For this review, I evaluated the top 2 tiers of mechanical and electronic groupsets from companies that have complete sets – 13 groupsets in all to pick the best groupset for you and your road bike.

“Are you still riding that?” one of my training buddies asked me at the end of a long climbing ride, pointing to my 53/39 crankset. “You’re too old to be turning cranks that big.  I moved to a 50/34 a long time ago.”

It was a humbling moment. Spartacus, the name I had given him for his steady and strong riding style, was essentially telling me it was time to grow up and open my eyes.  Or, at least, it was time to acknowledge that I shouldn’t plan on riding the same way and with the same components forever.

While I was well aware of my age, I’d been subconsciously putting off a decision to upgrade my groupset for some time.  Sure, I’ve changed out the bottom bracket before, replaced the chain many times, put on a new cassette every spring, had new cables run and the shifters and brakes tuned-up when needed.  I thought I was keeping on top of things with my components.

But, when I upgraded my frame, I merely moved my still perfectly good, now couple generations old Dura-Ace components over to the new bike.  I hadn’t thought much more was needed. I had a great bike, liked my components, and had gotten used to them.

Spartacus’ question motivated me to look into what was going on with groupsets – the shifting, braking and drivetrain components on my bike. What I learned, and what you should know, is that much has changed in the last several years.  Eleven-speed groupsets were introduced a few years ago and are now pretty much standard on new performance road bikes.  Electronic shifting is now in its second generation of consumer use and provides superior performance over traditional mechanical shifting.  Disc brakes and hydraulic shifters are coming fast to road bikes and offer better and safer braking.

Taken together, these developments are game changers for road cyclists.  They are more significant and will have a broader impact on road cycling than any other groupset innovations we’ve seen in many generations.  They are for the better and there is no going back.  You can continue maintaining what you have, but if your groupset is more than five years old or you plan to buy or build a new bike, you should really be open to buying a groupset that operates differently and performs better than the kind you may have been using.

For this review, I evaluated the top 2 tiers of mechanical groupsets and the electronic groupsets available from the 3 companies that have comprehensive offerings – 13 groupsets in all.  Below, I’ll first tell you what criteria I used and recommend what you should buy and where you should buy it from stores with the best prices and good customer service.  I’ll then get into the details – answer the key questions about groupsets, lay out what has and is changing about them and share my views on the sets from the leading manufacturers.  You can also find links to good stores with the best prices for the recommended sets below my recommendations and in the right hand column, and for all Tier 1, 2 and 3 road bike groupsets at the end of this review.

As with the other reviews you’ll see on this site, I do them to be informed or ‘in the know’ about what gear to get next and where to get it and I share them with you in hopes we’ll all enjoy cycling more with the right gear.


In The Know Cycling is for road cycling enthusiasts like you and me who want to know what gear we should get next and where we can get it at the best prices from great stores.  I do hours of my own testing and analysis on an entire category of cycling gear for each review and incorporate insights from other independent reviewers and riders I respect.  I respond to most any question you have in the comment section of each post, usually within a few hours if I’m not on a long ride or sleeping (Eastern US time).

To eliminate potential bias, I don’t accept ads of any kind and don’t post press releases rewritten as “first look” reviews or articles paid for by bike companies or stores.  I buy or demo and return all the gear I and my fellow testers evaluate, don’t go on company-paid product review trips, and don’t offer or charge for special access to any of the content on this site.  My only influence is what I think would be best for my fellow roadies.  This is my passion, not a business.

The site is supported by a simple and transparent model.  I find and provide you regularly updated links to the lowest priced product listings for the gear I’ve reviewed at online stores that have the highest customer satisfaction ratings among the 100 or so I track.  When you click on and buy something through one of those links, some of the stores (though not all) will pay the site a small commission.  You save time and money while supporting the creation of independent reviews written for road cycling enthusiasts and it doesn’t cost you a thing.  If you prefer to buy your gear at a local bike shop, you can support the site with a contribution here or buy anything through these links to Amazon or eBay.  Thank you.



What I Recommend

Best Performer

Best Value

What components make up a groupset?

Why buy a groupset?

How much should I expect to spend on a groupset?

Why does my bike and others I see for sale have a mix of components from different groupsets?

Will a shop install a gruppo I bought online?

What are the key developments that might affect my selection of a groupset?

What did your groupset evaluations show?

Where will I get the best prices and customer service?



For all In The Know Cycling reviews, I evaluate product-specific criteria in four groups – performance, design, quality and cost. The criteria that matter most in those categories for groupsets are:

Performance – Shifter responsiveness, predictability, speed, smoothness, and load management. Derailleur accuracy (chain moving to right location) and chain engagement. Brake modulation and smoothness or grab.

Design – Groupset weight, shifter and brake lever ergonomics, fit with your hand, throw distance, feedback (tactile, audible), multi-shift capacity, programmability, and component materials.

Quality – Component durability (how long before it wears out), reliability, service shop availability and experience, and product warranty.

Cost – Purchase price, cost of ownership and replacement cost.

Considering the range of options the road cycling enthusiast has in choosing a groupset, I’m recommending products in two categories: Best Performer and Best Value.

The Best Performer is selected independent of cost and based on the performance group criteria mentioned above.  The Best Value considers both performance and cost criteria.  Design shows up (or not) in performance so I don’t judge it alone.  Two products with similar design parameters may perform similarly or very differently so the design is a means to an end.  And quality is either a go or no go in my recommendations.  I won’t recommend anything that doesn’t have an acceptable level of quality according my criteria but I’m not going to recommend something that has superior quality but under-performs or has higher costs.  When two groupsets perform more or less the same, I do consider quality and cost criteria in recommending one as a Best Performer.

