Ultegra vs 105...chains and cassettes

My gravel bike has GRX Di2 so I feel like it “should” have Ultegra level chains and cassettes, but is there any benefit other than weight?

Cassette: From what I can tell, the Ultegra might have a nicer looking lock ring and save some grams. Is there any noticeable difference in durability? I’m not worried about 30 or 50 grams. The Ultegra cassette is close to double the price.

Chain: From a Google search, the only difference between them is that the 105 chain has this treatment on the roller link plates (the inner ones) only while the Ultegra chain has it on the pin link plates (the outer ones) too. Does this matter once you’ve cleaned the chain? Any difference in durability? Ultegra chains seem to run about $40 vs 105 $30 so it’s not a huge difference.

Thanks everyone!!!

Cassettes are only weight. Chains gain more Sil-Tec coating on more parts. Personally I run a Dura Ace chain on my otherwise all Ultegra road bike. I’ve heard the Ultegra chains are longer lasting which may be better for gravel.

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Apart from weight there’s no noticeable difference between the two.

And as far as the chains go, the treatment is applied to the metal and doesn’t “wash out” once you’ve cleaned the chain (think of it like Teflon coating on a frying pan). It does however give certain waxes a hard time adhering if you’re doing that stuff. That said my DA chain has no problems with Silca Super Secret, and I think their Synergetic is fine with it too (that’s the one they recommend for gravely dirty stuff)

The primary benefit here probably accrues to Shimano: customers paying more money for (quite possibly) less durable components, so as to keep everything “matching”.

Memo to Marketing Dept: “mission accomplished”. :wink:

NB not knocking anyone spending money on bike stuff - it all makes the world’s economy go round, so all power to your elbow if that’s your choice. But those marketers do know their craft and we are putty in their hands. :smiley:

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Well, there are no chains to be found anywhere, so this conversation is moot for the moment. Just grab whatever chain you find and be thankful!!

(Kinda kidding, but kinda not)


@Power13 I found some and wanted to stock up lol

@Cleanneon98 Thanks for the info…seems like it’s worth getting the better chain if I can find them

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HOARDER!!! Get him!!!

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Hahaha…I’m basically this guy with Shimano chains

All kidding aside I want to buy an extra chain or 2


It’s the only time where the price jump isn’t too bad. I got my DA chains for $40 a piece

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BTW if you’re in the US REI has chains and there’s a 20% coupon for members.


Last time I bought, 105 chain came with a joining pin and Ultegra came with a quick link. Bit easier to fit.

I found 126 link chains so stockpiled a handful of those, maybe i can take all the extra removed to make one more chain

Sounds like a lot of quick links too close together. I make keychains out of my extras

I’ve never bought an Ultegra chain but I switched to KMC or Sram because of the joining pin hassle. It was 10 + years ago so 105 might have a quick link now but I couldn’t say.

Both the Ultegra and 105 cassettes seem to be reported as having a nickel plating. I have examples of both, and the 105 cogs definitely have a different surface finish than Ultegra. I don’t recall anyone claiming a difference in the durability of the cogs or even stating how the finish is different. I’ve generally gone with 105 cassettes unless someone can show that there’s a detectable advantage to the Ultegra finish. I think Adam Kerin has said this subject is on his test plate, but he has been booked by several lube manufacturers for testing for some time.

Kerin has found a slight difference in durability for 105 vs Ultegra. I think someone else already stated that the Ultegra chains have low friction coatings on more parts of the chain, so that’s probably part of it. Thing is, it’s not a huge difference. I do wax my chain, and given the friction modifiers in the formula, I am not sure how critical the low friction coatings are. Historically, I have still gone with Ultegra and even DA chains; I believe Poertner mentioned that the DA chain consistently tests the fastest by a hair over Ultegra and other chains.

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I was annoyed by the inconsistency of Shimano’s availability, so I started using SRAM Red chains from Amazon on my Ultegra Di2 bike. They’re around $45.

But to answer your question directly, I don’t think there’s much practical difference among the different chains. Doesn’t matter how durable a coating is if chain stretch is the proverbial weak link (no pun intended). If Red chains were $100, I’d think twice, but they’re not.


I’d actually be curious to see ZFC test a few of the more modern waxes on a few different chains. Their chain longevity test definitely has some outliers (sram 12s red/x01/XX1). It’s actually interesting that the Eagle X01/XX1 is the longest lasting chain they had tested and the Eagle GX was towards the :poop: end of the scale

Due to being paranoid about stock and having a short memory, I bought several chains. And, by coincidence, they are all different. I am about to replace my chainrings soon with a Absolute Black oval 50/34, and will swap in a new Ultegra 11-28 cassette too. All the chains are waxed now. So I will be comparing a 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace, Wippermann Connex, and KMC X11SL as I rotate them out. I’ll report back in a year or two :rofl:


I bought chain on a reel. I got 3936 links of kmc x9 for £19.50 :grinning: