Shimano’s mid-range groupset offerings – Tiagra and 105 – are some of the most common groupsets among amateur cyclists.
Shimano is the world-leading manufacturer of components, and for a good reason. They are trusted by much of the pro peloton and have supplied the groupsets on every winning men’s Grand Tour bike since 2020.
So, it begs the question, is it worth the upgrade? What’s the difference between Shimano Tiagra vs 105?
Don’t worry! We’re here to give you the lowdown on Shimano’s mid-range groupsets. To get you up to speed, we’ll be covering:
- Shimano: The World’s Leading Component Manufacturer
- Shimano Road Bike Groupset Hierarchy
- Shimano 105: “The Groupset Of The People”
- Shimano Tiagra: An Excellent Budget-Friendly Mid-Range Groupset
- Shimano Tiagra Vs 105: Which Should You Choose?
Ready for the ultimate showdown: Shimano Tiagra Vs 105?
Let’s dive in!
Shimano: The World’s Leading Component Manufacturer
Making up 70% of the global bike componentry market, Shimano represents the dominant force in the industry.
Founded back in 1921, Shimano didn’t begin producing bicycle components until a gap opened up in the market, left by Campagnolo’s inability to keep up with US demand during the “Bike Boom” of the 1970s.
They have since consistently been at the cutting edge of the componentry market, known for their ingenuity, inventions, and stellar quality products.
Two of the most notable inventions by Shimano are related to shifting.
Until Shimano’s patented index shifting, cyclists had to wiggle their down-tube shifters continuously until they found the correct tension to pull the chain into the correct gear.
Index shifters are defined by discrete indexed positions corresponding to each gear that the lever can “click” into.
The second was the “Shimano Total Integration” levers, which moved the inconveniently located down-tube shifters to an integrated shifting-braking lever located on the handlebars.
Newer innovations such as Di2 electronic shifting and disc brakes are now ubiquitous with the pro peloton. But they also cater to lower budgets, and both of these features are available on the mid-range 105.
Shimano Road Bike Groupset Hierarchy
In this article, we’ll mostly speak about Shimano’s mid-range options, that is, Tiagra and 105. However, Shimano produces a whole range of different groupsets for different riders and budgets.
Shimano 105 is the higher-end of mid-range in the Shimano lineup, as opposed to the lower-mid-range Tiagra.
Commonly referred to as “the groupset of the people” due to its historically excellent value and high quality, the most recent edition of Shimano 105 has seen a significant jump in price, meaning that many are now opting for the more affordable Shimano Tiagra.
But, unlike at the flagship end of the spectrum, where diminishing returns are commonplace, in the mid-range, each jump in the hierarchy generally does come with some significant upgrades, and the jump from Tiagra to 105 is no different.
The entry-level groups are often found on budget road bikes and can be found at fairly inexpensive prices, but they don’t tend to have the same (very useful and worthwhile) features as you might find on the mid-range or flagship groupsets.
The flagship, professional quality groupsets are the best-of-the-best, and for the most recent, cutting-edge tech, this is where to find it. You’ll often see your favorite pros sporting Dura-Ace in the Grand Tours. They will, however, set you back a small fortune.
So what is the hierarchy of Shimano road bike groupsets? From entry-level to professional quality:
- Claris (Entry-Level)
- Dura-Ace (Flagship)
Want to find out more about the whole Shimano road bike range? Check out our Ultimate Shimano Groupset Guide: Road Bike Edition here!
Shimano 105: “The Groupset of the people”
There are clear benefits and drawbacks to entry-level and pro-standard Shimano groupsets.
But if you’re looking for a happy medium, not too expensive, without foregoing some excellent features, look no further than the mid-range.
Luckily for the consumer, due to Shimano’s trickle-down tech policy, the mid-range groupsets often have features you might have found on a Dura-Ace or Ultegra groupset from just a few years ago.
Shimano 105 is the perfect example of this. The top-quality features we’ve expected to see on 105, coupled with the reasonable price, have earned it the nickname “the groupset of the people” among amateur cyclists.
It’s often the first “serious” groupset for budding cyclists and has a reputation for great build quality, excellent performance, and unbeatable value for money.
However, the most recent edition of 105 released in 2022 – the R7100 series – has stepped the gear up a notch, bringing the 12-speed electronic Di2 shifting to 105.
This is something that, in the last decade, has largely been seen as a “flagship” feature – exemplified by Campagnolo’s electronic EPS shifting being exclusively available on the top-of-the-range “Super Record” groupset.
