Groupsets represent a collection of components that essentially enable you to stop and go, when riding a bike. Comprising of the drivetrain, shifters and brakes, so upgrading the groupset on your bike can improve your ride performance and enjoyment. Although there are many brands that manufacture bike components and differ in certain ways, in the main, groupsets pretty much do the same job.
Two of the most well-known bike component manufacturers, Shimano and SRAM, currently lead the way in making quality and accessible components to all kinds of riders. As such, here we compare the two brands to educate you on the range of groupsets available on the market today.
As one of the oldest and most popular bike brands, Shimano, have been making world-class bike components since 1921 where it was founded in Japan. Now accounting for around half of the global bike components industry, it’s safe to say that Shimano offers something for all kinds of riders and is recognised for its durable, reliable and performance-driven components.
At the lower end of Shimano’s entry level range of groupsets is the budget-priced Claris, which will generally be equipped on the more affordable and lower cost road bikes. With an 8-speed drivetrain and either a double or triple crankset, Claris offers riders a great introduction to Shimano bike components.
If 9-speed is more what you’re after, then the Sora range is possibly a better suited groupset for you. Available in either a double or wide-range triple crankset, the Sora range offers riders a wide range of gears to cater for all-round performance on steep climbs and fast descents.
At the higher end of the entry level range is the Tiagara, a 10-speed groupset that’s a perfect stepping stone on to more advanced systems. Similar in design and technology to other more expensive systems, the Tiagara groupset offers riders a wealth of benefits that can often be expected of higher end groupsets at an affordable price point.
Shimano’s performance-focused groupsets are a common inclusion on mid-tier priced bikes, and represent a great intermediary between Entry and Pro level groupsets. The Shimano 105 11-speed groupset provides a superb balance of durability, performance and value for money.
Next up from Shimano is their Ultegra range, which is one tier lower than their professional-level. While this range offers all the benefits and some very similar design features as more expensive models such as electronic gear shifters, the Ultegra groupset is perfect for experienced riders looking to take their bike to the next level.
Shimano’s Dura-Ace is a real force to be reckoned with and represents the best money can buy in terms of groupsets from the Japanese manufacturer. With 11-speed gearing, the Dura-Ace combines a sleek, top-end design, with high-grade alloys, carbon fibre and titanium for a lightweight, yet durable feel. This range is also available with electronic shifters, as well as dedicated hydraulic disc brake options too.
Hailing from the USA, SRAM have been making much headway in the mountain biking industry over the past 30 years since establishing themselves with their unique GripShift gear shifters, which were popular on bikes in the late 80’s and 90’s. Since then, SRAM have grown from strength to strength and offer high quality and lightweight bike components at accessible price points.
SRAM’s Apex entry level range is an excellent introduction to more performance-focused groupsets that will often be found on mid-tier priced bikes. With 10-speed or 11-speed gearing featuring SRAM’s exclusive WiFli system, this groupset offers riders a wide gear range that can usually be associated with a triple chain ring, except this groupset only has two.
As a direct competitor to Shimano’s 105 groupset, the 11-speed Rival is the most popular SRAM groupset used on road bikes. Available with either a single or double chainring at the front, the Rival also makes use of a WiFli system to offer a wide gear range, but is much more lightweight than the Apex entry level groupset.
SRAM’s more performance / professional hybrid groupset, Force, is again a competitor to Shimano, but this time it rivals the Ultegra. Made from high-grade alloys and carbon fibre, this 11-speed groupset is incredibly lightweight and easily configurable to utilise a single or double chainring at the front.
The Red groupset is SRAM’s top end pro-level 11-speed groupset that’s a direct competitor to the Shimano Dura-Ace and Campagnolo Super Record. Weighing in at just 1,747g, this is the most lightweight groupset available at this level, boasting a fine blend of high-grade alloys, carbon-fibre, titanium and ceramic bearings. The Red groupset is also available with electronic shifters – eTap – and with a WiFli option too.
In summation, you should look to select a road bike groupset that reflects your riding ability, as it’s unlikely that you’ll need one from the professional level if you’re a casual rider. As such, much of your selection should come down to preference, but it’s worth educating yourself on what you need first. Some bikes won’t come with a complete matching groupset, so you should look to get as many components from the your desired range as possible for greater satisfaction.