Shimano is a Japanese corporation that specializes in the manufacture of bicycles, bicycle parts and accessories, and other sporting goods equipment. Many mountain bikes and hybrids use Shimano parts to create a high quality riding experience. When shopping for a premium bicycle, you will find that many come equipped with the Ultegra or Shimano 105 components, but not both.
The first thing to note about the differences between the Shimano 105 and the Ultegra is that Shimano updates their components every four years. In 2015, the 105 is going to be updated, while the Ultegra was updated in 2014. Each cycle has better components than the previous one, so 2014 Ultegra components are going to be better than the 2011 105 components.
What Is the Benefit of Using Ultegra Components?
For those who plan to use their bicycle for racing, Ultegra components tend to be the best option. This is because they are lighter than the 105 components, so it is easier to achieve a maximum speed. The lighter components also make it easier to use the bike for climbing. The weight difference isn’t much. When directly compared, a full Ultegra group set will weigh about 0.5 pounds less than the 105 group.
Ultegra components also have less flexibility than their 105 counterparts, giving the bicycle a stiffer feeling. This provides a certain sturdiness for users who have hard pedaling needs while on the bicycle. This prevents energy waste and allows for a better energy flow for consistent speeds.
Ultegra also benefits from a wider crankset design, while allows the frame of the bicycle to be outfitted with wider brackets on the bottom. This adds another level of stiffness to the frame that prevents energy loss through flexibility as well. The range of gears is better in the high and low range when compared to the 105 as well, making it easier to maintain speeds while climbing or descending a graded path.
For those who are training to race competitively, whether in a triathalon or over a long-distance road coarse, the Ultegra groupset provides many of the options of the Dura-Ace groupset, but without the same price. Shifting and braking are especially smooth and it is very easy to just focus on the ride when this is equipped to the bike.
What Is the Benefit of the Shimano 105?
On most bicycles, the Shimano 105 gruppo is going to be cheaper than the Ultegra components. It may be a little heavier, but it is highly suited to those who need a bike for casual riding instead of racing. Although Ultegra components tend to keep their resale value better, recreational riders tend to prefer the 105 because of the lower entry cost and similar riding experience.
Users can improve the 105 experience by swapping out the cables on the bicycle every 1,000 miles or so to keep them operating in a smooth fashion. The climbing gears aren’t as low, but that doesn’t tend to be problematic unless there are several hills around a home that need regular climbing or it is a racing event. The Ultegra can save the legs for a final sprint, but the 105 can provide consistent flat course results.
Ultimately the 105 is geared toward cyclists who want to have a consistent result from their equipment, but don’t want to spend the extra cash to upgrade to the Ultegra. You can pretty much fir the 105 and then forget it. It’s a no-nonsense gruppo that gets the job done.
Why Choose the Shimano Gruppos?
Whether you choose the 105 or the Ultegra, Shimano has one distinct advantage: their policy of tricke-down technology. The new groupsets aren’t introduced to the general riding public first like other manufacturers tend to do. They are first issued to professional riders to test out the product. As their capabilities become known, the technology comes down into the bikes for everyone after the technology has been tweaked so that it is virtually perfect. You will get value for your investment into the Shimano name.
The bottom line for the comparison between the 105 and the Ultegra, however, is this: invest into the Ultegra if you can afford to do so. Although it may be an additional $450+ to get the Ultegra gruppo, the benefits of better gears, better resale value, and better climbing and descending. Some might not see the half pound advantage and the gear shape as an advantage and that’s where the 105 becomes a better option.