Ultimate Shimano Groupset Guide: Road Bike Edition

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Shimano groupset components are consistently ranked among the best around by cyclists the world over.

They’re trusted by everyone from Tour de France champions to everyday commuters to weekend gravel grinders – and for good reason. Shimano groupsets are known for their reliability, cost-effectiveness, and innovation, with technology from their flagship Dura-Ace components filtering down into their budget lines.

As the dominant force in the market for road bike groupset components, Shimano now produces a massive range of options at different price points and standards, from the cutting-edge Dura-Ace Di2 to the entry-level Tourney groupset.

But with so many different options, it can be hard to know where to start when looking for Shimano groupsets.

To help you get to grips with every tier of Shimano groupset, we’ll be walking you through the lot of them tier-by-tier, covering:

  • What Is A Bike Groupset?
  • Shimano’s Entry Level Groupsets: Tourney, Claris, and Sora
  • Shimano’s Mid-Range Groupsets: Tiagra and 105
  • Shimano’s Pro-Standard Groupsets: Ultegra and Dura-Ace
  • Special Mention: Shimano GRX Groupset

And if it’s mountain bikes you’re after, check out our Complete Guide to Shimano MTB Groupsets here!

Shimano Groupset Guide: Title Image

What Is A Bike Groupset

The bike groupset refers to all the parts that make up the bike’s drivetrain and brakes.

In other words, the groupset is every component of a bike excluding the frameset, wheels, and contact points such as the saddle, pedals, and handlebars.

A road bike groupset typically includes:

  • Chainset (the chainrings and crank arms)
  • Bottom Bracket
  • Brake Levers and Gear Shifter Levers (sometimes the two are combined, known as “dual-control” levers)
  • Front and Rear Derailleurs
  • Cassette
  • Chain
  • Brakes (can be either rim brakes or disc brakes)

Check out our Complete Guide to the Parts of a Bike here!

Shimano’s Entry-Level Groupsets

Shimano Tourney Groupset (A070)

Shimano Groupset Guide: Tourney
  • Brakes: Rim Brakes Only
  • Cassette: 7-Speed and 8-Speed options (3x chainset also available)
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical Only

The humble Tourney is the bottom rung of the Shimano groupset ladder, and is a mainstay of entry-level road bikes the world over.

Tourney groupset components are affordable, reliable, and easy to replace as they are so common. They lack the accuracy and refinement of Shimano’s more expensive components, but they still do a very decent job for the price.

The Shimano Tourney groupset is also available with a triple chainset – something of a relic these days, but still handy for beginner riders wanting to get up steep hills on a heavy bike.

Shimano Claris Groupset (R2000)

Shimano Claris Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Mechanical Disc
  • Cassette: 8-Speed (3x chainset also available)
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical Only

The Shimano Claris groupset is a step above the Tourney, but is still limited to entry-level bikes.

Like the Tourney range, Claris groupsets are available with 3x chainsets.

Shimano has recently introduced Claris mechanical disc brake components too – making Claris the most budget-friendly disc brake-capable Shimano groupset on the market.

Shimano Sora Groupset (R3000)

Shimano Sora Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Mechanical Disc
  • Cassette: 9-Speed (3x chainset also available)
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical Only

Durability and cost-effectiveness remain the key priorities of the Shimano Sora groupset – but there’s just a touch more emphasis on performance too compared to the Claris.

With a 9-speed cassette, decent shifting accuracy and smoothness, and affordable prices, the Sora range arguably represents the best bang-for-buck of Shimano’s groupsets.

Shimano’s Mid-Range Groupsets

Shimano Tiagra Groupset (4700)

Shimano Tiagra Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Hydraulic Disc
  • Cassette: 10-Speed
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical Only

The Shimano Tiagra groupset represents a sizeable step up from Shimano’s entry-level groupsets.

The 10-speed Tiagra range shares many features – and the bulk of the performance benefits – with its better-known big brother, the Shimano 105 groupset. It economizes in a few select areas to bring costs down: swapping out the 105’s cartridge brake pads for cheaper one-piece pads, for example.

The Shimano Tiagra groupset has also recently been upgraded with “cascaded technology” from Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace groupset, which has brought a 30% increase in braking power among other benefits.

Shimano 105 Groupset (R7000/R7100)

Shimano 105 Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Hydraulic Disc
  • Cassette: 11-Speed or 12-Speed options
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical or Electronic (Di2)

The outstanding Shimano 105 groupset range has been dominating the market for almost four decades since it was first introduced in 1983, offering near-professional level performance at a fraction of the cost.

