Stock Merida Comp 24 wheelset
Front wheel weighs 940 grams, which is heavy for a road bike front wheel!
Rear wheel weighs 1190 grams, which is also heavy for a rear wheel.
Stock QR skewers. Not a good design, as you can read more in this article.
The total weight of the stock Merida wheelset (including rim tape) is 2130 grams, which is considered really heavy for a set of 700C road bike wheels. This is partly due to the high number of spokes on each wheel (32 spokes). It is likely that the rims and hubs are also on the heavier side, which contributes to the overall weight.
Since this stock wheelset is heavy, finding a lighter wheelset is not difficult, and it will reduce the weight of the bike by a fair bit. There is such a wide variety of road wheelsets available that it is difficult to choose. There are low profile wheelsets that are lightweight and good for climbing, and high profile wheelsets that are focused on aerodynamics.
Function-wise they are quite similar, but differ mainly in weight, appearance and of course pricing. Prices can range from $300 for a decent wheelset to $3000 or more for a high profile carbon wheelset. For me, my priority is to get an affordable and lightweight wheelset to replace the heavy stock wheelset.
I found that the Shimano Ultegra 6800 wheelset is actually available at an affordable price of less than $400 from CRC. The claimed weight is 1640 grams which is almost 500 grams lighter than the stock wheelset! Most importantly, it also allows me to complete the Ultegra groupset with the Ultegra wheels. To reduce another 200 grams of weight will require forking out close to $1000 for a wheelset, an amount which I am not prepared to pay.
Ultegra 6800 front wheel
Ultegra 6800 11 speed rear wheel
Comes with a 1.85mm spacer if you want to install a 8/9/10 speed cassette on the 11 speed freehub body.
2 spoke wrenches are provided. The slotted end holds the bladed spoke while the other end turns the spoke nipple.
Ultegra quick release skewers!
Very nice finishing on these QR levers
These QR skewers use an internal cam mechanism to tighten the skewers.
Weighs 120 grams, not lightweight. Same weight as the stock QR skewers.
Tubeless valves are provided with this wheelset
These Ultegra rims are tubeless ready, which means that they can use tubeless tires without needing any special sealing rim tape. If you are using normal clincher tires with inner tubes, no rim tape is required since there are no spoke holes to cover.
Both the front and rear wheels come with valves for tubeless tires
The pair of valves weigh 14 grams. Since I am using the Schwalbe One clincher tires, I won't be needing these valves.
Ultegra front wheels weigh 720 grams, 220 grams lighter than the stock front wheel
Rear wheel weighs 940 grams, 250 grams lighter than the stock rear wheel
After deducting the weight of the tubeless valves, this Ultegra 6800 wheelset weighs about 1650 grams, which is just slightly above the claimed weight of 1640 grams. Also, it is a huge 480 grams lighter than the stock Merida wheelset! There is no other component on the bike where you can save so much weight with a single upgrade.
Ultegra series wheelset
Tubeless ready rims, no spoke holes on the rim means no rim tape is required
Reinforced spoke holes for the spoke nipples
Valve hole appears to be slightly offset to one side on the rear wheel, due to the asymmetric rear rim profile
Hidden spoke holes and lightweight looking cutouts on the hub flanges.
16 straight pull spokes on the front wheel. This is half the number of spokes when compared to the stock front wheel (32 spokes).
Ultegra logo printed prominently in the middle of the hub shell
Ultegra rear hub, 20 straight pull spokes
11 speed compatible freehub body. Freehub body is made of steel for durability and to prevent the cassette from cutting into the freehub body.
For Ultegra and Dura-Ace hubs, there is a feature called "Digital Click Bearing Adjustment". This means that it is easy to adjust the pre-load of the bearings by rotating the cone of the bearing unit. The only tools required are 2 x size 5 Allen keys to loosen the end caps of the hub, no cone wrenches required.
Adjustment of the bearing pre-load is possible only because loose cup and cone bearings are used in this hub. If adjusted correctly, this kind of ball bearing structure will last longer than cartridge type of ball bearings. The downside is heavier weight and probably less smooth rotation.
When I received the wheelset, the rotation of the bearings felt a little rough. Therefore, I decided to adjust the bearing pre-load to see if I can make the ball bearings spin more smoothly.
To adjust the bearing pre-load, the first thing to do is to pry off the plastic dust cap. This can be done by inserting a sharp object into the slot at the side of the dust cap.
