Saturday, September 11, 2021

Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 vs Ultegra R8070 Hydraulic Brake Calipers

If you decide to get a new pair of hydraulic disc brake calipers for your disc brake road bike, you may be considering Ultegra or Dura-Ace brake calipers. In this post, let's take a look at the Dura-Ace BR-R9170 vs the Ultegra BR-R8070 brake calipers. What differences or similarities will they have?

New pair of Ultegra disc brake calipers, comes individually boxed. The front and rear boxes are different, but only in the accessories and not the caliper itself.

The front caliper comes with the adapter attached, for quick mounting to the front fork.

Different wording on the adapter of the older Dura-Ace brake caliper versus the newer adapter that came with the Ultegra brake caliper.

The first thing I noticed was how the wording on the adapter looks different from the previous Dura-Ace version that I had. The adapter itself is the same, but the wording is different.

Previously, it was labeled for diameter 140 mm rotor on one side, and for diameter 160 on the other side. This Flat Mount adapter can be flipped to allow the brake caliper to match either a 140 or 160 mm front rotor.

However, this new version of the adapter has an additional "or diameter 160 for 160/180 mount". After some background research, I found what it meant.

Originally, Flat Mount front fork mounts are sized for 140 mm rotors by default. The adapter allows it to be used with 140 mm or 160 mm rotors. However, there have been a move towards larger rotors for more stopping power, especially with gravel bikes.

Therefore, some fork or frame manufacturers started making the default mounting position on the front fork higher, to make it 160 mm by default, when the adapter is at "140 mm" position. If you want to use a larger 180 mm rotor, flip the adapter to the "160 mm" position. So, the adapter effectively allows you to run it at the default size (140 or 160 mm as designed by the fork manufacturer), or upsize it by 20 mm to either 160 mm or 180 mm rotors. Note that the adapter shape itself remains exactly the same.

Here it what it states on the other side of the new adapter.

Overall shape of the Ultegra brake caliper is very similar to the Dura-Ace brake calipers.

On the Ultegra brake caliper, there is an obvious joint line, where the two halves of the brake caliper meet.

If you have a chance to see a Dura-Ace R9170 brake caliper up close, you can see that there is no visible joint line along the perimeter. This is because the Dura-Ace brake caliper is first joined together, before it is machined along the joint line to make it look seamless. That is one reason why it is so expensive.

Next, let's place the brake calipers side by side for a better comparison.

Ultegra uses silver coloured bolts to join the two halves together, whereas Dura-Ace uses black coloured bolts for a more stealthy appearance.

Hose exit angle is the same. The caliper body of the Dura-Ace caliper is more rounded, while the Ultegra version is more angular. Nothing that affects function though.

There are some small differences in profile lines. Also note the different wording on the adapters.

I can't remember what this picture is supposed to show, because it was taken in November 2020 while I am writing this post in September 2021.

Weight of rear brake caliper, with mounting bolts and brake pad is 136 grams for Ultegra.

For Dura-Ace, it is slightly lighter by 10 grams, at 126 grams for the rear brake setup.

The brake pads and mounting bolts are exactly the same, so the weight difference comes entirely from the brake caliper itself. I am not sure where the 10 grams difference is from, it might be from the material of the two large bolts connecting the two halves of the brake caliper together.

In summary, the only detectable difference, other than the visual appearance, is a slightly lower weight on the Dura-Ace brake caliper. I believe the braking performance is the same. The smart money choice is definitely the Ultegra brake caliper, but some people just prefer the gloss black finish and the logo of the Dura-Ace brake caliper.

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