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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    help me understand the different grades in groupsets?

    I know for shimano and campy, there are generally 5 grades in quality: sora -> tiagra -> 105 -> ultegra -> durace. But I have heard that for 105 and up, the components are actually less durable and are more geared toward light weight and speed. Is this true? How much weight are we talking about?

    Also, there are other components such as wheel hubs and bottom brackets that aren't named in this grade system. Is it just because they're generally the same, and there's not much to distinguish?

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    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Hubs and bottom brackets aren't quite as sexy. It's all about sex appeal, and less about sense.
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    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    For Shimano, 105/Ultegra and Deore/Deore XT are the "sweet spot" on the cost/benefit spectrum. I've done most of my riding with these parts, and never felt they were lacking.
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    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    I know for shimano and campy, there are generally 5 grades in quality: sora -> tiagra -> 105 -> ultegra -> durace. But I have heard that for 105 and up, the components are actually less durable and are more geared toward light weight and speed. Is this true? How much weight are we talking about?
    Lighter weight but derived from the use of expensive high durability / high cost materials that are lighter. Titanium and carbon fiber are all the rage in high end components.

    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    Also, there are other components such as wheel hubs and bottom brackets that aren't named in this grade system. Is it just because they're generally the same, and there's not much to distinguish?
    You'll find hubs and bottom brackets graded the same way.
    If you have to force it... you probably shouldn't.

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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    yea I know they're made from more expensive alloy. And I will interject and say that cost/benefit is a matter of opinion. I've never ridden ultegra or 105, but something tells me I'm not going to notice the difference, unless I'm doing time trials or riding cross country. I don't really care about smooth shifting or 3 pound differences. If the bike can get from point A to point B and allow me to enjoy the ride, then it's good enough for me.

    What I would like to know more is how do these more expensive alloys compare with lower end components. As far as I know, durability and light weight are the only factors weighing in.

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    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    From what I gather, Shimano takes the odd punt with Dura-Ace and XTR.

    Doubtful whether these are any less durable than the second-tier groups, but drivetrain bits are insanely expensive.

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    Senior Member catonec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    .... I don't really care about smooth shifting or 3 pound differences.... allow me to enjoy the ride,
    Ill agree w/ jeff wills that 105 is probably the sweet spot for casual riders. the performance will be plenty satisfactory, however a ride where your Ghost shifting and jumping gears for the whole ride will severely detract from your enjoyment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    yea I know they're made from more expensive alloy. And I will interject and say that cost/benefit is a matter of opinion. I've never ridden ultegra or 105, but something tells me I'm not going to notice the difference, unless I'm doing time trials or riding cross country. I don't really care about smooth shifting or 3 pound differences. If the bike can get from point A to point B and allow me to enjoy the ride, then it's good enough for me.

    What I would like to know more is how do these more expensive alloys compare with lower end components. As far as I know, durability and light weight are the only factors weighing in.
    Go ride with a high end groupset then come back and say it wasn't nicer. Over the last 10 years having ridden with all levels but Tiagra on the road, Dura Ace is the best, followed in the order they descent. Having a bike fitted with Shimano 2200 will be fine if not racing or doing any distance, the better ergonomics, stopping power, crisper shifting etc is noticeable under heavy use, and the weight can make a difference on hills.

    The same is true for the MTB groupsets; with both road and MTB, innovations are normally introduced at the high end, and trickle down over the next few years, last year XTR introduced the shadow+ RD (clutch) which is now down to SLX level, but was well worth the additional cost of the RD over using any other, the same with the current brakes on both the road and MTB systems, they were introduced at 7900 / XTR level respectively, and have dropped down the ranges over the following years..

    For durability, at Dura Ace / XTR level, have found these to be no less durable than any other, they may cost more initially, but when you come to upgrade, they also hold their value better than the lower end parts, which can off set the initial cost.

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    Senior Member Slaninar's Avatar
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    I abuse my commuter bicycle. It is a hybrid with Acera groupset. 3 years of year-round abuse. Snow, mud, you name it. Hills, flats. Some 20 to 100 kilometres per day. No problems. Change chain and cassette when needed. See no real need for Deore etc.

