The Shimano Ultegra groupset combines a competitive price
with top-level performance. In this article we'll take a look at some of
the best Ultegra road bikes around at the minute.
The majority of manufacturers don't hang an Ultegra
groupset on anything but a carbon fibre frame — only two bikes here are
aluminium, though one of them is exceptional value for money as a
result, and one each are steel and titanium
With its rated ability to handle a 34-tooth sprocket
(and actually cope with up to 40 teeth if set up carefully) the current
Ultegra is Shimano's most versatile high-performance groupset ever
The namecheck of Ultegra in Half Man Half Biscuit's
'Excavating Rita' is believed to be the only mention of a bicycle
groupset in popular song
Ultegra-equipped bikes start at about £1,500 and go up to around £5,000
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.
Here, then, is a roundup of Shimano Ultegra road bikes, and we’re
going to focus on the mechanical version because it covers a wider range
of prices. Shimano launched the latest R8000 version of Ultegra
in 2017 and now all new Ultegra-specced bikes have swapped over to the
new components. The new version is functionally very similar to 6800 but
styled to look like its Dura-Ace big sister.
If you read Mat’s head to head feature, pitting Shimano Ultegra against its rival SRAM Force,
you’ll know that Ultegra road bikes can range in price from a bit over
£1,000 right up to £5,000 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...
The new Scultura Endurance range from Merida is a more relaxed, less
aggressive version of its Scultura race bike. It still offers plenty of
performance and comfort, but it's more suited to those big rides – and,
thanks to large tyre clearances and mudguard mounts, you can use it
whatever the weather too.
Stu Kerton was impressed by the Scultura Endurance 7000-E, which is
much the same bike but with Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting. He wrote: "The Endurance feels well poised at speed, and doesn't feel unsettled by rough road surfaces.
"This stable feeling continues on technical descents. Many
endurance-style bikes tend to knock the head angle back a degree to slow
the steering down a touch, but the Scultura Endurance has the same
angle as the Scultura. The only real change is that the Endurance has an
extra 5mm of fork length.
"The steering is on the quick side of neutral and, paired with the
bike's stability, gives plenty of confidence in the bends. It really
flows well and if you aren't a confident descender, the Endurance will
no doubt help you improve without feeling out of control."
Wilier's new aero bike is another favourite of tester Stu Kerton, who
is miraculously not jaded by the number of nice bikes he gets to ride.
Stu was struck by the Cento10 SL's combination of stiffness under power
and bump-damping smoothness. He says: "The Cento10 SL is Wilier
Triestina's latest aero bike and it's not just stunning to look at, it's
stunning to ride too. The frame comfort is sublime for such a stiff
bike, and the geometry creates racy yet perfectly balanced handling. You
aren't just limited to disc brakes either.
"With its wide 86.5mm bottom bracket shell and large profile
tubing, the Cento10 has a punchy, direct power delivery when you ask it
to get a shift on. Stamp on the pedals and it moves instantaneously with
no hint of flex anywhere in the frameset.
"So, what was surprising when I cleared the hustle and bustle and found myself in the lanes was just how smoothly it rides.
"It's akin to the feel you get from a quality steel or titanium frame.
You notice the bumps and imperfections of the road, but there's none of
the harsh vibration found on some super-stiff carbon offerings."
The Vitesse EVO CRS Ultegra uses the same frame as
the Vitesse Evo Team Stu reviewed recently. Of that bike, he said "The
Vitesse Evo Team eTap AXS is described as a true pro race bike by Vitus
and boy oh boy, does it ever ride like one. The frame is great, not only
in the way it delivers the ride quality but also in terms of handling."
You get the same frame — and therefore handling — here for over a
thousand quid less, making this one of the stand-outs of the current
It's "a lovely bike to ride," says Stu. "With a low
front end, the riding position feels purposeful and aggressive, and
thanks to loads of stiffness in the lower half of the frame it's a bike
you can really ride hard. The Vitesse wastes nothing when accelerating
hard from a standstill, going for a sprint or attacking a climb out of
the saddle, and you can see why the Vitesse Evo is the bike used by the
Vitus Pro Cycling team. The front end feels really tight and direct when
steering into technical bends on a descent or when hauling on the front
brake for an emergency stop."
