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It often written that top of the line components are less durable (Dura-Ace and XTR for Shimano), with the explanation that they meant for competition and so they compromise on durability to save grams. But is true for all components, or are there components for which this not apply?

Some examples:

  • to take the Mx100 cassettes for instance (12 speed Shimano, MTB), the XTR one will have 3 sprockets in aluminium, 5 in titanium and 4 in steel, while the XT will have 2 sprockets in aluminum, and the rest in steel (the 4 small ones having the same part references as from Deore to XTR). In that case, it can be verified, if titanium is less hard than steel. The 4 smallest (steel) sprockets can be replaced separately, so the rest of the cassette can be kept longer, and steel is likely to last longer than Titanium.
  • Zero Friction Cycling has done some durability tests on chains, and the XTR M9100 chain outperforms all other Shimano chains — but Dura-Ace 11sp and 9sp are among the worst. The price per kilometer is likely not be the best with XTR, but in these days of black fridays, it's possible to have good deals on this components.

But what about components that wear very slowly: derailleurs, shifters, brakes,...? For example for a derailleur, wear is expected to happen at the pivots, but I would assume that the structure of the parallelogram is where weight saving can happen, and if used moderately, it's not a high stress zone.

So, must the statement at the origin of the question be nuanced?

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  • "the structure of the parallelogram is where weight saving can happen" - I think you've already answered the question right there... Nov 28, 2023 at 23:19
  • Do you include accident damage in the durability assessment? Everything from derailleurs to brake levers. Are wheels and tires a component? - Probably the most obvious ones.
    – mattnz
    Nov 29, 2023 at 0:31
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    @mattnz I tend to not include accident damage, because I've worn more parts that I broke them, but that's a good point. For the second question, I'd like to say "yes", but then the question may become too wide.
    – Renaud
    Nov 29, 2023 at 7:36

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This question covers a lot of ground because ultimately it breaks down to observations on every cost/durability/weight compromise area on every type of component, and on top of that there are major differences between looking at this in something like DA/XTR vs Ultegra/XT terms compared to expanding out the generalization to high-end components as a whole.

In the latter view of looking beyond the Shimano lineup or that of all the mainstream component group makers, there are many examples of high-end components that are clearly pushed into the realm of being less durable, sometimes in a transparent way and sometimes not. You can spend a lot of money on bike components that are optimized for a limited amount of use at the lightest weight attainable.

Looking at Dura-Ace and XTR specifically while still making the necessary generalizations across all the various design elements on all the components of all the generations, the idea that they're just plain less durable is false. You will find many examples of areas where they far outlast the parts a step down, such as most pivots on most of the shifters and derailleurs (the bearings in DA STIs, the fancier coated and more precisely made derailler pivots, etc), and the quality of the bearing surfaces in the hubs are all good examples. You'll also find areas where a material or design trade-off was made for weight savings that results in less durability, like aluminum FD cages or any number of parts where skeletonizing it or making it out of carbon results in something more vulnerable to impact or abrasion even though it's still more than strong enough for regular use. If you wanted to figure out specifically how to spec out a bike with a mix of, for example, XTR and XT so that you were getting all the most durable elements and then saving all the weight possible secondarily, there is no simpler answer than looking at every design element of every applicable component.

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    The question was triggered by this reference to ZeroFrictionCycling (and a comment you made recently in the chat), and become maybe a bit "too generalized". In the case of chains for example, I care about TCO, and given I wax them, the initial cleaning takes some times, so a chain twice more expensive that lasts even 50% more has an appeal. But otherwise, the co-occurence with Black Friday/Cyber Monday is not a coincidence: if there's a good deal on an XTR/DA component, should it be rejected just because it's XTR/DA?
    – Renaud
    Nov 29, 2023 at 7:32
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    @Renaud For the most part I think you should take that deal outside of a handful of instances, and those generally involve certain parts where the use case involves components smashing into things. Nov 30, 2023 at 0:57

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