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!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wheelsport Ultegra Di2 2x11 Speed: Part 6 - Accessories and Geometry Comparison

Part 1: Frame Design and Carbon Fork
Part 2: Compatibility Check for Wheelset and Brake Calipers
Part 3: Component Selection
Part 4: Installation Issues and Solutions
Part 5: Final Assembly

With the successful assembly of the Wheelsport Fantasy Ultegra Di2 2x11 Speed Mini Velo, I now have a new bike to ride! This bike replaces the Dahon Boardwalk which has served me extremely well these few years. It was the bike that kick started all these bike upgrading, and helped me learnt so much about bicycles.

Now, on my daily commute to work, I generally rotate between three bikes. The Merida Scultura 5000 road bike, this new Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo, and the Avanti Inc 3 wet weather bike. If the weather is dry and good, I will use the Merida road bike or the Wheelsport mini velo. Occasionally, I will ride the Dahon MuEX Di2 folding bike. Otherwise, if there is wet weather, I will use the all weather Avanti Inc 3 as my commuting bike.

I like to have some accessories on all my bikes, such as lights or mounts for a cycle computer. Also, I find it important to bring along spares and tools, which means the use of a saddle bag or a tool bottle. On this Wheelsport mini velo, I will also need to bring along spares and tools, but I don't want to use a saddle bag as it will spoil the look of the bike for me. Another reason for eliminating the saddle bag is so that I can mount the Fly 6 rear light + camera on the seat post. In this case, the elegant way is to use a tool bottle to carry the stuff, like how it is done on the Merida road bike.

The problem is, the Wheelsport Fantasy frame only comes with one set of bottle cage mounting holes, which is located on the downtube. This is where the water bottle will be mounted, so I need to find somewhere else for the tool bottle. My solution for this is to create an extra set of mounting holes on the seat tube.

Only one set of bottle cage mounting holes on the downtube as shown, no bottle cage mounting anywhere else.

Using this add-on bottle cage mounting, extra bottle cage mounting holes can be strapped onto almost any part of the bike frame

Turning the red plastic piece will miraculously tighten the cable tie, through the ingenious use of a special spiral gear that works like a worm gear.

One set weighs only 29 grams, very simple and effective

Installed on the seat tube of the Wheelsport frame. The challenge is to put it as low as possible, but also not interfere with the FD or the Di2 battery.

With the new mount, a Merida bottle cage was used to hold the PRO tool bottle and the Lezyne Pressure Drive hand pump

Managed to fit everything I wanted into the compact triangle of the frame!

I am glad that I managed to make this work, so that I can use a tool bottle to carry the spares and tools. However, it must be noted that due to the limited space, it is quite impossible to use a water bottle here, unless it is a really short water bottle, or if the bottle cage allows sideways access.

Next, I would also like to mount the Garmin Edge 510 cycle computer and the Shimano Sport Camera on this bike. To mount these two accessories on the bike, I had previously used the K-Edge Aero mount on the Merida road bike. However, the K-Edge mount was expensive, and I did not want to spend so much again on a K-Edge mount. Luckily, I managed to find a similar one on Taobao which is half the price.

Garmin plus GoPro combo mount from Taobao, works similarly to the K-Edge design

Bottom side of the mount. The mount can be pushed further outwards as required to accommodate the larger Garmin Edge 1000.

A bit heavier than the K-Edge mount, as more material is used on this mount

Seen as mounted on the bike, with the Garmin on top and the Shimano camera below

As neat as possible, without taking up too much space on the handlebar

The most important accessories are the lights, which is necessary for safety, especially when riding in the dark. My current favourite lights are the D-Light USB rechargeable front and rear lights, as they are so small and lightweight, and yet bright enough for on road riding usage.

D-Light rear light, fits perfectly into the small triangle formed by the top tube, seat tube and seat stays. This is the perfect place for a rear light.

Pair of D-Light front lights, mounted the same way as on the Merida road bike.