With the successor to the popular CAAD12 Cannondale haven't focused
on shedding grams — a CAAD13 frame weighs about the same as a CAAD12 —
but on ride quality. After a brief spin on the new bike at Cannondale's
launch, David Arthur wrote: "in the CAAD13, Cannondale have produced a
bike that is wonderfully smooth all-round. The Cotswolds isn’t generally
known for its smooth roads, and over the crusty surface on some quieter
country lanes, the CAAD13 blew me away with its ability to not just
provide a smooth and calm ride, but to really close the gap to a carbon
Cannondale have also made the CAAD13 a shade more versatile than its
racing-orientated predecessor. The rim-braked bike has room for 28mm
tyres, the disc bike will accommodate 30mm rubber, and both have
mudguard eyes discreetly tucked away in the drop-outs.
This model complements the new frame with the Ultegra groupset for a
bike that looks like a winning combination of performance and value.
Here’s the 2021 Trek Émonda SL 6, which features the
slightly-less-exotic-but-still-light 500 Series OCLV version of Trek's
pared-down Émonda platform.
The 2021 Émonda SL and SLR bikes are actually a bit less
pared-down than previous incarnations, because Trek has tweaked them for
better aerodynamics. The idea, for the high-zoot Émonda SLR at least,
was to create the fastest possible bike up l'Alpe d'Huez, the iconic
Tour de France climb considered by many to the mountain where Tours are
won and lost.
Émonda SL 6 Disc has a full Ultegra transmission and disc brakes
(there's no rim-brake version), and the Bontrager Aeolus Elite 35
Tubeless Ready carbon fibre wheels mean going tubeless is just a matter
of fitting tubeless tyres.
Blending aerodynamics and low weight is all the rage for 2021, and
here's Specialized's contender, the new Tarmac SL7. It's "one bike to
rule them all, putting an end to the idea of a climbing bike and an aero
bike," says Specialized's Cam Piper.
Tester Stu Kerton found the top-end Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
Dura-Ace Di2 to be "one of the fastest road bikes I have ever ridden".
With only a few concessions to keep the price under control, the
Tarmac SL7 Expert will be in the same high-speed ballpark, with only its
shallower wheels and conventional handlebar slowing it down compared to
the £10,500 flagship.
Tester Stu was deeply impressed with the D12-equipped version of this bike. He wrote: "I've
ridden a lot of bikes over the last 20 years, especially in the 10 that
I've been with road.cc (41 in 2019 alone), and while a lot of them have
been very good, there are probably ten or so that really stand out as
brilliant – and the Venturi is one of those.
"I like a stiff bike. I want that feeling of performance, and if
that sacrifices comfort, I can deal with it. I like a frame that feels
alive, a bit on the edge, I want to feel everything that is going on
from that tiny rubber footprint on the ground, and if I need to take a
little bit of a battering to get that then so be it.
"The Venturi delivers that in spades, but the carbon lay-up used means
it manages to do that while being very comfortable too, without taking
"This means you can ride the Orro for hours at a decent pace with little
fatigue. It's not the sharpest handling race bike I've ridden but it
isn't far off, and you can really take those descents with the bit
between your teeth and not really feel out of your depth. The Venturi
just flows between bends and gives you that surefooted feeling of
Another Stu Kerton favourite, and an absolute shoo-in as the answer
to the question "Which steel-framed bike would be awesome with an
When he rode the 105-equipped version of the Mason Resolution, Stu wrote:
"Selecting each individual tube rather than an 'off the shelf' tubeset
is what gives the Resolution, Mason Cycles steel framed four season
speed machine, its identity. Each tube has a specific role and delivers
on that with complete precision, the real trick though is how they all
unite to deliver what can only be described as a phenomenal ride. I like
this bike A LOT. In fact 'like' is probably not a strong enough word.