With that as an introduction, here are my recommendations:

Best Performer:

The Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 is my recommendation for the best performing groupset.  As an electronic unit, it performs better than mechanical ones, is more enjoyable to ride, and requires less service.   It will enable you to go faster than you would with the best mechanical groupset for reasons I describe in more detail later in this review.  Updated in 2014 and as a second generation electronic groupset, the Ultegra Di2 brings the advances in electronic shifting technology, ergonomics, weight savings and even a hidden battery that are market leading.


Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 Groupset

Despite not being Shimano’s top-of-the-line Dura-Ace electronic groupset, the Ultegra Di2 performs the same as the esteemed leader of Shimano’s road groupset line and has carried forward all the innovations that came to the Dura-Ace Di2.  It weighs a few hundred grams more than the Dura-Ace groupset but, unless you are a very fit and regular racer, you probably won’t notice that weight difference in your groupset like you would if it was in your rims.  You will notice that the Ultegra 6870 Di2’s market price is half that of the Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 and the same or slightly less than the Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical gruppo.  So for the same performance level, buy the less expensive set.

The Ultegra Di2 is also superior to Campagnolo EPS units.  It has better auto trimming, it is more reliable, replacement parts and service centers are more available, and it costs less.  You may prefer the design of the Di2 or EPS, but the design differences don’t affect the relative performance.  SRAM, the only other complete groupset manufacturer, has not introduced an electronic groupset and appears to be at least a year away from doing so.

Groupsets and components from all the manufacturers are available from almost all outlets at significant discounts off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) or recommended retail price (RRP).  The stores listed below provide amongst the best prices I’ve found for this groupset in the most common size combinations and have the set in inventory.  The links will take you directly to their groupset pages.

These same retailers will also have amongst the best prices for individual components if you only need a replacement or upgrade.  You will usually receive your order within a week and without additional shipping or international costs for most orders to most countries.

Here are the page links for this groupset at the stores I’ve found have them at the best prices, have them in stock and have top shelf customer satisfaction records as of August 13, 2017: Tredz ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles.

Best Value:

If your budget doesn’t allow or you’ve decided not to invest the money needed to buy the best performing groupset, the Shimano Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset is the best value Tier 1 or Tier 2 groupset you can buy.  Also introduced this year, it has many of the benefits of the Ultegra 6870 Di2 (with mechanical instead of electronic shifters and derailleurs) while providing the technology and innovations that have ‘trickled down’ from Shimano’s top-of-the-line Dura-Ace mechanical groupset.


Shimano Ultegra 6800 Groupset

In fact, if you are on a 7800, 7900 or older series Dura-Ace, the Ultegra 6800 will be superior at half the price of what you paid for your old set.  The Ultegra is 11 speed which allows you the option of choosing a cassette which makes climbing easier while making rear shifting smoother and the front derailleur has been elongated to make your front shifts easier and as well.

Campagnolo competes with its Athena and SRAM with its Force 22 mechanical groupsets against Ultegra.  Both are very capable sets that you wouldn’t go wrong with and you may prefer for ergonomic reasons – the way they shift and the way your hands feel operating the shifters and brakes – though I think the design of any of these three are similar enough that you could quickly get comfortable with each of them.

The Athena and Force 22 weigh almost the same as an Ultegra, an amount that I argue would be indistinguishable on your rides.  They are priced $50 to $150 more than Ultegra’s current market price of $700, £500 or €615.  As the dominant player in the groupset market, Shimano has strong service and parts networks around the world and more regularly updates its product lines.

The Shimano Ultegra 6800 is new for 2014, the Force 22 came to market in 2013 and a new version of the Athena will be introduced in 2015.  You will also find the Ultegra mechanical groupset on most new bikes priced between $2500 and $5000, what most cycling enthusiasts pay for a new ride. There’s a visual later in this post which shows what gruppos come on new bikes from the leading companies.

If you need to replace your current groupset and don’t plan to invest to upgrade your bike with higher performing wheels or an electronic groupset, the Ultegra 6800 is the best value play out there.

Here are the page links for this groupset at the stores I’ve found have them at the best prices, have them in stock and have top shelf customer satisfaction records as of August 13, 2017: Tweeks Cycles, Chain Reaction Cycles.


What components make up a groupset?

With the exception of you, your wheels and your pedals, today’s mechanical groupset is every piece of equipment on your bike that makes it go…and stop, specifically:

  • Left and right shifters
  • Front and rear derailleurs
  • Left and right brake levers
  • Front and rear brakes
  • Cabling that connects brakes levers with brakes and shifters with derailleurs
  • The ‘chainset’ (front chainrings, attached crank arms and bottom bracket that spans the two crank arms inside your bike. The chainset is often called a ‘crankset’ in the US)
  • Chain
  • Cassette (rear set of ‘cogs’)


An electronic groupset includes everything in a mechanical one with wiring replacing the shifting cables and adding a junction box and battery to control and power the electronic shifters and derailleurs.

If you are buying a hydraulic rim brake or hydraulic disc brake equipped groupset, you change out the brake levers in the case of the former and both the levers and cantilever style brakes for disc brakes in the latter. (More about electronic groupsets and hydraulic and disc brakes in the section below about key developments.)

For every groupset, you select from amongst different component options to fit your bike frame and among specific components including cassettes and chainsets to suit the kind of riding you do (flat to mountainous), and your leg length and leg strength (or age, as Spartacus intimated). You also must have wheels whose rear hubs are compatible with your groupset (more on this later.)

A groupset used to include the front and rear wheel hubs, but those are now integrated with your wheelset. Also, some of the groupset companies also make wheels and pedals that share the same family name as the groupset but aren’t part of it and these and other companies make individual groupset components that work within a named groupset.

All of the components that make up the groupset are also sold individually. Only three companies – Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM sell complete groupsets. Other companies sell individual components, though mostly the drivetrain components like chainsets, chains and cassettes.