    On road bike - still a novice. LBS man I trust said Sora is like MTB Acera (if not even better) and should work fine for me. I got a discount price 105 groupset, however. Luck. It works. Unfortunately, nothing to compare it with and less than 2000 kilometres on it. But I'd say it works well. Shifts, brakes, spins. All nice so far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
    I abuse my commuter bicycle. It is a hybrid with Acera groupset. 3 years of year-round abuse. Snow, mud, you name it. Hills, flats. Some 20 to 100 kilometres per day. No problems. Change chain and cassette when needed. See no real need for Deore etc.
    Exactly, use the gear which is fit for the purpose you need it for, I commuted for a year all weathers on a flat bar Sora equipped Giant, worked great for the 15km each way. Currently for long distance I used a Ti bike with Ultegra, and after a few hundred KM, the better ergonomics of the STI's are noticeable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    I know for shimano and campy, there are generally 5 grades in quality: sora -> tiagra -> 105 -> ultegra -> durace.
    That's the wrong perspective. You have enumerated five price points meaning how much you'll spend. You have not specified five levels of "quality".

    But I have heard that for 105 and up, the components are actually less durable and are more geared toward light weight and speed. Is this true?
    Also wrong. There are five price points there. Durability may increase (Dura Ace does have better alloys), decrease (titanium cogs last half as long as steel), or stay constant and regardless it might not matter (I got 15 years out of my last rear derailleur before I needed to pay attention to getting enough over shift moving to larger cogs due to upper and lower pivot wear). Quality may go in any direction (Carbon clear coat is much easier to chip than hard anodizing, cold forging with Dura Ace produces a nicer finish than hot, and a lot of the Campagnolo small parts were identical from Record down). You'll probably loose a few grams which are generally irrelevant (unless you have body morphology conducive to climbing fast as suggested by weighing about 2 pounds per inch or 140 pounds at 5'10, stick to a decent structured training program, have OK genetics, and do road races in the mountains...)

    How much weight are we talking about?
    Maybe zero. Campagnolo Ultrashift levers weigh the same 337g per pair whether you buy Centaur Carbon, Athena Carbon, Chorus, or Record levers. Maybe a tiny amount - Super Record saves 7g per pair (enough for a 140 pound climber atop a bike formerly that far above the UCI minimum to save 0.36 seconds per hour he spends off the front climbing to a mountain top finish). Most definitely not enough for you to care (if the same rider and bike combo were 300g heavier as was once the case comparing something like a solid alloy triple crank and carbon double but now days can capture the difference between a few group levels he'd loose 0.4% of his speed which could cost him 15 seconds on the chasing peleton that does matter; although you finishing your workout in 1:30:15 not 1:30:00 does not).

    Also, there are other components such as wheel hubs and bottom brackets that aren't named in this grade system. Is it just because they're generally the same, and there's not much to distinguish?
    Maybe they're the same for all practical purposes. 2000-2006 Campagnolo Centaur/Daytona, Chorus, and Record hubs were identical apart from the grease ports on Record hubs, titanium pawl carrier which saved 10g for Record, and quick release skewer. The Record part is the sexiest QR skewer ever made and NOS pairs sell for over $140 on e-pay which might matter to you, but you should be honest about it "Damn! That thing is sexier than my wife in her new high heels!" instead of justifying "I'll save 10g" which would gain 0.5 seconds on the chasing peleton when you're racing off the front to a mountain top finish assuming you weigh 140 pounds and that drops you to the UCI minimum bike weight.

    Maybe they aren't. Current production Campagnolo shifters are crippled when you buy less than Chorus level (which nets 5 cogs smaller versus 1 below). Hubs below Centaur/Daytona got cartridge bearings until 2006 when only Record got the good stuff. Rear derailleurs below Chorus got a C or E clip attached to a stud instead of a screw to attach the cage which is harder to disassemble and easier to loose.

