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!

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