Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dura-Ace 9000 vs Ultegra 6800: Rear Derailleur and Front Derailleur

During the upgrading of the components on the Merida Scultura 5000 from Ultegra 6800 to Dura-Ace 9000, I found that it was the perfect chance to compare the components from these two groupsets. After removing the Ultegra components from the bike, and before installing the Dura-Ace components, I could compare each of the components in detail.

Starting with the Rear Derailleur and the Front Derailleur in this blog post, I will mainly be highlighting the physical differences found between Ultegra 6800 and Dura-Ace 9000. This should give a good idea on whether it is worth paying the price difference to upgrade from Ultegra to Dura-Ace.

Dura-Ace 9000 RD and Ultegra 6800 RD. Both are short cage versions.

Similar construction, with an aluminium outer link and inner link.

Carbon pulley cage on the Dura-Ace RD for weight savings, as compared to aluminium cage on the Ultegra RD.

Full hollow titanium B Axle on the Dura-Ace RD, as compared to the Ultegra RD which only has a small hole on the stainless steel B axle.

Both the pulleys on the Dura-Ace RD uses sealed bearings, while the Ultegra RD uses bushing for the upper pulley, and sealed bearing for the lower pulley.

197 grams for the Ultegra 6800 Short Cage RD, which is a nice low weight

The Dura-Ace 9000 RD goes one step further and is even more lightweight, at only 160 grams for the short cage version!

Moving on to the Front Derailleur, let's compare the Dura-Ace 9000 FD with the Ultegra 6800 FD. In this case, I am comparing the braze on version of the Dura-Ace FD with the clamp band version of the Ultegra FD, so the weight comparison will not be accurate.

Dura-Ace 9000 FD on the left, Ultegra 6800 FD on the right. Similar construction.

The surface finishing on the Dura-Ace FD is smoother than on the Ultegra FD. Both have the plastic skid plate on the inside of the chain guide.

Similar rear view. Dura-Ace FD on the left has an aluminium chain guide for weight savings.

Different cable fixing bolt design. Dura-Ace FD on the left has a special notched spacer to clip onto the two cable fixing positions, while the Ultegra FD uses a standard round spacer under the cable fixing bolt.

Dura-Ace FD on the top, with a screw linking the outside and inside of the chain guide. This screw is to allow the FD chain guide to be opened up, which will allow the chain to be removed or installed on the bike without breaking the chain to pass through the FD.

Clamp band type of Ultegra 6800 FD, weighs 105 grams.

To get a more accurate weight comparison of the Dura-Ace 9000 FD, this clamp band adapter should be fixed to the Dura-Ace braze on FD. This adapter weighs about 20 grams.

Weight of Dura-Ace 9000 braze on FD + clamp band adapter is 85 grams, still lighter than the Ultegra FD

My conclusion is that the main differences between Dura-Ace and Ultegra RD and FD are the weight and surface finishing. Dura-Ace components are more lightweight and also look better with top grade anodizing. However, Ultegra components cost only half of Dura-Ace, and yet has almost the same performance as Dura-Ace. The sensible and logical choice is Ultegra, but if you can afford it, go ahead and get Dura-Ace if that is what makes you happy.

Next up, the crankset of Dura-Ace 9000 and Ultegra 6800 will be compared.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Merida Scultura 5000: Frameset Weight

After completing the latest upgrade on the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike, I have changed almost all the components on the bike. Only a few components have not been changed, such as the Ultegra 6800 road shifters, the stock Merida stem and seatpost and also the bar tape. Even so, I have also weighed those parts, and now I have a complete list of the components with their individual weights.

With that info in hand, I can then calculate the weight of the Merida Scultura frameset, by deducting the total component weight from the full bike weight.

View of the upgraded Merida Scultura 5000!

Mostly Dura-Ace 9000 components on the bike

As shown below, the weight of each of the components have been listed down.

Full component list and the weight of each of them

The full bike weighs 7.6 kg (7.2 kg without the pedals), which is a really nice weight for a road bike. It is not a super light bike that is less than the UCI standard 6.8 kg, but is definitely not a heavy road bike that is more than 9 kg.

After deducting the weight of all the components from the full bike weight, the remaining weight is around 1635 grams. This weight is inclusive of the frame, front fork, seatpost clamp, RD hanger, headset cups and bearings, stem spacers and lastly the stem top cap. To get the pure weight of the frameset alone, some estimation is required here. This amount will be deducted from the calculated value above to get the pure frameset weight.

Seatpost Clamp + RD Hanger: Around 50 grams
Headset Cups + Bearings: Around 70 grams
Stem Spacers + Stem Top Cap: Around 50 grams

This gives a frameset weight (frame + fork) of around 1465 grams, which is a decent weight for a mid range carbon frame. High end super lightweight carbon framesets can weigh less than 1000 grams, but they cost a lot more than this. If I estimate the front fork weight to be around 450 grams, this gives a frame-only weight of about 1000 grams.

