When Di2 was first introduced its benefit to triathlon was quickly apparent. Here was a drivetrain that could be controlled from both the aerobars and the bullhorns. For anyone that has needed a quick shift in the middle of a hard climb, the benefit of the dual shift locations is quickly apparent.
With Dura Ace 7970 we saw the full potential of an electronic TT groupset realized at a price point far beyond the average age groupers budget. Then Shimano introduced Ultegra 6770 which brought Di2 to a price point far more palatable to those age groupers but unfortunately was without one of the most benefits of Di2 – brake lever shifters. But today Shimano has introduced the product we have truly been waiting for, a fully fleshed out Di2 groupset at an expected price point that will bring electronics to the middle of the pack – Ultegra 6870. Oh and lest we forget, with 6870 we also upgrade to 11 speeds, a not so insignificant improvement.
We looked at 6870’s mechanical brother – Ultegra 6800 a few months back and came away impressed. With 6800 we get Shimano’s new four-arm spider first introduced on Dura Ace 9000 (at a 26g savings from Ultegra 6770). As with 9000 you get the interchangeable chain rings that allow the running 53-39, 52-36, 50-34, and now 46-36 gearing. This is a reminder of one of the reasons why we are fans of Ultegra, you get trickle down technology at an affordable price point.
But enough of the mechanical aspects, you are reading this because you want to hear about Di2. Ultegra 6870 is using the same E-Tube enabled components of Dura Ace 9070. What this means to you is that while you may start with Ultegra level components, you can upgrade to DA at any time without rewiring the whole system. You also get the programmability of E-Tube including multi-shift speed and shift count.
The 6870 road levers (ST-6870) have been upgraded with improved hood ergonomics and the new contrast texture to help keep your hands where you need them. As with 9070 the Ultegra shifters have a 3rd port for easy installation of a sprint shifter.
More exciting are the new Ultegra TT/Triathlon shift/brake levers (ST-6871). The lack of these on 6770 was a major disappointment to us, and something we felt was a huge oversight with the previous 10spd Di2. But Shimano is making it up to us with the ST-6871. Shimano says we can expect the same braking power as the DA shifter which is something we are looking forward to testing.
The new Ultegra 6870 front derailleur has been redesigned with a support bolt that creates a rigid platform to keep correct alignment while moving the chain to the big chain ring. Like 6770 you also get an automatic trimming function.
The most obvious change with the 6870 rear derailleur is the upgrade to 11 speeds. The new derailleur has a wide link design to reduce shifting deflection. Additionally Shimano is releasing a mid-cage GS version that can accommodate a 32T cassette. Both versions will have the automatic crash protection features found in previous versions.
For the weight weenies out there, 6870 comes in a 69g lighter than the previous 6770 version using the external battery. Switching to an internal battery shaves an additional 57g to a full savings of 126g from 6770. In fact Shimano says an internal battery equipped 6870 groupset comes out 9g lighter than its mechanical sibling (2368g versus 2359g).
We will admit it – we are giddy for 6870 (waiting until November for its expected release date is going to be a bit painful). This is the version of Di2 we have been waiting for; all the benefits of an electronic groupset at a price point we expect to be at a very attainable price. Since 6800 was introduced we have been waiting to see if 6870 was going to be the groupset we wanted it to be, based on this first look we think we have found the must have groupset of 2014.