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  1. #1
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    Trying to get a handle on derailleur quality levels and upgrades

    Hello all,

    I am a beginer and generally thinking of upgrading my bike (more for kicks then because of any real need). My bike is a 2012 Felt Verza City 2 and frankly it does me just fine. But when buying the bike I test road several with much nicer components and I want to see if I can replicate the feel of those components on my Verza City.

    I am trying to get an idea on where in the line-up of derailleurs each named version would be listed. This seems really and naturally difficult to do if you do not have extensive first hand experience with each component.

    For instance, I see sometimes Shimano Sora components mentioned as if they are their own lineup and other times I see people talking about Shimano Tiagra components being part of the Sora line-up, etc.

    The reason why I am trying to get a handle on quality levels is that many of the components when in a "used" condition sell for about the same price on ebay. So if I am going to buy a used component it would make sense to buy the highest quality used component possible.

    So far my list of Shimano components are as follows from lowest quality to highest:

    Atlus
    Alivio
    Deore
    Tiagra ? / Sora?
    Ultegra
    Dura Ace

    I have no idea if that is accurate, I am mostly going by what different bikes have on them. So if its a cheap bike it will have Atlus derailleurs. If its a fairly expensive bike it might have Tiagra, and if its really expensive it might have Dura Ace, etc. Sometimes I see SRAM components which my understanding this is a competing brand? Do these components work with Shimano? I have no idea where those components would fit into the above list.

    The other thing I am trying to figure out is what size components should go on my bike. Front derailleurs have clamp sizes measured in I believe? millimeters? (diameter? circumference?). I looked at the stats on my bike but it does not say the size of the front derailleur. What is the best way to figure this out? I have already figured out that my rear derailleur needs to be a "long cage" derailleur based on the range of gears I have.

    I frequently see derailleurs advertised that are for 10 speeds. My bike is a 3x8 (drivetrain?) can I use those derailleurs? I figured out I can not use a double front derailleur, I need a triple, but could I use a front and rear derailleur that describes themselves as 10 speeds?

    If I do upgrade my derailleurs do I need to upgrade my shifters? Should I upgrade my shifters before my derailleurs if I want to see the greatest performance gain (where I am measuring performance by smoothness of shifting).

    Thank you in advance for any answers. I realize many of these questions are quite basic, but I am very new to all of this.
    Last edited by minorhero; 08-05-13 at 06:05 PM.

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    YGWYPF.


    The ones that are low cost, but still shove the chain sideways.

    there the impressive machine is the one in the factory making them by complete automation.


    Seat tubes are fractional diameters, the metric numbers are approximate equivalents..

    example 1.125" is common in steel bikes. 28.6mm
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-06-13 at 11:10 AM.

  3. #3
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    Front derailleurs are measured in terms of the seat-tube diameter. Easiest way to measure is with calipers. You can do it with a piece of string as well (i.e., wrap a piece of string around the seat tube, measure its length, and divide by 3.14). Some manufacturers will publish seat tube diameters on their website as well; can't hurt to look.

    Shifting performance is very rarely determined by the "quality" of the derailleurs. The main difference in derailleurs is the weight. Front derailleurs especially are simply two parallel pieces of metal. That holds true for the cheap ones to the expensive ones.

    You can get lower end components to shift perfectly well. Keeping the drivetrain clean and well lubed goes a long ways towards this. Treating your bike to some shiny new well routed cables goes a long ways as well.
    "There is more to life than increasing its speed" -- Mahatma Gandhi

  4. #4
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    Currently I get some chain rubbing the front derailleur at the high and low ends of my gear ranges. At first I thought this was just because I didn't have things adjusted correctly. But reading online I see this is a common problem with the bike. One reason I had for buying new components was a hope to be able to fix this. Will new cables really make that much of a difference? I admit I had not even considered new cables as something to worry about upgrading.

  5. #5
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Currently I get some chain rubbing the front derailleur at the high and low ends of my gear ranges. At first I thought this was just because I didn't have things adjusted correctly. But reading online I see this is a common problem with the bike. One reason I had for buying new components was a hope to be able to fix this. Will new cables really make that much of a difference? I admit I had not even considered new cables as something to worry about upgrading.
    I talked this issue over the the guys at the bike shop a few years ago. It may be that upgrading your derailleurs will address the problem, but then again, maybe not. Cross chaining can cause the chain to rub at either extreme. When that happens, shift to the big chainring, or little chainring and it should fix the problem.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Currently I get some chain rubbing the front derailleur at the high and low ends of my gear ranges. At first I thought this was just because I didn't have things adjusted correctly. But reading online I see this is a common problem with the bike. One reason I had for buying new components was a hope to be able to fix this. Will new cables really make that much of a difference? I admit I had not even considered new cables as something to worry about upgrading.
    What are you referring to as the "high" and "low" end of your gear ranges? The "lowest" gear you have is with the chain on the small gear up front and the big gear in back. The "highest" gear you have is with the chain on the big gear up front and the small gear in back.

