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  1. #1
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    Is better really better?

    I had the chance to closely compare a 2 x 9 Sora front derailler with a 2 x 9 Tiagra. They appear to be identical except for the finish on the die cast portion; the Tiagra is polished, the Sora dull. My postage scale, good to 0.1 ounce, could detect no difference. I surmise that the on-bike performance of these two would probably be the same. At what model level do the incremental differences between models become more noticeable in Shimano front deraillers?

  2. #2
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    It varies by component. Component makers have to create various models so their OEM customers can create bikes that seem different at various price points. Since it costs so much to tool up and actually create so many versions, they maker fewer, und use cosmetic differences and mix and marching to create various component groups.

    Where they draw the line for an actual change varies through the line, so each level has some components that are actually different than the ones above and below and some that are basically the same, but it's mixed up pretty well so each group is actually different in a material way in at least one or two items.

    If the component appears to be the same it probably is, so if cosmetics don't matter, go for the savings. But also know that there are some differences that might not be visible, ie. a change in the alloy used on a cast or forged part.

    My personal rule is for a very small price difference, I'll often move up just in case, for a larger difference where I can't see a significant difference I'll go down.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    In the matter of Sora vs. Tiagra, the most significant difference is in the control levers.

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    The FD is probably the component that there is the least amount of variation from the top to the bottom of the line. It's a cage, a spring and a clamp. Short of finish and maybe some machining for weight saving there isn't a lot to work with.

  5. #5
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Even if the part weighs the same, the fancier one is likely to be more durable. There are often 2-3 grades of material for a given component through a manufacturer's quality scale, and it isn't all about weight.

    Stainless fasteners FTW.

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    All things being equal, the Tiagra will last longer (wear out more slowly) and so be easier to keep adjusted as time goes on. When new, you are right - function will be completely identical when new, if properly set up.

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    Weight should never be a factor unless you are being paid big bucks to ride a bike. Then you don't buy any of the parts.

  8. #8
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    I've written this before but I spent time trying to find specific messages comparing Alivio to Deore (probably the same as Sora to Tiagra). Anyway, one guy wrote that he had two bikes (Deore and Deore XT) and his wife had one, an Alivio. He found he had to adjust the Alivio more often and that the Deore did way better in difficult circumstances. He also found there was less difference between Deore and Deore XT. Another person wrote that he asked customers questions for years and found Alivio rear derailleurs had to be adjusted more often.

    Then I found another message from someone saying his 20 year old Dura Ace hubs were smoother than his Deore hubs but admitted he was more rough with his Deore equipped bike anyway.

    But, there was an ultra cyclist who said if you pay more, it will last less. I don't know if he was referring to chainrings since steel ones last longer but the ones on Deore etc are alloy.

    In the end some people say everything shifts but it's all incrementally better from one level to the other. And others say above $1500, there's the law of diminishing returns.

    Like some people say, I would consider Deore/Tiagra to be the best value for the dollar. I might exclude cranksets in that one (for those who don't do 12 foot drops) but whatever.

    I know in the 1990's I had a bike with Deore LX and DX and I thought it was god-like compared to Canadian Tire bicycles. I sold it since I always thought it was going to get stolen and not comfortable riding around the city with it. It was bought used anyway so it wasn't much of a loss. But now I'm all hot and horny about completing my touring bike which might be done probably by x-mas. I know I'll have Deore LX rear derailleur.

    Regarding front derailleurs however, I think they're one of the least noticed parts.

  9. #9
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Maybe this doesn't apply so much regarding older/vintage parts. But I rode for years on a cheap Suntour ARX drive train with relatively cheap Sakae cranks/chainrings and suntour FW. It was all old friction and hardly ever needed adjusting. I just retired a venerable Suntour Cyclone RD. Must be 27 yrs old from 1984. I lost a bolt on one of the pulley axles around 1990-something and replaced it with a shorter one. It's held up for quite some time. And I've still got stock on Suntour pulley wheels and bushings for it purchased way back in the early 1990's on some biz trips to Japan. But it hasn't been that often that I needed to change those parts.

    So is better really better? Is the question time-dependent over periods of decades? Because lots of old stuff just works and seems it will last forever. But new stuff? And the really expensive stuff? Not so sure.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Bike componets are just like most every thing you buy. Cheap is cheap, and then you move up. But bang for the buck stops at about the mid point. Above the mid point you are just paying thru the nose for snobbery. If the geometry of a componet is the same, polish does not make it work better. Snobs with money however will argue the point till they are blue in the face.

  11. #11
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    flanso, Generally gram'g down = money up, but not always. Sometimes it's an added feature in the up market group that makes it more desireable. WRT the Sora v. Tiagra it's the inner lever v. the button. Because I'm not bothered by using the button, the Sora would be fine for me, but many like having two levers.

    Sometimes there may be zero difference between two groups. At one point in the '90s Shimano didn't have a road group between the bottom line RSX and the 105, the 105 group parts were given a different finish and decal and the RX100 came to be. Even now I don't think there's too much different between Tiagra and 105.

    Dura-Ace has had a reputation as a great racing groupo, but not so great for longevity. The only two items in my experiance that wore more quickly with D-A are the Ti cassette cogs and the BB.

    I haven't had the multiple group experiance with Campagnolo or SRAM, but I expect a similar marketing profile, corrections welcomed.