All these are estimations, with some assumptions made along the way. They may not be very accurate, but it gives a rough estimate of the frameset weight and how it compares with other road frames.

From what I see, the only areas where there can be further significant weight reductions (>50 grams) would be the shifters, wheelset, QR axles, tires & tubes, cassette and pedals. The other components are pretty much as lightweight as possible, without sacrificing function.

Change to Dura-Ace ST-9001 Road Shifters: Save 60 grams
Change to lightweight tubular wheelset with titanium QR Axles: Save 500 grams
Change to tubular tires (no inner tubes): Save 200 grams
Change to Dura-Ace 9000 cassette: Save 50 grams
Change to lightweight pedals: Save 140 grams

If all these changes are implemented, there is further potential for weight savings, reducing another 950 grams, and cutting the full bike weight down to around 6.7 kg with pedals, or 6.5 kg without pedals. This would make it a really lightweight bike, but also very expensive.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Merida Scultura 5000: Dura-Ace 9000 Crankset and Brake Calipers

After upgrading the rear derailleur and front derailleur on the Merida Scultura 5000 from Ultegra 6800 to Dura-Ace 9000, the next components that I want to upgrade would be the crankset and the brake calipers. Once again, I would like to emphasize that the Ultegra components are working perfectly fine, and the only reason that I changed to Dura-Ace components is to find out if there is a difference in terms of performance. There will definitely be some weight savings, but that is not the key purpose here.

On a full sized road bike with 700C wheels, most riders would be well suited to a compact 50/34T crankset, as it gives a gear range that is suitable for most road bike rides. Only the strongest riders such as the super-enthusiasts or professionals need the higher gearing of a standard 53/39T crankset. Most people will never max out the 50T front/11T rear gear combination on a 700C road bike, except on downslopes.

As such, a suitable gearing for the new Dura-Ace 9000 crankset would be the 50/34T compact crankset, which replaces the Ultegra 6800 50/34T compact crankset. Same gearing, just with a different design, weight and probably similar performance.

Dura-Ace 9000 crankset for 11 speed drivetrains, 50/34T compact chainrings

Silver and black anodised Hollowglide chainrings. Surprisingly few shifting ramps and pins.

Inner chainring is also marked, and it even has a machined groove under the gear teeth for maximum weight savings.

Smart looking silver/black appearance on this 4 arm crankset! This design is such that you will either love it or hate it.

Complete Dura-Ace 9000 crankset weighs only 615 grams, which is really lightweight for an aluminium crankset that is stiff and shifts well.

For comparison, the Ultegra 6800 crankset is about 60 grams heavier, at 677 grams. Still considered pretty lightweight, and has a good weight to price ratio.

Using a torque wrench on the crank arm clamp bolts to ensure a proper tightening torque, so that the crank arms don't drop off while riding.

The PD-A530 pedals don't really match the crankset, but they are so versatile and are in use on many of my other bikes, such as the Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo, Avanti Inc 3 and Dahon MuEX.

Looking good with the Dura-Ace 9000 Front Derailleur as installed previously

Almost a full Dura-Ace 9000 drivetrain, with the exception of the Ultegra 6800 cassette.

After upgrading the crankset from Ultegra to Dura-Ace, the next component to upgrade would be the brake calipers. Let's see if there is any difference compared to Ultegra brake calipers.

Dura-Ace 9000 Brake Calipers. Supposedly the most powerful road brake calipers available.

Nice shiny hardware, polished and anodised. Magnesium brake pad holders.

Torx bolt heads, and I think they are made of titanium. The cable fixing bolt shown at the bottom is also made of titanium.

Spring tension adjustment bolt and centering adjustment bolt

A pair weighs 298 grams. Not the lightest available, but the additional power should be worth the extra weight.

Ultegra 6800 brake calipers, weighing more at 341 grams for the pair

Rear brake calipers installed!

Good clearance between the rear brake calipers and the Schwalbe One 25C tires

Front brake calipers installed

A bit lesser clearance as compared to the rear. Probably cannot use wider tires without causing interference.  

Merida Scultura 5000 upgraded with Dura-Ace/Ultegra components!

Looking good with high end components

Previously, when the RD and FD were upgraded from Ultegra to Dura-Ace, 50 grams were saved. This time, changing the crankset and brake calipers from Ultegra to Dura-Ace saved another 100 grams, giving a total weight saving of 150 grams.

Is it worth paying twice the price of Ultegra to get Dura-Ace components? Common sense says no, as the performance of Ultegra is almost the same as Dura-Ace, but at half the price. The weight savings are not that much for individual components, but they do add up, and you can save about 300 grams when upgrading a full Ultegra groupset to a full Dura-Ace groupset.

That is another reason why Ultegra components are so popular, as they offer great value and performance at a reasonable price. I have used both Ultegra components and now Dura-Ace components on the same bike, and so I can tell whether there is any noticeable difference between the two groupsets. The answer is, the functional and performance differences between Dura-Ace and Ultegra is so small that unless you are a pro rider or deal with road bikes everyday, you will not be able to tell the difference.