"Whatever your passion is in life, when you find what you think
is the pinnacle of whatever that is there is no better feeling in the
"The Resolution delivers that buzz for me, it's addictive and the
beautiful thing is that it's a feeling that hasn't diminished no matter
how many times I've ridden it."
The Ribble R872 Disc is a carbon fibre road bike that's built to a
sportive-friendly geometry and it offers a much higher performance than
you've a right to expect at this price. Plus, there's the bonus that you
can tweak the spec to suit your taste and budget.
The feature that surprised us most about the Ribble R872 Disc's ride is
the front end stiffness. In this respect it feels like a bike costing
way more than this. Haul on the alloy handlebar and everything is
absolutely rock solid. You might not pull out your best Mark Cavendish
sprint all that often but you'll appreciate the rigidity when climbing
out of the saddle and also when cornering hard – you can really chuck
this bike through the bends.
Scott's Addict RC is the company's offering for anyone who wants a
full-on race bike whether you plan to actually pin on a number, or just
like zooming through the countryside adding the whoosh of wheels and
pedals to the soundscape.
The Addict RC 30 is built on the same Addict RC Disc HMX Carbon frame
as the £6,300 Addict RC Pro, so what you're getting here is a pro-level
frame with the Ultegra groupset to keep the price under control.
There's a 52/36 chainset for all-out efforts and Scott's own Syncros
handlebar and integrated stem for tidy lines.
For the more expensive of the brace of new aluminium-framed Van Rysel
bikes, Decathlon has taken the unusual step of using a full Ultegra
groupset, a spec most manufacturers reserve for their carbon fibre bikes
these days. That makes it by a considerable margin the cheapest bike
Along with Fulcrum Racing 4 wheels and Hutchinson HDF>5.2 tyres, this should be a fine machine for eating the miles.
German direct-sales brand Canyon has enjoyed a meteoric rise in
popularity and sales in the UK, and bikes like this are part of the
reason why. The new Aeroad's carbon fibre frameset is designed to be faster and stiffer than the previous Aeroad, with better concealment of drag-inducing annoyances like brake hoses.
This version weighs a claimed 7.78kg, which is not bad at all for a disc-braked aero bike, and has Reynolds AR58 wheels.
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 XR3
draws inspiration from the company’s top-end race-ready Oltre XR4, but
uses less expensive carbon fibre to hit lower price points. It’s a full
Shimano Ultegra groupset too, including brakes. Wheels are Fulcrum’s
Racing 7 LG shod with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slicks in 25mm width. Once he
learned that this was a bike to be coaxed to speed not thrashed, tester
Stu had a great time with it.
Maybe you’ve got your heart set on a road bike with disc brakes and that doesn't cost the thick end of four grand?
Well, Giant's Defy endurance/sportive model was one of the first bike
lines to go entirely over to disc brakes, and for its £2,499 RRP, the
Defy Advanced 1 offers you a carbon fibre frameset, designed to provide a
comfortable ride, with a Shimano Ultegra groupset. Giant supplies its
own-brand finishing kit and tubeless wheels, along with 25mm tubeless
Giant launched the Liv sub-brand to cater for women cyclists, and the
Avail Advanced 1 shares many design features with 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 components and hydraulic disc brakes.
Cervelo's S-Series might have been around in one form or another
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.
And finally, to prove there's more to life than bikes made from what titanium pioneer Gary Helfrich used to call "glue and hair" here's a thoroughly modern, and thoroughly lovely UK homegrown titanium bike from Mark Reilly.
Dave Arthur wrote of the original, rim-braked T325 "The Reilly T325
provides a very smooth ride with the sort of handling that will allow
sporty types to indulge their performance aspirations. It's fast and
very direct. It's a worthy alternative to a carbon fibre race bike."
This latest version takes that heritage and modernises it with a 44mm
head tube for a tapered fork, through axle dropouts, flat mounts for
disc brakes, and what Reilly calls a Disc Specific Tube-set in butted
3Al/2.5V cold worked titanium.
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.
As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.
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.