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Old 01-17-13, 11:22 PM   #1
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Components - still continuing my education

As advised in another thread, I'm going to be buying my first road bike through a LBS, but in the meantime I've been surfing the 'net and trying to become a more knowledgeable rider.

Naturally, I took a look at BikesDirect. I'm obviously much too green at buying bikes to take advantage of the deals on BikesDirect, especially seeing how their site categorizes bikes in part by their components! Further adding to the newbies confusion, it seems that some of the names (e.g. Shimano Tiagra) apply both to drivetrain and braking components.

Is there any online resource that provides a good overview of the various commonly available components by manufacturer and grade? I can understand what I'm buying in terms of fit, comfort and the general enjoyment of how a bike rides, but I have absolutely no clue how to evaluate the quality of the components that might be installed on the bike.

Thanks!
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Old 01-18-13, 12:22 AM   #2
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Careful there, Steve.

It's common for folks to veer off into groupset envy land. Just remember: The only thing you can't easily change on the bike is the frame. And the frame is what gives the bike its unique feel, ride, and handling characteristics. So when bike shopping, stay focused on the frame, not what's hung on it.

That said, Shimano's groupsets rank in the following order: 2300, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace. There's some variation among the groupsets, but most include drivetrain, brakes, pedals, hubs, and complete wheels. See http://bike.shimano.com/

There's general agreement that weight drops and finish quality improves as you move up the line. Others disagree, but in my experience, there's little difference in shift quality between them. My Sora bike shifts just as smoothly, crisply, cleanly, and quietly as my 105 bike, my Ultegra bike and my Dura-Ace bike. I never feel "less than" when riding a "lower" groupset.

Where I notice the differences are in the brakes, and the levers. The higher-end brakes have a nicer feel and much better modulation. My Dura-Ace levers have completely different--and nicer--feel from the others. It's hard to describe, but they feel clickier.

There are also differences in the thickness of one's wallet as one pursues name cachet.

But when the rubber meets the road, there's no reason to shop by groupset. Shop by frame. You can always play the "upgrade game" later.

EDIT: There is one place where groupset affects shift quality, and that's in the minds of LBS mechanics. Until I learned how to do my own work, I took my bikes to the LBS. I was actually told (by tow shops), "It's Sora. It's supposed to shift like crap." And when presented with the same grievances on another bike, teh same mechanics told me "Yeah, 105's supposed to shift better than that" and they got right on it.

Doing my own work, I've found that similar effort achieves similar results when tuning the shifting of all my bikes. I can do a slapdash job on my Dura-Ace bike and make if shift like crap. Meanwhile, a little extra attention and my Sora bike's shifting is flawless.

And as for durability, I can now officially proclaim that Sora components can outlast the frame they're hung on. My Y2K vintage Trek 1000 has suffered a cracked head tube. I'll be moving its 8-speed Sora components to a new frame.

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Old 01-18-13, 12:48 AM   #3
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Thanks - that's great info. Not the least of which is the term "groupset". That alone clears up some confusion!
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Old 01-18-13, 02:22 AM   #4
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I'll agree with tsl that groupset does not really matter in performance however you will normally find that the low grade groupsets are on the lower priced bikes and the top end are on top end bikes.

My first road bike was advertised as Sora 8 speed equipped and it rode well. Got me up all the local hills and even took a trip to France to climb a few mountains but in comparison to the next high up bike in the range- A Tiagra 9 speed equipped bike- it was 2 lbs heavier. Same frame in the range of all the bikes but as you went up the scale- the groupset and components got lighter and shinier and the wheels were of a better grade. I am not saying that Sora is as good as Dure Ace or even 105 but it works well enough and serves its purpose and did me well enough.

But even on the low end bikes advertised with a certain groupset there will be some downgrades. Bikes are made to a pricepoint and if money can be saved in production- it will be. My Sora Equipped bike had the front deraileur and gear shifters in Sora. The rear Deraileur was an upgrade to Tiagra but crankset and brakes were far inferior and cheaper and I have no idea where the wheels were dragged up from. The stems- bars and seatpost were heavy and the saddle was low grade although it did last 6 months before being replaced.

