Shimano Road Components – Where to Spend Your Money

Question: I’m planning to upgrade my road bike components and I was wondering if I can combine components of different groupsets, like Ultegra with Dura-Ace or 105, and if so, what´s the best way to do it? From: Ben 

Answer: Great question, Ben! It is possible to mix and match as long as you get components from the same generation. For example: 9000 Dura Ace, 6800 Ultegra, and 5800 105 are all cross compatible. Each have 11-speeds in the rear, use the same cable pull per shift and use the same front derailleur design.

If you don’t mind having mismatched components, the rear derailleur is the least important part of the group. Lower priced rear derailleurs do an outstanding job at shifting and a blind tester is unlikely to tell much of a difference. You can go with 105 rear derailleur and you probably will never notice. However, the Dura Ace front derailleur has always been far better than the lower level versions. The cage is thicker and stronger and the finish is smoother and longer lasting.

Dura Ace shifters are also incredibly precise and you can really feel the difference compared to Ultegra and 105. However, if you can’t pop for Dura Ace shifters, I say go for 105. They are great and the functional difference between 105 shifters and Ultegra is negligible.

For cassettes, Ultegra is the value choice. The finish on 105 cassettes isn’t as nice as Ultegra and that hurts longevity and shift performance, albeit negligibly, but the price difference is very small so I feel it is worth it to go with an Ultegra cassette here. Dura Ace cassettes use titanium for some of their cogs to reduce weight. Other than the huge increase in price that titanium demands, the big downside is that titanium wears faster than steel, which makes the Dura Ace cassette a poor choice for riders putting in big miles.

When it comes to chains, Ultegra is my value pick. It’s roughly 33% cheaper than the Dura Ace chain, but still has a more durable finish than 105 that keeps it shifting nicer for longer. When you consider that the 105 chain is only a few bucks cheaper than an Ultegra chain, the choice is obvious, go with Ultegra.

For the crankset, Ultegra 6800 is about 65 grams lighter than 105 5800 and has more advanced chainrings that shift a little nicer. This makes Ultegra worth the extra money in my opinion. Dura Ace 9000 is another 70 grams lighter than Ultegra 6800 and the arms are a little stiffer, but shifting performance is essentially the same. At more than double the cost of Ultegra, it’s hard to make an argument that the small bump in performance offered by Dura Ace is worth the extra dough. So, Ultegra is my value pick here.

When it comes to brakes, the 5800 105 brakeset has all of the same SLR-EV features that Dura Ace 9000 and Ultegra 6800 has. This includes the outstanding power and modulation that Shimano brakes are known for. The main difference is weight. Although Dura Ace has nicer pivots that reduce friction and increase modulation and power, it’s a increase in performance that few people could ever sense. So, I recommend the 105 brakeset.

Long story short, here are my picks for the best value Shimano road components:

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