Lastly, and to provide a modest amount of culture to this rather dry section of the review, groupsets are often called ‘gruppos’ amongst cyclists around the world. Gruppos is Italian for ‘group’ and perhaps is used as an homage to the Italian bike maker Campagnolo or ‘Campag’ and ‘Campy’, where the modern groupset was first developed.

Why buy a groupset?

When you buy a new bike you are essentially selecting a frame and a groupset combination. Many road racing and endurance bikes are sold with the option of selecting between groupsets made by different manufacturers though most come with a unique combination.

Of course, if you are building a new road bike starting with your frame of choice, you can pick whichever groupset you want to fit your riding and budget objectives. This may be a second (or more) bike and your groupset choice may be influenced by wanting to stay with the same family of components you have now for service familiarity or parts considerations. Alternatively, you may want to go in a totally different direction if you plan to use this bike for different purposes, e.g. for winter riding, triathlons or cyclocross riding.

Finally, many people buy a groupset when they decide to replace or upgrade their existing one. Needing to regularly replace a worn-out chain or cassette, or even a derailleur every couple years like I’ve done shouldn’t prompt you to change your entire gruppo. On the other hand, when some combination of your shifters, brake levers, derailleurs and chainrings start to go after several years and many miles, it may be time (and cheaper) to change out the old gruppo for a new and updated one.

If your riding has changed – say you are incorporating more climbing and doing longer rides or you are doing more racing – you may also be prompted to get a new, higher performing or more suited groupset than the one that originally came on your bike. You may also want to change to one that incorporates some new technology, like electronic shifting or disc brakes (though disc brakes may require a frame change as well).

Replacing or upgrading your groupset can be a hard decision. You first have to decide that it’s time to give up on your existing set and chose among the new groupsets out there. To use a car analogy, when the wife and I started having kids, I had to first decide it was time to give up the two-seat rag top (or maybe I was told to?) and then I had to figure out whether a sedan, hatchback, SUV or minivan was next. Not easy!

How much should I expect to spend on a groupset?

In my review of the best all-around wheelsets, part of my characterization of the road cycling enthusiast was someone who initially spent between $2,500 and $5,000 for their bike. New road bikes in this price range are primarily distinguished by their frame design, frame and fork materials, and groupset. The wheels, handlebars, seat posts and saddles are typically basic and not on the same performance level as the frame. Many of us upgrade or change out some of these components immediately (e.g. seat and seat post) or over time (e.g. wheels) to fit our riding preferences or allow us to get the full potential out of the frame. Since most frames and forks on bikes in this range are carbon these days, the frame design and groupset are the key differentiators. The groupset has become so identified with the bike’s value in the consumer’s mind that it is often part of the bike model name, for example: Trek Madone 5.9C Red 22. (Red 22 is the top-tier mechanical groupset made by SRAM.) This is similar to the way some personal computers used to be sold, often with the ‘Intel Inside’ branding and chipset model called out prominently in the PC description and marketing.

In the chart I prepared above you can see the groupsets sold on many of the road bikes marketed to cycling enthusiasts from 14 of the world’s leading bike manufacturers. This is a relatively complete though not exhaustive list of bikes from these companies. For comparison purposes, I plotted bike prices using the 2014 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP or RRP) though many can be purchased at prices below these levels depending on when and where you buy.

Note that bikes in the $2700 to $4200 price range are typically equipped with a Tier 2 mechanical groupset, mostly Shimano Ultegra ones. Only 8 of the 63 bikes charted selling between $2500 and $5000 have an electronic groupset installed on the bike, all being Ultegra Di2 and on bikes selling for $3500 or more. While you can buy a handful of new road bikes selling in the $4000 – $5000 range with Tier 1 groupsets, these gruppos go most frequently on high-end road racing, time trial, and triathlon frames selling well north of $5000.

Based on the best price you would pay today if you were to buy an Ultegra groupset separately (in the low $700 range), these components make up 15% to 25% of the bike’s MSRP across the range of bikes shown. Even if you assumed the bikes were discounted 10% or so, that would bring the groupsets in at the low to mid 20% range for most of the bikes shown. This seems like a bargain considering how important pedaling, shifting, and braking is to your performance and satisfaction and how significant the groupset is to the bike’s perceived value.

So with a better understanding of what’s on bikes like yours or those you may be considering, how much should you spend on a new gruppo to replace your worn out one or put on your new bike? Bottom line, I would suggest you plan to spend between $700 and $1500 on your next groupset.


I answered this question not only by considering groupsets – the current product lines, their true market prices, and the bikes they are going on – but also by considering the relationship of your groupset to your frame and wheelset choices. Most new bikes typically come with ‘stock wheels’ which typically perform below the potential of the frame and groupset. On bikes in $2500 to $5000 range, these wheels would cost $400 to $1000 if you were to buy them separately. This is slightly less on a percentage basis than the groupset’s portion of the price. If you are happy riding on these wheels, stay with the groupset in the Tier 2, $700 range like the Ultegra, a great value for the performance it delivers.

If, over-time or immediately, you are not satisfied with the performance of the wheels that came on your bike, you are not alone. Wheelsets are usually the first and most important upgrade you can make to you bike and riding performance. A good all-round wheelset (like those I recommend in the wheelset review mentioned above) are going to run between $1500 and $2500. If you are looking for that level of performance, I’d recommend you equal it by moving to an electronic groupset. New, a Tier 2 electronic groupset will cost you roughly $1500. Upgrading your existing Tier 2 mechanical groupset with the necessary electronic components (shifters, derailleurs, junction box, and batteries) will run you approximately $1100.

It’s also important to note that the groupset MSRPs or RRPs published by the manufacturers and listed by shops are fantasies. Most gruppos are sold broadly in the competitive market for 30%-40% off the MSRP and their prices are shown in the chart above. You can find links to the stores with the groupset prices below and, for recommended gear, in the right hand column.


