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How much of a difference is Shimano Sora over Claris?

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How much of a difference is Shimano Sora over Claris?

Old 11-18-20, 04:43 AM
  #1  
Herzlos
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How much of a difference is Shimano Sora over Claris?

I've been looking at a new bike next year and have largely narrowed it down to a Giant Contend AR (for today, at least).
There are 2 models in particular, the AR4 (£899) and AR3 (£999), the only difference seems to be that the AR4 has Claris gears and the AR3 has Sora. I'd be using the cycle to work scheme so the difference is more like £75, however I already have 2 bikes with Claris components.

Would I realistically notice a difference between the drivetrains? Is it worth the price difference or am I best sticking with Claris and taking advantage of being able to share parts between bikes?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-18-20, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
I've been looking at a new bike next year and have largely narrowed it down to a Giant Contend AR (for today, at least).
There are 2 models in particular, the AR4 (£899) and AR3 (£999), the only difference seems to be that the AR4 has Claris gears and the AR3 has Sora. I'd be using the cycle to work scheme so the difference is more like £75, however I already have 2 bikes with Claris components.

Would I realistically notice a difference between the drivetrains? Is it worth the price difference or am I best sticking with Claris and taking advantage of being able to share parts between bikes?

Thanks in advance!
I am not familiar with the contend range, however I had a quick check and it seems that the only difference apart from claris vs sora is that the ar3 comes with the shimano hollowtech 2 cranks (the corresponding sora version) while the ar4 comes with square taper FSA cranks. In practice this means nothing aside from having a complete shimano groupset. I have had experience with FSA chainrings in the past and I would say they shift marginally worse than the shimano ones.

None of this really makes any difference though, since I think it comes down to whether for an extra $75 or so USD is it worth the upgrade to 9 speed from 8 speed? The range of gears is identical so for me I wouldn't fuss about it really.
Giant bikes are generally great value for money and I have to admit, these look pretty good.
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Old 11-18-20, 07:40 AM
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I haven't checked, but Hollowtech II, as opposed to square taper, would be worth the extra to me. Square taper arm-spindle interfaces may wear and may develop play over time, while Hollowtech II is stiff and reliable. I would definitely go with a Shimano crankset over FSA; it would be money well spent IMO.

Last edited by PDKL45; 11-18-20 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Triggering comments on square taper.
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Old 11-18-20, 07:54 AM
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Shimano crank and 9sp shifting for $75 more? Yeah, I would do that.

You mention compatibility being a reason to go with Claris and while that is certainly a good thought, I just cant imagine it being needed in practice. A 9sp chain is cheap, a 9sp cassette is cheap, and it isnt really any more difficult to have a spare 9sp chain than it is to have a spare 8sp chain.
Drivetrain components so rarely break, and if one does, you could buy one that day at a shop or at worst order up a new Sora component online and have it in a couple days. Compare that to if the new bike is Claris- if your rear derailleur breaks, you can pull a rear derailleur from another bike and slap it on this new bike to get it to work right away. Thats great, but you still need to replace the derailleur. Just use one of the other bikes if something breaks on this new bike, or drive/walk/carpool in the interim.
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Old 11-18-20, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Shimano crank and 9sp shifting for $75 more? Yeah, I would do that.

You mention compatibility being a reason to go with Claris and while that is certainly a good thought, I just cant imagine it being needed in practice. A 9sp chain is cheap, a 9sp cassette is cheap, and it isnt really any more difficult to have a spare 9sp chain than it is to have a spare 8sp chain.
Drivetrain components so rarely break, and if one does, you could buy one that day at a shop or at worst order up a new Sora component online and have it in a couple days. Compare that to if the new bike is Claris- if your rear derailleur breaks, you can pull a rear derailleur from another bike and slap it on this new bike to get it to work right away. Thats great, but you still need to replace the derailleur. Just use one of the other bikes if something breaks on this new bike, or drive/walk/carpool in the interim.
And realistically you can run a 9 speed chain on 8 speed drivetrain.
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Old 11-18-20, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by PDKL45 View Post
I haven't checked, but Hollowtech II, as opposed to square taper, would be worth the extra to me. Square taper arm-spindle interfaces wear and they develop play over time, while Hollowtech II is stiff and reliable.
You'd think I would have noticed the square taper wear and play in more than 60,000 miles, but I haven't.
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Old 11-18-20, 08:51 AM
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here's how I see it; The difference of £75 is meaningless over the life of the bike. Break it down to cost per mile or cost per day over 7.5 years .....

I always try to get the best stuff up front ... buy the best hardware I can afford. Upgrading a drivetrain is expensive and generally not worth it ... but getting the upgrade for cheap will never leave you saying "I wish I had less."

New Claris is supposed to be better than old Claris, which was sturdy enough ... sort of. Cheap materials, front derailleur maybe a little to o flexy ... but it works. I still use it on one bike. New Sora is supposed to be really good, having incorporated a lot of the tech from the better group sets.