Having been the serious cyclist’s favorite for a generation, the 105 groupset finally received a massive much-anticipated upgrade in June 2022.

Besides the shift from an 11-speed to 12-speed cassette and the ditching of the rim-brake option, the headline upgrade was the introduction of Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting system.

This marks the first time Shimano has expanded access to electronic shifting beyond its prestige Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupset ranges – and the results are seriously impressive.

Alongside lightning-quick and pinpoint-accurate shifting, the Di2 shifting system has enabled much shallower shifter travel and effortless shifting between gearing extremes, alongside more compact and ergonomic hoods.

The arrival of Di2 has also introduced Shimano’s “Synchronized Shift” concept to the 105 groupset, which allows both the front and rear derailleur to be controlled from a single shifter, with automatic digital gear selection across both the cassette and chainrings.

For the 2 x 12 drivetrain, this effectively gives you seamless and continuous access to all 24 gears from a single shifter, without the divide into two sets of 12.

All this powerful technology comes at a price, however.

The Shimano 105 Di2 variant (R7100) is more than twice the cost of its mechanical predecessor. There’s no need to panic for fans of the 11-speed mechanical 105 groupset though: Shimano has confirmed the older model will remain in production alongside the new Di2 version.

Shimano’s Pro-Standard Groupsets: Ultegra and Dura-Ace

Shimano Ultegra Groupset (R8000/R8100)

Shimano Ultegra Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Hydraulic Disc
  • Cassette: 11-Speed or 12-Speed options
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical or Electronic (Di2)

The Shimano Ultegra groupset offers professional-level shifting and braking at a lower price than the flagship Dura-Ace components.

With the Ultegra groupset now available with the 12-speed Di2 wireless system and hydraulic disc brakes, the only real compromise to the Dura-Ace is a slight increase in weight. As with the Shimano 105 groupset, the Di2 variant is significantly more expensive – but packs a massive performance punch.

The older mechanical-shifting 11-speed model of the Shimano Ultegra groupset with rim brakes is still available too if you’re looking to save some of your budget for the rest of your bike.

Shimano Dura-Ace Groupset (R9100/R9250)

Shimano Dura-Ace Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Hydraulic Disc
  • Cassette: 11-Speed or 12-Speed options
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical or Electronic (Di2)

The Shimano Dura-Ace groupset is the pinnacle of the Japanese manufacturer’s road-racing technology.

Favored by many pro teams on the World Tour, the Dura-Ace makes no compromises, delivering powerful braking and lightning-quick shifting with pinpoint accuracy, while being feather-light and ergonomic for riders.

As with the Ultegra and 105 groupsets, the Dura-Ace is available either with a mechanical 11-speed drivetrain or with Shimano’s electronic Di2 shifting. You also have the choice of mechanical rim brakes or hydraulic disc brakes.

Besides being lighter than the Shimano Ultegra groupset, the Dura-Ace range also offers a larger 54-40t chainset to accommodate the performance of professional cyclists.

Special Mention: Shimano GRX Groupsets (RX400/RX600/RX800)

Shimano GRX Groupset: Manufacturer Image
  • Brakes: Rim or Hydraulic Disc
  • Cassette: 10-Speed or 11-Speed
  • Shifting Type: Mechanical or Electronic (Di2)

Though not specifically a Shimano road bike groupset, the GRX deserves an honorable mention here.

In fact, the GRX isn’t actually one groupset at all. Rather, it refers to Shimano’s range of groupsets designed specifically with gravel bikes and bikepacking in mind.

There are three tiers of Shimano GRX groupsets, each equivalent to one of the road bike groupsets:

  • Shimano GRX (RX400): Tiagra-Level
  • Shimano GRX (RX600): 105-Level
  • Shimano GRX (RX800): Ultegra-Level

Compared to the road bike parts, Shimano GRX groupsets offer lower gears for getting up steep, loose terrain, the option of a 1x chainset, cyclocross-style inline shifters, and clutch-equipped rear derailleurs. The Shimano GRX components also have an increased emphasis on durability.

Shimano GRX groupsets are available with either mechanical or electronic Di2 shifting.

Found this guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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As a UESCA-certified cycling coach, Rory loves cycling in all its forms, but is a road cyclist at heart. He clocked early on that he had much more of a talent for coaching and writing about bikes than he ever did racing them. In recent years, the focus of Rory's love affair with cycling has shifted to bikepacking - a discipline he found well-suited to his "enthusiasm-over-talent" approach.

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