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  1. #1
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    Upgrading Derailleur/Shifter set

    Hi all,

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I am a complete neophyte to biking. That said, I think I have taken my entry level bike with Sora derailleurs/shifters about as far as I care to and would like to venture out on my first independent upgrade. Can someone tell me all of the parts I will need to buy to upgrade to a 105 grupo? I think I have the mechanics of the actual upgrade figured out, but I want to make sure that I am purchasing all of the necessary components.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Brifters, FD, RD, crankset, BB, cassette, chain. Before you start, determine if the frame fits you well and is worth the investment. Also, a Sora-level bike probably has a fairly low-level wheelset so you should probably consider adding that to your shopping list. Might find you are better off buying a new bike (unless you shop hard to get really smokin' deals on the components, you could spend as much on components as you would a new bike) and keeping your current bike as a backup/beater bike.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Brifters, FD, RD, crankset, BB, cassette, chain. Before you start, determine if the frame fits you well and is worth the investment. Also, a Sora-level bike probably has a fairly low-level wheelset so you should probably consider adding that to your shopping list. Might find you are better off buying a new bike (unless you shop hard to get really smokin' deals on the components, you could spend as much on components as you would a new bike) and keeping your current bike as a backup/beater bike.
    Yup. Most component upgrades don't make economic sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Brifters, FD, RD, crankset, BB, cassette, chain. Before you start, determine if the frame fits you well and is worth the investment. Also, a Sora-level bike probably has a fairly low-level wheelset so you should probably consider adding that to your shopping list. Might find you are better off buying a new bike (unless you shop hard to get really smokin' deals on the components, you could spend as much on components as you would a new bike) and keeping your current bike as a backup/beater bike.
    Fair enough. Thanks for the info.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    Why do you want to upgrade ? If you don't like the shifters, you can get 105 shift levers and leave everything else as-is.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

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    Add me to the list saying don't put big bucks into incremental upgrades. If everything is basically OK, wait until you can afford to replace the bike with something better, and keep this as a "B" bike, for bad weather training, commuting or simply as a spare.

    If there are one or two items that need replacing, such as only the RD or shift levers, you can do so as needed. I'm fairly sure (but don't swear to it) that all Shimano road components are compatible with each other (with the same number of gears), so you can replace individual parts as you need them without replacing all at once.
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    Wheels, and shoes are good upgrades as you can use them on your next bike. Tires and brake shoes also provide noticable performance improvements.

  8. #8
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    Heck, my main bike has old downtube friction shifters and I love them! Your sora-equipped bike is miles ahead of this technology...even at the entry level. Keep in mind (before spending money) that a lot of folks are happily riding stuff that is much more primitive than the sora group.

    Actually, the sora brifters and derailleurs I have used seem to work flawlessly. Very solid stuff for the money.
    Cyclist, angler and aquarist

  9. #9
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    The three biggest component upgrades from a functional point of view are double pivot brakes, indexed shifting and brifters. If you already have all of the above then further upgrades will be for show and not significantly affect the performance of the bike. If you're going to buy a group then you should buy it together since (a) the price will be much lower and (b) you can be sure everything will work together. You can get 6700 group sets (8 piece) for just over $800 on eBay (with Bing discount) which includes chain, cassette, brakes, fd, rd, crankset, bbracket and brifters/cables.

    Obviously the shifters have to match the cassette for number of speeds and the chain should be the same size or for more gears than the cassette. Derailleurs prefer a chain that is no more than +/- 1 in speeds (i.e. an eight speed chain with 10 speed derailleurs is a bit tight but a nine speed works fine). Some brifters need matching derailleurs because of cable pull (I believe Dura Ace 7700 only works with DA 7700 derailleurs). The latest brake levers have a different pull too so are optimal with matching brakes (i.e. use 6700/7900 brifters with 6700/7900 brakes).

    As others have said, a nice set of wheels and tires will get a much more noticeable improvement. A good used set of Mavic Elites can be had for around $300 or new 2009 models on eBay for around $500.

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    Good perspectives, all. Like I said before, I'm really new to the sport (training for my first sprint tri), so I'm still trying to raise my general level of competency. The question I probably should have asked, but which you guys were wise enough to answer for me was "Is it worthwhile to upgrade components on an entry level ride, or to just save up and upgrade to a better bike?" In general, I'm pretty pleased with the ride. Shifting is just rough (sometimes a bit jarring) and loud. Also, I much preferred the feel of the tiagra shifters to the sora ones, when I test rode other bikes. In any event, I appreciate you all being patient with a new guy and humoring me. I think I'll probably get through this season on this bike and then re-evaluate for next.

  11. #11
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    +10 Building up an upgrade rarely makes any sense, unless you happen across a used bike that just happens to have what you want.

    Much better off financially selling what you have, and buying a bike with all the components you desire, in the right size, used of course.

  12. #12
    Faster than yesterday
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene2308 View Post
    Heck, my main bike has old downtube friction shifters and I love them! Your sora-equipped bike is miles ahead of this technology...even at the entry level. Keep in mind (before spending money) that a lot of folks are happily riding stuff that is much more primitive than the sora group.