Personally I like having more gears per chainring so i can worry less about double shifting, but 8 versus 9 is not a deal-breaker. I really like Hollowtech II because it is stronger and lighter than square-taper, and still threads right in. Yeah, i still have square-taper on two bikes and it gets the job done admirably, but I Prefer Hollowtech.

Obviously we could all be riding gas-pipe steel single-speeds and still get where we are going. There is no Essential tech besides two wheels a seat, steering and a drive train. On the other hand, not everyone buys the latest and greatest because the ads said to, or to be like Racer X on Team Y in the pro peloton, or to show of at the cafe.

Some of us like the better gear because it works a little better, lasts a little longer, and provides a marginally better riding experience.

Sure, we could all get where we are going on Walmart beach cruisers .... and you can if you want to. And the guy with square taper who thinks it is the greatest ... great. The guy with a seven-speed freewheel, the guy with friction shifters on the stem ... yeah, all that works. But if a person has a chance to buy whatever ... why not get a little better?

You cannot go wrong with either option. Giant offers good value, as a rule, and builds a good product. Claris and Sora are both good group sets. FSA makes decent cranks and rings (have them on my rain/work bike.) But in my opinion.... worth exactly nothing .... spend a few pence a day and get the better gear.
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Old 11-18-20, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
You mention compatibility being a reason to go with Claris and while that is certainly a good thought, I just cant imagine it being needed in practice.
You're right of course, and with 3 other bikes if one of them broke I'd just use another one until I could get it fixed. I'm a pretty casual rider at the moment (working from home) so it's not a priority.

Originally Posted by FTB View Post
None of this really makes any difference though, since I think it comes down to whether for an extra $75 or so USD is it worth the upgrade to 9 speed from 8 speed? The range of gears is identical so for me I wouldn't fuss about it really.
I'm not sure I'd notice much difference with an extra speed though I'm sure it wouldn't hurt.

I'm always wary when it comes to buying things like bikes that I fall into the "For just another $x I can get..." and my £899 Contend AR4 becomes a £1599 Contend AR1!
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Old 11-18-20, 09:09 AM
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Square taper wear, never heard of that before, ever. I guess if your swapping between 2 cranks on a regular basis, or grossly over, or under torquing them.
Tim
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Old 11-18-20, 11:12 AM
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Spend the extra and get the 9 speed Sora for only one reason... gapping.

Fortunately the 9 speed 11-34 doesn’t have the more worthless 12t Sitting between the 11 and 13 and that gives you better overall gapping between the cogs.

The 8 speed 11-34 has wider gapping.

Obviously you can swap out the cassette to improve it. Sunrace makes a nice 8 speed 12-34. But you’ll lose the ability to spin out that 50/11 which is so useful (lol) when BITD, 53/12 was a racers ratio, but I digress.

John
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Old 11-18-20, 11:31 AM
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Yeah I went 12-28 on one bike ... I really miss that extra mile per hour during the two seconds per ride when I really spin the top gear.

Cog spacing is one more valid reason why the upgrade actually is an upgrade.
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Old 11-18-20, 12:41 PM
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The current generation Claris, Sora and Tiagra (cable brake) are pretty much the same systems with a different # of gears, and slight changes in construction materials and weight.
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Old 11-18-20, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by zen_ View Post
The current generation Claris, Sora and Tiagra (cable brake) are pretty much the same systems with a different # of gears, and slight changes in construction materials and weight.
So except for # of gears, construction materials, and weight- they are pretty much the same.

...i know what you mean and dont disagree. just joking around.
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Old 11-18-20, 02:27 PM
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I always found the Claris level groupsets required more adjustment to be on the same performance level as Sora. If everything is properly tuned there is almost zero difference.
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Old 11-18-20, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Fortunately the 9 speed 11-34 doesnít have the more worthless 12t Sitting between the 11 and 13 and that gives you better overall gapping between the cogs.
Can you elaborate on that? I can't find a cog listing for the Sora 9pd 11-34, just an 11-30.
The Shimano website has these for the 8pd Claris: 11-13-15-18-21-24-28-34T

My current gravel bike doesn't have any gear indicator (beyond looking at the cassette which I try to avoid), but I'm usually around the middle of the cassette on my 48T big ring.
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Old 11-18-20, 02:42 PM
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I have a Claris bike and a Sora bike and the Sora bike definitely shifts crisper and more precisely but I should say that may be a function of the one-too-many times I've fussed with the cable tension on the Claris bike and the thousands of miles on it vs. the new Sora bike.

A few other details include the cables (brake and shift are under the bar tape on the Sora, but only the brake cables on the Claris). The Claris also has a translucent window and a pointer on the shifter which I never look at. Other than at the two extremes, its too hard to tell where its pointing anyway.
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Old 11-18-20, 02:51 PM
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I didn’t spend much time. Went to Giant website for AR3 and it showed 11-34 and checked 9 speed 11-34.

I didn’t check if it was Sora or not. If you only get 11-30, you’ll need to check the rear derailleur max cog/capacity of the one on the AR3.

The reality of buying a stock bike is that you might need to swap a few things for fit or gearing to fit your type of riding. Making sure it is just a simple cassette swap, if needed, prevents a “Can I Use This Cassette” thread down the road.