To me it does not matter what grade the first bike is as all it is there for is to get you riding and find out what bike you should have bought in the first place. Too many unknowns when you start out and things like size of frame- Your fit to the bike- Size of hills in your area that will affect the gearing choice and then finally do you like that style of bike. It is the second bike that you will find that you know roughly what you want and need and the groupset "Envy" does come in. Only thing i would say about the first bike is to Use an LBS for advice and warranty and repairs and buy buy basic and cheap- but don't buy rubbish.
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Old 01-18-13, 02:39 AM   #5
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in all cases the pedals turn the chain ring, which turns another cog attached in various ways to the back wheel.


not privvy to a factory visit, but I can visualize very few hands touch the mass market parts,
those are likely a collections of assembly line robots, so as to produce the millions , at low cost..


opposite end of the spectrum, alloys and processes of areospace quality , and polished, laser etched. and anodized.
bronze bushings and so forth on the pivots.. ceramic bearings..
the Companies compete with gee whiz designs , then put athletes on them , in hopes that folks do a bit of image transferral

tending the bike is the difference [rather than the EPO abd other PED'd] but that is sports marketing in general .

pay a sports hero more than a square mile of factory workers sewing and gluing shoes together.


My self My gear head 'jones' got expressed in German stuff ..
just like the design it rightin the 1st place , and dont deal in the "NewLatest" game..


the using a parts mix is basically trying to keep the price point low enough to sell ,
in consideration of escalating costs and most of the customers forced into an Austerity economy

Of course once you zero in, on what frame size/proportions suit you,
then you can get a decent frameset and then take the mix and match, Or groupset, approach..

Even take on the fashion police and get a small wheel bike like Bike Friday's Pocket Rocket
that will be every bit as fun, Plus the kind of gears the Companies make , patterned after the
stuff the PED fueled racers turn over for finish line sprints , makes sense turning a
451 rim 20" wheel with a 53:11 , a more reasonable, 96" gear.. vs like 130"

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Old 01-18-13, 02:45 AM   #6
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I feel like bikes from 5-10 years ago that were "Dura Ace" or "Ultegra" were actually all dura ace and ultegra.. including the brakes and crankset.

Nowadays it seems like you almost never get the good shimano crank or brakes on your "Ultegra" bike and get some crappy FSA or tektro brakes or other offbrand stuff. I hate it when they do that.

Anyway, I too will say that I had an old 9 speed tiagra that I could get shifting just as well as my 10 speed Dura Ace bike. The dura ace does feel better though.


The SRAM stuff is nice too.

IIRC it goes apex-rival-force-red.. there might be another one I'm forgetting? I have a rival set up and that feels very solid and I think a lot of people like the SRAM because they have fancy carbon levers and the shifter cables routed with the brake cables even on the cheaper groups. That's probably why you can get a cervelo with rival but not tiagra.

Oh yeah and don't get a hybrid unless you just ride to the grocery store and back. I rode one of those things and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life (ok not that bad, but it was so much worse than a road bike).

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Old 01-18-13, 06:46 AM   #7
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Your first road bike? Focus on economy and fit. And by fit, we mean the frame and the saddle, not the components. If you ride enough to really feel the difference between things like wheelsets and groupsets, you'll have the pleasure of upgrading later.
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Old 01-18-13, 07:00 AM   #8
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Your first road bike? Focus on economy and fit. And by fit, we mean the frame and the saddle, not the components. If you ride enough to really feel the difference between things like wheelsets and groupsets, you'll have the pleasure of upgrading later.
How thinly can you slice the baloney? Shimano makes 5 road component groupsets. They all do basically the same things and they all work. As you advance up the food chain the parts get a little lighter in weight, look a little better, and work a little more "crisply". The cost tends to increase exponentially. I think that if I move up or down 1 groupset I can't feel any performance difference at all. Two groupsets, maybe I can feel something.

Think of your first road bike as the "test bike". After riding it for awhile you'll figure out what you want in your second bike.

