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I'm planning to get my first road bike as I have been putting a lot of miles into my hybrid. Did a century last Sunday. Altogether I have done around 5k miles on my trek hybrid. So I thought getting a road bike isn't too bad an idea.

I went to a LBS and the mechanic told me it is better to get a Shimano 105 group set because it is a lot better than Claris. He mentioned how the transmission would be smoother. I'm NOT planning to buy a bunch of road bikes in future so in most cases this will be my only road bike even though I would keep my hybrid for my commute to work. So do you think it is better to get 105 over claris?

Being a newbie in to road biking would it make a big difference? After doing a bit of research bikes with Shimano 105 is kinda expensive and getting a carbon bike with 105 is pretty much on the similar price range to getting the aluminum bike with 105.

So I'm wondering whether I should get a carbon bike with Shimano 105 or an aluminum bike with 105 or should I get just a cheaper one with Shimano Claris?

Please let me know if I should be looking into some other groupset.

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    It depends on the type of riding you're doing, but unless you're racing, you don't want to buy carbon (a carbon fork is fine though). Claris is good, 105 is better. – Batman Sep 9 '15 at 17:24
  • @Batman that was the reason i was running away from carbon frame. But if I go for 105 even the aluminum frames cost alot!! adding a few hundred dollar would get me a carbon – MMG Sep 9 '15 at 19:34
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    You want the 105. Besides being better all around it's 11 speed which is the standard now on the road. Also the cable routing from the hoods is better on 105 than cheaper Shimano group sets. Since your new to road bikes, buy a cheaper frame with a better group. If you decide to upgrade in the future, the 105 will carry over. The 105 also has better resale value if you decide to sell. Also, check out Sram Rival, it's comparable to 105. – ebrohman Sep 10 '15 at 18:16
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    You should visit a local bike shop. Try one bike with 105 and one with Claris. Besides the mentioned advantages the 105 brake levers have much better ergonomics. – Penta Oct 17 '15 at 14:22
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    I was just about to post exactly what @Penta said. Only you can decide whether it's worth the extra money; give yourself the best chance of making a good decision by trying them out. – JHCL Oct 17 '15 at 14:25

10 Answers 10

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I've never used Claris, but I've used a bunch of different Shimano road stuff, from 8 to 11 speed, as well as some SRAM.

All other things being equal (which they never are), the more expensive Shimano groupset shifts smoother than the less expensive one. That, however, is splitting some really fine hairs. The shifting performance for modern brifters is nice across the board. In my experience, what makes a groupset good is how well you adjust and maintain it.

I vote for the Claris group. 8 speed is still widely supported and will probably remain so--you are unlikely to have a problem finding replacement parts (which are also much cheaper than 9, 10, and 11 speed parts) before you trash the whole groupset. 16 gears is also a pretty good range for any kind of riding.

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    Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Thank you for your well-constructed answer. I look forward to your future input to the site. – Criggie Oct 25 '15 at 20:51
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It really depends on your budget. Shimano 105 is quite a bit better than Claris. Claris uses an 8 speed cassette while 105 uses an 11 speed cassette. This means that 105 will have smaller gaps between the gears if both bikes have the same gear range. There are 2 levels between Claris and 105. They are Sora (9 speed cassette ) and Tiagra (10 speed cassette). You should look at all those different groupsets to determine which one fits your performance and budget needs.

There's another way to get the small gaps of a 105, and also not spend so much money on a bike. Get a Claris with a triple chainset in the front. Then, get a 12-23 cassette. This will give you a bike with really small gaps between the gears, but it will also give you enough range due to the triple cranket. This of course comes at an increased weight penalty.

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    Or a compact double as an alternative to a triple. Weight weenieing is overrated imo, and note that running costs for claris/sora/tiagra will be significantly cheaper (look at chain+cassette costs). Remember to take into account the type of riding you do. And you don't need all that many gear ratios unless you're racing. – Batman Sep 9 '15 at 17:27
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    @Batman It seems to me that a compact has pretty much become the standard in road bikes unless you're looking at stuff in the very high end, as most casual riders don't have the power to get up all the hills with a 52-39 crankset. If you live in a place without a lot of hills, you might be ok with a compact 50-34 and an 12-23 cassette, but most people will probable appreciate a triple with something like 50-39-30 or 52-42-30. – Kibbee Sep 9 '15 at 18:23
  • I have a triple (48-38-28) plus a 12-23/8 cassette. Excellent combination. – Kaz Jul 5 '16 at 4:02
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I'm researching my new road bike too. Here's info on shimano road sets, originally from: http://www.chainreactionhub.com/road/980-our-guide-to-shimanos-road-groupsets-from-tiagra-to-dura-ace with some additional comments by me.

