Shimano, the leader in bike groupsets (essentially the gears and brakes on your bike), has a wide variety of groupsets ranging from entry-level to elite.
The Shimano Dura-Ace and the Shimano Ultegra fall into the top bracket of groupsets, while the entry-level Shimano groupsets are the Claris and Tourney, with the beginner to mid-range being Tiagra and Sora, and the performance range starting with the 105 groupsets and then including the Ultegra. The Dura-Ace sits at the top of the groupset hierarchy and is seen as a pro-level groupset.
Shimano’s groupset pedigree is unrivaled. Just last year, 13 of the 18 World Tour cycling teams (including Team Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, BORA-Hansgrohe, and Deceuninck-QuickStep) used Shimano groupsets.
Premium Shimano groupsets
As mentioned, the Dura-Ace and Ultegra sit in the premium bracket of Shimano groupsets. They are predominantly road bike groupsets, with the Dura-Ace being the professional-grade groupset and the Ultegra sitting one level below it.
The Ultegra 11-speed group has a lot of the same features as the Dura-Ace, but the main difference is the weight. Most road bike riders will do just fine with the Ultegra as it offers premium performance.
Both groupsets include Di2 electronic shifters and hydraulic disc options, as well as the more traditional methods of gear shifting and rim brakes.
The Shimano Dura-Ace includes the top range of features, many of which are included on pro bikes you’d see on the professional circuit.
It offers 11-speed gearing which, combined with high-performance design, lightweight materials, and superior performance, make it hard to fault. Obviously, with materials such as carbon fiber, titanium, and high-grade alloys, comes a hefty price tag – the R9150 version can cost anywhere between £2000-3500.
The Dura-Ace is available in either rim or disc brakes offer both mechanical shifting and Di2 electronic shifting and can include a power meter (on the R9100-P version). Alongside superb performance, the Dura-Ace looks nice, is incredibly reliable, has a wide variety of crank length options and is the lowest weight of all the Shimano groupsets.
The R9150 also includes Dual Control lever, basically an integrated shifter and brake lever. Both the R9150 and the R9170 include Synchro Shift options, meaning you can automatically choose the best front and rear gearing combination based on your preferences. For those who want to keep the manual approach, you can still retain the traditional method of gear selection.
- Electronic shifting
- Rim or disc brakes
- 2 x 11 speed
- Cranks in 165mm, 167.5mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm, 177.5mm, 180mm
- Chainrings in 50-34T, 52-36T, 53-39T, 54-42T, 55-42T
- Cassettes in 11-25T, 11-28T, 11-30T, 12-25T, 12-28T
- Weight: 1911g (for R9150) and 1931g (R9170)
The Dura-Ace groupset comes with wireless capabilities thanks to the e-tube wireless unit which can sync up to various gadgets such as GPS computers and mobile devices, and ANT+/bluetooth devices.
The Shimano Ultegra
The Ultegra 11-speed offers a lot of the same performance, at a vastly lower price point – around £1500-2000. As mentioned, the main difference is the additional few grams of weight.
The excellent performance is combined with reliability, a good range of gearing options and a decent price point. Along with the slightly additional weight, it’s not quite as catchy on the eye and it has no optional integrated power meter.
The Ultegra groupset is slightly heavier and cheaper due to the lower-cost materials used compared to the Dura-Ace. For example, the Ultegra uses a heavier front and rear derailleur compared to the Dura-Ace, with the Dura-Ace featuring a carbon fiber rear derailleur cage.
These minor differences equate to the weight difference between the two. Does that amount of weight matter? That’s for you to decide. For almost every road bike rider, the difference will be minimal.
The Ultegra also comes with Dual Control levers for both rim and disc brake models. The only difference to the Dura-Ace is an extra bit of weight.
Generally speaking, the Ultegra is seen as the most premium versatile groupset available from Shimano – the Dura-Ace being purely race-focused – due to its mammoth range of gears.
For an even cheaper option, the R8000 and R8020 offer a good level of performance at an extra few pounds of weight.
- Electronic shifting
- Rim (R8050) or disc brakes (R8070)
- 2 x 11 speed
- Cranks in 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm
- Chainrings in 46-36T, 50-34T, 52-36T, 53-39T
- Cassettes in 11-25T, 11-28T, 11-30T, 11-32T, 11-34T, 12-25T, 14-28T
- Weight: 2209g (for R8050) and 2200g (for R8070)
As with the Dura-Ace, Ultegra can be compatible with wireless devices with the e-tube.
For the vast majority of road bikers, the Ultegra is incredibly hard to bear. Unless you are a serious racer, it will offer you everything you need. Even if you are a serious racer, the Ultegra is a great option.
The Dura-Ace, however, is an incredible groupset. Its performance is unrivaled and, despite the cost, there is a reason it’s a go-to for pro racers. If a few grams of weight doesn’t matter to you, opt for the Ultegra.
Founder of Vivi Nation, the cycling, running and active living brand. Chris is a sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete and experienced cyclist, having led multiple cycle tours across Europe.