    You need to evaluate this on a component-by-component and year-by-year basis. In some cases less (steel big cogs which last twice as long as titanium) may be more. In some cases the aesthetics will dictate.

    For most riders in most situations the differences are limited to cosmetics and the positive effects you get with placebos.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 08-23-12 at 02:42 PM.

  12. #12
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
    Go ride with a high end groupset then come back and say it wasn't nicer. Over the last 10 years having ridden with all levels but Tiagra on the road, Dura Ace is the best, followed in the order they descent. Having a bike fitted with Shimano 2200 will be fine if not racing or doing any distance, the better ergonomics, stopping power, crisper shifting etc is noticeable under heavy use, and the weight can make a difference on hills.
    I don't dispute Ultegra or Dura Ace would be nicer than the Tiagra I'm currently using, the question for me isn't so much whether it's nicer but whether it's sufficiently nicer to warrant the extra cost.

    The weight may make a difference on hills but for heavier riders it's probably going to be fairly trivial.

    For durability, at Dura Ace / XTR level, have found these to be no less durable than any other, they may cost more initially, but when you come to upgrade, they also hold their value better than the lower end parts, which can off set the initial cost.
    Good to know the durability is at least as good. I must admit I prefer the thought of paying £18 for a cassette than £180, but I guess the shifters and derailleurs and stuff outlive many chains and cassettes.
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    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    For Shimano, 105/Ultegra and Deore/Deore XT are the "sweet spot" on the cost/benefit spectrum. I've done most of my riding with these parts, and never felt they were lacking.
    +1 I'm aware of, but not overly concerned with weight as I do mostly charity rides, non-competitive organized rides, B/C group rides, light day touring and 30-50 mile pleasure/fitness riding. My touring bike is all Deore and Deore LX including hubs. And I've been more than happy. My road bike (used almost exclusively for group rides and training) has a mixture of Ultegra, Deore, DuraAce, and RX100 (no longer in production) parts. Again, no complaints.

    I don't really care about smooth shifting or 3 pound differences.
    You should care about smooth shifting. It makes riding a whole lot more pleasant if you can hit the gear you want, when you want it, with a minimum of fuss and clatter.

    Three pounds is a lot. You'd have to swap out an entire groupset to save that much. Outside of a crankset or maybe wheels, you will be talking in terms of grams for most component upgrades. You are correct that there are basically four levels of components. Entry level (Sora, Tourney, Acera, Alivio) is functional but usually inexpensively constructed, heavier, and has a utilitarian finish. The Recreational Enthusiast level (105, Tiagra, Ultegra?, Deore, LX, XT?) are better made, durable, somewhat lighter, perform better and generally are a bit better looking. This is a good level for someone who just want to ride lots and enjoy the experience. Then there is the Performance Enthusiast level which is for the more competitive enthusiast who has some expendible cash. Lighter yet, smoother operating, bling level finishes, arguably sacrificing some durability. This level blends into the Pro level where grams and perfect performance mean the difference between finishing in the money and going home empty handed. Big bucks, durability is second to weight and performance (if you win, you can afford to replace stuff often).

    I really discourage even new riders from entry level components unless that is all they can afford. The cost to jump from Acera/Alivio to Deore or Sora to Tiagra/105 isn't much in the long run and will add greatly to enjoyment, performance and durability. Upgrading to mid-level can save you money in the long run as mid-level components require less frequent adjustment, are more durable, and general are easier to service or rebuild. For example, when you wear out just one of the three chainrings on an Acera MTB triple crankset, you replace the entire crankset. If one ring is badly worn on a Deore crankset, you can replace just that chainring.

    From what the OP describes, I suggest Tiagra/105 for road and Deore for touring or offroad. This should result in good performance at a reasonable cost with a bike that is durable and not excessively heavy for recreational/enthusiast use.
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    Good to know the durability is at least as good. I must admit I prefer the thought of paying £18 for a cassette than £180, but I guess the shifters and derailleurs and stuff outlive many chains and cassettes.
    Wouldn't count a cassette as something to resell; chains, cassettes & tires are really all consumables, I normally look at the 105/Ultegra range for this, but to keep cost down buy from Germany where it's a lot cheaper than the UK.