Why does my bike and others I see for sale have a mix of components from different groupsets?

Some bikes are sold with mixed sets and groupset components made by different manufacturers. Indeed, my Specialized bike came with Shimano Dura-Ace shifters and brake levers, Shimano Ultegra brakes and cranks made by FSA. Many of the bikes sold by the larger manufacturers like Giant, Trek, Specialized and others mix components.

There are at least a few reasons for this. First, mixing components save bike companies money. These are usually a mix of perfectly good components and you don’t incur a big weight or performance penalty by mixing in less costly ones a tier down from the same or another company. I continue to buy Ultegra chains and cassettes for my bike even though it initially came with Dura-Ace ones because they cost a whole lot less and don’t add enough weight to make a difference to me. When I moved from a 53/39 to a 50/34 crank, I did change out the FSA crank with a Dura-Ace one to get better performance but I could have saved money going with another FSA one.

Secondly, while none of the companies that make bikes make complete groupsets, some make individual components themselves or have business relationships with manufacturers of individual components. For example, Trek owns Bontrager and you see a lot of Bonti brakes (and wheels) on Trek bikes. FSA cranks also show up on a lot of bikes made by different companies. While most companies that sell individual components rather than entire groupsets target the replacement or upgrade ‘aftermarket’, FSA’s appears to focus on the OEM market.

Lastly, many people probably don’t know what makes up a groupset or that they are getting mixed components in theirs. If they do, they aren’t bothered by it. Part of what leads to this may be the use of the term ‘drivetrain’ which most refer to when speaking of the combination of the chainset, chain and rear wheel cassette. These parts (another way to remember them is the ones that get lubed and greasy) are often thought of as a group unto themselves. Frankly, I’ve spoken with many mechanics who have different lists of what components are in a groupset so I’m not surprised that consumers or bike makers mix and match components within sets. Even Campagnolo uses the terms drivetrain and groupset interchangeably in their brochures.

The only reason I can think of for an enthusiast like me or you for buying a mixed set is to save money without being bothered about paying a weight penalty on the margins. So you can buy the shifters, brake levers, front and rear derailleurs from the higher tier set and the chainset, brakes, chains and cassettes from a lower tier one. Alternatively, if you are a real weight weenie and want to save a hundred or so grams on the margin, you can buy, for example, the meatier components like cranks, brakes, chains and cassettes from the lighter Tier 1 set to put into your new Tier 2 set and save a few hundred dollars over what you’d spend if you were to buy the entire Tier 1 set. The shifters, brake levers and derailleur performance in the top two tiers are not recognizably different to most cycling enthusiasts.

Will a shop install a gruppo I bought online? How much will I pay to get it installed?

Most shops of any decent size run their sales and service businesses separately. Smaller shops won’t typically stock groupsets or more costly components and know they can’t (nor should they try to) compete on Tier 1 or Tier 2 groupset pricing. They’ll order a set for you as a courtesy but you’ll pay well over market price for it. Also, most shop managers know that the profit and growth of their business is greater on the service side. They’ll be happy for the service business regardless if it is on a bike or components you bought elsewhere. The sales people should love to have you come in for service in the hopes that you’ll pick up something else you need while you are in the store.

Think of how things have changed in the automotive business. You don’t get dirty looks anymore when you bring a car you may have bought elsewhere in for service. They are thankful for the business and are thrilled that you come into their dealership for any reason. The bike industry is similar.

To install and set up your groupset, most shops will charge you between $100 and $200. Add $25-$40 more if your frame has ports for internal wiring. Also plan to replace your bar tape which will wrap over wires and or cables coming out of your shifters and brake levers. It shouldn’t cost you any more to install an electronic gruppo. You may get a slight discount in the product price or installation cost if you buy the groupset at a shop, though the cost to buy the set there in the first place will probably be well above what you could get from an online retailer.  So, I suspect you will still be may be paying more from the shop in total than you need to if you buy your groupset there. You shouldn’t get charged extra to install the groupset you bought outside the shop and you shouldn’t get charged for removing your current set off your bike.

What are the key developments that might affect my selection of a groupset?

There are 3 major developments that have or will change groupsets as we knew them. First, and I think most significant is the introduction of electronic groupsets. When you push your shift lever or button, these sets use servo motors inside the derailleurs to electronically move your front or rear derailleur and chain to the gear setting you desire. The brakes are still operated mechanically.


Wires run from your shifters and derailleurs to a junction box and replace the cables that used to run between them. The unit is powered by a lithium battery that either goes inside your seat post or is hung elsewhere on your bike. The battery only needs to be recharged every 1500 to 2000 miles. Amazingly, an electronic groupset weighs about the same or slightly less than its mechanical version. The components in the groupset that don’t relate to shifting remain the same. Simon Crisp, a prototypical cycling enthusiast living in the UK, posted an excellent long-term review describing his experience setting up and riding Campag’s EPS groupset over this past winter. Chapeau Simon.

Electronic groupsets have been available in the commercial marketplace for over 5 years, been through a couple of generations already and are used by most of the riders on the pro circuit. Shimano was out with theirs first. Campagnolo reportedly had theirs under development for 20 years and followed Shimano shortly after the later entered the market.

The third complete groupset manufacturer, SRAM, first publicly resisted developing an electronic groupset and extolled what it stated were the relative benefits of mechanical groupsets. They lost half of their pro sponsorships in a couple of years and considerable market standing by taking that position. They’ve apparently changed their stance and began testing their first electronic units on the pro road circuit at the Tour of California in May. They appear to be upping the ante by going with a wireless design, likely to be released to the consumer market in 2016.

