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This article compares two mid-range electronic road bike groupsets: Shimano Ultegra Di2 and SRAM Force AXS.
As a dedicated Shimano Di2 user, I recently had the opportunity to try out SRAM’s Force AXS groupset (unfortunately, not the latest ones yet), and I’m excited to share my experience with you in this article.
Both groupsets are great choices, offering top-notch performance and reliability.
However, the best one for you ultimately depends on your unique needs, preferences, and budget.
Below, I’ll discuss key factors, such as shifting performance, ergonomics, customization, and overall value, that could help you decide between the two groupsets.
To ensure you make the most informed decision, I highly recommend giving both groupsets a test ride before committing to one.
Abbreviations used: FD – front derailleur, RD – rear derailleur
Shimano Ultegra Di2 vs. SRAM Force AXS: Summary
The following table summarizes the most important features of these two groupsets.
|Feature||Shimano Ultegra Di2||SRAM Force AXS|
|Power meter crankset available||Yes||Yes|
|Satellite shifters compatibility||Yes||Yes¹|
|Launched||August 2021||March 2023|
¹You can use wireless satellite shifters.
Pros and Cons
Let’s now take a look at their pros and cons.
|Shimano Ultegra Di2||SRAM Force AXS|
|Pros||• More reliable|
• Better front derailleur shifting
|• Fully wireless
• More user-friendly smartphone app that offers more data
• More affordable
• More reliable power meter
|Cons||• More expensive|
• Less user-friendly mobile app that offers less data
• Less reliable power meter
|• Less reliable
• Worse front derailleur shifting
Shifting is the most critical function of cycling groupsets, and it’s where these two groupsets differ the most.
The first difference is in the shifting system. Shimano Di2 has two buttons on both levers. The left lever shifts the front derailleur, and the right lever shifts the rear derailleur. Ultegra also has one hidden button in each lever (unlike Shimano 105 Di2).
TIP: Check out this comparison of Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra vs. Dura-Ace Di2.
SRAM approaches shifting differently. It is simpler. Each shifter has only one button. To shift the front derailleur, you press them at once. Shifting the rear gears is done by pressing the left or right button.
Each groupset has its supporters. I encourage you to try out both to determine which one is a better fit for you. Personally, I’m more familiar with Shimano, yet I find SRAM to be quite user-friendly.
Now let’s discuss shifting speed for a moment. Both groupsets perform similarly in this aspect. That said, SRAM has faced some criticism for its front derailleur shifting, which isn’t as precise, seamless, and reliable as Shimano’s.
On the other hand, SRAM Force boasts better chain management. The rear derailleur’s spring maintains chain tension, preventing chain slap when riding on bumpy roads or cobblestones.
A notable distinction between Ultegra Di2 and Force AXS is that Ultegra Di2 is semi-wireless, while Force AXS is completely wireless.
With Ultegra, cables connect the battery (concealed in the seatpost) to the front and rear derailleurs. There are no cables between the shift levers and the battery since they are integrated into the levers.
TIP: You might be interested in the SRAM vs. Shimano comparison.
In contrast, SRAM’s system is fully wireless. The shifters, front and rear derailleurs, each have their own batteries, which can be swapped between the front and rear derailleurs as necessary. These batteries are compatible with all SRAM road groupsets.
The wireless groupset offers an advantage, especially for those looking to build their own bike, as the installation process is simpler. You only need to route the brake cables through the frame.
We’ve grown accustomed to “traditional” gears on road bikes for many years. However, as illustrated in the image below, SRAM has revolutionized the concept with its X-range gearing.
The design aims to reduce the need for frequent front chainring shifts. SRAM accomplished this by downsizing the chainring while simultaneously expanding the gear range of the cassette.
For completion, here is the table showing the available chainring and cassette options:
|SRAM (X-Range)||Shimano (traditional, road)|
|Chainrings||50/37, 48/35, 46/33T||53/39, 52/36, 50/34T|
|Cassettes||10-26, 10-28, 10-33, 10-36T||11-23, 11-25, 11-28, 11-30, 11-32, 11-34, 11-36T|
The Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset is heavier than its mechanical predecessor (R8000). The R8000 groupset weighs around 2503g (about 200g less than the mechanical Shimano 105 R7020), while the R8100 weighs about 2716g.
Surprisingly, despite being wireless, the wireless SRAM Force groupset is slightly heavier (~50g) than Ultegra.
The overall design influences functionality and aerodynamics. But I will leave this topic to engineers. I’ll be solely evaluating the looks.
Personally, I’m more drawn to Shimano’s design. The previous generation of the SRAM Force was not very appealing, so it was also one of the things SRAM focused on. They completely redesigned the front chainrings.
They look much cooler now, what do you think? On the other hand, it will probably be a hassle to clean it.
Winner: It’s a draw
Ergonomics is essential to me. Having shifters that fit comfortably in my hands during long rides helps prevent discomfort (eventually, getting blisters) and enhances the overall riding experience.
Previous generations of SRAM Force had bulky levers, but the latest ones are now slimmer. While Force remains somewhat bulkier than Ultegra, both fit well in hands.
Winner: It’s a draw
The braking experience is quite similar for both groupsets, unlike mountain bike groupsets, where the braking dosage varies slightly.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to test both sets side by side, nor have I found a comprehensive braking test.
However, we can expect similar performance based on the results from Shimano 105 Di2 and SRAM Rival AXS.
Winner: It’s a draw
Satellite shifters are a valuable accessory for climbers or time trialists, as they eliminate the need to move your hand to change gears. Unlike Shimano 105 Di2, the Shimano Ultegra Di2 supports them because it does have an accessory port.
SRAM Force lacks this port, but you can still connect wireless satellite shifters to the system.
Both groupsets offer Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity. However, SRAM’s mobile app is more user-friendly and delivers more information than Shimano’s.
As a result, if you’re interested in tracking the miles ridden on each gear or want to quickly reconfigure the buttons, SRAM is the better choice.
Both groupsets also come with a power meter. But it’s worth noting that Shimano power meters don’t have the best reputation, unlike Quarq power meters found on SRAM groupsets.
For this reason, I recommend using one of these proven power meters with the Shimano groupset.
In terms of cost, SRAM holds an advantage. The Shimano Ultegra R8100 is priced at around $2500 (excluding a power meter).
Meanwhile, the SRAM Force AXS has maintained a relatively consistent price, costing you only about $2100.
This makes it a more affordable option than the Ultegra, even when purchased with a power meter and satellite shifters.
Total Score: Shimano (2), SRAM (4), It’s a draw (3)
Shimano Ultegra Di2 vs. SRAM Force AXS: FAQ
Considering the smaller price difference between Ultegra and Force compared to 105 and Rival, making a final decision becomes more challenging.
Although SRAM scores higher points, the smaller price gap may not be enough to convince you of Force’s better value. (NOTE: For many potential customers, Shimano groupsets are simply too expensive.)
Which of these two groupsets appeals to you more? And if you didn’t have the opportunity to try both, which would you choose? Let me know in the comments.