dura-Ace design and machination because they have always relied on trickling down technologies from one model to the other.

Derailleur

Dura Ace pedals are top of the class because they are made of titanium and carbon fiber which also makes them light in weight. Higher-end pedals in this model feature a rear derailleur with beveled edges that take grams off the pedals.

Use of more expensive and high-quality bearings minimize friction in the drivetrain. While you may save a few watts, the effect is not strong enough to be felt on the saddle. Finishing on the Dura Ace pedals are done with mirror black gloss that leaves a sparkling effect on them

Beside these outstanding features, all three pedals use Shimano Shadow technology on their derailleurs which looks more like the mountain bike kind. The placement of the derailleur is also quite enhanced across all pedal models.

Taking up from the Dura Ace, both the 105 and Ultegra have a narrower derailleur profile which keeps it safe from damage or bending if you get involved in an accident. For gravel or adventure rider, the Ultegra RX rear derailleur has a clutch mechanism that increases the chain retention.

All derailleurs across the three Shimano models operate similarly, they only differ in size, hood type and placement in the crankset. Dura Ace and Ultegra models have evolved more than the 105.

Crankset

For the Shimano 105, the crankset features a one-piece chainring with the outer and inner chainrings machined together and are connected with splines.  Dura-Ace spots separately machined chainrings with an inner and outer piece which allows for more machining and lesser weight. Ultegra carries the same features.

Apart from the dirt storage that is higher in between the 105’s splines that connect the chainring, the pedals’ cranksets don’t bear much difference. Their weight, however is significantly lower for the Ultegra and Dura-Ace.

Ultegra pedals weigh 200grams less than 105 and Dura-Ace weigh 480 grams lesser than 105’s.

Di2 Shifting

This refers to the use of electronic motors to accentuate the derailleurs and to command shifts on the bike as compared to the use of cables as was the past norm. Electronic shifting is a highly popularized and appreciated mechanism that ushers in the future of cycling.

Shimano’s Dura-Ace models were the first commercially available electronic drivetrain and this technology has successfully trickled down to the Ultegra models. There is yet to be a 105 Di2 model.

The huge benefit over other systems is that di2 motors get the right gear every single time. Any rider can relate to the difficulty in hitting the right gear in high speeds. Electronic shifting optimizes our rate across the bike’s chain, cassette and chainring giving the rider a competitive edge over other races not on di2 models.

Tuning and maintain your di2 motors is easy and only requires the occasional battery charging. The Ultegra and Dura-Ace Di2 are much lighter than their mechanical variations and they have smaller more attractive hoods.

If you are in search of the pedals with best technology, choose the Dura-Ace Di2 and Ultegra Di2 pieces over all other Shimano models.


Shimano 105 vs Ultegra vs Dura Ace – A Comparison Overview

Shimano 105 R7000 – Overview

This is Shimano’s entry level models and though they are cheaper and a bit bulkier than the other models, their functionalities and characteristics always feature trickle down effects from the more superior Ultegra and Dura-Ace models.

With Shimano 105 set you will get chainring with more teeth and a lower cassette ratio which increases the resistance making these an ideal pick for the high resistance riders. Gears about 52/36 are possibly paired with cassettes of about 11-28.

The brakes could either be disc or calipers.

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Ultegra R8000 – Overview

ShimanoUltegra R8000 Groupset 11-28T 52x36T 172.5mm
  • Ultegra R8000 Crankset: 172.5 52/36
  • Ultegra Bottom Bracket: English BB68

This cycling group set features most of Dura-Ace’s characteristics and performance but are more affordable. They are ideal for all racers who may need a quick fix especially if they love racing in gravel or rugged terrains.

They feature 11-34 cassettes which is great and they work perfectly with disc caliper brakes with 28c tires. With slimmed down hoods and protectively hidden derailleurs, they offer the rider a smooth gear changing and overall riding experience.

This model also offers a choice between mechanical sets and electronically powered ones such as the R8070 which uses the Di2 technology for gear shifting and other bike functionalities.

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Dura Ace 9000 – Overview

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These are the lightest most technology savvy Shimano sets ever produced and not only do they save on weight but they also influence the possible speed a rider can go because they encourage the rider to propel harder and faster.

The new models come fitted with a power meter to help you track your daily rides in terms of performance metrics concerning distance, speed, calories burned among others. Most of these sets are available with disc brakes.

Their system is also either mechanical or electronic, similar to Ultegra. However, these ones are of higher quality in terms of material distinction, weight and build quality overall.

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Verdict: So, between Shimano 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace, which cycling set rules?

As previously mentioned, their modes of operation and much of their features and functions match. To pick the most ideal set for you, check your budget, your current set and what extras you need if any.

For those who want a taste of the professional cycling experience but have a limited budget, the 105 R7000 set will provide the latest upgrade of a Dura-Ace original.

If you are a pro cyclist or you already appreciate the feeling of pro racing, then Ultegra sets will satisfy your desires. With strong similarities to the Dura-Ace at a much cheaper price point, they are the best.

The better choice overall would definitely be the Dura-Ace set because it takes into consideration everything like weight, aesthetic appearance, derailleur protection, electronic Di2 option among many more benefits.

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