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If you love cycling, you probably heard about or got the chance to try the new Ultegra 6800 in the 2014 season. Everyone, especially us, was really excited about getting the extra benefits the 11 speed groupset offers, this is especially true for the climbers who just need a little extra on steep grades. What really makes the groupset great though is all that is borrows directly from the Dura Ace 9000 groupset.
Now to get into the real question of “What is really new about the 6800 groupset?”. Besides the obvious increase in the number of speeds, riders can expect notable upgrades in shifting, subtle but worthwhile changes to derailleurs, a friction reducing chain, and a stiffer, more customizable crankset.
Let’s start off by talking about the improved shifting with the Shimano Vivid Shifting system. This revolutionary system allows riders to have the same feel when shifting at the high and low end of the, avoiding the heavier resistance when shifting to the big cogs riders experienced in previous years. We have tried this out to see if you can really tell a difference while shifting and we have to say it is quite obvious. I wouldn’t say that it feels the exact same shifting in the highest and lowest gears, but it is definitely the closest we have ever seen. Another great benefit of the shifters is that the throw of the lever is reduced, allowing you to shift easier while in the drops. Finally, when you are shifting under a load, the shifting performance is outstanding. You can go as hard as you want while shifting and not get the issue you have experienced in previous years with other groupsets.
Moving onto the derailleurs, we see some subtle changes that will make your riding experience better. On the front derailleur, you will notice a reduction in shift effort, thanks to the better activation arms. The front derailleur is also stiffer thanks to a support bolt, like you would see in a Di2 unit. For the rear derailleur, not as much has changed, but you will notice that there is a more linear feel while shifting thanks to a small change in the spring.
For the chain, Shimano went with a symmetrical one this year, making it easier for the home user to install. The biggest innovation to the chain is the PTFE coating, which acts as a lubricant and armor coating, greatly reducing corrosion and improving chain life. If you have been riding a Ultegra 6700 chain, get ready to see smoother shifting, decreased resistance, and unbeatable chain life.
Finally, we will look at the crankset, which looks notable different than the 6700 model. For the 6800 model, Shimano chose to go with a four arm system, which reduces weight while giving extra strength in the regions that take the most stress during pedaling. Not only does this new design give great stiffness and weight savings, but it also offers the most chainring customization option for the crank ever.
At the end of the day, I think everyone who has tried the Shimano 6800 setup will agree it is incredible. While cycling companies are always touting innovations and upgrades, much like automobile manufacturers, the changes in the 6800 system actually make a difference to real riders. If you are looking to step up your riding, definitely check this system out.
Interested in a Tommaso bike featuring this amazing system? Check out the Tommaso Superleggera and the Tommaso Aggraziato. Both of these bikes have received great reviews you can read here: http://giantnerd.com/pages/2015-aggraziato-review & http://giantnerd.com/pages/tommaso-superleggera-dura-ace-9000-review