Last year when Shimano announced their all-new Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 12-speed groupsets there was a real buzz of excitement. It had been nearly 5 years since the previous R8000 11-speed iteration was released and despite all the rumours we couldn’t wait to see how Shimano had improved on that.
While there was no sign of a mechanical update, the introduction of semi-wireless (on disc brake models) Di2 was something here at 99 Bikes we couldn’t wait to get our hands on. The top-tier Dura-Ace groupsets arrived at the time of launch but personally, I’ve always opted for the slightly more accessibly priced Ultegra which meant a bit of a wait. Fast forward a few months and I’ve finally been able to get to grips with Ultegra R8100 Di2 and find out just how good it is.
So first things first, is 12-speed really better than 11-speed. In short, yes it is. There’s no denying it, Shimano has improved Ultegra Di2 in just about every single way other than weight. Buy hey, heavy is good, heavy is reliable, right? Let’s just address the elephant in the room, if we don’t take into account rotors and cables R8100 is approx 140 grams heavier, which understandably will upset the weight weenies amongst you.
What will please die-hard Shimano fans though is that to ride it feels strangely familiar. Like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, a few minutes spent with them and it comes flooding back. The extra cog in the 11-30T cassette sits right in the sweet spot. If like me, you prefer riding at a higher cadence this will come as a huge bonus, I was never left trying to find the right gear, it was always just there no matter which way the road pointed. The updated front and rear mechs shifting is quicker and crisper than before, the front mech noticeably. Every shift was perfectly synchronised, no matter how many times you try and catch it out.
The new and improved ergonomics of the hoods are a pleasant surprise. While they do appear larger in appearance, in hand they are just right. The buttons are also slightly more raised than before, meaning they’re easier to find especially when wearing gloves. They also have a slight inward curve to them which I found to improve comfort over the previous versions.
The updated chainset is aesthetically pleasing despite the slightly mismatched colouring of the cranks and chainrings. There’s also a power meter version available direct from Shimano. The 52-36T chainrings pair perfectly with the 11-30T cassette and unless you live in an alpine region should serve most riders.
My favoruite marked improvement out of everything however is the brakes. The new Servo Wave-equipped calipers have taken tech from Shimano’s Mountain Bike and Gravel brake systems meaning there is far more modulation. The lever feel is improved under braking and the additional 10% pad clearance means less noise and ultimately eliminates pad rub. Shimano has also switched to RT-MT800 rotors, originally designed for mountain biking to help with heat dissipation. The overall result is brakes that really inspire confidence and deliver so much control, I was never left wanting even in emergency stop situations.
Overall the new Shimano Ultegra R8100 Di2 12-speed disc brake groupset is quite a considerable upgrade over the previous version. If you’re in two minds about whether the upgrade is worth it or your 11-speed drivetrain is getting a bit tired I’d recommend making the jump. After all marginal gains are what it’s all about and who doesn’t want quicker shifter, better braking and improved comfort?
You can shop the range of Shimano Di2 12-speed groupsets at 99 Bikes with Free Delivery to UK mainland addresses and Flexible Finance Options.