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I have a 1999 Specialized Allez Comp with original Ultegra 9 components (see description). Things are starting to get old (e.g. right shifter doesn't work well). I think it is time to partially convert to Sora. But I have a few confirmation questions.

  1. Will Sora shifters work with the brakeset of my original bike?
  2. I have 2 Ultegra cassettes. Would I be able to mix an Ultegra 9 cassette with a Sora chain and chain rings?
  • Suspect the shifters will work. As for chain, cassette, and chain ring then yes all 9 speed road Shimano will be compatible. – paparazzo Apr 23 '15 at 11:32
  • Yes, as long as you stay with Shimano, and are consistent with the 9-speed side of things, everything will be compatible - you're just dealing with different quality levels up and down the range. Don't be surprised though if swapping from Ultegra to Sora makes the bike feel not-so-good, as you're dropping from 2nd-best in the range to 5th-best in the range. Of course you counter this with the assumption that 2015 parts will be that much better than 1999 parts. In your position I would certainly investigate the cost of upping the whole group to a 10sp Ultegra or 105 – PeteH Apr 23 '15 at 12:36
  • Why use a Sora chain? Stay with an Ultegra chain if you can get a 9-speed. But then the Ultegra shifter might work again after some thorough cleaning. The grease inside tends to become sticky with age. My, much older 8-speed Ultegra worked again after a day soaking in white gas and another day in the sun followed by fresh oiling. – Carel Apr 23 '15 at 13:39
  • Thanks to all who answered. Sorry for the very late response. All very useful tips. It is getting very difficult to find Ultegra 9, so its good to know what I can mix and match with. – Steven Zimmerman Jun 6 '15 at 14:10
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Yes, and Yes. Brifters will work fine and the cassettes will work fine. You can use any 9 speed Shimano road components in the drivetrain (crankset+chainrings with appropriate bb, chain, cassette, derailleurs) and the rear derailleur can be a <10 speed mountain derailleur as well. The chain can be made by KMC/SRAM/Shimano/etc. and the cassette can be Shimano/SRAM as well. I'd also run new cables+cable housing in the process as well, obviously.

In fact, the shift from Ultegra to Sora in this case might make the bike feel even better (contrary to PeteH's comments). This is due to trickle-down -- the features of old Tiagra/105/etc. have slowly moved down to the lower levels, so you get the good ergonomics and stuff of new Sora.

As for a general thing, I'd probably just get any 9 speed Shimano/SRAM cassette in the future which has the spacing you like, as well as a SRAM/KMC chain for 9 speed (these come with quick links which are less annoying than the inane Shimano rivet). I don't see the point in scoping out for Ultegra-grade parts for this bike unless it makes you feel good -- just a waste of money given the past 16 years of engineering, since people will be hawking them at higher prices for people who just have to have the complete set. A Sora grade chain will be fine, though.

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    +1 - I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of Sora 9 speed components and shifting (with bar cons). I also tried out some recent the Sora STI shifters and noticed that they have a very similar ergonomics to my Ultegra 6600 STIs. I agree that the OP will likely do just fine. – Rider_X Apr 23 '15 at 15:19
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To directly answer your question, yes, 9 speed Ultegra is fully compatible with 9 speed Sora.

Since even Sora is shifting to 10 speed, though, it might be time to consider upgrading the entire group set to 10 or 11 speed, if only for future parts availability.

  • Is Sora really shifting to 10 speed? Does that mean Shimano will no longer have any 9 speed road groupsets? Unless of course they move Claris to 9 speed in which case they will have no 8 speed groupset. I did a little bit of Googling, and couldn't find anything about Sora going to 10 speed. – Kibbee Apr 23 '15 at 15:18
  • I bet sora will eventually shift to 10 speed, but I don't see it happening any time soon (given that Sora just moved to 9 speed with the proper ergonomics STI's). In any case, Claris will probably move to 9 speed and then non-group stuff will move to 8. If Sora moved to 10 speed, they'd have to cut the huge markup on 10 speed components relative to 7/8/9, which just doesn't make good business sense. – Batman Apr 23 '15 at 21:57
  • Starting next year, it is expected to be 10 speed. Claris will then go 9 speed. – zenbike Apr 25 '15 at 8:35
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As others have said: Yes, 9 speed Shimano gear is all interchangeable. That said, have you considered having your current stuff professionally maintained by a good LBS? I am riding a 1993 Shimano 105 groupset that has well over 100k miles on it and it shifts just as crisp as it did when it only had 1k miles on it.

Make sure they not just adjust the derailleurs but also replace your cables, housing, cassette, the chainring if it's worn and soak everything in some degreaser. You'll be surprised how much life you can get out of a well-maintained drivetrain.

  • STI shifters are somewhat notorious for having the pawls and stuff wear out inside after a while, and the likelihood of finding someone who can do something beyond flushing a brifter with WD-40 or something is very small (anyone can take one apart; finding replacement parts and putting it back together is the problem!). This was particularly a problem with early 2000s Shimano stuff, dunno if it also held in late 90's. – Batman Apr 23 '15 at 22:00
  • I can't speak to late 90s brifters in general but if the problem is really with the brifter the OP would probably be better served with a repair or some NOS part. There are tons of people on eBay selling cheap NOS and at least one guy who offers reasonably priced brifter overhauls (used him myself before after an ill advised attempt to overhaul a buddy's brifter =D). – Tehninjo0 Apr 24 '15 at 1:47
  • Given that you can get a set of Sora brifters online for ~100 dollars if you look (with the new ergonomics), its somewhat hard to advise doing this. Even if something is new old stock, if its 20 years old, theres a chance of lubricants degrading or other things. On top of that, in general, brifters don't survive crashes very well, so I'm not particularly inclined to buy a used one (which a lot of the ones on Ebay are). If it were downtube shifters or something, I'd go for used/NOS anyday -- my 105 7 speed downtube shifters are nearly 26 years old and work excellently. – Batman Apr 24 '15 at 2:02
  • On top of that, 9 speed stuff is not easy to repair -- there are teardowns and stuff linked on that page, but you still need to source the parts and everything or find someone who has the ability to do it. – Batman Apr 24 '15 at 2:06

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