    Shifters if you can keep in good condition really hold their value well, last year I sold a set of XTR 8 speed STI's for more than I paid for them, and I had originally bought them new about 10 years ago, the problem is you never know what is going to last, and also, as you are using a bike, how it will survive in use. There is another advantage to getting Dura Ace / XTR, which is 3 years as opposed to 2 for normal parts, never had to claim for any Shimano parts, but it probably will happen one day.

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    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Go test ride a Tiagra and a 105 back to back, or however high up the Shimano line your budget will allow. I did this with zero experience and the difference was obvious. I can't speak to other brands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
    Wouldn't count a cassette as something to resell; chains, cassettes & tires are really all consumables, I normally look at the 105/Ultegra range for this, but to keep cost down buy from Germany where it's a lot cheaper than the UK.

    Shifters if you can keep in good condition really hold their value well, last year I sold a set of XTR 8 speed STI's for more than I paid for them, and I had originally bought them new about 10 years ago, the problem is you never know what is going to last, and also, as you are using a bike, how it will survive in use. There is another advantage to getting Dura Ace / XTR, which is 3 years as opposed to 2 for normal parts, never had to claim for any Shimano parts, but it probably will happen one day.
    Wait, buying from Germany is cheaper than buying from the UK? Here in the US, we buy from the UK when we want something drivetrain on the cheap.
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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    for me, shifting isn't that important. I use stem shifters, and I rarely switch gears anyway. So I suppose the most important components I would consider are the crankset and cassette. I still don't understand how brake lever can be distinguished in quality; I mean as long as the cables are well lubed, what could possibly make it better? But what do I know, I've never sat on a mid range bike before. Maybe I'll go to the LBS to try one out this weekend.

    As a student I feel like if I get a really good bike, I will not ride it as much as I sould considering the price I paid for the components. But if I ride it often, I fear that it'll get stolen or damaged. Maybe one day if I'm a rich engineer or something...

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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    yea I know they're made from more expensive alloy. And I will interject and say that cost/benefit is a matter of opinion. I've never ridden ultegra or 105, but something tells me I'm not going to notice the difference, unless I'm doing time trials or riding cross country. I don't really care about smooth shifting or 3 pound differences. If the bike can get from point A to point B and allow me to enjoy the ride, then it's good enough for me.

    What I would like to know more is how do these more expensive alloys compare with lower end components. As far as I know, durability and light weight are the only factors weighing in.
    Your followup post makes me wonder why you are even asking this question on this forum especially since you state you don't care about shifting performance. There are a few general reasons one would change/upgrade components on there bike:
    1. part broke and need to replace.
    2. part worn out and needs to be replaced.
    3. parts not broke or worn out but rider looking for improved performance.
    4. parts not broke or worn out but rider looking for lighter weight.
    5. rider looking to change aesthetics of bike.
    6. rider trying to keep up appearances with others they ride with.

    You can put any company's top of the line stuff on any bike and if it is not maintained properly it will not perform well and there will be no benefit to the rider other than they have spent a good deal of cash on some high end bike parts.

    Many riders who change parts to lighten their bikes usually would be better off by reducing the weight of the nut on top of the seat.

    For those changing worn out or broken parts, compatibility with the rest of what they have can often be a deciding factor.

    For performance benefits one needs to look at things from a long term picture. Lower end components tend to work well when new but tend to wear out/lose tolerance quicker which make adjusting the bike a bigger headache as the parts age with use. Higher end parts tend to hold there tolerance better and wear out less quickly. But there are caveats to this as others have mentioned such as titanium cog vs. steel cog cassettes. And while cost/benefit might be a matter of opinion there is usually a general consensus among avid riders about where the cost/benefit breaking point is within each manufacturers component lines...but this consensus of opinion is usually out the window if price of a part is the primary driving factor.

    Regarding durability...the most durable bike/parts are the ones that are properly maintained. A bike with a dura-ace or super record groupset will not be durable if not maintained properly....neither will a bike built with Alivio or any of the other lower end components.