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Old 01-18-13, 07:16 AM   #9
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If you're finished with putting the kids through college and your mortgage is paid off, then go with a very nice first bike and anticipate that you might buy another one soon afterwards.

Frame and components matter. Get a very good frameset and at least Ultegra. Then later get a custom wheelset. Bike fit is extremely important but the trouble is that its a dynamic process. There are intermediate steps as you get accustomed to riding a road bike. I chose to go to an independent fitter.
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Old 01-18-13, 07:48 AM   #10
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....
EDIT: There is one place where groupset affects shift quality, and that's in the minds of LBS mechanics. Until I learned how to do my own work, I took my bikes to the LBS. I was actually told (by tow shops), "It's Sora. It's supposed to shift like crap." And when presented with the same grievances on another bike, teh same mechanics told me "Yeah, 105's supposed to shift better than that" and they got right on it.

... .
+1

And that can even differ from mechanic to mechanic within a bike shop. Some take a bias against anything older or cheaper and instead take an elitist attitude and scorn anything that isn't up on the race/high performance level.
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Old 01-18-13, 09:08 AM   #11
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Thanks again for some great advice, folks!

I understand about using the first road bike to determine what I really want. In woodworking the same advice is given to people about building workbenches - you really have to use one for awhile until you learn what's important to you and what features you want. A year ago, I would have just given it my best shot and gone out and bought a good entry-level road bike from the LBS. Now, saving hard for impending retirement AND with a wife that was downsized into a job paying less than half what she used to make, every purchase is a struggle. I'm hoping to get enough from the sale of my recumbent and my current hybrid to pay for the new roadie. I'm not sure where the $$ will come from for the next upgrade! I'm going to try to make as intelligent and considered a choice as I can on this bike - who knows, I might get lucky and be satisfied with it for a long time. Realistically, I'm hoping that eventually I'll become knowledgeable enough to be able to bypass the LBS and take advantage of the deals on BD for N+2. Another possibility is that if the frame is dead-on right for me, I can upgrade components to dial it in.

Quote:
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I'll agree with tsl that groupset does not really matter in performance however you will normally find that the low grade groupsets are on the lower priced bikes and the top end are on top end bikes.
That's an interesting observation, and something that I suspected, hence my desire to understand how the groupsets (nice to know that word now!) are ranked.
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Old 01-18-13, 09:30 AM   #12
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Thanks again for some great advice, folks!

I understand about using the first road bike to determine what I really want. In woodworking the same advice is given to people about building workbenches - you really have to use one for awhile until you learn what's important to you and what features you want. A year ago, I would have just given it my best shot and gone out and bought a good entry-level road bike from the LBS. Now, saving hard for impending retirement AND with a wife that was downsized into a job paying less than half what she used to make, every purchase is a struggle. I'm hoping to get enough from the sale of my recumbent and my current hybrid to pay for the new roadie. I'm not sure where the $$ will come from for the next upgrade! I'm going to try to make as intelligent and considered a choice as I can on this bike - who knows, I might get lucky and be satisfied with it for a long time. Realistically, I'm hoping that eventually I'll become knowledgeable enough to be able to bypass the LBS and take advantage of the deals on BD for N+2. Another possibility is that if the frame is dead-on right for me, I can upgrade components to dial it in.



That's an interesting observation, and something that I suspected, hence my desire to understand how the groupsets (nice to know that word now!) are ranked.
ONE option is select a bike line from a major LBS manufacturer (such as Domine from Trek) and then buy the lowest level, cheapest bike in that line. You will get the frame that fits best and works best for you but with the cheaper components. You can then upgrade those components as the need arises and/or the wallet permits.
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Old 01-18-13, 10:11 AM   #13
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I will say upgrading components afterwards is far more expensive than buying the bike with them already on there. At least that is what I've been told and have read.
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Old 01-18-13, 10:56 AM   #14
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I will say upgrading components afterwards is far more expensive than buying the bike with them already on there. At least that is what I've been told and have read.
That's true for just about anything (cars, motorcycles, bikes, boats...). The advantage is that you can upgrade on the "installment plan", and upgrade only those components that you've learned (from personal experience) would make a significant difference, and leave in place those that may be less expensive, but working just fine. But it also assumes that I make a good choice in the frame out of the gate. It's interesting to look at the geometries of two bikes of the exact same model but different sizes. I can see that two riders of essentially identical proportions, preferences and riding style (a theoretical condition if ever there was one! ) but different sizes might come away from a test ride of the same bike with different impressions. It also seems to me that what may be fine on a one- or two-mile test ride (if the LBS allows even that much) might turn out to be problematic on a 25-mile ride.