    Actually, the sora brifters and derailleurs I have used seem to work flawlessly. Very solid stuff for the money.
    Your argument may make sense to you...I'd much rather have (and have owned with no complaints) relatively low-end DT shifters (friction or indexed) than Sora. The biggest problem with Sora, aside from the fact that I also find the shifter design annoying (also have heard the thumb button likes to break), is that you will constantly be adjusting it. I've used it enough to believe this to be true. Even with my 105's the rear stays in adjustment fine, but the front is still pretty finicky. With friction stuff, there is really no issue with this, as adjustments can be made when you shift.

    Sora may have newer technology, but it doesn't mean it works better or is more dependable. It's probably just the opposite, and DT shifters are hard to break. Mine broke away from the DT, and hit the ground several times on the way home. Epoxied them back on and they were as good as new. Brifters are obviously nice in their own way, but I know several older guys (RAAM riders) who generally prefer DT and barcons for their reliability. They're not retrogrouches. Well, they probably are, but in this case they have very valid points. Tourers and commuters/entry-level rec riders (should) have a lot of the same priorities. That's why I like the idea of the steel Allez. Taking off the brifters not only lowers the price point, but you can get away with other drivetrain cuts due to the less precise nature of the shifters, lowering it further. And, it will cause most of us less hassle, be less likely to fail, and be cheaper to replace cassettes, chains, etc when they wear out.

    A lot of the reason I like 105 is not only good performance: price, but the relatively affordable cost of replacement parts. We'd all like to have Dura-Ace, but I'd hate to have to replace anything in that drivetrain.

    I will go so far as to say that I miss the old Suntour DT shifters I had on a now deceased Raleigh. Stem-mounted shifters, though: I hate those.
    Last edited by tadawdy; 01-12-10 at 03:21 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    The biggest problem with Sora, aside from the fact that I also find the shifter design annoying (also have heard the thumb button likes to break), is that you will constantly be adjusting it. I've used it enough to believe this to be true.
    Although I much prefer the Ultegra grupo on my road bike for smoothness and feel, the Sora stuff on my commuter has proven to be problem-free. Once I got past the initial adjustments (new bike cable stretch), it hasn't required any additional tweeking for 2 years now. And even my big thumbs haven't snapped off the shift buttons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    The biggest problem with Sora, aside from the fact that I also find the shifter design annoying (also have heard the thumb button likes to break), is that you will constantly be adjusting it. I've used it enough to believe this to be true. Even with my 105's the rear stays in adjustment fine, but the front is still pretty finicky.
    I have 7-sp 105 with Sora brifters on what is now my on-the-trainer-in-the-basement-bike; ran the Sora brifter combo about 5 yrs on the road with lots of mileage. It still shifts better with less adjustments than my now-on-the-road-bike that has 10-sp Ultegra. The old bike is close to 20 yrs old, and still runs on the original derailleurs, BB, crankset and brakes. Everything that wears (chain, cassette, chainrings, brake pads) has been changed countless times. Have not broken thumb button - I see the part is small, but not sure what sort of manoeuver you'd need to perform to hit something that's inboard of the brifter, other than catching the brifter on a pole or tree.

    As for the OP, best is to upgrade as things wear/break - which will probably be many many years for many many parts.

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    Faster than yesterday
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    Ok, to be fair I haven't owned Sora. I have rented a bike on several occasions (3 weeks total time) and had to fuss with it quite a bit. Having heard of adjustment issues from others, I assumed it was the group. Could have just needed new cables, though.

    Again, have also heard from several people about the thumb buttons being an issue. I mostly didn't like not being able to shift up while in the drops. YMMV, and we all ride differently. I like the drops, and I like to shift quite a bit.

    As for my next commuter, for when my stopgap Schwinn is laid to rest, I do hope for DT shifters.

  16. #16
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    Sora may have newer technology, but it doesn't mean it works better or is more dependable. It's probably just the opposite, and DT shifters are hard to break.
    As technology advances the parts don't work as well?

    It's been my experience that upgrading already decent parts (like sora) to more expensive ones rarely does much. I've done it before and regretted wasting money.

    I only posted to encourage the OP to not water his/her money.
    Cyclist, angler and aquarist

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    It doesn't have to be expensive like the folks here are telling you. Those people are referring to brand new parts purchased at an LBS.

    I started out with Sora Shifters, Sora Rear (9 sp), and Tiagra Front (triple) - the bike is a 2008 Specialized Allez Triple.

    I found a 105 9sp RD (long cage), and 105 triple FD on Ebay for pretty cheap and in good condition. I did the wrenching myself and spent less that $75 on parts. If you are looking for a noticeable improvement in shifting performance (especially at the FD), you can go this route. I kept my original chain, cassette, BB, and crankset.

    I still have my Sora shifters but I'm on the prowl on ebay for a used set of Campy Ergo 10sp shifters to finish off my upgrades. Those can be found as low as $150 for a decent used pair. And from what I understand, can be made to work with Shimano RD and FD.

