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Old 11-08-08, 06:18 AM   #1
John W Foster
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General Question About Bicycle Component Quality

My wife and I are currently bike shopping, and I have a question about the quality of the components available on new bikes(brakes, gearing, shifting etc.). Most of the bikes we have looked at have Shimano parts which seems to be the big player. We see some with series 2200 parts(the lower end of our price range bikes), Sora and Tiagra (seems to be on most of the bikes in our range) or series 105 ( not many with this in our range). I know the more premium series have more features that improve performance or convenience; but is there also a quality difference? Can I expect fewer years of service, or more repairs on the more economical series? In some ways I am a frugal guy, so I have no trouble giving up "bells and whistles" to save a few bucks; on the other hand I like to buy things for life and don't mind spending money on quality. Thanks John
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Old 11-08-08, 06:23 AM   #2
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105 is better
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Old 11-08-08, 06:30 AM   #3
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How thinly can you slice the baloney?

For road bikes, Shimano has six or seven component groups. They all perform the same functions and they all do it adequately. As you move up the food chain the components get progressively lighter in weight, "crisper" operating, and aesthetically better looking.

What does crisper operating mean? If I move up or down 2 component groups I think that I can subjectively feel the shifters working with a tiny bit less slop. I don't think that on a blind test I could tell a difference if I moved only one group.
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Old 11-08-08, 07:10 AM   #4
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Bike mechanics is where you might find additional insight.

One thought on your use of "quality". You somehow excluded performance and convenience and exlusively focused on "long lasting" because you're frugal.

Remember the old Zentith commercials? The Quality goes in before the name goes on?

Those old TV sets had big power transformers, weighed a ton, costed a lot. The tuners were the drum kind and the contacts had good metal contacts. Yeah, they lasted longer than the Sylvania sets.
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Old 11-08-08, 07:11 AM   #5
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What Retro Grouch says. I'll just add that once you've gone up a level, it's tough to go back down. As you ride more, you begin to notice the little things like crisper shifting, better finish, etc., that Retro Grouch refers to.

If you were buying a mountain-bike, I'd suggest aiming for a mix of LX and XT components. Those are were I believe you get solid quality and value for your dollar. I am not sure how to translate that advice to Shimano's road groupings.
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Old 11-08-08, 07:23 AM   #6
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All of the Shimano components function exactly the way they are supposed to. The reliability and longevity of the various groups (shifters and derailleurs) is similar in my experience. You can most assuredly feel the precision and smoothness of the higher priced stuff. Better brakes perform better and appreciably so. Moving parts like bearings in wheels and bottom brackets last longer with the better quality stuff. Chances are if you are just going to do some recreational riding, the Sora level stuff will serve you quite well. If you have visions of getting a little more serious, you may opt for the 105 level stuff.
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Old 11-08-08, 12:28 PM   #7
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Mr. Foster,
It would also help us with recommendations if we knew more about your riding and riding goals. You're right, Shimano is the big player. If you're wanting to ride trails on the weekends, go with the inexpensive group. If you're eventually wanting to do week-long rides, such as RAGBRAI, bump yourself up a couple notches and try to get at least the 105 group. It's common for there to be a mix of components on bikes too. There may be 105 on part of it and Tiagra on another part. If that's the case I would recommend the 105 on the rear derailuer, but you may not get that choice.

The old adage about "it's better to spend more than you intended rather than less than you should have" somewhat holds true, but Shimano stuff is pretty good at all levels.
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Old 11-08-08, 12:46 PM   #8
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As an example of the Shimano pecking-order: I had a Tiagra rear derailleur on my new Trek. Came as stock with the bike. I'd push the shifter to change gears, and would sometimes have to hold my thumb while it rattled into the new gear I wanted. This was acceptable. I swapped the Tiagra for an Ultegra - out of pocket - and now it shifts cleanly before I get my thumb off the shifter.
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Old 11-08-08, 04:42 PM   #9
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I am looking for a commuting (10-15K round trip, pavement), and a day trip recreational bike. I want some carrier ability, but does not have to be a dedicated touring bike. I like the road bike type handle bars, and a 28 to 35 mm tire width. I have tried narrow tire road bikes, which I liked, but I don't want to exclude myself from using gravel roads. I wouldn't say price is no object, but I am willing to spend what it takes to get a good bike.
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Old 11-08-08, 04:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by John W Foster View Post
I am looking for a commuting (10-15K round trip, pavement), and a day trip recreational bike. I want some carrier ability, but does not have to be a dedicated touring bike. I like the road bike type handle bars, and a 28 to 35 mm tire width. I have tried narrow tire road bikes, which I liked, but I don't want to exclude myself from using gravel roads. I wouldn't say price is no object, but I am willing to spend what it takes to get a good bike.
A cross bike might prove useful for your application. Many of them have rack bosses and are a little more stretched out than the typical road bike.
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Old 11-08-08, 05:20 PM   #11
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X2 on the Cross bike. Sounds like it fits the need exactly.