I'm starting to think that maybe I should buy a used bike for my first roadie..
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Old 01-18-13, 11:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
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EDIT: There is one place where groupset affects shift quality, and that's in the minds of LBS mechanics. Until I learned how to do my own work, I took my bikes to the LBS. I was actually told (by tow shops), "It's Sora. It's supposed to shift like crap." And when presented with the same grievances on another bike, teh same mechanics told me "Yeah, 105's supposed to shift better than that" and they got right on it.
Personally, I think that bikes shift best with matching components - Sora derailleurs with Sora shifters and Ultegra with Ultegra. The lowest end shifters have a little slop in their indexing that lets you overshift a bit. It's so subtle that you might not notice it. I think that pairs better than a Dura Ace shifter with a slightly less precise derailleur.
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Old 01-18-13, 11:06 AM   #16
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One thing that surprised me was how good the new 105 on my cross bike was compared to the 7 yr. old Dura
Ace on my Masi. In fact it's better. If I were buying a new road bike I wouldn't pay extra for higher grade components. I'd just go 105 and be very happy.
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Old 01-18-13, 02:10 PM   #17
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One thing that surprised me was how good the new 105 on my cross bike was compared to the 7 yr. old Dura
Ace on my Masi. In fact it's better. If I were buying a new road bike I wouldn't pay extra for higher grade components. I'd just go 105 and be very happy.
Have to agree on this. My main rides are a mix of 105/Ultegra and I like the set up. My initial thoughts when looking for a bike last year was 105 and above but in testing bikes one of them had the latest 10 speed Tiagra. It changed gear and was as crisp as my other 6 year old bikes. Finished up buying a Cheaper bike than I originally intended as The "New" Tiagra is good enough for me. Thank goodness I did not try the latest Electronic Ultegra Di2------ as from a borrowed bike last month- that is superb.
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Old 01-18-13, 02:46 PM   #18
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Have to agree on this. My main rides are a mix of 105/Ultegra and I like the set up. My initial thoughts when looking for a bike last year was 105 and above but in testing bikes one of them had the latest 10 speed Tiagra. It changed gear and was as crisp as my other 6 year old bikes. Finished up buying a Cheaper bike than I originally intended as The "New" Tiagra is good enough for me. Thank goodness I did not try the latest Electronic Ultegra Di2------ as from a borrowed bike last month- that is superb.
I almost bought an Ultegra Di2 bike in November. For various reasons I ended up with a Dura Ace 7900 rig instead. In fact, the electronic shifting is nifty, but I didn't wholly like it. I prefer the softer mechanical sounds of conventional shifting to the harder "clunk" sound and feel of Di2. Probably I'd get used to it.
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Old 01-18-13, 03:08 PM   #19
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Consider the bicycle to be a constant, dynamic, work in progress. Start with a cheap bike with cheap components, and then upgrade as you feel the need or have the funds. You're buying your ultimate bike one component at a time this way, and you end up with lots of spare parts that can be useful later. At some point, you'll even upgrade the frame. When this happens, you only pay for a new frame, and you just move your old components onto it.

A few minor points: avoid SRAM cranks and bottom bracket. Their external bottom bracket has a VERY flaky manner of attachment. Shimano makes the best external bottom brackets (Hollowtech II) with the best method of attachment.