Shimano and Campagnolo are already producing electronic groupset versions for their Tier 1 and Tier 2 groupsets.  For the 2015 model year, Campy recently announced the addition of its third Tier 1 electronic groupset model (Chorus EPS) and will stop making one for their Tier 2 model (Athena EPS).

Bottom line, electronic groupsets are the future but they are also the present. They are here, they work and are winners with pros and enthusiasts like me and you. Why? They out-perform mechanical sets in many significant ways and make you a better, faster, happier rider. They are hassle-free and their cost of ownership is minimal. Their design offers far more features than mechanicals. Their initial purchase cost is 2x what you pay for a mechanical set in the same tier which amounts to $700 or so more on an Ultegra gruppo. This is not a lot when considering all the performance, design and service benefits your get.  And, the Tier 2 electronic groupsets now cost the same or less than the Tier 1 mechanical ones.

I’ve summarized the pros and cons of electronic and mechanical shift technology in the chart above. While hopefully self-explanatory, a few points are worth emphasizing. First, with an electronic groupset, every shift ends up putting the chain precisely where it should go.  You don’t need to hope that the chain gets there or trim it when the derailleur undershoots or overshoots.  Second, no matter how much load you have on the chain when you are pedaling full-out up a hill or in a pull or during a sprint or in whatever ring and cog combination, there is no added resistance or rubbing during the shift.  (See a summary of the wattage gains from these and related drivetrain efficiencies here.) Third, there is no need to adjust the derailleurs as your do with mechanical shifters when your new cable stretches, as it picks up road grime over time, or when you as your chain extends over its life.

A fellow enthusiast summarized it well on a user forum:

“The best thing about it (electronic shifting) is simply the removal of all the problems of mechanical groupsets – the uncertainty, the chain rub, and the lack of smoothness and the fact you had to fight the things sometimes.”

A fellow cycling enthusiast blogger at Riding Against The Grain wrote:

“The other advantage of the Di2?  If if needs adjustment, all you have to do is press the little inline trim button by the brifter (the integrated brake lever and shifter – ed.).  No stopping to turn the barrel adjuster.  No trying to remember which way to turn it.  No worrying about running out of adjustment or cable tension.  Just press the button.”

Because electronic shifters do exactly what you want when you want it, you can shift with complete confidence not having to worry about the right conditions or time to shift. You merely shift when you want to whatever gear you want. You don’t lose a revolution or have a skip in tension between shifts. You no longer spend time grinding the big gear at a lower than desired cadence to avoid a bad shift.

With this performance and the confidence it provides, experienced riders say they shift more often to keep the cadence they want and the power that goes with it.  On this point, Jered Gruber of Peloton magazine writes the following about his change in shifting habits after adopting a first generation, 10-speed Di2 unit:

“Interestingly, I shift roughly twice as much as I do with mechanical systems. I don’t know quite what it is, but I shift a lot more, and because I shift a lot more, I always seem to be in a better gear. Call me lazy, but I will often just stay in a gear for the simple fact that I don’t feel like shifting. I’ve been cured of that habit with Di2 – shifting is a button click. It’s so easy, even the laziest of shifters (me) actually utilizes the wonderful world of twenty different gears.”

Electronic shifting will improve your ability to make better transitions as the road turns up or down and enable you to more smoothly keep up with the changes in pace ahead of you. You will ride more consistently and efficiently, translate more of your energy to the cranks, and go longer, harder and faster.

As one service tech who rides an electronic groupset put it to me simply “they are like night and day”.

In one of his columns for Slowtwitch, Greg Kopecky listed the questions he hears all the time about electronic shifting. You can read Greg’s answers for yourself but my answers to his questions below are as black and white as was the night and day characterization of the service tech.

Greg: Is it really the best thing ever?

Steve: Yes, it is the best thing to come to shifting and just a hair below the best thing since sliced bread.

G: Is it totally unnecessary?

S: No, it is totally necessary, if you want to ride faster that is.

G: Is it worth the money?

S: Yes, it will more than pay for itself by avoiding the hassle of regularly changing out cables and adjusting derailleurs.

G: Will the price ever come down?

S: Yes, it already has as seen by electronic shifting showing up on Tier 2 groupsets which sell for the same or less than Tier 1 mechanicals.

G: Will mechanical shifting completely die? Is it only a matter of time?

S: I think so. Electronic shifting will increasingly be seen on road enthusiasts bikes over the next 3-5 years at which point mechanical shifting will only be available on < $2500 bikes and specialty/novelty bikes costing more than that.

As you can see, I am convinced. Simply put, I recommend your next groupset be an electronic one.

The second major development in the last several years is the move from 10 to 11-speed group sets (or if you wish to be literally correct as SRAM is making a point to do in their product names and marketing, moving from 20 to 22 speeds). Where electronic shifting is a revolutionary change, this is more of an evolutionary one.

By going from 10 to 11 speeds you can either make your shifting smoother or extend the versatility of your cassette.  First, that 11th cog on a typical cassette can be added into the middle of the cog stack to give a smoother gearing transition between shifts. This usually comes from adding a 16-tooth gear that doesn’t exist on 10 speed cassettes in between the 15 and 17-tooth ones on the typical 11-25 10-speed cassettes.  Alternatively, you can put on a rear cassette with that 11th cog as the last one (either a 28 or 32-tooth cog) to give you that extra shift you often wish you had on the steepest climbs without taking anything away from your speed on the flats (from the 11-tooth cog) or pushing you toward a triple-ring crankset.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that all new model Tier 1 and Tier 2 groupsets sold now are 11-speed ones. You will still be able to get 10 speed replacement components for several years. Any new all-round or event wheels you buy will be designed for 11 speeds but you can put an adapter ring in to make them work with your 10 speed gruppo.

The final development is the introduction of hydraulic and disc braking systems. While you can buy hydraulic brake levers to use with rim brakes and use mechanical levers on disc brakes, hydraulic brake levers and disc brakes are ultimately made for each other.