Controversially, the Di2 shifting isn’t optional on the 105 R7100, and Shimano has left the older technologies – mechanical shifting and rim brakes – in the rear-view mirror.
So, if that’s what you’re after in the Shimano 105 vs Tiagra stakes, you’ll need to look at Tiagra or older editions of 105.
Shimano Tiagra: An Excellent Budget-Friendly Mid-Range Groupset
Shimano Tiagra offers great bang-for-your-buck relative to other Shimano groups.
Thanks to Shimano’s “trickle-down tech” policy, the most recent edition – the 4700 series – has seen a number of significant upgrades while refraining from a huge hike in price.
Most notably, a 30% increase in braking power in the disc brake model, along with an upgrade to 10-speed shifting.
The 4700 series is available with either hydraulic disc brakes or rim brakes but is exclusively available with mechanical shifting – as expected for a mid-range groupset.
However, although it is still excellent value and a great groupset for anyone getting into cycling, it does lack some of the exceptional features you’ll see on the 105 R7100, and it’s mostly found on entry-level or lower-mid-range gravel and road bikes.
But, when it comes to the price, Tiagra has remained true to the previous models and stayed at a fairly affordable price. Perhaps 105’s new price point will help to reclassify Tiagra as the new “groupset of the people”…
Shimano Tiagra vs 105: Which should you choose?
Realistically, most cyclists looking for a new groupset will have a budget that they’ve already set in their mind, and so this may make the decision for you.
Tiagra 4700 can be found for a very respectable $300 (rim-brake model) brand-new if you shop around these days, and 105 R7100 will set you back considerably more. Originally retailing at nearly $2000, it can now be found for nearer $1300 with a bit of searching.
The disc brakes for Tiagra 4700 are available at an extra cost of around $400 for the pair.
So, at over four times the price of Tiagra, it’s not an insignificant difference – $1000! So if you’re looking for a budget groupset, Shimano R7100 is not for you. You could, however, take a look at the older R7000.
Fairly similar in appearance to the 105 R7100 but instead features 11-speed and mechanical shifting only. However, it comes at a far more comparable price to Tiagra – around $400 for the rim brake model.
So, the question is, what do you get for the extra $1000?
Well, on the face of it, that difference can be justified pretty easily. Di2 shifting usually costs around $1000 extra alone, and it really does make a huge difference.
Say goodbye to clanging gears that won’t behave. Electronic shifting is an extremely smooth shifting experience generally considered worth the price by most who have splashed the cash to get it on their own bike.
But that’s not all: 12-speed gearing is a big step up compared to Tiagra’s 10-speed. If you’re riding on the road, having more gears and a similar gear range is a huge advantage. Able to fine-tune your speed as you adjust to slight changes in gradient and surface.
In addition, comparing like-for-like, if you want hydraulic disc brakes on your Tiagra group, then it’s going to cost you a total of $700 – reducing the price gap to just $600 for all these additional features.
And lastly, the 105 R7100 is four years younger than Tiagra 4700.
This might not sound like such a significant advantage to many, but actually, material science in the cycling industry progresses extremely quickly. A few extra years of development and investment can correspond to a jump in quality, strength, and weight.
This is exemplified firstly by the difference in weight between like-for-like components. The chainset, for example, exhibits a weight difference of nearly 150g alone. This is a common pattern all over the groupset.
So, essentially, the decision depends on what you’re after.
If you have a relatively limited budget, you want rim brakes, or you’re set on mechanical shifting, then the Tiagra 4700 is a clear choice. You’ll still get a fantastic groupset at an extremely affordable price.
However, if you’re interested in electronic shifting or you want the additional gears provided by 105, then 105 R7100 is for you.
Additionally, if you want hydraulic disc brakes on your groupset, the difference in the price of $600 between the Tiagra 4700 with disc brakes and the 105 Di2 R7100 is extremely justifiable and well worth the extra cash.
With 105 R7100, you’re getting something that more closely resembles a flagship groupset, and you’re paying just over a third of the price of a Dura-Ace group (and there’s not a huge difference between the two).
However, all these new features have pushed Shimano 105 much closer to Ultegra in terms of both specs and price. If you’re weighing up whether to fork out more to upgrade further, check out our Ultegra vs 105 guide here.
So, although there are other differences, what you should really focus on is which braking system you want, whether you want electronic shifting, and your budget.