Many enthusiastic cyclists have heard the adage, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades” – which is a simpler way of saying that upgrading your bicycle won’t contribute as many gains as simply getting fitter at the sport. While increasing your cycling proficiency will always be a determining factor of performance, upgrading your ride really does offer a few key benefits. It is the allure of these advantages that draws fans of Shimano groupsets and it is the main reason the brand utterly dominates the market today.
What Are Bicycle Groupsets?
Groupsets (sometimes called a gruppo) is an organised collection of mechanical components. This collection features all the parts that make a bicycle change gears, stop, slow down, and go. Not only are they designed to work together, but you should notice a significant change in riding performance after implementing them. Components within groupsets usually include:
- Two gear levers, two brake levers, and two integrated brake levers.
- Two front and rear brakes.
- Two front and rear derailleurs.
- A cogset, cassette, or freewheel.
- One bottom bracket, one crankset, and one chain.
- Some sets also include a seat post, two hubs for front and rear, a pair of pedals, as well as cables and cable housing.
The Different Levels of Shimano Groupsets
As the oldest and by far the most popular manufacturer of groupsets worldwide, Shimano has been on the scene for decades. Shozaburo Shimano, the Japanese brand’s founder, started making freewheels in 1921 in a demolished celluloid factory. In the years following, the brand gained such renown that today it lays claim to half of the worldwide bike components industry.
If you don’t already know, it is important to note that there is a line-up of groupsets available, all ranging from entry-level components to higher-end parts. There are nuanced differences between this hierarchy of collections, as each has been specifically designed to cater to various rider needs. Ideally, with the right component upgrades, you can expect a ride that is lighter and offers precise gear shifts and smoother, stronger braking. Bear in mind that even shaving off 500 grams makes a huge difference for that uphill trudge, which is precisely where lightweight Shimano products shine. More expensive groupsets also offer more gears, which allows for a ride more suited to your preferences.
Whether you are buying a new bike, upgrading an old one, or building a new two-wheeled wonder from scratch, understanding the various types of groupsets and their components will help you get the greatest satisfaction out of your ride. Not everyone requires pro-level or top performance componentry, however, which is why the company offers a range of products on the cost-friendly side of the spectrum too. Below, we take a look at the ranked list of Shimano groupsets and what to expect from all six.
- Claris – Entry Level: This budget, 8-speed system is found in the most affordable bikes on the market and offers hard-working quality.
- Sora – Entry Level: The Sora range offers a 9-speed system with dual control and is available with standard double cranksets or a wide-range triple.
- Tiagra – Entry Level: Available in 8-, 9-, and 10-speed systems, and offers double, triple, or compact options.
- 105 – Performance Level: Many mid-market road bikes utilise this 11-speed groupset that offers a great balance between quality durability and value for money.
- Ultegra – Performance Level: Only slightly heavier than the top-performing Dura-Ace, the Ultegra groupset is a favourite amongst racers and avid riders.
- Dura-Ace – Pro Level: With the Dura-Ace groupset, you can expect top performance, 11-speed gearing, lightweight material, and significantly improved shifting. Professional racers worldwide prefer this groupset for its precise engineering and features such as the comfortable ergonomic shape in the shifters.
If you are seeking a Shimano gruppo to deck out your bike, don’t hesitate to ask our advice on which would suit your needs best.