-Roger
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Old 11-08-08, 06:26 PM   #12
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It's common for there to be a mix of components on bikes too. There may be 105 on part of it and Tiagra on another part. If that's the case I would recommend the 105 on the rear derailuer, but you may not get that choice.
Bike manufacturers generally step up one group or sometimes even two groups on the rear derailleur because that's the first component that buyers typically look at. They cheat in the places they think you won't look like the bottom bracket, headset, and brakes. I think that's goofy. The rear derailleur may be the most reliable component on the whole bike. On my personal bikes, I tend to use the same group top to bottom.
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Old 11-08-08, 06:36 PM   #13
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If you are a casual weekend rider that does the occasional charity ride, then an entry level bike with Sora or Tiagra will be fine. If you are a three days a week to daily rider, step up to 105 or Ultegra, maybe even Sram Rival. Dura-Ace, Force, and Red are suited best for racing.

The higher you go up the scale, the closer the tolerances become, the higher quality of material is used, and more precise machining is involved.
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Old 11-08-08, 10:13 PM   #14
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You can always upgrade components as time goes by. It helps spread the cost out and soon you have the levels you want. BTW, I have never regretted an equipment upgrade. bk
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Old 11-08-08, 10:57 PM   #15
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Probably the most in-depth comparison between component levels you'll see online:
http://www.bikesportmichigan.com/fea...-ultegra.shtml

Sure, it's just between Ultegra, Ultegra SL, and Dura Ace, but I wouldn't have guessed at all the differences they found.

Additionally, it's been posted around here that parts manufacturers expect their groups to last progressively longer as they go up in the range. Shimano has a longer warranty on Dura Ace over Ultegra (it's mentioned in that link); Campagnolo rates theirs for higher mileage at higher levels.

I have slightly older Tiagra on one bike, and it just doesn't shift as nicely as the 105 on another bike. The levers feel imprecise and rubbery, and dropping to the small front ring feels like I'm breaking the shifter.
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Old 11-09-08, 12:11 AM   #16
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Raleigh USA just came out with a new bike called the clubman. It's tiagra-equipped, which seems just about the level you'll want, and it's got rack mounts and plenty of tire clearance. It's also steel, which will last just about forever. Raleigh doesn't give a specific MSRP, but indicates that it should be in the $700-$1000 range.

No, I'm not working for Raleigh. My girlfriend's bike just got stolen and she's looking for something much like you are, so I was already doing some research...
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Old 11-09-08, 01:18 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John W Foster View Post
My wife and I are currently bike shopping, and I have a question about the quality of the components available on new bikes(brakes, gearing, shifting etc.). Most of the bikes we have looked at have Shimano parts which seems to be the big player. We see some with series 2200 parts(the lower end of our price range bikes), Sora and Tiagra (seems to be on most of the bikes in our range) or series 105 ( not many with this in our range). I know the more premium series have more features that improve performance or convenience; but is there also a quality difference? Can I expect fewer years of service, or more repairs on the more economical series? In some ways I am a frugal guy, so I have no trouble giving up "bells and whistles" to save a few bucks; on the other hand I like to buy things for life and don't mind spending money on quality. Thanks John
Okay here are my observations. I have two specialized Sirrus bikes. My first Sirrus is a 1988 steel frame racing bike with Shimano 105 six speed indexing and the second is nearly 10 years newer. It's a 2007 700C hybrid aluminum frame with Sora derailers.

