Shimano 105 Vs Ultegra: Is The Upgrade Worth It?

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Shimano 105 is the best mid-range groupset in Shimano’s lineup – and the 105 series has arguably represented the best bang-for-buck in cycling components for decades.

But how does it stack up to its more expensive big brother: Ultegra?

Shimano is the world-leading manufacturer of components, and for good reason. They are trusted by much of the pro peloton and supplied the groupsets on every winning men’s Grand Tour bike since 2020.

Shimano 105 is at the higher end of the mid-range, and Shimano Ultegra is the cheapest of the pro-standard Shimano groups.

This leaves keen road cyclists with a tough decision to make: Shimano 105 vs Ultegra.

Given the punch already packed by 105, how much extra performance do you really get from the pricey upgrade to Ultegra? To get you up to speed, we’ll be covering:

  • Shimano: The World-Leading Bike Component Manufacturer
  • Shimano Road Bike Groupset Hierarchy
  • Shimano Ultegra: A Budget Pro-Standard Groupset
  • Shimano 105: The “Groupset Of The People”
  • Shimano 105 Vs Ultegra: Is The Upgrade Worth The Extra Cash?

Let’s get started!

Shimano 105 Vs Ultegra: Title Image
Credit: Shimano. Edited from the original.

Shimano: The World-Leading Component Manufacturer

Shimano now makes up 70% of the global bike componentry market, representing the dominant force in the industry.

They pounced on the opportunity to fill a gap in the market left by the inability of Campagnolo to keep up with the demand of the “Bike Boom” of the ’70s.

Shimano quickly became a household name in the bike world through ingenuity and innovation in their componentry.

Two of the most notable inventions by Shimano are related to shifting.

The first was the index shifters, which changed down tube shifters from a continuous scale which took a lot of fiddling to shift into the correct gear, to a neat shift lever that clicked into indexed positions for each gear.

The second was the “Shimano Total Integration” levers, which allowed the rider to change gears and brake with the same integrated lever located on the handlebars, resulting in more efficient, safer gear shifting.

Newer innovations such as Di2 electronic shifting and disc brakes are now ubiquitous with the pro peloton. But they also cater to lower budgets, and both of these features are available on the mid-range 105.

Shimano Road Bike Groupset Hierarchy

Shimano’s road groupset range is diverse and ranges from their entry-level Claris to the flagship Dura-Ace group.

The cheapest Shimano groupsets, although good value for money, don’t necessarily provide the features or quality that keen cyclists are looking for.

However, for a little more money, the mid-range groups tend to have some excellent features that would have been found on Dura-Ace a mere few years ago, thanks to the trickle-down tech policy of the brand.

So what is the hierarchy of Shimano road bike groupsets?

  • Claris
  • Sora
  • Tiagra
  • 105
  • Ultegra
  • Dura-Ace

Want to find out more about the whole Shimano road bike range? Check out our article Ultimate Shimano Groupset Guide: Road Bike Edition!

Shimano Ultegra: A Budget Pro-Standard Groupset

Shimano Ultegra is the cheaper of the two pro-standard groupsets offered by Shimano ( it’s also cheaper than the equivalent Campagnolo Record).

Ultegra uses fundamentally the same mechanical componentry as the flagship Dura-Ace group used by the top pro teams, offering similar performance. The key difference is that Ultegra components are slightly heavier than their Dura-Ace counterparts.

So for those looking for extremely high-quality, streamlined shifting without selling their car, this is a great option.

The newest iteration, coded R8100, sees Utegra make the step up to 12-speed, and is the first to be released as Di2 electronic-shifting only.

It’s still available with either rim or hydraulic disc brakes, and if you want to avoid the huge additional cost of electronic shifting you can still buy an older mechanical model of Ultegra.

Shimano 105 R7100 groupset on a black road bike, against a white background.
Credit: Petar MiloševićCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Edited from the original.

Shimano 105: The “Groupset Of The People”

Shimano 105 is the upper-mid-range option of the Shimano road groups.

Its exceptional quality and value have earned it the nickname “The Groupset Of The People”.

Shimano 105 has been an iconic groupset for decades. It’s often a first “serious” groupset for budding cyclists, and has a reputation for great build quality, excellent performance, and unbeatable value for money.

The newest edition of 105 – the R7100 series – was released to much fanfare in 2022 and brings 12-speed gearing and Di2 electronic shifting to Shimano 105.

Significantly, R7100 sees Shimano ditch both mechanical shifting and rim brakes for the 105 series – but you can still get hold of these on older versions if that’s what you’re after.

Shimano 105 vs Ultegra: Is The Upgrade Worth The Extra Cash?

So, now you know about each of the options, how do you decide between Shimano 105 vs Ultegra?

Well, like most questions of cycling tech, there is unfortunately no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Ultegra Vs 105: The Cost

In terms of price, the Ultegra vs 105 debate fits the common pattern of diminishing returns in bike technology.

Although the Ultegra groupset undeniably represents a small upgrade in performance over 105, the differences are relatively minor – but Ultegra costs significantly more.

With their latest iterations, there’s little to choose between Shimano Ultegra vs 105 in terms of headline features. With the latest 105 update bringing 12-speed gearing and Di2 shifting, the gulf between the two on paper is narrower than ever.

At the time of writing, the full Ultegra Di2 8100 groupset retails for around $2400 (£2000), whereas the 105 Di2 7100 comes in at around $1900 (£1700).

This cost gap is smaller than previous versions – a reflection of the upgrades to 105 and the vast expense of Di2 – but still substantial.

Both Ultegra and 105 groupsets can be found far, far cheaper if you look at older, mechanical-based models though – especially if you’re prepared to go secondhand.

Just be sure to pay close attention to condition and wear if you’re considering the used market though – there’s no point forking out for a groupset if most of the components are nearing the end of their lifespan already.

Shimano 105 Vs Ultegra: What Are The Differences?

With their latest iterations, there’s little to choose between Shimano Ultegra vs 105 in terms of headline features. With the latest 105 update bringing 12-speed gearing and Di2 shifting, the gulf between the two on paper is narrower than ever.

So what is different between the two to justify the extra cost?

The major difference is the weight.

Although the appearance and ergonomics of the parts are almost identical, the materials utilized in the Ultegra group are lighter and more durable, resulting in a weight reduction of almost 200 grams and a slightly extended lifespan.

Another available when considering cassette 105 vs Ultegra options. They both allow for up to an 11-34T gear range, but the extra options of an 11-25 and a 14-28 cassette on the Ultegra R8000 might be handy for those more used to old-school style gearing.

So, Which Should I Choose?

Essentially, it comes down to the importance of weight in your set-up. If you’re going to be entering a hill climb or you’re getting into another form of competitive racing, often every gram counts and you should save weight wherever you can.

However, while 200 grams is not insignificant, it’s not going to be a revolutionary game-changer either. We’re talking marginal gains here.

It’s worth considering that you can shave off similar weight for much less money if you were to upgrade from standard tires to race tires and to latex over butyl inner tubes.

For the casual cyclist, this 200 grams isn’t likely to matter much. In that case, it might be better to save your hard-earned cash to spend on other parts that might represent a more significant bang-for-back upgrade.

Found this Shimano 105 vs Ultegra guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Jack has been a two-wheel fanatic since a very young age. He loves zooming around the local country roads in Sussex on his road bike, and more recently enjoys flying down MTB trails on his gravel bike. A supreme lover of bikepacking, Jack has ridden many long-distance cycle tours in the UK.

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