    If everything is adjusted correctly, those two combinations should be nearly whisper quiet.

    The small/small and big/big combinations are known as "cross chaining". It's normal for those combinations to be somewhat noisy due to the chain rubbing on the other gears or on the derailleurs themselves. Depending on the exact dimensions of your bike, the noise level can be "better" or "worse". At any rate, those two combinations (big/big and small/small) are usually avoided

    Changing the cables and / or keeping everything clean will help with the smoothness of shifting between any two gear combinations. Derailleurs "expect" the shifter to pull a certain amount of cable for each shift. If the cable is rusty or frays or otherwise "sticks" at some point between the shifter and the derailleur, then the amount of cable pulled is "off" and the shift doesn't feel as precise.
    "There is more to life than increasing its speed" -- Mahatma Gandhi

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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
    What are you referring to as the "high" and "low" end of your gear ranges? The "lowest" gear you have is with the chain on the small gear up front and the big gear in back. The "highest" gear you have is with the chain on the big gear up front and the small gear in back.

    If everything is adjusted correctly, those two combinations should be nearly whisper quiet.
    Sorry I should have been more precise. I hear rubbing when the front gear is in the middle on 2, and the back gear is either at 1 or 2 or 7 or 8. I always hear rubbing when on these settings. It is not constant rubbing, by the pattern it is only happening during part of the rotation. It is not a loud rubbing either. If I were talking to someone I could easily not hear it at all. It is only because I tend to ride alone and without listening to music or some such that I notice it. Reading some reviews online I see that this seems to be a problem with this bike. To my understanding I should not be hearing rubbing when on the front middle gear. Hence part of my interest in a front derailleur. The bike is pretty new so I doubt my cables are causing an issue.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Sorry I should have been more precise. I hear rubbing when the front gear is in the middle on 2, and the back gear is either at 1 or 2 or 7 or 8. I always hear rubbing when on these settings. It is not constant rubbing, by the pattern it is only happening during part of the rotation. It is not a loud rubbing either. If I were talking to someone I could easily not hear it at all. It is only because I tend to ride alone and without listening to music or some such that I notice it. Reading some reviews online I see that this seems to be a problem with this bike. To my understanding I should not be hearing rubbing when on the front middle gear. Hence part of my interest in a front derailleur. The bike is pretty new so I doubt my cables are causing an issue.
    Is it possible you have cross chaining from the middle chainring? Your bike's gearing is huge, 11-32 cassette. Thinking that you should used your big and little chainrings more and avoid either 38 - 11 or 38 - 32 combinations.

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    I probably could avoid it if I did switch the front gear (chainring?) more often. I would prefer not to have to do that though. I change it sometimes when going downhill or when going up a very steep one, but for the most part the middle chainring provides an excellent range for me and I am quite happy to use all of it. If a different front derailleur can do that I'm all for trying it out.

    Which brings me back to the original question. Are there quality differences between the different types of derailleurs? or are all of them the same and its just marketing hype that makes some parts cost more. When test riding bikes, I rode a Trek 7.7FX. That bike had very smooth gear changes compared to any other bike I rode. So smooth I almost couldn't feel the chain click over. If possible I want to duplicate that level of smoothness on my Verza. My plan was to use nicer components but I am open to any means of achieving my goal.

  10. #10
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    If using the triple doesn't appeal to you, could could always remove the front derailleur, little and big chainrings and just go with a 1 x 8 speed. Hence no chain rub against the front derailleur.

  11. #11
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    No I definitely do want to be able to change gears. I just also don't want there to be a rubbing chain.

  12. #12
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    No I definitely do want to be able to change gears. I just also don't want there to be a rubbing chain.
    Maybe you just need a minor adjustment. Why don't you have your LBS take a look at it.

    That aside, I read something awhile back that changed how I thought of my bike gears. Instead of thinking about your bike as a 24, 27, or 30 speed, think of the useful range. So in the little chainring, you have, maybe 4 or 5 useful gears. In the middle, maybe 6. And in the big chainring, 4 or 5.
    Last edited by MRT2; 08-05-13 at 08:42 PM.

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    I already had the LBS look at it, it was doing this at purchase as well. Believe me, this is a problem intrinsic to the bike. More then a couple of people online have reported the same thing. No big deal, but I do want it to stop.

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    Felt Verza City 2:
    The deraileurs are Alivio/Altus (band-on) with a 28/38/48 Suntour chainset.
    All of this is pretty std lowish end and should play together well.
    Low end Shimano is perfectly good and there is no need to upgrade until it wears out. Mine would go for 2 years of all-weather riding.
    You should check the hight and rotation of the front mech

  15. #15
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Derailers are just like most products, you get all the quality and performance when you reach mid level. Ones above mid level pretty much get into glitz and snobbery.

