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This has been bugging me for a while. The Ultegra has no visible wear. The chain has no measurable stretch. The Deore is silent even when dirty and not oiled. The Ultegra is much noisier when freshly cleaned and oiled. After a minor crash which resulted in a bent derailleur hanger on the Deore equipped bike, I straightened it without a proper tool (obviously not perfect) and it's still quiet. No crashes with the Ultegra bike. The difference is so big it's not even funny. I know you're not supposed to cross chain but I find front shifting so inconvenient (large paddle throw, slow shifting compared to rear, you know what I mean). I'm looking for the hard facts, what is it that Shimano did that it's improved so much? My guess is 11 speed (more lateral flexibility in the chain) and different derailleur pulley wheels design but I'd like some expert opinions.

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    My first suspicion, for cross-chaining noise, is that the chain is rubbing the derailer somewhere. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 27 '18 at 21:55
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    @ArgentiApparatus - It can be front or rear. Rubbing front is more common, but I've seen it with the rear. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 27 '18 at 23:08
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    I don’t know if a fair comparison can be made as presumably the Ultegra has some wear on it. Also chainstay length and chain line differences have an impact. – Argenti Apparatus Apr 27 '18 at 23:52
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    You're comparing a road group with a MTB group, and not disrearding the transmission loss. Road groupsets are more efficient than MTB groupsets, and a side effect of that is decreased tolerances which will exhibit as cross chaining noise. – Criggie Apr 27 '18 at 23:54
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    @Argenti Apparatus - no, the Ultegra was fitted by the previous owner and it looks as new, it was old stock I presume. – user3671607 Apr 28 '18 at 9:37
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I am not sure this is a fair comparison. 6600 ultegra is now three generations old (6700, 6800 and now R8000 come after).

I rode 6600 for many years, rear shifts are still among the fastest out there. But as you noticed cross-chaining was not great.

I moved to 6800 last year. Shifting speed was compatible (I still feel that a well maintained 6600 is faster, but we are splitting hairs), but cross chaining is much better.

When 6600 came out in early 2000s 11-25 was a monster road cassette for climbing. My current road bike has a 12-32 and I would not go back to a smaller cassette unless I was racing cat 1/2 again.

By comparison XT M8000 became available on bikes just a couple years ago so it represents a much newer group set. A lot has changed in intervening years, and Shimano has tweaked their offerings to match market demand/ current trends.

  • "monster road cassette for climbing" - yes, I heard that the pros were begging that the mechanics fit those and now 32 teeth cassettes are commonplace. I have a 11-28 with triple front (I know...) and it sucks for the hilly area I live in where 20%+ gradients are not uncommon. I'm partly looking for an excuse to upgrade to a modern drivetrain but I don't ride the road bike as much nowadays to justify it. Also, thanks for the answer, i've always suspected that it's a limitation of the design. – user3671607 Apr 28 '18 at 9:42
  • I don’t understand why it took road so long to finally settle on some proper gearing. My first road bike, the smallest chain ring was a 42!!! I used to climb a mountain every day to university on that bike, it probably made the task twice as hard as a result. I eventually switched to a mountain bike back then. – Rider_X Apr 28 '18 at 15:47
  • "I don’t understand why it took road so long to finally settle on some proper gearing" - I have a theory: cycling is a fashion and old wives tales-driven sport. Not a fact or science based one but that seems to change. When I look at the gearing used on the bikes from the 60s-80s era I can't believe they were able to finish those HC climbs. It looks inhumane. I guess that when Eddy Merckx said the pros today couldn't carry his suitcase (his words more or less) he was referring to that. Also, am I correct noticing that it was Lance Armstrong that made spinning popular? – user3671607 Apr 28 '18 at 17:25

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