This is how it looks after the dust cap is removed. The next step is to remove the silver end caps to expose the adjustment cone underneath.
2 x size 5 Allen wrenches are needed to loosen the end caps. The end caps are tightened very tightly, thus I needed to use extra long wrenches and a lot of strength to loosen the end caps.
How it looks after the end cap and spacer (not shown) is removed. The cone can then be adjusted by hand to give the desired bearing pre-load.
After adjusting the cone, the hubs are able to spin smoother, as they were tightened just a bit too tightly when they came out of the factory. Time to install the wheels onto the bike!
Ultegra front wheel mounted onto the Merida road bike!
Ultegra rear wheel installed onto the road bike. I also had to move the Ultegra 6800 cassette over from the stock rear wheel.
Comparing the stock Merida front wheel with the new Ultegra front wheel. The Merida wheel has 32 spokes, which is double the number on the Ultegra wheel.
The new Ultegra rear wheel has 20 spokes, as compared to 32 on the stock rear wheel. That said, the spoke lacing pattern on the stock Merida wheels are actually quite attractive.
Picture of the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike in stock condition.
Latest appearance of the Merida Scultura 5000!
To sum it up, here are the main differences between the stock Merida Comp 24 wheelset and the new Ultegra 6800 wheelset.
Merida Comp 24 Wheelset: 2130 grams
Ultegra 6800 Wheelset: 1650 grams
Number of spokes:
Merida Comp 24 Wheelset: 32 on front, 32 on rear
Ultegra 6800 Wheelset: 16 on front, 20 on rear
Number of freehub engagement per revolution:
Merida Comp 24 Wheelset: 15 points of engagement (One click every 24 degrees)
Ultegra 6800 Wheelset: 20 points of engagement (One click every 18 degrees)
*For comparison, the Wheelsport wheelset has 24 points of engagement, while the Chris King R45 rear hub has 45 points of engagement.
The rims on the Ultegra wheelset is also tubeless ready, which means that you can mount a tubeless tire on it without needing any sealing rim tape. Also, since there are no exposed spoke holes on the rim bed, there is no need to put on any rim tape when using a clincher tire with an inner tube.
I have tested these new Ultegra wheels for about a month, and there are some differences that can be felt when riding. Since I cycle commute to work, I take roughly the same route every day, at about the same time. This means that external factors such as traffic, weather conditions, traffic lights are similar for most of the testing.
Therefore, the only differences would be the bike that I ride and my physical condition. As I ride relatively short distances regularly, my physical condition is quite stable, with no big differences in power or fatigue. After repeating the same route with different bikes and components, any differences in speed (calculated by a speedometer) and power requirement (estimated) would be quite obvious to me.
These new Ultegra wheels definitely accelerate better and get up to speed faster and more easily than the stock Merida wheels. Where the stock Merida wheels feel a bit lethargic and heavy during acceleration, the Ultegra wheels feel really light and responsive when accelerating.
Both the stock Merida wheels and new Ultegra wheels perform similarly when maintaining a cruising speed of around 30-32 km/h. I don't really notice any difference during cruising, as both set of wheels are able to maintain the speed quite well.
The Ultegra wheelset feels stiffer and is able to hold the line very well when cornering, whereas the stock Merida wheels can feel a bit uncertain when cornering hard.
I have rode up NTU slopes on these wheels, and they feel really responsive when powering up the slopes. Even though this road bike does not have as low a gear as my Dahon Boardwalk, it is actually easier to climb the slopes on this bike due to the light overall weight of the bike.
Merida Comp 24 wheelset
Ultegra 6800 wheelset
Overall, the differences in these wheelsets are not as great as I expected. I had expected big differences in acceleration and cruising speed, but the final result is that although there is a difference during acceleration, cruising performance remain similar.
I would say that this new set of Ultegra wheels is a nice upgrade for the Merida Scultura 5000, as it improves the acceleration of the bike and also reduces the weight of the bike by almost half a kg. For the price of less than $400, it is great value for money. However, I would say that although it is good enough for an enthusiast rider like me, it will not be light or aerodynamic enough for someone to ride more competitively. For that, you will have to look for lighter and faster wheelsets that will cost a few times more than this set of Ultegra wheels.
With that, there is only one more component left, to fully complete the Ultegra groupset on this road bike!