What are the key factors when choosing a new road bike? It might be price, purpose, style, weight, but for some, it might very well come down to what groupset the bike is equipped with. And one of the most popular groupsets is Shimano's Ultegra, a groupset that combines a competitive price with top-level performance.
So we thought we’d do a roundup of road bikes fitted with Shimano’s Ultegra groupset. We’re going to focus on the mechanical 6800 version of the groupset because it covers a wider range of prices. We'll do a roundup of Ultegra Di2 bikes if you really want us too, though.
If you read Mat’s head to head feature, pitting Shimano Ultegra against its rival SRAM Force, you’ll know that Ultegra-equipped bikes can range in price from about £1,000 right up to £3,000 or more. That means there’s a wide selection of bikes to choose from, with different frame materials and riding purpose, and a choice of disc brakes or aero frames.
Some bikes will feature a full Shimano Ultegra groupset, but at both extremes of the price spectrum, you’re going to find some manufacturers mixing in some other components to help them meet key price points. The most common changes are brake calipers, especially on cheaper models, and sometimes chainsets get swapped for another make.
Let's dive in then...
Going with an aluminium frame is one way to get maximum value for money. And with modern aluminium frames offering the great performance they do, it’s a choice we can wholeheartedly recommend. B’Twin’s Ultra 720 combines a triple butted aluminium frame with direct mount brakes and internal cable routing, with a carbon fibre fork and a smart paint job. Best of all, it gets a full Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset, including the direct mount brake calipers and a compact chainset. The wheels are Mavic’s Cosmic Elite with matching 23mm tyres.
British company Planet X has a reputation for affordable and well-specced road bikes, and so it’s the case with the Pro Carbon, which as the name suggest, offers a full carbon fibre frame and fork. It's the cheapest carbon fibre road bike with Ultegra that we're aware of. The frame has a compact geometry and it’s been designed to provide long distance riding comfort, so ideal for sportives and leisure cycling. It’s equipped with a full Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset, and the build is finished off with Vision Team 35 aluminium wheels with 25mm Hutchinson Nitro 2 wire bead tyres.
German direct-sales brand Canyon has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity and sales in the UK, and it can always be counted on for providing stunning value for money (even if it’s temporarily struggling to meet delivery expectations). The Endurace’s carbon fibre frameset is designed to offer a more upright and comfortable riding position than it’s racier Ultimate. You get a full Shimano Ultegra groupset with a compact chainset, along with Mavic Aksium wheels and a claimed bike weight of 7.6kg.
If you prefer a speedier ride, then the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 6.0 (£2,699) swaps the sportive frame for one designed in a wind tunnel and switches to deep-section wheels. It retains the identical groupset. It’s a good demonstration of how widely Ultegra is used in a bike manufacturer's range.
Here’s the newish Trek Emonda ALR, which features one of the lightest mass-production aluminium frames we’ve yet come across. It claims 1,050g for a size 56cm, which means it’s lighter than many carbon fibre frames. With the full Shimano Ultegra that this model is equipped with, you’re looking at 7.81kg for the size 58cm we reviewed last year. A nice detail on this bike is the Bontrager tubeless-ready Race wheels, so going tubeless is just a case of buying some suitable tyres.
Maybe you’ve got your heart set on a road bike with disc brakes? Well, Giant has completely overhauled its Defy endurance/sportive model with disc brakes, and for £1,899, the Defy Advanced 1 offers you a carbon fibre frameset, designed to provide a comfortable ride, with a Shimano Ultegra groupset. For 2017, Giant has upgraded the brakes to Shimano hydraulics, a significant improvement over last year's mechanical discs. Giant supplies its own-brand finishing kit and wheels, along with 25mm tyres with puncture protection.
Giant launched the Liv sub-brand to cater for women cyclists, and the Avail Advanced 1 shares many design features found on the Defy, but the company says the carbon layup has been tuned specifically for women. As well as that, the geometry has also been adapted, and Giant has optimised the stem lengths, handlebar width and drop, crank arm lengths and brake lever reach across the size range. It’s similarly equipped, with a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset and hydraulic disc brakes.
A new range of bikes this season have been well-received, the Emitter scored well in our annual Bike of the Year awards. This model features a nice looking carbon fibre frame and fork with a complete Shimano Ultegra groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels. It’s well appointed, with Continental Ultrasport tyres, Fizik finishing kit and a Fizik Aliante saddle. There’s space for up to 28mm tyres in the frame and it’ll even take mudguards too, boosting its versatility.
We tested the Look 765, a sleek and stylish carbon fibre endurance bike, last year and were very impressed with its performance. Not all carbon frames are made equal: the Look designers have infused this frame with some linen fibres, which in key places (the fork legs and chainstays) is claimed to help dissipate nasty vibrations from ruining the ride quality. It appears to work, there’s very little road buzz through the saddle or handlebar when riding. This bike is finished with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset and the build is completed by way of some Mavic Aksium wheels and matching tyres, in a comfortable 25mm width.
Some people say you should never put a Shimano groupset on an Italian frame. We say you should make up your own mind. The Bianchi Oltre XR1 draws inspiration from the company’s top-end race-ready Oltre XR2, it even comes out of the same mould, but uses less expensive carbon fibre to hit lower price points. It’s not quite a full Shimano Ultegra groupset however, there are FSA Gossamer Pro brakes, but all the other key components are from the Japanese company. Wheels are Fulcrum’s Racing 7 LG shod with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slicks in 25mm width.
And lastly, the most expensive bike in this roundup - we've come a long way from the £1,050 B'Twin at the top of this article. The S3 might have been around since 2009, but it’s still regularly the choice of racers and professionals, and in 2013 it received an update so it's still a decent choice. It's a frame, reckoned by some to still be one of the most aero choices, that combines comfort with skinny rear stays, so you can have your aero cake and eat it. The Shimano Ultegra groupset is complemented by a Rotor 3D30 BBright chainset with 52/36t chainrings, and with Mavic’s Cosmic Elite S wheels, it’s ideal for the privateer racer.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.