Hydraulic brakes provide superior ‘modulation’ or a more consistent force applied to the brake surface. Disc brakes, in turn, provide a far better braking surface than carbon brake tracks used on all-carbon all-round and aero wheels, reducing the braking distance and eliminating the possibility that the carbon wheels will overheat and blow out the tire or warp the rim and ruin the wheel.

While available to road bikes now, cyclocross bikes have become the proving ground for hydraulic and disc brake systems. (Mountain bikes have used disc brakes for many years.) Considering the environmental conditions that cyclocross riders experience, there is a far greater demand for better performing brake systems in the cross world currently than in the road bike market.

Hydraulic and disc brakes are coming to road bikes however, and for a couple basic reasons. First, despite significant improvement over many generations, rim brakes on all-carbon wheels still don’t perform as well as aluminum rim or disc brake bikes on long descents and on wet roads. Further, the all-carbon bike rim surfaces degrade over time and along with it, both dry and wet braking performance drops as well.

Second, the development cost for hydraulic disc brakes is being spread over several segments that are among the healthiest and fastest growing in the cycling business (mountain and cyclocross). It will not require much additional effort to bring this technology across to the road bike world. Indeed Shimano has been out front in introducing hydraulic and disc brake systems to the road market and SRAM is attempting to recapture its credibility in the road groupset market by just now re-introducing its hydraulic levering system after a costly recall.

Several things need to happen before hydraulic and disc brakes advance much further on road bikes. First, the International Cycling Union (or UCI) that governs the pro cycling circuit must approve them for pro riders and those riders must use them in races and establish their confidence in the technology. From what I read, UCI approval is a season or two away. While I do think consumers are ahead of the pros on disc brakes now, a certain tipping point occurs with manufacturers and enthusiasts like me and you when the pros buy in.

Secondly, more road frames that are built with the wider dimensions required by disc brakes must come to the market. They are coming slowly now but I think more will be available over the next couple of years. The wheelsets are already there and selling into the cyclocross market.

Finally, manufacturers need to coalesce around some standards, for example around the diameter of the discs. Another generation or two is needed to reduce the current 300-400g weight penalty of hydraulic disc brake systems and an estimated further 300g weight penalty for road frames and sturdier wheels that work with disc brakes. The weight and cost of this technology must come down for it to be accepted in the market by racers and enthusiasts, as it has in the case of other recent technology developments in the road cycling industry including electronic shifting and all-carbon wheels.

And even with all this, which I expect to take a couple of years in the best case, I think we’ll see hydraulic and disc brake systems become an option rather than the standard in the $2500-$5000 bike, far different from the way I see electronic shifting become the standard on bikes sold in that price range. The continued acceptance by road cycling enthusiasts of the inferior braking performance of all-carbon wheels tells me that not enough of us are riding in conditions that require better braking performance to cause hydraulics and disc brakes take over the market.

I’ll keep an eye on the hydraulic disc brake systems developments and post an update as the picture comes into better focus. If you are thinking about getting a new bike or frame in the next couple of years however, and you do a fair amount of climbing (and descending) or ride in wet or cold weather, both conditions that would favor a hydraulic disc brake set up, you should continue to watch these developments closely.

What did your groupset evaluations show?

You can hear and read a lot about the different histories, personalities and nationalities of Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM, the only complete road bike groupset manufacturers. It makes for good story telling, great branding and strong loyalties but can influence your view of each company’s groupsets and your own buying decision if you let it. In evaluating groupsets, I’ve set that stuff aside and kept my evaluation focused on each set’s performance, design, service and cost criteria as detailed above.


Perhaps more than any other major segment of road cycling, the top tiers of each manufacturer’s groupset lines are tightly integrated. Technology, design and much of the performance in each set ‘trickle down’ from tier to tier within the same or next model introduction. So, for example, Shimano goes to 11 speeds in its Tier 1 Dura-Ace model in 2013, in its Tier 2 Ultegra in 2014, and in its Tier 3 105 for 2015. Changes in the design and feel of the integrated shifter and brake levers, of the action of the shifters, of the length of the rear derailleur cage, of the brake aerodynamics, of the materials, etc. all follow from one tier to the next, often more closely than the Shimano example. Campagnolo’s newly announced 2015 model year mechanical groupsets incorporate many of the same changes across several lines at the same time. Same occurred with SRAM’s Red and Force introductions in 2013. And in one example of ‘trickle up’, Shimano’s second iteration of Di2 was actually available on Ultegra a year before it appeared on Dura-Ace, perhaps to bring their latest advances in electronic shifting developments to the larger Tier 2 market first, where it would likely have a better return from higher volume sales than that available from their pricier Dura-Ace groupset.

The major differences that exist between tiers within a company’s groupset line are the materials used and the prices charged. Carbon, titanium, and some aluminum alloy are used in Tier 1 gruppos, mostly aluminum and some carbon in Tier 2, and aluminum and steel in Tier 3. This creates weight and price differences that are greatest between Tier 1 and 2 and less so between tier 2 and tier 3. But, performance differences are almost indistinguishable. In fact, after evaluating Campagnolo’s three electronic groupsets, whose market prices I have found drop roughly from $4000 to $3000 to $2000 for the Super Record EPS, Record EPS and Athena EPS models respectively, Leonard Zinn, VeloNews’ longtime technical writer commented:

“Athena EPS provides the same snappy, accurate shifting (with overshift and return over the gear as well as auto-trim with chain angle) and whirring sound of the 12,000-16,000-RPM servo motors as Record and Super Record EPS. It also offers the same great ergonomics and hassle-free function in the cold, even with thick gloves, as its predecessors. The feel of the shifters with the “MultiDome” layers of domed spring steel under the lever is also the same. The entire Athena EPS group with aluminum Power Torque cranks weighs 2452 grams (using the Athena carbon Power Torque cranks cuts another 100 or so grams off its weight). Compare that to 2098 grams for Super Record EPS and 2184 grams for Record EPS.  And there simply is no difference in performance.”