Common: All of these have shifter mechanisms in the brakes, so they're "brifters" Nothing road-based has thumb shifters like a MTB.

1) Claris, 8 speed and lowest spec. Probably not under active development any more. However it'll still work better than most old bikes because its indexed. Plus its cheap, having earned back its R&D costs. 6/7/8 speed all use the same chain sizes.

2) Sora, 9 speed. Relatively uncommon on new bikes becuase 10 is a two-digit number (that's the reverse of Shopkeeper's pricing theorum where another digit makes it look more than just one more.)

3) Tiagra, 10 speed, but better at shifting than claris and sora

4) 105, 11 speed now, lighter and stiffer and cleaner action than tiagra

5) Ultegra, 11 speed, as much better than 105 as 105 is above tiagra

6) Dura-ace, 11 speed, basically the top spec mechanisms as used by pros. Expect to sell your house to buy this level.

Ultegra and Dura-ace can also be had with Di2, which is electronic shifting. This means a little battery and motor haul the derailer rather than you pulling a wire. The gear change still happens because of your chain motion, same as normal.

You should consider the offerings by sram too.

Older versions of the same group set may have fewer gears... 105 used to be a 10 speed, and really old ultegra was a 6 speed in the beginning, and gears increase over time.

There is a trickle-down effect that comes from technical advances in the modern groupsets too - that's probably why Ultegra has an option for electronic shifting, originally designed for dura-ace. That's probably a bad example given its such an expensive change, but something like a ramp and pin design for smoother shifting would trickle down to the 105 then to the tiagra, by which time sora and claris will have vanished.

Personally I'm aiming for 105 level, (if I can get it in my price range) with aluminium frame and disk brakes. Note also that you don't have to get the full groupset - brakes and transmission are only in common at the brifter, so you can use anything with the same cable pull distances.

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    Your list (or maybe the website you referenced) is missing Sora, the second lowest groupset of Shimano. Also, Claris is actually 8 speed whereas Sora is 9 speed. – Deburim Oct 18 '15 at 7:00
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    If you go back far enough, Dura-Ace was 6 speed, back in 1982 when it was introduced. The top level pros were making pretty good speed on just 12 gears. I would say that Claris far outperforms what the pros were riding 20 years ago. They didn't introduce 9 speed until 1997. – Kibbee Oct 18 '15 at 11:57
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I upgraded my road bike from Tiagra to 105 a couple of years ago and noticed a difference, so I imagine you would notice a larger difference between Claris and 105. Crisper shifting in the 105. 105 is worth the $ in my opinion.

Frame material is a rider preference. Some are biased against carbon because failure mode is catastrophic. Carbon frames have come a long way since Kestrel started with them in the 80s and 90s. You need to decide that for yourself. Carbon will be lighter which is an advantage regardless of how you ride. Racing or not, you will accelerate faster and have an easier go in climbing, which can improve your finishing place or just make it easier to keep up with the leaders in weekend group rides. It can also be a more forgiving ride than Aluminum. Some riders are quite biased against Aluminum due to stiff/rough ride of many Aluminum frames. Carbon can also be stiff as h*ll, like my tri bike, but that is by design in a tri bike. Most carbon road bike frames are designed for lateral stiffness and vertical compliance.

As others mentioned, you can often find great deals on used bikes so this is worth investigating. My first road bike came from Craigslist, got a steal of a deal as it only had 3 functioning gears (out of 27). $10 worth of cables and sheaths and I had a great bike. Your LBS may have used bikes as well. Ebay is another source, although you likely can't ride before you buy unless you happen to find a local offering. There are also online bike dealers (not your typical LBS brands), but you can usually find a great deal on nicely equipped bikes. I know I've seen Ultegra-carbon road bikes for around $1500 on bikesdirect.com. Some assembly required, but assuming you can use a wrench it's not too bad, or your LBS will usually assemble for you for < $100. Some say that's crappy for the LBS, but I suspect their happy to get the $100 vs nothing.

