Shimano Ultegra 6800 wheelset - review - Road Cycling UK

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Shimano Ultegra 6800 wheelset – review

Excellent alloy upgrade wheels: stiff, durable and good value

Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 wheels are excellent upgrade wheels, offering plenty of stiffness, relatively low weight and a tubeless-ready rim, in a strong, durable and value-for-money sets of hoops.

A lot of cyclists immediately look to the wheels when it comes to a first upgrade. It’s for good reason, with those wheels specced on most entry-level and mid-range bikes doing little to set the world alight, and there’s often weight to be lost, stiffness to be gained, or both.

Shimano, despite being arguably the biggest brand name is cycling, aren’t renowned for their wheels; it’s the world domineering groupsets that are most celebrated. The Japanese firm’s wheels shouldn’t be over-looked, however. They’ve kept Team Sky rolling through a few Tour de France wins. In fact, in a bid to shine more light on the wheels, Shimano now try and tie all teams they provide with groupset components into a deal with also includes wheels, as well as finishing kit from the Pro subsidiary.

In the Shimano range, Ultegra on the sits second tier, beneath Dura-Ace. As is the case with any Shimano product, top of the line attributes have found their way down to more affordable kit, but with this wheelset, that’s only tells half the story.

The Ultegra 6800 wheelset has a tougher rim than Dura-Ace, despite being made from a similar lightweight alloy. Shimano have also opted for more muscle with a slightly thicker bladed spoke than the one on the Dura-Ace wheel.

  • Specification

  • Price: £329
  • Weight: 1,640g
  • Website: Shimano
  • UK distributor: Madison

The front wheel weighs 700g and is laced radially with 16 spokes. The rear comes in at 940g, giving a combined claimed weight of 1,640g, and has 20 straight pull spokes with a two-cross pattern. The rear rim is asymmetric to counter the uneven stresses the back wheel endures from power going down on the driveside.

This ensures greater rigidity, evident when you push hard on the pedals and nothing flexes out back. We don’t test stiffness in the RoadCyclingUK lab wearing white coats, we just set up the brakes so there’s only a cigarette paper’s width between the rim and the brake block, and had no problems with stiffness as far as the Ultegra wheels are concerned, despite the low spoke count.

Shimano are yet to produce a full carbon clincher, a bone of contention with some fans of the brand, seeing as flash hoops are often on the list of must-haves. One downside we’ve found with a carbon braking surface is performance in the wet, and while braking performance is certainly improving as the technology matures and improves, alloy rims, like those here, do tend to be more consistent regardless of the conditions. Braking on these wheels, either in the wet or the dry, is unswerving.

The rim measures 20.8mm externally, which isn’t particular wide by today’s standards, and inside there aren’t any spokes for the holes, meaning they’re ready for tubeless tyres straight out of the box. We ran the wheels with standard clinchers and found the tyres as easy to fit onto the rim as normal; nothing was hampered by the tubeless design. Reassuring should you puncture on a cold, wet club run, when your mates are secretly hoping you’ll get a move on before hypothermia sets in.

Consider the whole package - including rim width and tubeless compatibility besides rim depth and weight
Consider the whole package - including rim width and tubeless compatibility besides rim depth and weight
Shimano Ultegra wheelset (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

What has always appealed to us in the past with Shimano wheels is their durability. It’s difficult to make a call on genuine long-term durability over the course of a review, but we fully expect these wheels to provide fuss-free performance. They’re well-built, strong, and we can draw on years of using and abusing Shimano wheels through all seasons. But there’s also more to it than that.

Shimano don’t do svelte freehub bodies made from soft alloy. instead they opt for steel. It’s tougher, which means they don’t suffer from the cassette cutting into it, like an alloy freehub body can. There’s a minor weight trade-off but we’d take the benefits over whatever you’re saving on the scales. Speaking of which, at 1,640g the Ultegra wheels are about right for the money, and if you’re upgrading from the stock wheels found on your bike when you bought it, you could find yourself saving a couple of hundred grams.

The hubs on these Shimano wheels use the same tool-free cone adjustment as the top-end Dura-Ace hoops, which means that if they do need some attention, they couldn’t be more simple to adjust. Inside the alloy hub is a fuss-free cup and cone-bearing setup. Again, nothing fancy, just a straight forward, tried and tested method of keeping the wheels in motion. Finally, Shimano also provide the wheels with a couple of spare spokes, which is handy should you need to replace one.

Conclusion

People will pay a lot of money for state-of-the-art carbon rims and ceramic bearings, but sometimes we need a good value wheel that will do the job, whatever’s demanded of it. All year round. Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 wheels fit the bill and are also an excellent set of upgrade wheels for riders who want something fuss-free and reliable, whether it’s for training, racing or sportive riding.

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Built to last
  • Tubeless ready
  • Fuss-free performance

Cons

  • You’ve got us on this one

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