    The only "upgrade" I purchased for full retail price was a new front wheel (Mavic Aksium Race) to replace the stock front wheel which was stolen.
    Last edited by idoru2005; 01-14-10 at 12:26 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfkittredge View Post
    In general, I'm pretty pleased with the ride. Shifting is just rough (sometimes a bit jarring) and loud.

    I'm guessing you are referring to shifting on the front rings. If so, the single best upgrade you can make (and cheapest) is to change to a 105 FD. See my post above. Last year I changed from Sora RD and Tiagra FD to 105 front and back for very little money (I stayed with 9sp). Keep the Sora shifters for now. Unless you get a screaming deal on some used brifters, it doesn't make sense to change them unless they are broken.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfkittredge View Post
    Shifting is just rough (sometimes a bit jarring) and loud. Also, I much preferred the feel of the tiagra shifters to the sora ones, when I test rode other bikes.
    Rough shifting indicates need for adjustment, dirt in cable or bent hanger. A well adjusted Sora will shift smoother than a missadjusted Ultegra.

  20. #20
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    Last year I purchased my first road bike: an early 90s C'Dale Crit 3.0 w/ 7sd 105 group. I am very green to cycling, but am a very experienced general wrencher. My education is ME and I have grown up working on cars and motorcycles so systems are easy. What seems hard is the cycling "inside information". Things like what to upgrade, when to upgrade, what you gain, what to pay; these seem hard to come by.

    I recently got a set of Sora STIs on here for $75 shipped, they were a Triple/8spd set but I set them up to work for my drivetrain. A set of housings and cables for the brakes and shifters were another $15. So for $90 I "upgraded" to STIs. There was not really anything wrong with the DT shifters, but I had a hard time keeping up with my friends who just bought new Trek 1.5 and 1.2s when it came time to climb and decend hills. Once I got in gear I could out climb them but the time it took to take both hands down and find the gear I needed was enough to drop me 4 or 5 bike lengths.

    Personally I think the upgrade was worth the $90. It gave me more confidence pounding down hills at 35-40 mph knowing I could keep my hands on the hoods and find the gear i needed at the bottom. Is it worth it to continue to pour money into the bike, what other upgrades would really help, ect ect. I know the SEARCH button and I spend a good bit of time together - yet I still have a hard time with answers to questions like these.
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  21. #21
    Member robcor2's Avatar
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    Ok....I have a similar question. I also have a Sora RD330 GS on my upgrade Jamis Coda That I converted to Drops and changed the drive train to a more true road bike. I put Ultegra 8 spd Bar ends on it and they work perfect with the Sora. I would like to upgrade to a 105 qulaity on the rear derailleur. I have a spare 105 5500 GS and was wondering if it is comaptable with my cassette, chain, and shifters. I would love to put this FREE derailleur on if possible without losing the index capability of my rear shifter. Any Suggestions
    2009 Jamis Coda (drop bar conversion)
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  22. #22
    So what did YOU do to it?
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    I run 2200 on one bike, sora on another. Once they're settled in, they require nearly no adjustment. If you're finding you need to adjust a lot, it means the cables never took a seat. It's not atypical to find quite old bikes that just have never been shifted much. ... I shift... a lot... so I break in the cables and housings pretty quickly.

    after 75-150miles everythings sorted out, and.. I haven't had to touch the adjusters on my Dawes for two years now. The Penna needs it's final adjustment.

    the "quality" of the shift gear, doesn't affect the parts that wear, and cause derailer drift. If you never break in the housing and cables, your dura ace shifters are going to skip gears and do bad things just as well as some microshift nashbar specials.

  23. #23
    we be rollin' hybridbkrdr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfkittredge View Post
    Good perspectives, all. Like I said before, I'm really new to the sport (training for my first sprint tri), so I'm still trying to raise my general level of competency. The question I probably should have asked, but which you guys were wise enough to answer for me was "Is it worthwhile to upgrade components on an entry level ride, or to just save up and upgrade to a better bike?" In general, I'm pretty pleased with the ride. Shifting is just rough (sometimes a bit jarring) and loud. Also, I much preferred the feel of the tiagra shifters to the sora ones, when I test rode other bikes. In any event, I appreciate you all being patient with a new guy and humoring me. I think I'll probably get through this season on this bike and then re-evaluate for next.
    It sounds like the damage has already been done and need to change cassette, chain and possibly the cable housings AND have it adjusted by a good bike shop.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    I mostly didn't like not being able to shift up while in the drops. YMMV, and we all ride differently. I like the drops, and I like to shift quite a bit.
    +1

    The smoothness of my rear shifts is fine, but I hate not being able to shift up from the drops. As soon as I find a half-way decent deal on either 105 or even Tiagra levers, I plan to upgrade.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Steev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
    Why do you want to upgrade ? If you don't like the shifters, you can get 105 shift levers and leave everything else as-is.
    No you can't. Current 105 is ten speed, Sora never has been ten speed. So you'll need shifters cassette and chain just to account for that.

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