    Brad
    Last edited by bradtx; 09-07-11 at 08:25 PM. Reason: corr

  12. #12
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Better for what?

  13. #13
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    For anything that isn't just wank, presumably.

  14. #14
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    For anything that isn't just wank, presumably.
    Better related to: functionality or price or aesthetics or longevity or simplicity or repairability or adverse conditions or weight or...

  15. #15
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    I can only comment on what I've used, which is mountain bike components; not too familiar with road, but I'm sure they're similar.

    It seems in Shimanos line at the low level, the differences are primarily in how well the component functions, then after a certain point the differences are in how light the components are. So in my experience, going from Acera to Alivio to Deore LX, each level actually made a great improvement over the last in terms of how smoothly the shifting worked, and how long the components seemed to last. However once you go past Deore LX to SLX or Deore XT or higher, it just seems that they get lighter, and there's very minimal improvements (if they're even noticable at all) in what I call "functioning performance".

    For most people, Acera and Alivio are just fine, because they aren't die-hard cyclists, and will never miss the better-functioning of Deore and above. For myself, I do not care about weight at all (I have way too much of that to lose off of my stomach first before I even begin contemplating making my bike lighter), so Deore seems to be the best fit for me. The parts work flawlessly, but they're "heavy". I love the flawlessness, don't care about weight. Therefore in my opinion (and my opinion only!), SLX/DXT/Saint/XTR are not better, because they make my wallet lighter. People who are into mountain bike racing will most likely disagree, but they are also right because lighter is better for their riding styles.


    So I guess what I'm trying to get at is that "better" is subjective, and depends entirely on how you ride. From what I understand, Sora is around the quality of Alivio and Tiagra is around the same quality as Deore LX, so when I get my road bike next year I will probably stick to Tiagra components.

  16. #16
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    That's roughly how it works, but of course reality is more complicated.

    At the upper tier, you can drop several hundred more dollars for what's being touted as a huge functional improvement, and I'm pretty sure that there are some significant weight savings to be had between the very bottom and the groups just above.

  17. #17
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Generally, there are small differences between each group. Sometimes there are no differences. But obviously Dura Ace will be lighter and "higher performance" than Sora. Notice I didn't say better. Here's my unofficial breakdown:

    Walmart components:
    cheap crap. Difficult to use, more difficult to work on.

    Altus/2200: Good enough for most people who ride. Good enough to get working properly.

    Deore/Tiagra: "deluxe" level. Allen heads instead of plain nuts, lighter, nicer looking, etc. I'd consider this the "best" level for everyone.

    Dura Ace/XTR:
    for racers and people with too much money. Lightest and most advanced, and consequently the least compatible with other groups.


    For those who say weight doesn't matter: ride a 20lb bike and then a 30lb bike and see if you still say that. I'm not saying to be a gram counting weight weenie, but weight does matter. A pound or two makes a real difference.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    Generally, there are small differences between each group. Sometimes there are no differences. But obviously Dura Ace will be lighter and "higher performance" than Sora. Notice I didn't say better. Here's my unofficial breakdown:

    Walmart components:
    cheap crap. Difficult to use, more difficult to work on.

    Altus/2200: Good enough for most people who ride. Good enough to get working properly.

    Deore/Tiagra: "deluxe" level. Allen heads instead of plain nuts, lighter, nicer looking, etc. I'd consider this the "best" level for everyone.

    Dura Ace/XTR:
    for racers and people with too much money. Lightest and most advanced, and consequently the least compatible with other groups.


    For those who say weight doesn't matter: ride a 20lb bike and then a 30lb bike and see if you still say that. I'm not saying to be a gram counting weight weenie, but weight does matter. A pound or two makes a real difference.
    Yes, even an 8 lb. difference is quite noticeable with two of my bikes, but unless the 2 lb. weight difference is in the wheelset I wouldn't feel it, been there/done that.

    Brad

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCB0 View Post
    All things being equal, the Tiagra will last longer (wear out more slowly) and so be easier to keep adjusted as time goes on. When new, you are right - function will be completely identical when new, if properly set up.
    I've gone through two Tiagra FDs (in about 3 years) on one bike and finally decided to replace it with a Sora. Since it cost a lot less and since I have already 1 year on the Sora part, I'd say they are at least equal in the durability department.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    For those who say weight doesn't matter: ride a 20lb bike and then a 30lb bike and see if you still say that. I'm not saying to be a gram counting weight weenie, but weight does matter. A pound or two makes a real difference.
    I've "lost a bike" this riding season (ie 30 pounds), and honestly I can't say that I feel any different. Maybe it's because the weight loss has been so gradual that I just don't notice it, but honestly I just don't feel it. 20mph headwind still kicks my ass. Hills still kick my ass.


    Regardless, weight of the components doesn't matter to me. In my mind I see being a "weight weenie" as necessary for professional racers who cannot lose any more weight on their body and therefore must turn to their bikes to do it. But the average bicycle enthusiast? I just don't buy it. It's much cheaper to lose the weight off of ourselves anyway.

  21. #21
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Maybe I got a little carried away there. 1 pound is probably not noticeable, but two or three is for me. I only weigh 135lb, so a few pounds on the bike is a decent amount. One place I really notice it is mountain biking, especially going off jumps and dropoffs. Lighter bikes give me a more feather light landing than heavy bikes that hit harder.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

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