The same goes for Shimano, whose current Tier 1 Dura-Ace Di2’s market price of roughly $3000 is more than double its Ultegra Di2 $1400 price but whose first generation electronic shifters performed the same (as I think the second generation do as well) and better than the mechanical ones, according to James Huang who reviewed them for Bike Radar and wrote:

“Swap between a Dura-Ace Di2 bike and an Ultegra Di2 bike blindfolded and there’s no performance distinction between the two. Rear shifts are again remarkably smooth, quiet and precise – and substantially quicker than Shimano’s mechanical groups if you factor in lever travel. Front shifts are simply awe-inspiring on account of the powerful front derailleur motor, the clever stepped movement, and the ultra-stiff crankarm and chainring design.”

As far as performance of Tier 1 and 2 mechanical groupsets goes, the good news is that they all work well and have little to separate them along this evaluation dimension. Further, the mechanical parts of groupsets are mature technology. This is very different from, for example, all-carbon wheelsets makers who have recently introduced major innovations in rim profiles to improve direct and cross wind aerodynamics and begun adopting aerospace-grade resin materials to better distribute the heat generated from braking. There are major performance gains to see from these and coming developments in wheelsets.

While electronic shifting in gruppos from Campagnolo and Shimano has only a couple of generations of commercial experience, they already provide superior performance to long-established mechanical shifting. Electronic shifters allow you to measurably perform better (e.g., your shifting efficiency, energy transfer and bike speed will all improve) as described earlier in this review.

Bottom line, the ‘road cycling enthusiast’ will get exceptional performance from any of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 electronic groupset and very good performance from mechanical ones. The choice between them comes down to some combination of your personal design preferences, quality considerations, and your cost/performance trade-off calculation.


The three different groupset lines are designed to operate differently, principally in how they execute a shift. For mechanical shifters, you push a SRAM shift paddle with your finger a little to move the chain to a smaller cog or chainring and push it further to go down to a larger one. You shift up to a higher (more difficult) gear on a finger paddle and down to a lower (easier) one with a thumb switch to shift a Campy equipped bike. Shimano users finger the shift paddle into move to a smaller cog or ring and the brake lever sideways to move to a larger one. They all have slightly different distances you have to push the paddles to get the shift to actuate and have slightly more or less tactile and audible feedback. But, again, they all perform well and I think you can easily and quickly get used to the way any of these are designed to operate after a few hours. The differences in design don’t lead to performance differences.

Further, the designs appear to be increasingly converging. Campagnolo 2015 model groupset designs will  have a 4-arm spider crank, similar to the one Shimano uses. Its front derailleurs will have longer arms, similar to Shimano’s Dura-Ace, to increase leverage and make shifting up to the big ring easier.

Not to pick on any one company, note that SRAM’s DoubleTap shifting mechanism that was so successful in distinguishing the company from its competitors when SRAM first entered the road groupset market has been designed out of their new electronic shifter design, according to an excellent analysis done by Bike Radar. And of course Shimano then SRAM followed Campy’s lead into 11 speeds and Campy and now SRAM are following Shimano into electronic.

As you can see then, groupset designers are not wedded to their unique designs. You shouldn’t be either.

Electronic shifting is programmable so you can pretty much set up the shifting how you like. You can decide, for example whether you want the right or left hand to control each derailleur or the number of gears to skip up or down while holding the shift paddle.

Because of their design and material choices, groupset weights vary… but only slightly and I would argue imperceptibly to all but the most fit racers among us. Tier 1 groupsets are approximately 200-300g lighter than their Tier 2 brethren but electronic and mechanical models of the same groupsets weigh about the same. SRAM and Campagnolo each claim to be the lightest but looking across figures of all three companies shows their groupsets are all within 150gs of each other and usually less for a given tier.

Similar to wheelsets, it’s hard to tell the whether the component weights claimed by manufacturers are the actual weights of the components you put on your bike. I’ve spent a few hours trying to sort through claimed versus actual weights by going over company releases and weights measured by reviewers who put components on their scales but, unfortunately they don’t line up.

Do the amount of weight differences between groupsets we’re talking about even matter? On a wheelset where you are spinning the weight, you will notice a weight difference starting at 150-200g (5 to 7 ounces) when you are accelerating. This is ‘rotational mass’ and really, it’s the weight in the rotating rim rather than the hub that matters the most. If it is non-rotational or ‘dead weight’, like the weight of most of your components, I don’t believe you will notice a couple hundred grams of weight difference.

Don’t agree? Still pondering doubling your spending to buy a Tier 1 over a Tier 2 groupset or buying one brand over another because of small weight differences? Well then, tell me whether you answer yes to any of these questions. Are you measuring how many ounces of food you are taking in at each of your meals? Do you know how much weight you are adding by carrying a second water bottle? Do you know how much the bars and gels weigh that you are stuff in your jersey pocket? Could you afford to drop a few kilos or pounds (or more)? Sorry, that last question was a low blow.

If you answered yes to only the last question, well then work on your own weight first, forget about the added grams of a Tier 2 gruppo or the 50 or 100g claimed weight difference between Brand X and Brand Y, and put that extra money back in your jersey pocket (paper is light) or into an electronic gruppo or a better wheelset.

Ergonomics are probably the most significant design difference between groupsets. While the latest generation of all these groupsets now fit hands large and small (earlier ones didn’t always), you may want to go to a shop and wrap your hands around different front shifters and brake levers to make sure you aren’t uncomfortable with any of them.