Finally, the full bike weight (without accessories such as lights, bottle cages, etc) is now 7.2 kg without pedals, and 7.6 kg inclusive of the PD-A530 pedals. This is a pretty good weight, but not featherlight. Looking back at the stock weight of this road bike, which was 8.2 kg (without pedals), it takes quite a lot of effort to remove 1 kg from the bike!

In my next blog post, I will estimate the frameset weight of the Merida Scultura 5000, using the full bike weight and deducting the weight of every single component on the bike. Since I have upgraded practically all the components on this Merida road bike, I know the weight of each component in detail.

To be continued here!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Merida Scultura 5000: Dura-Ace 9000 Front Derailleur and Rear Derailleur

The fastest bike that I have in my collection is no doubt the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike. If I want to go for a fast ride, this is the bike that I will choose. In this year's OCBC Cycle, I rode this Merida road bike for the 42km route, and it felt very good!

Previously, this road bike had already been upgraded to a full Ultegra 6800 groupset, up from the stock components. In fact, some components are already at Dura-Ace level, such as the bottom bracket and the 11 speed chain. As a predominantly Ultegra bike, it already performs very well, and for most riders, it is already good enough for everyday use. Unless you are a pro rider or very familiar with the components, it is difficult to tell the difference between an Ultegra groupset and a Dura-Ace groupset.

I recently had the chance to upgrade some components from Ultegra to Dura-Ace, and I took the opportunity to change out the components. Apart from some reduction in weight, I expect the performance of the Dura-Ace components to be similar to that of Ultegra.

The first components that I changed are the front derailleur and the rear derailleur. Going from Ultegra to Dura-Ace will yield some small weight savings, and perhaps give lighter shifting due to a more mechanically efficient FD and RD construction.

For the Dura-Ace 9000 FD that I have, it is a braze on type of FD, unlike the original Ultegra 6800 FD which is a clamp band type. This also means that there is no FD mount on this Merida frame.

I have read that it is more versatile to get a braze on FD, as it means that you can move it from bike to bike easily, regardless of the seat tube size, and whether it uses a built in braze on FD mount or does not have one. If the bike does not have a FD mount, you can always get a separate FD clamp of the suitable size to mount the braze on FD onto the frame. That is exactly what I did, using a separate FD adapter to install the braze on FD.

Official Shimano FD adapter, for mounting braze on FD onto frames with no FD mounting

Originally designed for the Dura-Ace Di2 7970 FD, this will also work for most other FD. I got the M sized clamp band which has a clamp diameter of 31.8mm.

Dura-Ace 9000 Front Derailleur, which is the first FD with the revolutionary long arm design that greatly reduces the shifting force required.

Rear view of the FD, with the support bolt visible in the middle, which helps to stiffen up the FD when mounted on the frame. High quality hardware for maximum corrosion resistance.

Hollow rivets and large cutout on the arm for maximum weight savings

Weighs only 65 grams on its own! A lot of the weight savings is from the aluminium chain guide

To use this braze on FD on the Merida frame, I need to mount the FD onto the FD adapter first as shown here

The support bolt can still be used, but it will touch the FD adapter instead of the frame

Together with the FD adapter, the whole FD assembly weighs 85 grams

For comparison, the original Ultegra 6800 FD weighs 105 grams (M size 31.8mm clamp band)

Seen as mounted on the frame! The bottle cage had to be removed first for FD installation

With the vertical gap between the chain guide and the chainring teeth maintained at 1-3mm, this Dura-Ace FD has been properly set up!

After setting up the new front derailleur, the next component to change would be the rear derailleur. Let's take a look at the new Dura-Ace 9000 RD.

Two tone silver and black anodising. Hollow B axle bolt for weight savings.

Inside view of the RD. Cutouts are made wherever possible for maximum weight savings.

Cable adjust bolt with a plastic nose to prevent damage to the inner cable during usage. Also present on the other new RD of lower grades.

Carbon outer and inner plates for more weight savings! However, this might be more prone to damage as compared to aluminium plates.

This Dura-Ace 9000 short cage rear derailleur weighs only 160 grams!

The original Ultegra 6800 short cage RD weighs 197 grams, which is actually also pretty lightweight.

As mounted on the bike!

Upgrading the FD and RD from Ultegra to Dura-Ace grade has saved about 50 grams, which is actually quite little. This difference cannot be felt at all when riding or even carrying the bike.

So far, the RD, FD, BB and chain are of Dura-Ace grade, while the brake calipers, crankset, shifters and cassette are of Ultegra grade. This mixing of the groupset is acceptable as they are compatible with each other, since they are from the same generation and have the same number of speeds.

In the next part of this upgrade, more components will be changed from Ultegra to Dura-Ace grade!