Good luck! Let us know what you decide. :-D

  • I tried to look for a bike on craigslist but when I ask for receipt they don't reply at all. I'm assuming they are stolen ones. I don't know about vintage bikes which I saw in a bunch of places. I think I will keep looking. I live in chicago so the season is almost over.Might look during the winter to may be get even more amazing deals as well – MMG Sep 10 '15 at 20:28
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    @MMG A lot of people might not have retained the receipt from a bike they purchased. Some people may have bought the bike second hand and never got a receipt. I don't think there's any way I could prove that I actually own my bike. Perhaps meet the buyer at the local bike store where I bought it. I'm known by a few of the staff and I'm sure they would vouch for me. I'm not so sure a receipt would matter much anyway, as somebody skilled on a computer could print up a receipt that looked reasonably legitimate anyway. – Kibbee Sep 10 '15 at 20:41
  • yea i guess but i didn't even receive a reply from most of them I mean I dont have anything against buying used bikes at all I was looking for that but I just couldn't find one :( – MMG Sep 10 '15 at 21:41
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Having upgraded from Claris to 105, I found the 105 to be significantly smoother and more precise and also opens up significantly more cassette options. As a matter of personal preference, I use Ultegra cassettes for even smoother shifting than 105 cassettes on both my 105 (gravel grinder- aluminum frame/carbon fork/ carbon bars) and Dura Ace (road- all carbon) Bikes. My gravel bike (Giant Revolt) came with Claris, which was OK, but I opted for massive customization on this bike (upgraded gears, cranks, bars, seat, wheels and tires) because I liked the frame so well and it provided the perfect platform for me to build a bike with the exact ride characteristics I wanted - this was not a cheap option, but I was pleased with the end result. For my road bike, I got a great buy on E-Bay on a full carbon, Dura Ace equipped bike (an Argon 18) for about 1/3 of what it would have cost new. Both of these bikes have 10 speed cassettes (12-25) and Road Chainwheels (52-39)- plenty of gears for me. Gearing is pretty subjective,depending on the kind of riding you do and your conditioning; while I ride with some guys who love compact crank sets,I like road gearing better - just my preference.

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I've used both 105 5800 and Claris 2300, and while 105 5800 is much better, I think the biggest advantage of 5800 is "upgradability", aka being 11 speed, since you can always upgrade your bikes by purchasing some parts from Dura-Ace 9000, Ultegra 6800, ones from Sram (or even campagnolo if inclined).

Of course Shimano will move to 12 speed or higher someday and eventually the current 11 speed groupsets will be a legacy, but still, if you are going to cherish your bike and go deep into cycling, buying 8 speed groupset nowadays is kinda having liability. They cost less, but in a long term they cost more.

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I've had 7 speed Tourney (brake levers brake worse), I currently run newer 8 speed Claris, have an ultegra 10 speed and also had shimano downtube shifters. The best shifting was downtube but it was least safe due to hitting bumps while shifting, all other groupsets shift similarly.

The space between gears is less important than having the correct lowest gear for your power/terrain. The Claris also brakes just as well as Ultegra now. The only downside with 8 speed is the Shimano chain, it sucks and is noisy as hell. KMC and SRAM 8 speed chains are dead silent like 9 & 10 speed stuff.

Like others have said, there are different ergonomics with the different shifters but, I can adapt and feel comfortable on both. The best is take a test ride with both.

I prefer alu/carbon fork to full carbon. Full carbon typically has internal cable routing and proprietary seatpost/bottom bracket/headset which is a headache for home mechanics. Also have to ensure using torque wrench with full carbon to avoid cracking the carbon. I find groupset sweetspots with good value and comparable performance to higher end groupsets based on personal experience. I think either groupset will serve you well as long as the bike fit is appropriate (no pain/numbness) and everything is adjusted well.

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I have used both and the main thing I noticed was the hoods on the claris felt significantly less comfortable. I don't know if they have changed the hoods in a later model but the 105 felt much nicer. The 105 also looked a lot better with the shifter cables going under the bar tape and not sticking out of the sides of the hoods.

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I have a Trek with 105s and just bought a travel bike with Claris, and regret it completely. The brake levers on the Claris pivot in a different place making it impossible with small hands to brake properly with hands on the hoods. (I've never had a problem with my 105s). I should have spent the extra money upfront and bought the better components. Lesson learned.

  • Did you put in the spacers for small hands? – Batman Sep 5 '16 at 21:18
  • Did you buy the bike sight-unseen or something? I'd take anything for a ride before buying. is it too late to return the bike? – Criggie Sep 6 '16 at 0:55
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One good thing about Shimano Claris shifters is that the Mirrycle Road Mirror fits on it, unlike most other shifters built since 2010. I find Shimano Claris shifts as good or better than the 105 that I had before, but it was much older, eh?

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