It was way back in February when Shimano gave us our first glimpse of the new Ultegra 6700 groupset, but they made us promise not to tell you until today. There was much scratching of heads and shuffling of piles of paper while we dug out all the information we'd 'filed', but now we have we've remembered why we were so excited about 6700 back at the preview.
So what's new? Well, everything's new, at least for Ultegra. The first thing you'll notice is that the levers use the same cable routing as Dura-Ace 7900, with both brake and gear cables exiting underneath the bar tape. Less noticable but just as important for small-handed riders is that also incorporate a reach adjustment system simliar to new Dura-Ace, and a repostitioning of the lever pivot that Shimano say will improve the feel of the braking.
The similarities with the top-end groupset don't end there. The Hollowglide chainring technology has also trickled down for this incarnation. Hollowglide uses two thin plates which are sandwiched together giving a hollow void, with the resulting construction being both lighter and stiffer than a solid ring. It's a similar concept to the Hollowtech crank and one of the reasons that Shimano have managed to shave 151g off the groupset as a whole. 6700 is the end of the road for Ultegra SL, too, as the new kit is 44g lighter even than the lightweight version of last year's Ultegra.
The derailleurs have been redesigned and there's two of each, specific to double/compact and triple chainset setups. The SS version (two chainrings) is designed for a maximum sprocket size of 28T, which mated with a 50/34 compact gives a low enough gear that more riders won't feel the need for a triple. The front doesn't quite have the no-trim capability of 7900 but can cope with a wider range of chain angles than last year's model, and doesn't require quite as fine adjustment as Dura Ace.
Of the other components, the chain is most notable in that it's a unidirectional design (the inner and outer plates are not the same) and Shimano have sensibly opted not to use a new pin design requiring a £150 tool to fit it – you know who you are. The brakes feature the Dura-Ace compound shoes which Shimano claim can double stopping power in the wet. The 6700 wheels are all-alloy 16/20 spoke units weighing in at 1652g a pair, and the pedals have, erm, changed colour.
One thing Shimano were keen to point out is that they're moving ever more towards 'integrated systems', meaning the components of a groupset are designed to work specifically with one another. This is good news in terms of the performance of a specific group, but raises questions about mix-and-match compatibility. In the past you've pretty much had to make sure that you're using all 9spd gear but that was pretty much that; from now on it seems you'll need to be a bit more careful.
For example, STI levers are moving towards being either double or triple, rather than doing both, and indeed the cable pull differs where there are separate units. This, say Shimano, means better durability and function but also means it's harder to swap between the two – you're looking at a new STI lever as well as a new chainset. Time will tell as to whether this will work against the mix-and-match approach that many manufacturers favour, upgrading the rear mech and downgrading the front mech and brakes.
As to timing, It'll be Summer before we can get our hands on any of this stuff to test, and the leaves may well be falling before all the components are shipped. But we'll give you our feedback just as soon as we can.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.