From a quality standpoint the components on the bike are relatively close; however, the machining on the Shimano 105 is better. How so? All the Sora stuff is constructed of stampings where is the 105 is actually machined. Crank arms on the Sora appear to be investment cast and if you look really closely you can see some remaining flash. The Shimano 105 is either forged or cast, but definitely better machined. I'm willing to bet that they're equally quick shifting, but the Shimano 105 gear feels more a substantial.

My 2007 Sirrus was the entry level for that year and studying it compared to the top end of the line its lineage seems to be that it used to be the top end for 2001 through 2004. I'm sure in 2008 and onwards more carbon fiber will trickle down to the entry level. How does the '07 compared to the '88? The 1988 Sirrus is a thing of beauty with investment cast lugs and the feel of what it must be like riding on the thoroughbred, very nimble and fast. The 2007 is TIG welded aluminum it's still very nimble and quick and feels very close to that original Sirrus, but the angles are just modified enough so that you can carry cargo and mount a set of fenders on it. It's more like a quarter horse or an Appaloosa, fast but made to do work.

Would I go out and update a new bike with a better more top end stuff? Maybe, but only if the shop that I am buying the bike from agrees to cut me a break on the price of the new parts and the labor. The alternative is to do it myself and do it piecemeal.
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Old 11-09-08, 06:59 AM   #18
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Sure, it's just between Ultegra, Ultegra SL, and Dura Ace, but I wouldn't have guessed at all the differences they found.

Additionally, it's been posted around here that parts manufacturers expect their groups to last progressively longer as they go up in the range. Shimano has a longer warranty on Dura Ace over Ultegra (it's mentioned in that link);
They should offer a longer warranty on Dura Ace. It costs roughly double the price of Ultegra!
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Old 11-09-08, 10:39 AM   #19
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Also keep in mind that by going up one level of components, the bike may also include better wheels, fork, etc.

In my case, I got an Ultegra-level bike for about $50 more than the same manufacturer's 105-level bike. This bike also included better wheels and an all-carbon fork.
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Old 11-09-08, 10:44 AM   #20
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They should offer a longer warranty on Dura Ace. It costs roughly double the price of Ultegra!
Sure, but the idea is that they expect Dura Ace to last longer.
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Old 11-09-08, 11:47 AM   #21
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Sure, but the idea is that they expect Dura Ace to last longer.
Yeah, right!

I've got gray painted 105 components on my retro grouch bike. How old is that stuff? I'd love to replace it because - well - that's what I do. But I can't bring myself to pitch it while it's still perfectly functional and the dammed old stuff just keeps hanging on. You should see how nicely the hubs spin.

So I should pay a lot more for something that will last even longer and frustrate me even more?
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Old 11-09-08, 12:45 PM   #22
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Frustrate you even more...?

Wow, you lost me there.
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Old 11-09-08, 03:48 PM   #23
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I think what Retro Grouch needs is a magical-well in which resides an endless supply of decent frames upon which he can install his collection of good, but old, components - as he upgrades endlessly towards the Big Suck (opposite of the Big Bang).

Personally, I'm quite happy with the upgrades I've made with Ultegra-branded components on my Trek - which came with one's that are slightly under the '105' wire. Tiagra and Deore for instance. The frame warrants better than what Trek slapped on it to make a sale. But as soon as I build it some wheels using Mavic A719's w/Ultegra hubs and DT DB spokes - I'm done. It's a finish.

Perhaps I'll send Retro Grouch the old components and listen for the scream-in-the-night.
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Old 11-09-08, 04:28 PM   #24
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I think what Retro Grouch needs is a magical-well in which resides an endless supply of decent frames upon which he can install his collection of good, but old, components - as he upgrades endlessly towards the Big Suck (opposite of the Big Bang).

Personally, I'm quite happy with the upgrades I've made with Ultegra-branded components on my Trek - which came with one's that are slightly under the '105' wire. Tiagra and Deore for instance. The frame warrants better than what Trek slapped on it to make a sale. But as soon as I build it some wheels using Mavic A719's w/Ultegra hubs and DT DB spokes - I'm done. It's a finish.

Perhaps I'll send Retro Grouch the old components and listen for the scream-in-the-night.
OK, but you'll be the one to who has to deal with Mrs. Grouch.
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Old 11-09-08, 08:55 PM   #25
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They should offer a longer warranty on Dura Ace. It costs roughly double the price of Ultegra!
They do. 3 years for Dura-Ace and XTR. 2 years for everthing else.
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