Usually, the next to top of line component group is the best value for money: Shimano Ultegra, Campag Chorus are pretty much the best value. After that, it's diminishing returns. What you're actually paying for is the envy of others, and even then, it's only those who can tell what it is. Not a good reason to buy more expensive stuff. Yes, the pro's usually use the good stuff, but they get it for free and they get paid to be photographed with it. But if you fall for this, then next year you'll have to upgrade to the new top of line. Like right now, if you had Dura Ace 7900, you would need to upgrade to Dura Ace 9000 due to peer pressure.

Me, I just ride a fixed gear for everything, so I couldn't care less about the latest gruppo. Upgrade-wise, I'm up to Campag Chorus brakes with Record levers, but I switch back to Centaur for the winter commuting season. But even now, after having the current frame for over three years, I am still constantly upgrading components little by little. It's one thing that makes cycling fun. To have the ultimate bike all at once makes absolutely no sense. What do you do to upgrade?

The smartest thing that bicycle manufacturers ever did was to standardize on head tube diameters and bottom bracket threadings. This allowed all component mfrs to make standardized products, broadening the choices available. But once they start going proprietary, it ruins it for everyone.

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Old 01-18-13, 03:31 PM   #20
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This years 105s are 2010s, or even 2011s, Ultegras.
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Old 01-19-13, 07:13 PM   #21
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I will point out 1 fact not said yet. Sora uses a lever to downshift. But uses a toggle lever on the inside of the hoods to upshift. It can only be accessed from the hoods. And is tiff and not easy to operate.

I would find a fremeset you like, Synapse Sectaur, Domain and go for Tiargra or better as you can afford. SRAM is all good. But for Shimano stay with Tiagra or better to get the dual lever shifting.

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Old 01-19-13, 07:38 PM   #22
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I will point out 1 fact not said yet. Sora uses a lever to downshift. But uses a toggle lever on the inside of the hoods to upshift. It can only be accessed from the hoods. And is tiff and not easy to operate.
This can be an advantage. My winter bike has Sora shifters and I find it much easier to operate when I"m wearing heavy gloves.
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Old 01-20-13, 12:23 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by phread59 View Post
I will point out 1 fact not said yet. Sora uses a lever to downshift. But uses a toggle lever on the inside of the hoods to upshift. It can only be accessed from the hoods. And is tiff and not easy to operate.

I would find a fremeset you like, Synapse Sectaur, Domain and go for Tiargra or better as you can afford. SRAM is all good. But for Shimano stay with Tiagra or better to get the dual lever shifting.

Mark Shuman
First bike was Sora and 2nd 105. I did not have a problem with Sora but even after a year with 105- I was looking for the lever to upshift.
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Old 01-20-13, 01:21 AM   #24
Mobile 155
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Just to toss in some personal experience I was where you are maybe five years ago. I have had Sora, Ultegra, Dura Ace from Shimano and Apex, Force and Red from SRAM. I like SRAM because of the method of shifting, but that is just me.

My first new Road bike was a Jamis with Sora. Yes the Sora Shifts well and it is easy to use the thumb shifter. But mine was a 8 speed and the 10 speeds had a better selection of cassettes and I wanted a 10 speed. My next road bike was a frame up build and got a deal on a SRAM drive train and shifters. You need SRAM Derailleurs with SRAM shifters but you can use Shimano cranksets and cassettes. My Second frame up build was with SRAM Force and yes it was smoother or at least I thought is was. This last assembly is with Red and it is smoother than my Apex. If I were doing it again today I would get a 10 Speed Shimano Tiegra or better or any of the SRAM shifters. If you are concerned with how much a second upgrade is going to cost in the future then remember it is often easier to get a frame and move the parts over to it. Shimano 105 is a good group set and their brakes aren't bad. SRAM Apex works as well and if you get the mid reach derailleur your choice of cassettes will go way up.

I agree with everyone else that the first road bike is only to teach you what you want in a road bike. But if you think you will have to live with that choice for a long time it is less expensive to get the parts you want on the bike if it is new. It is like buying a car, more than likely if you don't get the options you want you never will. (Just another point of view.)
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Old 01-20-13, 05:34 AM   #25
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Ahh the good old days when I was a young whippersnapper, "Oh yeah baby !, I'll take the red one"

Gears shifted, brakes stopped and seats hurt,,
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