A groupset is a bicycle component manufacturer’s organized collection of mechanical parts that make up the drive train of a bicycle. It refers to the components that make up a bicycle, excluding the frame, saddle, handlebars, pedals, fork and wheels. Shimano manufactures the largest percentage of bicycle components worldwide, with five major road bike groupsets available to the consumer. They begin with Sora and graduate up in relation to cost with Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and ending with Dura-Ace, the most expensive Shimano groupset.
The components include: crankset comprising cranks and chainrings; bottom bracket; chain; rear chain sprockets or cassette; front and rear wheel hubs; gear shift levers; brakes; brake levers; cables; front and rear gear mechanisms or dérailleurs. Shimano Total Integration (STI) is Shimano’s integrated shifter and brake lever combination for racing bicycles.
Here is Shimano’s Hierarchy for road bikes:
LEVEL 1 (entry level)
SIS is not found on many road bikes now. However Sora is extremely popular. Many general commuting and entry level road bikes will be Sora equipped. Sora has STI levers and a very reliable gear and braking system, without being too pricey. Sora is a 8 speed group set and will come on bicyles ranged between $700-$1200.
Tiagra is the first road group set that is 9 speed.
Tiagra is used a lot by road cyclists that want the reliability and smoothness of 9 speed without the price tag.
This is a very commonly used component set a lot of top road bikes and training bikes will be equipped with 105 as it is exceptionally smooth in its changes and a very durable and reliable group set. 105 are also a 9 speed group set and its body predominantly made of alloy, thus making it very light. People who want good stuff that will last this is it.
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Once again used a lot for top end racing.
Not often used for training bikes, however it is durable enough to do so. Very smooth and very light on its actions. This means changes with little effort.
The top of the line. Fairly expensive for the general rider.
Dura Ace has been converted into a 10 speed system, with massive changes to the levers and crank sets, both so much smoother and lighter to use.
It’s important to choose the right groupset for your level of experience. Groupsets can look identical to the casual observer, but there are vast differences in their cost. For the beginner, you don’t need to spend big bucks on Dura-Ace or Ultegra groupsets, which are components normally installed on professional racing bikes costing hundreds of dollars. It’s not uncommon for high-pressure salesmen to sell these groupsets to the beginner when entry-level groupsets like Sora, Tiagra, and 105 will do just fine. Avoid buying groupset-equipped bikes in a department or discount store. Groupsets can be mixed up, combined or damaged by inexperienced mechanics. Be wary of purchasing online unless the groupset is new or guarantees are in place.