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I've had a Cannondale CAAD8 for a few years. I don't know what year the bike is and I don't know what the derailleur is. It just says Shimano on it. It looks like either Sora or Tiagra.

I know it has 9 speed and it's 10-34. You can see the photos.

I would like to improve the gear group. What do you recommend to get the best value for money? The best groupset I can add to this bike. Thank you so much.

enter image description here

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  • I'd argue that a groupset won't buy you much speed and is a proportionally high investment for a bike from 2015. A modern groupset perhaps saves you half a kilogram of weight (which marginally helps on prolongued climbs) and 11 speeds (thinking of 105 R7000 rim brake) might give you smoother gear jumps than 9-speed with a wide-range 10-34 cassette, which sounds fine for climbing, depending on the front chainring. However, unless you get a good deal on a suitable groupset, stepping up and buying new one might get close to a new CAAD with disc brakes.
    – DoNuT
    Mar 27 at 18:52
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    The best groupset you can get is probably the last generation of Shimano mechanical groupsets, so Shimano R7000/8000. If you are lucky and a find a complete groupset on the used market for 300€, then you might consider it - ideally with brakes because yours is silver and 99% of all groupsets sold are black. I think you should be good in terms of hub/BB compatibilty, but worth checking before buying, anyway.
    – DoNuT
    Mar 27 at 19:16
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    "improve speed and climbing" does that mean improve climbing speed, or separately to improve speed on the flat, as well as improving climbing? (If so, exactly what is improved climbing if not faster ?)
    – Criggie
    Mar 27 at 23:38
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    A new groupset won't make you any faster. Mar 28 at 2:02
  • @AndrewHenle indeed it won't, but a groupset that doesn't work well anymore can make you much slower. The question doesn't say what's the issue here, but if there is some kind of alignment / skipping / sticking issue then this can certainly hinder both climbing and high-speed confidence. Though such issues can often be fixed, it is worth considering whether simply replacing the whole groupset with a new, better one would be the more effective option. Mar 28 at 8:52

2 Answers 2

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If you want to improve performance, in terms of value for money, the groupset is probably one of the worst options: if you have an 11-34 cassette, you’ll get more intermediate steps with a more recent groupset, but the range will remain the same (the latest 12-speed Shimano - hydraulic disc brakes only - can take 11-36 cassettes, in 11-speed the limit is still 11-34 with pure Shimano).

In terms of value for money, the best upgrades for performance I would think are:

  • A professional bike fit: knowing the most optimal position can also impact the amount of power you can deliver, especially if you want to ride long distances.
  • tires: high performance tires increase both the performance and the comfort.
  • Pedals: your picture shows flat pedals. With clipless pedals and rigid shoes, you’ll be able to transfer power much more effectively.
  • Wheels: wheels on entry level bikes are often surprisingly heavy. As pointed out by DoNuT, a newer groupset will save you 500g. But a new wheelset can save as much, if not more, for a lower price (for reference, on a bike of similar level, I saved 800g with a 300€ wheelset) - lighter wheels will improve the reactivity of the bike, it’s enjoyable but the pure performance gain is marginal.
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    Don't forget that a nice set of wheels will also upgrade the looks of the bike - improved handling and comfort will also increase confidence, which probably makes you a little bit faster, too. :)
    – DoNuT
    Mar 27 at 20:01
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    Don’t forget clothes and helmet for upgrades which can improve comfort and speed. Unless OP already has good ones.
    – Michael
    Mar 27 at 20:52
  • @Michael I would think clothes for improving speed is debatable (aero gains are mostly relevant for fast riders), but where clothes do have an importance is comfort. For people living in regions with not so good weather, appropriate clothes enable riding in conditions that would not be enjoyable
    – Rеnаud
    Mar 28 at 6:08
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    Yes, aero improvements won't help with climbing. A clothingor helmet upgrade may still be in order if it makes avoiding overheating easier. Once you get up to road bike cruising speeds on the flat (something like 25-30km/h), aerodynamics become relevant, and it becomes worth looking at draggy clothing and any luggage. (partly @Michael)
    – Chris H
    Mar 28 at 8:33
  • +1 for lighter wheels. Also note that clipless pedals and shoes can save a little weight and drag if chosen for that (which I don't, choosing for all day comfort instead)
    – Chris H
    Mar 28 at 8:35
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It is not clear if you want to go faster on hills or improve the gearset (they are different). I will answer the title question, how to improve speed and climbing.

Off bike spend is probably your biggest bang for buck if the aim is improved speed in hills. For many riders at least one, if not all, of the items below will apply. If you are already doing all of what's below, then look at bike improvements. If you want a one-off quick fix that is expensive but requires no effort, then skip this answer and go down the bike upgrade. If you want to upgrade for the sake of upgrading, that great, read no further.

Join a gym or setup a home gym. Cycling appropriate strength training will make a big difference to riding output, especially hills.

Diet - you can save around a half a kg / one pound upgrading the entire group set. For a lot less money most of us can easily save that much in body weight (me included). An optimal diet will also help with improving ride performance even with no weight loss. A good sports dietician can be well worth the spend.

Coaching, with a personalized training plan that fits into your lifestyle, will improve your output and more importantly, the effectiveness of training time you put in, all for a modest outlay.

Shed weight - do you arrive home with water in your water bottle? 500ml is the same as the weight you will save upgrading groupset. Do you carry more in the way of tools and spare tubes than you need. For some, a phone and credit card is the emergency toolbox of choice (but no good if you are 50 miles from home with no cell coverage and miles from the nearest town, as can happen where I live).

@Rеnаud has a great list of 'on bike' improvements. Do consider selling the bike you have and upgrading to a newer/higher spec bike is probably cheaper than upgrading the group set.

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  • In terms of bang for the buck, joining a sport-oriented club can also be a good way. Riding in groups has advantages and disadvantages, but the social aspect of clubs can be for some an incentive to ride more regularly - time on the saddle is an important factor to improve performance.
    – Rеnаud
    Mar 28 at 6:20
  • I've given you a +1, despite a lot of this being slightly disturbing for my type of riding. A much higher level of self sufficiency is required on many rides, even just an evening club run if you don't have anyone to pick you up. It's also possible to get very (even dangerously) cold waiting for a lift or a train if dressed for riding hard.
    – Chris H
    Mar 28 at 8:41
  • If going faster is the goal, cycling-specific gym work is good, not neglecting core strength and flexibility. If you want to ride for longer, the core, flexibility, and supporting muscles become more significant. But if you start to build upper body strength, that muscle is dead weight on a bike, so gym sessions intended to balance out the cycling and train general strength won't speed you up - but that's mainly what I do anyway.
    – Chris H
    Mar 28 at 8:45
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    @Chris - All good points, driver behind the answer is challenging the presumption too many riders have that the bike is what slows them down. Perhaps I could have emphasized the downsides of the "credit card" toolbox approach more - 110% agree that you can compromise safety too much in an effort to saving weight by leaving essential 'kit' behind (food, water, clothing, tools).
    – mattnz
    Mar 28 at 22:11
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    @mattnz my hope is that a little debate will help the OP find the sweet spot for their own rides
    – Chris H
    Mar 30 at 9:56

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