The Mountain Bike Groupset 101

0 comments / Posted on by Rita Müller

Groupsets are one of the most important parts of your bike. They are also one of the parts where when you spend more that you get better quality and better features that are easy to see. In the mountain bike world, there are 2 main groupsets manufactures. These manufacturers are SRAM and Shimano.

You might now though be wondering what a groupset is?

We’ve created a little guide for you to find out all you need to know and more importantly what groupsets we use and why.

What is a groupset?

Groupsets were an idea that mountain bikes inherited from road bikes. Groupsets were created to give you a group of parts, all of a similar level and quality, to allow you to take a frame and turn it into a bike. Over the years though what you would get in a groupset has changed.

The current modern idea of a groupset will come featuring the parts you need for changing gears. You’ll get shifters, cranks and chainrings, rear derailleur, chain, cassette, and sometimes a front derailleur. You may also get a groupset that contains your brakes as well. Quite often though brakes are sold as a separate product.

Who makes groupsets?

As we said above there are 2 main manufacturers of groupsets in the world.

  • Shimano. Shimano are a huge company, they are also the brand that most people think about when they ponder bike gears. For some people Shimano may even be synonymous with groupset. Shimano sell around 80% of bike groupset components in the world. Shimano also brought us SPD pedals and pretty much cornered the mountain bike clipless pedal market in one fell swoop.
  • SRAM. SRAM came to the attention of the world by creating Grip Shift. They originally created Grip Shift for road bikes but it was in the mountain bike world that SRAM took off. SRAM brought new ides with them such as 1:1 cable actuation which made gear cables more tolerant to dirt. After they purchased Rock Shox they invented “Motion Control”, allowing us to adjust rebound and compression in shocks.

How are mountain bike groupsets organized?

Groupsets come in a set hierarchy. Both SRAM and Shimano use hierarchies for their groupsets. By using hierarchies they are making it easy for us as consumers to know what value to place upon a groupset. There will be an entry level, mid-level, and top level to these tiers.

As with road bike hierarchies, you will see that any innovations start at the top end and will slowly filter their way down to other groupsets. Initially, Shimano did this in reverse. For a period in the 1980s, they introduced innovations at their low end and moved it up if the innovations took off. Now you can expect to see anything new being part of the XTR range and not trialed with Alivio.

SRAM hierarchy

NX, NX Eagle, GX, GX Eagle, X1, X01, X01 Eagle, XX1, XX1 Eagle, X01 Eagle AXS, XX1 Eagle AXS

SRAM’s X01 Eagle AXS and XX1 Eagle AXS do away with cables and give you wireless gear shifts for your money. You can achieve instantaneous gear changes even under load with this newly released groupset. It also comes in a really bling oil slick coloring so everyone can tell you’ve bought it.

Sitting below the AXS groupsets are the XX1 and XX1 Eagle groupsets. The difference in case you were wondering is that XX1 is 11 speed and when you put Eagle after the name you get 12 speed. Eagle allows you to take advantage of SRAM’s mighty 10-50t cassette offering.

In our hierarchy, we have X01 and X01 Eagle sitting below its XX1 siblings, but they are both very much the same groupsets. The main difference is that the X01 and X01 Eagle are focused on cross country racing and as such are of lighter construction and race-ready performance.

X1 is the point that we start to see less carbon fiber and more metal in our SRAM groupsets. You’ll still find the X-Sync chainrings and X-Horizon rear derailleur design though.

GX and GX Eagle are the most commonly seen and used groupsets in the SRAM range. It is available in 7, 10, 11, and 12-speed variations. All of these variations include X/Exact Actuation shifters.

NX and NX Eagle are your entry level SRAM groupsets. It is though not exactly entry level and will be found on mid-level bikes. It might not have the bling features of the groupsets above, but it certainly comes stacked with performance.

Shimano hierarchy

Deore M6000, SLX M7000, XT M8000, XT M8050 DI2, XTR M9000, XTR M9050 DI2, XTR M9100

Gravity specific

Zee M640, Saint M820

Electric mountain bike groupset

E8000 DI2

XTR is the shining light at the top of Shimano’s groupset range. It is where all of the newest ideas, such as 12speed, live. It’s where you’ll find bling materials that are hewn into shape using the very latest construction techniques.

XT sits below XTR and might be where you go if you want the newest ideas but in a much more wallet-friendly price. XT is usually around half the price of XTR, and only you can tell us if you feel that the jump up to XTR is worth it. You do get an extra cassette cog with XTR though.

One of the funny things about XT is that many riders prefer its gear change over the much lighter XTR gear shift, or maybe that is something we tell ourselves.

SLX is again down a price tier, but it still looks great. It still features the Shadow Plus rear derailleur and RapidFire Plus shifters of its higher-ranked brethren but brings the cost into a much more affordable price point.

Many people define Deore as the workhorse of Shimano groupsets. It is a no-frills groupset that gets on with its work and helps you to enjoy cycling. Deore also drops another cog and is ten speed rather than the 11 speed of SLX and XT.

On electric bikes, we love the E8000 DI2 groupset. The E8000 is around XT level in normal groupset money. It comes with a Class 1 Electrical Assist System which tops out at 20mph and is currently one of the best e-bike groupsets available.

What groupsets do we use?

When we design our frames, we take a long time to develop an idea. We take the same care and attention when we are sorting the specification of our bikes. We take time to make sure that we fit the correct groupset that means you get a mix of performance and affordability.

That is why for our e-bikes we use the Shimano E8000 DI2 groupset. For the rest of our models, we use a mix of SRAM X1, GX Eagle, XX1 Eagle, and GX and Shimano Deore M600 and XT M8000. If you fancy any of our bikes with other groupsets, please don’t hesitate to ask us and we’ll be able to help you out.


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