  16. #16
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    Derailers are just like most products, you get all the quality and performance when you reach mid level. Ones above mid level pretty much get into glitz and snobbery.
    True, but what is that threshold level? For some, that level is Deore for mountain derailleurs, 105 for roadies. I used Acera front and STX rear derailleurs on my old hybrid and it seemed to work very well, after an initial break in period and subsequent fine adjustment by my LBS. Now I have Sora front and Tiagra rear on my current ride, along with Tiagra shifters and it seems to work very well, in fact better now that I have figured out how to correctly use my triple chainring.

    My view is, upgrading derailleurs may not fix the problem or issue OP is experiencing. Altus FD/Alivio RD should be adequate for the level of OP's bike, though if he wants to upgrade to Deore or higher to get smoother shifting and somewhat lighter components (though trivial compared to the weight of his bike), it is his money.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    If you could put a Ferrari transmission into a Fiat do you think it would accelerate like a Ferrari?

    Think of your bike as a system. You can upgrade a component here or there but, if you are serious about making it work better, you'll have to upgrade everything.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    I frequently see derailleurs advertised that are for 10 speeds. My bike is a 3x8 (drivetrain?) can I use those derailleurs? I figured out I can not use a double front derailleur, I need a triple, but could I use a front and rear derailleur that describes themselves as 10 speeds?
    10 speed rear derailleurs for mountain bikes won't work with your shifters, they use a different amount of cable pull.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    I think it should be,

    Atlus
    Alivio
    Deore
    Sora? came in 8 now 9 speed.
    Tiagra now comes as a 10 speed
    105 new ones are what Ultrgra used to be
    Ultegra New ones are what Dura Ace used to be.
    Dura Ace
    Ultegra Di-2
    Dura Ace Di-2

    Until you get into Di-2 the derailleur is the dumb part of the system. They are simply a slave to the shifters. Better shift levers will make the derailleur feel smoother and shift better. I tend to be a SRAM person so what would I know?
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  20. #20
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Then there the other Guys SRAM and Campagnolo, they have multiple price points too.

    they leave the lowest tier stuff to shimano, , but for the grip shift stuff, in OEM bulk sales,

    SRAM Lawyered up and Sued to get a piece of that Action..

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    Could I use SRAM shifters with Shimano derailleurs or do they not mix?

  22. #22
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Atlus
    Alivio
    Deore
    Tiagra ? / Sora?
    Ultegra
    Dura Ace
    FYI,you're mixing road and MTB groupos there.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimano

    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Sorry I should have been more precise. I hear rubbing when the front gear is in the middle on 2, and the back gear is either at 1 or 2 or 7 or 8.
    That's called cross-chaining. You want your front and rear gears to match. When in the small ring,you should be in the lower cogs(1-4),when in the middle ring you should be in the middle cogs(3-6),and when in the big ring you should be in the higher cogs(5-8). If you swapped to a narrower range cassette you might be able to use the combos you want,but you would narrow your gear range and lose your lower gears.

    What you're describing is pretty much normal.

    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Could I use SRAM shifters with Shimano derailleurs or do they not mix?
    Only Rocket and Attack shifters will work with Shimano derailleurs(they're meant for them). Shimano and SRAM use different cable pulls.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Brompton S6L,Dahon Speed Pro TT

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    No I definitely do want to be able to change gears. I just also don't want there to be a rubbing chain.

    if the shift lever is friction, you just move the lever till the rubbing stops. up to user not engineers.

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    SOOOOO, you're running a 3x8 system; nothing at all wrong with that, my daughter has one, too. Here we go. . . .

    The new 10-speed stuff is a little different, not compatible with anything else. So forget all that. BUT, I've had success running 9-speed-ready derailleurs with 8-speed shifters (and front derailleurs are widely interchangeable). These derailleurs are built to work with the long-time standard Shimano used for their drivetrains ( 2:1 shifting ratio), and those shifters were built the same way, whether 7, 8, or 9 speed. (What changed was the ACTUAL amount of cable pull was used, because the rear gear clusters were spaced differently....)

    SRAM IS a competitor, and, IMO, a better brand; the same ideas apply -- 10-speed is exclusive, but the 7-8-9 will cooperate. SRAM will NOT work with Shimano on the rear derailleurs (they DO on the front!), because SRAM's cable pull ratio is 1:1. I bought some X.7 stuff a few years ago, and haven't bought a Shimano drivetrain piece since. I'm currently running X.9, and love it!

  25. #25
    we be rollin' hybridbkrdr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
    Hello all,

    I am a beginer and generally thinking of upgrading my bike (more for kicks then because of any real need). My bike is a 2012 Felt Verza City 2 and frankly it does me just fine. But when buying the bike I test road several with much nicer components and I want to see if I can replicate the feel of those components on my Verza City.

