In his previous post, jmusits asked the difference between the Shimano 105 and Ultegra drive train. Obviously, the derailleur is certainly one of the major components of a group. However levers, brakes and cables also make a huge difference. I would like to extend jmusits' original question.

  1. What are the difference between 105 and Ultegra brake calipers? Is the brake performance better with the Ultegra components or is it only a weight question? What about the difference with Tiagra caliper?
  2. What are the difference between 105 and Ultegra levers? I can imagine that the mechanism for gear change is more accurate and smoother for the Ultegra. But what about the influence on the brakes?

I am quite interested on the brakes right now, since my girlfriend owns a road bike with cheap Tiagra components. The derailleur is not working properly and we were thinking of changing the derailleur for a better one. But is it worth to change the brake calipers and/or the levers as well? She likes the frame, but would like to have better brake performance and smoother gear change.

Thanks in advance.

  • it also depends a little on whether you can get the groupset as a whole for cheaper than the sum of its parts.
    – robthewolf
    Jun 2, 2013 at 9:35
  • 1
    I agree for the financial aspect, but the question is rather about the difference of performance (brake, lever, durability...) between group sets, beside the weight.
    – Giomsen
    Jun 2, 2013 at 11:00
  • @robthewolf - you can. I discovered this as part of this question. But as I recall the saving was not overly significant.
    – PeteH
    Jun 2, 2013 at 17:52
  • To repeat a truism, when it comes to bike parts, there is light, reliable and cheap. You get to pick two.
    – JohnP
    Jun 13, 2013 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


Since you don't mention specific group sets (ie 6700, 6600, etc.) I'll say the primary differences are going to be weight and feel and to a lesser extent performance.

Ultegra 6700 levers are carbon fiber with a 'better' shape that some say offers better brake feel. Also the pivot point is different on 6700 vs 5700 (105) as it has trickled down from the Dura Ace design which theoretically gives more leverage and also requires less finger pull at the beginning of the stroke to move the brake pads when compared to 105 that don't have this feature yet.

As for the brakes themselves I believe the only noticeable difference is weight.

  • Thanks Ben for the answer. You point out the difference of the pivot point between the 6700 and 5700 (and the influence on the feeling makes absolutely sense for me). Is the pivot placement the same for the 6600? Is the only difference between 6600 and 6700 levers the material used?
    – Giomsen
    Jun 12, 2013 at 19:28

Mostly cosmetic and weight. You can check shimano website (http://www.shimano.com.au/publish/content/global_cycle/en/au/index/tech_support/tech_docs.html) and look for "exploded parts" documents the parts your interested in. You will find that different level of components (105 vs ultegra) share a lot of smaller components and where it differs sometimes it's cosmetic (e.g. cap on top of the shifter) or weight (e.g. carbon material).

Some parts do have performance differences, hubs for example, can have more balls in the bearings then lower level hubs. It's a good idea to check those tech documents to see what you're paying for.

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