So it now seems obvious to me that brand name alone is not a good quality heuristic; my Shimano Revo shifter just went south and was replaced after two years, which seems far too soon. (LBS put a SRAM of some variety on it; I hope that's better.) But I do know Shimano makes good higher-quality, more-expensive components (right?).

What are the lesser-quality component lines from the big brand names? Are there any rules of thumb -- other than price, obviously -- for recognizing them at the LBS or on readymade bikes? I'm not looking for manufacturer flamewars here; I'm interested in quality differences within a given manufacturer's lines.

Or is it just price?

  • 1
    Road or mountain? All the big boys make a wide range of stuff from the cheapest shifter for a $100 bike to electronic race ready stuff on a 10k bike.
    – Matt Adams
    Mar 19, 2012 at 15:41
  • In my experience, old shimano parts are made to last, while newer ones are made to be replaced often or suffer from programmed obsolescence. I don't know when the "shifting" happened, but I think more than ten years ago... Mar 19, 2012 at 16:49
  • Either. I'm also interested in wheel (rim) manufacturers, if anybody has info on that.
    – D.Salo
    Mar 20, 2012 at 0:48
  • It's really hard to assess quality for things like shifters. A more expensive unit may simply have a nicer finish or be a few grams lighter. I've seen old, well-used K-Mart bikes where the shifters were still functioning well (though, granted, a number where they weren't) and I've had fairly high-priced, name-brand components (though not shifters) fail early. Mar 20, 2012 at 12:03
  • 1
    @heltonbiker -- They accomplish the "programmed obsolescence" by changing standards all the time. They're about due to make V-brakes obsolete, I suspect. And I think this change happened when Shimano managed to drive Suntour, et al, out of business. Mar 20, 2012 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


While price is not the defining factor, there is no doubt that it is a key indicator of quality.

List of Groupsets

Below is a list of the three largest manufacturer's groupsets for Road and MTB applications.

Each manufacturer's offering is arranged in descending price/quality.

The number of sprockets of the cassette in each groupset is shown in brackets.

The total number of gears is determined by this number multiplied by the number of chainrings, for example a bike that has a double chainring and a 10-speed cassette has 20 gears, although some of them overlap.


Shimano - 2009

Dura-Ace 7900 (10) Ultegra 6700 (10) 105 5700 (10) Tiagra (9) Sora (9) 2300 (8)

Campagnolo - 2009 Super Record (11) Record (11) Chorus (11) Athena (11) - new for 2009. Centaur (10) Veloce (10) Older Campagnolo groupsets that were discontinued from 2009 are the lower-end: Mirage (10) Xenon (10)

Campagnolo also offers 3 triple chainring offerings for steep hill-climbing:

Comp Triple (10) Race Triple (10) Champ Triple (9)

SRAM - 2010

In 2006, SRAM released two groupsets for racing bicycles, aimed at competing with Shimano and Campagnolo's offerings. The top SRAM groupsets are called 'Red' and 'Force', being the pro-level and amateur racing level lines, respectively. It is worth noting that SRAM has trickled down its technology at an accelerated rate to compete, and that each year production groupsets feature several upgrades, some years more than others. In 2010 SRAM have released a new groupset, Apex, which is aimed at a more casual level.

Red (10) Force (10) Rival (10) Apex (10)


Shimano - 2011 XTR (10) Saint (9) Deore XT (9/10) Hone (9) SLX (9/10) Deore LX (9) Deore (9) Alivio (8/9) Acera (8) Altus (8) Tourney (8)


XX (10) X0 (10) X9 (10) X7 (10) X5 (9/10) X4 (8/9) X3 (7)

SRAM also offer parts under several different marques as they've slowly bought out several smaller, specialist bike part manufacturers. These include:

Brake systems - Avid Cranksets - Truvativ Mountain Bike Suspension - Rock Shox

SRAM are phasing out 3 ring front chainrings in their MTB range for a 2 front chainring, 10 sprocket rear cassette setup, commonly found on road bikes.


There are some groupsets which are designed for a specific purpose (track cycling, downhill etc.). Some are just partial groupsets which are intended to be used with other groupsets.

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 - (10) - electronic shifters and derailleurs intended to be used with regular Dura-Ace 7900 parts (cranks, cassette, chain, bottom bracket etc.)

Shimano Dura-Ace (track) - (1) - Track bikes

Campagnolo Pista - (1) - Track bikes

Campagnolo Time Trial - (N/A) - Time Trial components with bar-end controls, chainrings with oversized toothing and super-light brake levers in composite material.

Shimano Hone - (9) - Enduro and Freeride applications

Shimano Saint - (9) - Downhill and heavy-duty applications

The Shimano Nexus began as a internal hub only and has slowly grown into its own groupset including a higher end internal hub (Alfine, previously Nexus 'Redline'), chain, shifters, cranks, brakes and calipers.

Shimano Alfine - (8) - Internal (planetary) hub gearing, hydraulic disc brakes or mechanical calipers

Shimano Nexus - (8) - Internal (planetary) hub gearing, drum brakes or calipers [edit]See also

This information was copied wholesale from the linked Wikipedia article.


I've only ever ridden bikes with shimano road bike parts. Shimano's road lines are, in terms of decreasing value:

  • dura ace
  • ultegra
  • 105
  • tiagra
  • sora
  • 2300
  • "non-series"

Having spent an inordinate amount of time riding a bike with a sora group, I can attest for its quality. A lot of people on bike forums say you need a 105 or higher to get a decent ride quality. Maybe for them this is true. I've done a lot of riding on tiagra, 105, and ultegra; they're nice, just not necessary for the average rider. I've never had any problems with a sora component in terms of rideability or durability. This isn't to say that the more expensive groups don't ride nicer, or aren't more durable.

Having said that, shimano does make a lot of crap. It's generally found in the non-series parts. These have a tendency to break frequently and they don't work all that well in the first place.

  • Didn't even know there was anything below 105! I can definitely tell the difference between the Ultegra and 105 parts. Dura Ace and Ultegra, I can't, both are quite nice. Mar 19, 2012 at 17:28

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