Using the correct groupset can determine the quality of your bike assembly, which ultimately defines your biking experience.
These two groupsets – Shimano 105 and Ultegra have been reviewed, compared, and taken apart for the longest time to determine if a higher end bike is worth its value.
The most critical thing to do is identify whether Shimano 105 or Ultegra is your best option, determine the brands, establish the quality, and find the right groupsets.
We all know the most sought-after groupset name in the biking world is Shimano. It is a highly respected brand for its excellent groupsets and is highly favoured by famous, skilled, and pro cyclists.
And since Shimano has a long list of groupset hierarchies, let us look into the two most preferred top-level Shimano performer groupsets – the Shimano 105 and Shimano Ultegra.
The Shimano Groupset Compatibility
A groupset consists of all the moving parts of a bike that drives the wheel’s movement. Practically, each component of a groupset is highly dependent upon the performance of the other part.
When it comes to Shimano, each groupset is arranged in tiers according to price, quality, and design. These groupsets have distinct quality, specifications, and prices. But they all perform with the same efficiency and compatibility.
For example, if you choose to use a Shimano 105, you must use the 105 across all components, like the cranks, chain, brakes, shifters, etc. Each group’s material changes as it goes higher in groups. The higher it is, the lighter the materials, and the higher the price it becomes.
However, you can also mix and match components but be sure they belong to the same generation. For example, you can use 6800 Ultegra mix and match with 5800 105 parts. Both are compatible since they have a 2×11 speed road crankset, the same cable pull, and the same front derailleur design.
Shimano 105 Vs. Ultegra: The Key Differences
The Shimano 105 and Ultegra are two groupsets often compared among the Shimano hierarchy. Both are the most selected on a complete bike set or when making an upgrade. So it is best to know the key differences to decide appropriately on your best choice.
Weight and Materials:
Ultegra, belonging to the higher tier, is lighter than Shimano 105. Most parts of the Ultegra hierarchy are made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. Whereas 105 is made from reinforced glass-fiber plastic.
This makes the Ultegra slightly lighter since carbon-fiber material is 15% lighter than glass-fiber composites. It makes a little less 200g weight difference for a typical ensemble.
Both the Ultegra and 105 groups are among the generation of a step-up technology. Ultegra groups are available as electronic Di2 or “Digital Integrated Intelligence,” with an electronic shifting rim, disc brakes, and gear shift.
Instead of you physically pulling or releasing the cable, the electronic motors attached to the front and rear derailleurs shift the gear to make the motion changes.
This makes a precise and controlled shifting for the Ultegra group. And it gives an accurate, instant, and fast shift at the push of the button.
Meanwhile, the Shimano 105 group, despite its recent update, remains firmly mechanical. It has a technology that supports beginner riders to train and sustain long races. This combined trickle-down technology with accessibility continues riders to go after more significant challenges in biking.
Cyclists often decide based on the price difference between Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra groupsets. Price is twice as high for Ultegra as compared to the 105 groups.
Generally, the 105 groups are often found in the $1,000-$3,000 bike range, while the Ultegra groups are in the $2,500-$4,500 range.
Shimano 105 Vs. Ultegra: Which Is Better?
Ultegra and 105 are both 11 speed, so it does not apply to the adage that more gear wins. Good thing you can mix and match any parts of this groupset.
But more than the speed, here are the rest of the parts that you need to understand to make the right choice:
Crankset or chainsets– Chainsets for both groups are constructed using aluminum material. The 4-arm unevenly-spaced design is trickled down to both Ultegra and 105.
This design increases the stiffness and lowers its weight. It is also efficient in transferring power from the rider to the bike. It has a bottom bracket system providing better weight distribution, pedaling stability, and power transfer efficiency.
As to its chainrings, Ultegra has a 2-piece outer ring construction compared to the 1-piece exterior ring construction of the 105.
Bottom bracket – Shimano’s bottom bracket spins without a drag. The bottom bracket of Ultegra and 105 are made the same with high-level precision, making it a perfect choice for either your English or Italian-threaded frame.
Both are manufactured with high tolerances, smooth steel bearings, and advanced sealing that reduces rotational friction by 50%. Price-wise, you get them basically with no price difference.
Cassette – The 105 is commonly preferred over Ultegra by many bike manufacturers, with a slightly noticeable difference between the two cassettes. As such, many people do not notice the difference between the cassettes.
The slightest difference that you can notice is the lighter weight of Ultegra as compared to 105.
Both cassette types have four options: the 11-28, 11-30, 11-34, and 12-25, and an additional two for Ultegra, the 11-25, and 14-28. The latter is used by bikers doing cyclocross in winter.
Also, the cassettes of both groupsets have the same number of sprockets and exact chain dimensions.
Brakes – For riders looking for the best brake performance, you can choose either Ultegra or 105. Both have excellent braking performance, have excellent options for hydraulic disc brakes, and they both function very well.
The 105 and Ultegra brake parts are made from aluminium and have a dual-pivot groupset that works similarly. What differs is the weight which the 105 is a little inferior since it is heavier by around 30 grams per pair vs. Ultegra.
Brake levers/shift levers – Shifters quickly catch the attention when looking into a bike, so the Ultegra and 105 levers and shifters always get compared.
But looking closely into each of them makes no significant difference at all. The brake levers of Ultegra and 105 only have marginal differences, which comes only in their construction. Ultegra lever comes in a reinforced carbon-fiber material while 105 lever comes in a glass-fiber plastic.
This gives an edge of 50g heavier for Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra lever shifters. Meanwhile, the Ultegra profile comes in an excellent new shape with one-finger braking use, while for the 105, you will use two-finger braking because of its box profile design.
However, both have a similar snappy feel and have almost identical performances.
Pedals – Ultegra pedals are the latest upgrade in Shimano’s pedal range, although it is only a minor enhancement in design and a little on its weight.
It still has a composite carbon body and stainless steel spindle and holds long-term durability even after a thousand miles. Cleats are equally durable and are available in three options, 6 degrees with yellow tips, 2 degrees with blue, or zero floats with red tips.
Meanwhile, the Shimano 105 pedals come with a set of yellow cleats, which are easy replacement, and are readily available. The 105 pedals run on steel spindle and cartridge bearings.
These all run the same comfort in biking, but you can also be more comfortable using equally appropriate parts like the saddle.
Rear derailleur – Picking a rear derailleur means picking up the same Shimano Shadow Plus technology. It is adopted to keep your chain on the bike and protect the rear derailleur in a crash.
The difference comes so slightly for both Ultegra and 105 rear derailleurs. Since both have short cage (SS) and medium cage (GS) models, the only difference is the slightly better pulley bearings of Ultegra and a bit lighter than 105. Just choose what fits your cassette chainset.
Another option for Ultegra is the clutch-operated rear derailleur which is designed to prevent outward shifting and chain drop under heavy loads.
Front derailleur – Comparing the front derailleur of Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra, both are seemingly identical in weight that barely becomes noticeable. Performance-wise, the front derailleurs are almost the same in barely noticeable weight.
But if you want to have a cash value judgment, then go for 105, and if you prefer lightweight, it is best to choose Ultegra.
Except for the weight, price, and feel, there’s not much of a significant difference comparing the Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra groupset; choose what’s compatible with your existing parts or what you favour most when buying a groupset.
If you choose to have a super premium groupset, and you have the extra cash to afford the value it gives, Ultegra is your best obvious choice!
And if you choose to have a groupset without causing much strain on your pocket, go for Shimano 105.
You can be assured that these two groupsets give you the same comfort, performance, and premium quality with marginal weight – ultimately, it all depends on price and how much money you’re willing to spend!