Shimano’s Ultegra sh**!@ levers

Shimano Ultegra 6700 front shifter fail at cable head.


Once you’ve been riding as long as I have, you too can trace the arc of bike component design evolution. I hope your results turn out better than what I’m seeing.

Inspired by my recent YouTube immersion watching people fix things, I dived into a complete overhaul of my Ritchey Break Away with Shimano Ultegra 6700 components. I figured this will be the last time I embark on such an odious task.

And now for the results. The brake calipers, bottom bracket, front and rear derailleur work flawlessly after 50,000 miles. The chainwheels have seen better days and need replacement. However, I stripped the allen bolts holding the chainwheels together. I could probably fix them, but it’s not worth the trouble.

The open-bearing hubs are working fine, but I find them difficult to adjust. The Mavic Open Pro rims I built are true.

That leaves the shift levers. Here’s where I think the bike industry is doing consumers a disservice. They’re way too complicated, with lots of little bits that break over time.

The front shifter “failed” when I took out the old cable. The tiny part that holds the cable head in place has disintegrated. Realistically, they’re not serviceable, and they cost $400 a set.

I didn’t realize that the Ultegra levers have electronic components (ribbon cable, circuit board) inside them, despite not having electronic shifting in mine.

New Shimano 105 front lever where cable head seats.

A bike manufacturer needs to reintroduce downtube shifters. Not that those are any better when it comes to maintenance. They also have a lot of tiny parts that break or wear out, but cost a lot less.

The new brake levers would keep the ergonomic shape of modern brakes. The Campagnolo Nuovo Record levers were small and not so comfortable, at least in old age.

I decided to buy Shimano 105, levers and crankset. I bought a new BB just because I’ve got everything apart and it doesn’t make sense to keep it when a new one is $24.

Shimano 105 costs half as much as Ultegra and will be fine for my needs.

The frame has no dents or cracks. It will outlive me, for sure.


Follow up: The front shifter has broken bits inside that caused the springs to stop working. That makes sense because I noticed more difficult shifting, but just figured it was old age. I need another lever to see which parts are broken.


4 Responses to “Shimano’s Ultegra sh**!@ levers”

  1. Matthew Liggett Says:

    Rivendell just came out with:

    Previously, from Dia-Compe:

    You’d still need clamp-on bosses.

  2. Ray Hosler Says:

    How about a modular shift mechanism (especially the right shifter) that can be removed and replaced by the home mechanic in a few simple steps when it wears out? I’m not necessarily against moving the shifters. I don’t want to have to pay $400 to replace a broken shifter. There are too many tiny parts that can break, and they’re made from flimsy materials. There is a better way.

  3. Jon Blum Says:

    As the functionality of drive-train components has improved, they have become more complex, in some cases less reliable, and far less compatible with other components. Shimano exemplifies this, but it’s not limited to their components. STI levers are not intended to be serviceable, they are intended to be replaceable. If they are too old, finding compatible parts can be a challenge. You’ve now got different cable pulls for road and mountain derailleurs, up to 12 speeds, hydraulic vs cable brakes, and varying brake cable pulls (not just derailleur cables), even on road levers. Good luck.

    On the other hand, most of the group is working well after 50,000 miles, which sounds pretty good to me!

    I believe the internal circuitry you mentioned must be related to an interface with their Flight Deck computers, which preceded Di2.

  4. Jay Says:

    A acquaintance of mine who is really, really obsessed (three PAC tours one calendar year, retired from engineering job to focus on cycling) told me that industry studies showed that the majority of road bikes sold never even reach 5,000 miles on the odometer–so extreme component longevity really isn’t a issue for most consumers. Considering the abuse it can endure, if a brifter can go for 50,000 miles with virtually no maintenance, I’d say that’s pretty impressive compared to most products I use.

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