As soon as Shimano 105 inherited the equally smooth and precise 11-speed gearing from its Ultegra sibling, we were eagerly waiting for the more affordable groupset to get hydraulic disc brakes. They’ve arrived, but aren’t necessarily the no-brainer bargain we’d been hoping for.
Compared with Ultegra R685 STI levers the 505s are longer, lower and more like Shimano’s non-hydraulic levers, with a familiar fit in the crook of your thumb and palm. But the more accessible bleed port – a good thing – creates a very obvious square-edged bulge where the base of your palm curves around.
At this point your hand shape and size becomes crucial in whether these are the brakes for you. Some of our testers loved the shape and reported no problems while others found it uncomfortable compared with cable 105 or hydraulic Ultegra. With a bit of wrist shifting, most of our riders found a bearable hand position on smoother roads, but if at all possible we’d suggest you try a bike fitted with the brakes before parting with your cash.
The opinion-splitting fit is a real shame, as performance is otherwise very similar to the excellent Ultegra R685s. The lever pivot is slightly further away from the bar but the lever swing is very similar and you’re still able to adjust both bite point and reach.
Slightly smaller brake pads than Ultegra don’t obviously affect power or modulation and you still get heat-dumping fins for extended descents. They come with the new road-specific Flat Mount as standard (with a post-mount front adaptor) but you can get the 505 levers with post-mount brakes too.
Shift lever throw is also the same as Ultegra, so performance across the gears is equally precise, smooth and light in action. At only 27g heavier than the 685/785 pairing (913g vs 886g without hoses and pads) but £100 cheaper, the alloy levers of the 505 are a more cost-effective option than Ultegra’s carbon. Overall control and adjustment-free performance is well worth the extra £120 over a 105 cable disc setup if you can stretch your spend too.
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