    The most expensive upgrades are often (but not always) those that are meant to reduce weight.

    -j

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
    For durability, at Dura Ace / XTR level, have found these to be no less durable than any other, they may cost more initially, but when you come to upgrade, they also hold their value better than the lower end parts, which can off set the initial cost.
    +1 Over the last 12 years I have not found D-A or Record titanium cogs to wear any faster than Ultegra or Chorus. Whether or not the titanium is worth more than steel is entirely up to the rider.

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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    I'm not looking to upgrade. I just want to know about these things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    I'm not looking to upgrade. I just want to know about these things.
    Ah, that makes sense too. The subject of changing/upgrading parts, as you may have learned reading through this and other threads, is fraught with both objective data and plenty of opinions. One must keep in mind that value, performance, durability, etc. can all mean different things based on the perspective of the rider as well as their reason or need for the change.

    I hope I added to your understanding of the subject.

    Cheers,
    -j

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    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenfieldja View Post
    And while cost/benefit might be a matter of opinion there is usually a general consensus among avid riders about where the cost/benefit breaking point is within each manufacturers component lines...but this consensus of opinion is usually out the window if price of a part is the primary driving factor.
    I think this sums it up pretty well, both for cycling and just about anything else. There will usually be some consensus where the cutoff lies where the extra money you spend gets you less than the previous upgrade did, what you might call the sweet spot of the cost/benefit curve. If your budget doesn't go that far you buy what you can afford, if your budget lets you go way beyond it you buy whatever you fancy. If you want full Dura-Ace just because you think the Dura-Ace logo looks pretty and you've got the money for it, go ahead and enjoy it.
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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Pretty much about price point .. the component picks help the bike come out at different price points.
    Ultegra components in their boxes cost more than a whole bike with Sora/Tiagra bits on it

    I expect the lower cost parts production is fully automated . including taping the carton shut.

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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    greenfield, you mentioned that lower end components wear out faster. How is that different from durability?

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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    greenfield, you mentioned that lower end components wear out faster. How is that different from durability?
    It is fairly the same thing. And faster/quicker is a relative term. I have seen some low end mtb brake levers where the body was plastic develop a crack in normal use in the area just past where the adjusting barrel the housing inserts into...this does not typically occur with Brake levers further up the hierarchy made from metal.

    The pivots and bushings in lower end shifters and derailleurs tend to wear quicker causing an inability or difficulty to dial in adjustments that last for any decent length of time. Where as higher end components with their better materials and designs (materials more resistant to corrosion, better forging such as cold forged parts vice hot forged or stamped steal, ball bearings instead of bushings, etc.) have a tendency to be easier to adjust/maintain and other than cleaning/lubing tend to require less headache inducing maintenance in the long run.

    Often the design from a higher end component is trickled down to successively lower end components over the following years after the design first comes out. Often a change is made such as material or fabrication methods to be able to offer the general design at the lower pricepoint.

    Sometime things can work the other way as if I recall correctly Shimano first introduced dual pivot brakes on their 105 line and subsequent to their acceptance in the market did they added it to the dura-ace and ultegra lineup. (I cant seem to find a source to back this up).

    up to a certain point higher end stuff tends to be easier for a mechanic to install and adjust. That magical point where there are limited returns on investment could often be seen between Campagnolo Record and Chorus parts....they often were the same part with a slightly different aesthetic finish but chorus was offered at a significant savings over record. Some versions of Dura Ace and Ultegra were the same way....though shimano liked to experiment with their dura ace line over the years creating more frequent backwards and forwards compatibility issues with other year models of dura ace parts...which supports the idea that the top of the line is not always the best choice.

    Take a look at how a cheap low end shimano rear derailleur attaches to a frame, and compare that to how the mid to high end derailleurs attach to the frame....both should work, and both could work; but given regular use and no crashes which will be functioning better in 100 miles/1000 miles/5000 miles?

    I can understand the point being nebulous.

    -j

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