All the accessories have been installed on the bike! Now, I would like to compare the geometries of this new Wheelsport mini velo with the Merida road bike. Both are built to go fast, and the riding geometry should be similar for me. As always, I use the bottom bracket of both the bikes as the datum for alignment, before comparing them. I had previously compared the Dahon Boardwalk to the Merida Scultura 5000, and now it will be the Wheelsport Fantasy Mini Velo against the Merida road bike.

Aligning the bottom bracket of the bikes to each other

One concern that I have is the ground clearance for the crankarm when cornering. This Wheelsport mini velo frame is designed for 451 wheels, but I have installed 406 wheels which are smaller. This will put the crankarm and pedals closer to the ground during cornering. For comparison, I have measured the BB to ground distance for my other bikes. This distance is somewhat affected by the type of tires used, as wider tires are also taller than narrower tires.

BB to Ground Height:
Wheelsport Fantasy Ultegra Di2 2x11 Speed: 267mm
Dahon MuEX and Dahon Vitesse: 284mm
Merida Scultura 5000: 275mm
Avanti Inc 3: 274mm

Based on the measurements, Dahon folding bikes actually have a pretty high BB to ground distance. The Merida road bike has a BB to ground distance that is almost the same as the Avanti Inc 3, so I guess this is pretty much the standard for a bike meant to be ridden on road. I expect off-road mountain bikes to have more clearance with the ground, to clear obstacles and also to allow for suspension sag.

This leaves the BB to ground distance for the Wheelsport mini velo as the lowest of the lot. It is about 7mm lower than the next lowest. Will this cause pedal strike when I corner more with the Wheelsport mini velo? It is hard to tell until I try it. That said, I have never had pedal strike issues with any of the bikes mentioned above.

Merida bike has a 405mm chainstay length (from the website), while the Wheelsport frame has a 420mm chainstay length (measured). Will this give the mini velo more stability at high speed compared to the road bike?

Wheelsport frame has a BB to front hub length of 580mm, about the same as the Merida road bike

Saddle on the Wheelsport mini velo is set slightly lower than that on the Merida, as the BB height is also lower. Reach from the saddle to the pedals should be similar.

Saddle on the Wheelsport mini velo is set slightly further back, to give sufficient space between the stem and the nose of the saddle for me to stand in.

Handlebar on the Wheelsport mini velo is at about the same reach as the Merida, but is located about 30mm higher.

Slightly higher and nearer reach for the Wheelsport mini velo as compared to the Merida road bike

With this geometry comparison, it can be seen that the geometry of the Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo is quite similar to the Merida road bike. Apart from the slighter shorter reach on the mini velo (with a less aggressive riding posture), most other distances are similar. This also means that this mini velo will feel much like a road bike in terms of riding posture. The only thing left to do now is to ride the bike and enjoy it!

Further improvements were made later on, click here for Part 7!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wheelsport Ultegra Di2 2x11 Speed: Part 5 - Final Assembly

Part 1: Frame Design and Carbon Fork
Part 2: Compatibility Check for Wheelset and Brake Calipers
Part 3: Component Selection
Part 4: Installation Issues and Solutions

Finally, with all the unexpected installation issues solved, I can continue the assembly of the Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo! Those issues put the assembly of this bike on hold for two weeks as I had to wait for the parts of the custom FD mount to arrive from Taobao.

As planned earlier, I will be moving most of the components from the Dahon Boardwalk over to this new frame. This includes the Chris King custom wheelset and the Ultegra Di2 2x11 speed drivetrain.

In the previous post, I was about one-third of the way through this bike assembly, and today, I will complete the full bike assembly and also show the full component list for this mini velo. The drivetrain components (RD, FD, Cassette, Crankset, Chain) have already been installed, and the next step is to move on to the handlebar area.

Using the aluminium Fizik Cyrano R1 stem, the FSA K-Force Compact Carbon Road Handlebar was installed with no problem. These are considered lightweight components with a combined stem plus handlebar weight of only 330 grams.

FSA handlebar on Fizik stem. Subtle black decals on the Fizik stem.

