Shimano's Ultegra-level WH-6800s are good all-round wheels for training and racing. They're strong, and tubeless-ready.
Given the jump to 11-speed for Ultegra, and the associated change in freehub design, Shimano had to produce a new pair of Ultegra-level wheels and the WH-6800s are the result. They have an all-alloy construction with 16 bladed spokes at the front and 20 at the back; they're radially laced on the front wheel and straight pull with a two-cross pattern to the rear.
|You can find Shimano WH-6800 Ultegra wheels online at Wiggle (who will also price match other deals you can find) or if you prefer to support your local bike shop you can find a Shimano dealer here.|
The hubs feature Shimano's angular contact bearings, labyrinth seals and tool-free bearing adjustment, and they have a wide-flange design to improve stiffness. As susual, Shimano use a steel freehub body for durability rather than saving weight with an alloy one. The rims are tubeless-ready (you get valves with the wheels), with no drilling for the spokes in the rim bed, and the rear rim is asymmetric to even out the spoke forces a bit. The braking surfaces are machined for more progressive stopping. The WH-6800s arrived true, and stayed that way throughout testing.
Before you get them on the bike, the first thing that you notice is the lack of spoke holes in the rim bed, which should make sealing a tubeless tyre a whole lot easier – as there's no faffing about with rim tape – and replacing a spoke a good deal harder. The second thing you notice is that the well of the rim is quite narrow compared to a standard rim design. Most of the time that's not a problem but I found fitting a tight tyre – where you have to push the bead down into the well of the rim to get the tyre on – was more difficult than normal because of the lack of space.
Once tyres were fitted and the wheels fitted to the bike, the WH-6800s were very well behaved. I've found other wheelsets with a non-drilled rim bed to be laterally stiff, and these Shimano wheels are certainly that. There's very little deflection at the brake blocks when you lean the bike into a corner or put some watts through the pedals; it was very rare that I managed to eke any brake rub out of them. When you do want the brakes to make contact, slowing yourself down is a predictable business in all conditions.
The freehub is a fairly standard Shimano unit. That means it's steel, so there's no danger of your cassette cutting into it. It's fairly quiet, too, and the rotation to engagement is a bit more than you find with some other wheel brands. It might be a minor disadvantage in a race, but other than that it's unlikely to make any difference.
I didn't have any issues with the wheels going out of true, in spite of the fact that I lent them to Liam Glen to crash in the mountains. That episode did manage to put a bit of play into the front bearings, though. If you loosen off the axle with a 5mm allen key in each end, you can tweak the cone position by hand which is a simple enough job.
Overall the WH-6800s put in a good performance. They're not the lightest you can buy for the money but they're well built and stiff, and good for anything up to a race. At the recommended retail price of £329 they'd be a very decent upgrade to the stock wheels on a mid-level road bike. If you shop around you can get them for a fair bit less than that though, which makes them a good buy.
Stiff and reliable tubeless-ready training and racing wheels. Not flash, but perform very well.
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Make and model: Shimano WH-6800 Ultegra wheelset
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Ultegra wheels offer proven technology based on the top of the range Dura-Ace models
UST Tubeless and tubed tyre compatible rim
Built with 20 rear and 16 front stainless steel bladed and butted spokes
The wheels uses a special wide flange hub design and an asymmetrical rim that results in additional stiffness and stability
Labyrinth and contact sealing - low-friction seals effectively shut out water, mud and dirt without affecting rotational smoothness
Quick and easyto maintain digital click bearing adjustment
The Hub uses angular contact bearings designed to cradle the balls giving both radial and lateral support for superior strength and durability in real world riding conditions. They also offer precision bearing adjustment and easy maintenance
Super polished ball races for high precision, durability, and smooth rotation
8,9, 10 and 11-speed compatible
700C Clincher rim only
Weight: 1640 grams a pair
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Stiff, stayed true.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Rim well is narrow which makes fitting tight tyres harder
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.