Groupset 101

8 comments / Posted on by Rita Müller

Nothing can get you into a fight quicker on a bike forum than talking about groupsets. Everyone will have their favorite from SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo. Funnily enough, everyone’s preference will be the one that is currently on their best bike. That is why we can provide any groupset you want for any of our bikes if you don’t see the groupset you need feel free to email and ask for it.

Do you know your groupsets though and what constitutes a groupset?

We have below a helpful little guide to give you the information you need to know.

What is Groupset?

Campagnolo was the first company to offer a groupset, then just as now a groupset was a collection of matching parts that allowed you to turn a frame into a bike. These parts would all be matched in quality. What parts are in a groupset?

Over the years what parts are contained in groupsets has changed. You will find that modern groupset includes brakes, brake/gear levers, chainset, derailleurs, chain, and sprockets. You don’t want to confuse a groupset with a finishing kit. A finishing kit generally comprises of a seat post, stem, and handlebar. Again these will be of similar quality and brand.

Who Makes Groupsets?

You will find that there are 3 brands that dominate the road bike groupset market. Other brands have come and gone and others remain very niche.

  • Shimano. Shimano is a huge company based in Japan that makes cycling parts and parts for fishing and rowing. Shimano sales comprise around 70-80% of the global bike part market. Shimano has brought us indexed gears, freehubs, dual-pivot brakes, and integrated shifters and brakes. You can pretty much thank them for how your gears are changed on road bikes.
  • SRAM. SRAM is the newest groupset manufacturer on the block, being founded in the USA in 1987. The first component they launched on the world was Grip Shift; originally it was for road bikes before later jumping to mountain bikes where it has stayed since. They also sued Shimano in 1991 for the way that they supplied their OEM products, SRAM won an unspecified payout. In 2006 we got the first SRAM road groupsets.
  • Campagnolo. Campag, in cycling speak, is the longest-running groupset manufacturer and like all the storied names in road biking, is based in Italy. The company was founded in 1933 and were the company that brought us quick release levers and derailleurs. In 1973 they brought us groupsets with the launch of the Super Record road and track groupsets.

How Are Groupsets Organized?

As we mentioned earlier, groupsets are comprised of parts of a similar value. By comprising groupsets in this way, we create a hierarchy of groupsets. We find low-end groupsets for entry level bikes. We have mid-level groupsets for a mixture of quality and budget. We then find high-end groupsets.

New technologies start at the high-end and slowly filter their way down to other groupsets over time. That is why we still see 12 speed at the top and 8 speed at the bottom or electronic shifting in the high-end and still waiting to be filtered down.

Shimano Hierarchy

Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace

Shimano is an easy hierarchy to split into levels. There is two to each level. Claris and Sora are low ends. Tiagra and 105 are mid, and Ultegra and Dura Ace are high. Claris and Sora are going to be mainly found on entry level road bikes and now can be found with Shimano’s Dual Control STI levers.

Tiagra is the bridging gap to mid-level quality. 105 is where you will start to find race ready quality and an 11-speed drivetrain. As Shimano are 11 speed up to Dura Ace, you will be able to match 105 components with parts from the two high-level groupsets, Ultegra, and Dura Ace.

Ultegra and Dura Ace are both available with Shimano’s electronic shifting, which is called DI2.

SRAM Hierarchy

Apex, Rival, Force, Red

SRAM  icancycling roadbike groupset berling bike bicycle

SRAM is a bit more complicated. They have no low end. Apex fits somewhere in between Tiagra and 105. Apex is a 10-speed groupset and was the first road bike groupset to come with a 10-32 cassette to make sure you have a massive range of gears.

SRAM uses a single lever for you to change up and down gears, they call this Double Tap. You will find this on all their groupset offerings. Rival and Force are both 11-speed offerings. You will find both of them available in a 2 x 11 format (22) and a 1 x 11 format (1).

Red has just jumped up to 12 speed and also comes in a wireless electric shifting option, eTap. As you may be able to imagine the new SRAM Red eTap AXS is reassuringly expensive and you’ll see it dangling on a few dream machine bikes, we can also make this dream come true for you.

Campagnolo Hierarchy

Centaur, Athena, Potenza, Chorus, Record, Super Record 

Campagnolo Hierarchy

It seems a bit disheartening to call Centaur an entry-level groupset as it is a work of art. That claim could be leveled against all the groupsets in Campag’s hierarchy. Athena, Potenza, and Chorus are all mid-level with Record and Super Record being their high-end groupsets.

Campag is the only manufacturer to have an 11-speed entry-level groupset with Centaur. Record and Super Record have recently jumped up to using 12 gears as well as having electronic shifting available via their EPS system.

What Groupsets do we Mainly Use?

When we build our complete bikes, we want groupsets that mix quality, low weight, and great value. We want your chosen groupset to take our carbon fiber parts to the next level. We, therefore, could not pick anything from the entry level groups and have started from mid-range up.

P9 roadbike carbonbike bicycle

We mainly offer Shimano 105 (R700), Shimano Ultegra (R8000), Sram Rival, Sram Force, and Sram Red. These choices are available on our “off the shelf” bikes however if you fancy a custom bike with a different groupset, please send us a message and we will get back to you.


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