With the Ultegra Di2 shifters already installed, but before connecting the brake cables and the shifter Di2 wires

To minimise friction from the brake inner cable rubbing against the hole edges of the metal cable end caps, I used the type of end cap with a plastic tube at the end. Polymer coated brake inner cables were also used to minimise friction.

Not very visible, but the black plastic tube just manages to poke out of the end of the cable adjust bolt. This ensures that there is no metal to metal rubbing between the brake inner cable and other parts of the brake system.

With the brake cable routing determined by the stoppers on the frame, it is simple to just follow the stoppers when installing the brake cables. However, this frame is designed for mechanical shifting, which means using steel inner cables to connect the shifters to the RD and FD. There are cable stoppers for the shifter cables, but since I am using Di2 shifting, I will not need to use those cable stoppers.

The challenge now is to find the best route for running the Di2 wires along the frame, with the objective of making it look clean and neat. Also, areas which will be touched by the hand or bike stand should be avoided to prevent damage to the Di2 wires.

Once again, it is time to use my creativity and experience from setting up two previous Di2 bikes (Dahon Boardwalk and Dahon MuEX) to find the best wire routing along this Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo frame. Each frame may require a different setup, as the frame design, type of usage and components used may be different.

In this case, it may be easier than the previous two bikes, as this is a non-folding bike, which means that I do not need to worry about how the Di2 wires will be affected by the fold.

The shifter inner cables are designed to run under the downtube of this frame, but I did not want to run the Di2 wires the same way. The disadvantage of running the cables or wires under the downtube is being exposed to all the dirt and water kicked up by the front wheel. Also, it will then have to pass under and behind the BB, which requires extra cable or wire length.

With the freedom of setting my own wire routing for the Di2 wires, I determined that the best way is to run the Di2 wires along the top tube, just beside the rear brake cable. This would keep the rest of the frame looking as neat as possible.

From Junction A, the Di2 wire runs along the rear brake outer casing, before reaching the top tube. Here, the Di2 wire runs along the top tube, secured in place by the special Di2 wire sticker guide.

At the other end, the Di2 wire rejoins the rear brake outer casing...

...before running down the back of the seat tube to Junction B.

Junction B is pasted and cable tied to the rear of the seat tube, same as how it is done on the Dahon Boardwalk and Dahon MuEX. The D-Fly wireless unit is fixed to the left chainstay using the supplied rubber band.

The D-Fly wireless unit is located in between the rear derailleur and Junction B. A black chainstay cover is used to help secure the Di2 wire and also protect the chainstay.

Final Di2 wiring layout on this Wheelsport mini velo. Same components as on the Dahon Boardwalk, but with a different wiring layout and some different wire lengths.

View of the Ultegra Di2 6870 FD and 6800 52/36T Crankset

Overall view of the Ultegra 2x11 speed drivetrain

Putting the lightweight Selle Italia saddle and the FSA SL-K seatpost in the frame

This seatpost has a unique clamp that can be reversed, such that it gives either 0mm offset or 15mm offset. Shown here is the 0mm offset condition, which is perfect for my usage.

With my favourite Lizard Skins bar tape wrapped and all ready to go!

No accessories installed on the bike yet

View from the front. A very clean handlebar area, with neat cabling. Junction A of the Di2 system is fixed to the rear brake cable.

View of the completed bike! I like the gold accents throughout the bike

With the full Ultegra Di2 groupset on this Wheelsport Fantasy mini velo.

It is as lightweight as it looks, weighing only 8.2kg including pedals.

Full part list of this bike. Lightweight at only 7.8kg without pedals! Barely 500 grams heavier than the upgraded Merida Scultura 5000 which is also equipped with Ultegra components.

Outdoor shot of the Ultegra Di2 2x11 speed drivetrain

Full view of the completed bike! On a test ride to check the function and position of the saddle.

The assembly of this mini velo is complete! However, there is still some more work to be done, which is to install the accessories, such as the lights and the extra bottle cage. If you look at the two pictures above, you will see an extra bottle cage attached to the seat tube. On the original frame, there are no screw bosses on the seat tube. To find out how it is done, wait for the next post in Part 6!

Click here for Part 6