The road bike component groups that come on your new bike matter: quality, weight, and durability are all different – and at fairly significantly different prices.
Generally, with the exception of very high-end carbon bikes, the frames are the same in differently priced bikes; what’s different are the component groups.
A road bike component group typically includes the derailleurs, brakes, shifters, crank, and cassette. Sometimes manufacturers will combine different levels of components to create different price points for consumers.
For the average road rider, even racer, the difference between the most components are minimal. Even in weight, the differences are at most a couple of pounds.
We’re happy to explain the differences between road bike component groups when you come into the shop to shop for bikes.
It really comes down to rider preference. We encourage you to come into Ben’s Cycle to try both! We’ll let you ride identical bikes with different component groups to see and feel the differences for yourself.
Here’s some more information about road group upgrades from Ben’s Cycle.
SRAM, Shimano are Major Manufacturers for U.S. Bikes
Shimano and SRAM are the two major manufacturers of bike components. The Italian-brand Campagnolo is the third major player in the component world, but most bikes available in the U.S. come with SRAM or Shimano parts.
Shimano-equipped road bikes will have entry-level Tiagra components up to top-level Dura-Ace.
SRAM starts with Apex components and tops off their line with Red.
Bike Radar did a nice explanation of bike groups as well as a comparison between SRAM and Shimano in this piece.
Essentially, the key difference is rider preference. Shimano and SRAM have different brake hoods – where many people place their hands while riding, as well as different shifting motions.
Shimano uses two paddles to shift, one for up, one for down, while SRAM uses one paddle for both.
Some cyclists like the different ergonomics of the brake hoods, others prefer the shifting action of one over the other, while others swear by the features of different groups.
What are the Differences in SRAM, Shimano Road Bike Component Groups?
The most common road bike component groups are the Shimano Ultegra and 105 and the SRAM Force and Rival. These are high-quality groups that are light, durable, precise, and don’t cost nearly as much as the top of the line models.
road.cc did a head-to-head comparison of the Ultegra vs. Force and 105 vs. Rival. Here are the highlights:
Shifters are the place where you see the greatest differences between Shimano and SRAM. As we mentioned, Shimano uses two paddles for shifting, one for up, the other for down. SRAM uses only one paddle, requiring a stronger push of the paddle to upshift.
road.cc said this about SRAM’s shifting:
Shifting is simple and precise, with a light action but positive feedback. It’s more clicky than Shimano but with not quite as much feedback as Campagnolo. You’re never in any doubt about whether you’re shifting.
The accuracy of the shifts is a product of all the components of the system, not just the levers, but SRAM make great play of their Zero-Loss technology which should mean all shifts are immediate. And to be fair, most of them are. It’s difficult to get the groupset to miss a beat.
And this about Shimano’s shifting:
It’s very hard to make an upshift fail even under heavy load, and it’s nigh-on impossible with a downshift.”
The levers hoods are slim, as they are with Dura-Ace, so gripping them is easy even if you have small hands. You can also bring the levers closer to the bars via a lever stroke adjustment bolt.
Ultimately, road.cc said the main difference between Force and Ultegra was the shifting.
Both Ultegra and Force 22 perform as well as the top end groupsets in their respective ranges, Dura-Ace and Red. The differences are that they weigh a touch more – not loads more – and they lack a little of the prestige, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you. Assuming you can live with that, you can save yourself a lot of money by opting for Ultegra or Force 22, because both Shimano and SRAM really make you pay a lot for their peak products.
When choosing between Ultegra and Force, the biggest factor you need to consider is the shifting: which system do you prefer?
Beyond that, we’d say that Shimano cable-operated rim brakes outperform SRAM’s, but if you’re after hydraulic braking there’s less to choose between them.
105 and Rival Road Bike Component Groups
Two of the most popular road bike component groups are the Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival groups. Both come as 11-speed.
Again, the biggest difference between the two is the shifting. And again, we urge you to come into Ben’s Cycle to try bikes with both kinds of shifting.
road.cc said both groups offer strong alternatives to the higher priced groups and were durable, relatively light, and high quality.
Properly setup, both Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival 22 offer similar levels of performance to the top-level components from their respective manufacturers, it’s just that they’re a little heavier.
Each system has its strengths. We highly rate Shimano’s braking, for example, and we really like the Yaw technology that SRAM uses in its front derailleur.
By far the biggest difference that you’re likely to notice between 105 and Rival 22 is in the shifting, not in their level of performance but in the way that they’re designed to operate. You’ll probably adjust quickly to either shift system – most people do – but just make sure you’ve had a test ride before you lay down your cash.
BikeRoar.com cast its vote for the SRAM Force group, even though it’s a bit more expensive than the Ultegra.
Check out CyclingWeekly’s video about road bike component groups.