John

Edit Added: Giant shows an HG50 11-34

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Old 11-18-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I didnít spend much time. Went to Giant website for AR3 and it showed 11-34 and checked 9 speed 11-34.

I didnít check if it was Sora or not. If you only get 11-30, youíll need to check the rear derailleur max cog/capacity of the one on the AR3.
My 9-speed is 11-32 (11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32). I "think" my Claris bike is 11-30 but I'd have to look to be sure.
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Old 11-18-20, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
So except for # of gears, construction materials, and weight- they are pretty much the same.

...i know what you mean and dont disagree. just joking around.


Square taper doesn't wear out though I have seen plenty worked loose over time and be ruined in the process, really depends on how well the bike was put together to begin with in most cases I've seen. However I've noticed that Hollowtech BBs do wear out the bearings sooner then a square taper, upside is that other then needing to buy a special tool for the BB, if it is a threaded BB this is an incredibly easy home repair to learn, probably one of the easiest when dealing with Shimano, GXP is a little harder, but both can be hard to screw up if you buy shimano or sram parts respectively. I have FSA cranks, at the 300+ level for just a crank FSA makes a decent crank, at the levels that come on a 500-600 bike FSA makes a nice anchor. I've had three that came on 1200 USD level bikes and replaced mine for much nicer FSA, Shimano or Campy cranks. Even at that level bike FSA was just a dog at smooth shifting.

Of the two bikes I would always lean towards the nicer one at this price range. Claris has never, in my experience, been worth buying or using. I just swapped out a set of Claris shifters on my son's Diamondback for microshift and the improvement was noticeable when adjusting them, the fact that he can now shift them is a marked improvement as well. I don't have experience with the current level sora but in the past it was always marginally better then Claris level components. Personally I like to skip to Tiagra, the new stuff is better then the old by far and not a bad group, but I do know that current Sora and Tiagra do not use the same pull ratios or derailleur leverage ratios, so contrary to an earlier claim they don't share that much. Besides not liking Claris, the Shimano crank and the consistencies that they tend to have at this level would lead me to the more expensive one.
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Old 11-18-20, 05:06 PM
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What I meant is that with square taper bottom brackets, the square holes in the crank arms, especially on the left crank arm, can sometimes be rounded out. If the square taper spindle is formed of steel, and the crank arms are formed of aluminum/aluminium, the softer metal can slightly deform on the harder metal. This may be exacerbated by poorly tightened crank arm bolts being pedaled by those of us who are on the more husky end of the scale. After a while--quite a long while in some cases--the crank arm can start to slop around on the square taper spindle and have play in it.

And I get it, not all square taper cranksets wear out like that. But some do, and it's something I have personally experienced and seen. Hollowtech II cranksets do not have the same problem, which is not to say they are 100% trouble free, but in my personal opinion, they are preferable when buying a new bike at the $1000 price point.
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Old 11-18-20, 05:31 PM
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Yeah .... like most of you, I have many years on square-taper cranks ..... the only issue is that, as @PDKL45 says, if they get a little loose they left one gets rounded out quick. Otherwise, square-taper is rock solid----rock-heavy too, but no bike is light when you're walking along pushing it ...

You can remove Hollowtech with a rag and a wide-jawed set of channel-locks if you are very careful. I eventually spent the $7 or whatever for a tool.

Square taper you pretty much need to buy a crank-puller, which is more like $15-20 .... but so what? The tools last forever

Other niggling issues---Hollowtech requires a wider Q-factor and might change the chain line, but it also supports the spindle better (bigger, wider-spaced bearings. Probably also doesn't last as long, but is cheap and easy to replace, but no cheaper or much easier than a square-taper.

The big thing for me is that Hollowtech is lighter and supposedly stronger---because my massive power, which occasionally approaches triple digits, just destroys components ..... right?

I'd still get the Sora but if I had both bikes and alternated days on them I'd bet I would love them both equally.
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Old 11-18-20, 05:33 PM
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There really isn't much difference between the two. A new and well oiled chain and the cassette spacing you use will make more of a difference with shifting.
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Old 11-18-20, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
There really isn't much difference between the two. A new and well oiled chain and the cassette spacing you use will make more of a difference with shifting.
You have a lot of experience with modern Sora and Claris, or just posting whatever?
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Old 11-18-20, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
So except for # of gears, construction materials, and weight- they are pretty much the same.

...i know what you mean and dont disagree. just joking around.
I don't even know how different the weight and materials are between them, but ostensibly there is some difference.

It probably would have made more sense to say the ergonomics and shifting performance of R2000, R3000, and R4700 are pretty much the same.
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Old 11-19-20, 06:23 PM
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There may not be a huge amount of difference between Claris and Sora, but I haven't had a lot of experience with Claris. One thing that is fairly obvious is that Sora has really benefitted from Shimano's famous trickle down effect. R3000 Sora is really nice to ride IMO, a bit like 105 was in a previous iteration. For touring and commuting you can also put an Alivio rear derailleur onto a 3x9 Sora drivetrain as well, with a 12-36 cassette, and shift it with the STI levers without compatibility issues.
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