    I am trying to get an idea on where in the line-up of derailleurs each named version would be listed. This seems really and naturally difficult to do if you do not have extensive first hand experience with each component.

    mountain/hybrid:
    Tourney
    Altus
    Acera
    Alivio
    Deore
    Deore LX (mostly Europe but sometimes available in North America)
    Deore XT
    (and others...)

    road:
    A050
    2200
    2300
    Sora
    Tiagra
    105


    For instance, I see sometimes Shimano Sora components mentioned as if they are their own lineup and other times I see people talking about Shimano Tiagra components being part of the Sora line-up, etc.

    I don't know what you're talking about here. Sora is Sora, Tiagra is Tiagra.

    The reason why I am trying to get a handle on quality levels is that many of the components when in a "used" condition sell for about the same price on ebay. So if I am going to buy a used component it would make sense to buy the highest quality used component possible.

    Once you go above Deore LX or 105, you might see diminishing returns for your money.

    So far my list of Shimano components are as follows from lowest quality to highest:

    Atlus
    Alivio
    Deore
    Tiagra ? / Sora?
    Ultegra
    Dura Ace

    I have no idea if that is accurate, I am mostly going by what different bikes have on them. So if its a cheap bike it will have Atlus derailleurs. If its a fairly expensive bike it might have Tiagra, and if its really expensive it might have Dura Ace, etc. Sometimes I see SRAM components which my understanding this is a competing brand? Do these components work with Shimano? I have no idea where those components would fit into the above list.
    I can't remember whether SRAM and Shimano did in fact standerdize the cable pull on their shifters or not. I thought I briefly read they did but forgot the details. I know at one time you could not use SRAM shifters with Shimano derailleurs (if I'm correct anyway). Some people use SRAM cassettes with KMC chains (apparently they make Shimano chains) and Shimano derailleurs/shifters. One reason I'd choose Shimano over SRAM or Campy is parts availability.

    The other thing I am trying to figure out is what size components should go on my bike. Front derailleurs have clamp sizes measured in I believe? millimeters? (diameter? circumference?). I looked at the stats on my bike but it does not say the size of the front derailleur. What is the best way to figure this out? I have already figured out that my rear derailleur needs to be a "long cage" derailleur based on the range of gears I have.
    The size is stamped inside the front derailleur if you take it off. (Can often be 31.8mm)

    I frequently see derailleurs advertised that are for 10 speeds. My bike is a 3x8 (drivetrain?) can I use those derailleurs? I figured out I can not use a double front derailleur, I need a triple, but could I use a front and rear derailleur that describes themselves as 10 speeds?

    Although an 8 speed chain is wider than a 9 speed chain which is wider than a 10 speed chain, rear derailleurs generally don't have speeds. However, for the front derailleur, even though people can say a 9 speed chain front derailleur might be adjusted properly so an 8 speed chain wouldn't rub, I'd prefer not taking chances. (I'd prefer an 8 speed front derailleur for an 8 speed chain.) From what I can remember, there's only a difference of 0.46mm in the distance between chainrings on an 8 speed crankset and 9 speed crankset. I've discussed this with people here and the consensus was there's no reason to add a 0.5mm crankset spacer to use an 8 speed chain on a 9 speed crankset. I wouldn't try using an 8 speed chain on a 10 speed crankset however (unless I'd do the research to figure out which spacers to use)

    If I do upgrade my derailleurs do I need to upgrade my shifters? Should I upgrade my shifters before my derailleurs if I want to see the greatest performance gain (where I am measuring performance by smoothness of shifting).

    Good question. I'd prefer starting with better shifters. From the research that I did, the only Deore-level quality shifters in 8 speed you could probably find are new old stock (NOS) Shimano STX-RC shifters on eBay. According to someone I emailed in Germany, they were close to LX quality. Someone wrote a message stating they questioned clients for years comparing Alivio to Deore. Apparently Deore shifted better, longer with less maintenance. There might be a reason for going with LX or 105 if you find a good price. But personally I wouldn't go higher than those levels.

    Thank you in advance for any answers. I realize many of these questions are quite basic, but I am very new to all of this.
    Just some general comments. I intended to use Falcon friction shifters on a bicycle and discussed this here. I've been told with friction shifting, you might not notice the difference in quality levels of derailleurs. Still, I thought about using Alivio/Sora quality derailleurs with those Falcon friction shifters. (That project is not built up yet.) Another thing, if you do want to shift by ear instead of using rapid fire shifters, some people insist going higher than 8 speeds starts to become difficult to shift. Although there are some who say they can friction shift in 9 speeds.

    Whoa, I'm a little sleepy and probably forgot a lot of comments to add but that's it for now.
    Feeling Good by David Burns

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