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Shimano Dura Ace vs Shimano Ultegra

Shimano Dura Ace vs Shimano Ultegra: What’s The Difference?

Dura Ace and Ultegra have occupied the top two tiers of the Shimano groupset hierarchy for over thirty years – Dura Ace occupying the number one spot, and Ultegra sitting at number two. In that time, they’ve been the choice groupsets for many elite and amateur riders for durability, serviceability and performance.

With just one tier between them, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the difference between Dura Ace and Ultegra was minimal. However, the disparity in the RRP between the latest versions of these gruppos suggests otherwise. So, what are the key differences between them?

 

 

A massive contributor to this difference in RRP are the materials used in each groupset. Typically, where Ultegra uses heavier alloy and steel, Dura Ace uses lighter (and more expensive) titanium and carbon fibre. A good example of this are the cassettes.  Whereas Dura Ace uses a combination of steel and titanium sprockets and weighs just 175 grams, Ultegra uses all steel sprockets and weighs in at a bulkier 232 grams.

Although differences like these might not seem like much, if this is extrapolated across every component, it causes a very noticeable difference in the weight of the groupset as a whole. As a result, the Dura Ace groupset shown below is over 300 grams lighter than the equivalent Ultegra groupset.

 

 

Despite this vast difference in weight, both groupsets offer very similar shifting performance out on the road. This is because Shimano has manufactured the ramps and pins on the chainrings and cassette sprockets in precisely the same places. Similarly, the shape of the levers and hoods are also almost identical offering a very similar ride feel.

 

Road bike with Shimano Ultegra

 

But you can’t have it all. Although Dura Ace is considered to Shimano’s out-and-out performance groupset, surprisingly, Ultegra is generally deemed to be much more versatile, mainly because of the lower range of gears that it offers.

While Ultegra cassettes go all the way up to 34 teeth, Dura Ace cassettes only go up to 30 teeth. Similarly, Ultegra chainsets come with the lowest chainring combination of 46/36 teeth, compared with the smallest chainring combination of 50/34 offered with Dura Ace chainsets.

As a result of these smaller gears, Ultegra is a much more suitable groupset for gravel and cyclocross riding, as well as road racing. Dura Ace, on the other hand, is only really suitable for riding on the road.

 

Cyclocross bike with Shimano Dura Ace

 

In summary, there are two primary differences between Ultegra and Dura Ace. Firstly,  the materials used in each groupset are slightly different, which results in Dura Ace weighing appreciably lighter than Shimano’s second-tier Ultegra.

Secondly, an Ultegra groupset offers much lower gears than Dura Ace. This, in turn, means the second-tier groupset is much better suited to a wider variety of riding styles, such as cyclocross and gravel, and not just road racing.



Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn

Writer and expert

With almost a decade of riding under his belt, Tom has dabbled in almost every major cycling discipline. These days, he's usually found aboard his fixed-gear gravel bike tackling the best trails and towpaths around Manchester and the Peak District.