Another design difference – Campy electronic shifters have the tactile feel and audible sound of their mechanical shifters. Shimano’s Di2 has a more electronic feel and sound, which means not much of either. This is in line with the quiet shifting of their mechanical units.

People I’ve spoken with who have switched from mechanical to electronic gruppos and who aren’t romantic about the past are perfectly fine with less tactile resistance and hushed click sounds. Some people prefer not to broadcast to riders around them that they shifting up or down when they are in the bunch while others absolutely want the decisive feel and sound that confirms their shifting action.

This argument about the feel and sound of electronic shifting makes for good copy. Bike Radar’s respected tech writer James Huang is a somewhat cynical fan of strong tactile feedback. Reviewing Campagnolo’s electronic shifters, he wrote:

“Lever feedback is heaps better than Di2 – Campagnolo have done an excellent job of convincing your fingers that you’re actually doing something when you press a lever. Lever throws are very short but significantly longer than Di2 and you can feel the click-through your fingers when you’ve hit the switch – a good thing since the audible click is pretty easily drowned out by wind and road noise.”

Bicycling magazine’ reviewer says the electronic groupsets from Campy and Shimano match the shifting feedback characteristics of their mechanical ones:

“Remarkably, the transition to electric shifting has not changed the signature qualities of Campagnolo shifting. Just like Di2 shifting is unmistakably Shimano—all smoothness and silk with hardly a vibration or noise except for the whine of the front derailleur—Campagnolo EPS cracks and snorts as it fires off shifts, with the aftermath of a completed shift echoing through the frame. Precise and solid, yes; quiet, no. Solid kuh-thunks sound as you drop into higher gears and chick-chick-chicks as a lower gear is selected.”

The writers at the leading biking magazines do point out design differences between products, but then say almost none of them are significant to the performance of the groupset. It’s as if they have to make these distinctions – it’s their job and I personally appreciate their professionalism – but at the same time it’s as if they don’t want any single factor or combination of them to affect your decision. A great example of this comes from Caley Freetz, the VeloNews tech reporter who wrote the following when he reviewed the first generation Ultegra Di2 in 2012, comparing it to the earlier introduced Dura-Ace Di2 model.

Rear shifting is equally snappy and predictable. Here, though, the system does lose a bit to Dura-Ace Di2. It’s slightly louder, and dropping the chain down a cog feels less refined. When under sprint loads, each gear clunks rather than slides into place, as they do with DADi2. Regular shifts, under regular loads, are indiscernible from Dura-Ace.

Our guess is that a combination of increased flex in the rear derailleur and a less refined motor are the cause. Still, these are nitpicks — the rear shifting is still phenomenal (my emphasis.)

I’ve taken ah lot of your time writing about the electronic groupsets design because that is where most of the innovation has been in the last few years. While groupsets have moved to 11 speeds, the mechanical parts of the all groupsets and the mechanical shifters and derailleurs have seen notable but slower and more evolutionary changes in their design and performance compared with the introduction of electronic components.

The new Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical models that Campagnolo just announced for 2015 bikes are the first updates in those lines in four years. I noted the key changes they revealed just a couple of paragraphs into the design section of this review.

Shimano began their latest round of mechanical set updates with their Dura-Ace 9000 line in 2013. The components are lighter, the ‘brifters’ (integrated brake levers and shifters) are more compact and have a shorter throw, the rear derailleur runs closer to the chain and front derailleur has a longer arm all compared to the prior version. All of this results in less shifting effort and better, smoother braking power, measurably so according to Shimano and noticeably so according to independent reviewers and fellow riders who have put many miles on it.

With the Dura-Ace 9000, Shimano also moved to the 11-speed design Campagnolo introduced in 2009 and gives you the option of wider range cogsets (up to 11-28 or 12-28, these numbers referring to the number of teeth in the smallest and largest cogs that make up the rear cassette). Putting an extra cog in the set (from 10 to 11 which gets you the 11th speed) allows your rear shifts to be smoother and more linear especially when the chain is running between gears in the middle range of the cassette. Providing wider range cogsets gives you a better chance to keep your cadence up on the steeps by giving you that extra cog with 28 teeth in it, much easier to turn than one with 25 that was the largest available on the 11-25 tooth 10-speed cogsets.

Shimano also cut weight by going to a four versus five arm crank and hollowing out the arms.

Most of these design changes have been carried forward into the new Shimano Ultegra 6800 line that came to market in 2014 and will show up in the new 105 5800 model for 2015. Ultegra added the option of an even wider range 11-32 cogset (only necessary if you regularly climb >10% grades and don’t want to get a third ‘granny gear’ ring). This cogset also requires a longer rear derailleur which they now offer. Both are available to trickle up to the current Dura-Ace set and down to the Tier 3 105s next year and make Shimano competitive with SRAM’s WiFli 11-32 equivalent, out for a year now.

SRAM make the Tier 1 Red 22, Tier 2 Force 22 and will make available the new Tier 3 Rival 22 later this year. In their most recent groupset updates, they went to 11 speeds in their Red and Force products in 2013. The Red 22 was introduced just 11 months after 10-speed 2012 Red came out, the latter a completely revamped design over the prior model that was then over 4 years old. Unfortunately, moving to the 11-speed Red 22 so soon after the long-awaited 10-speed upgrade really annoyed some people who had purchased the new 10-speed model. You may enjoy reading a funny, tongue-in-cheek rant (or at least I think it was intended that way) on SRAM and by extension the whole cycling industry on this topic here. Note that SRAM continues to sell the 10-speed Red and Force versions whereas Campy and Shimano no longer sell 10-speed Tier 1 or Tier 2, and soon Tier 3, sets.

The 2012 Red changes had major improvements to their components that continued in their Red 22 Tier 1 groupset, most notably a unique front derailleur technology (‘Yaw’) which made cross chain riding possible without chain rub. For 2013, Force 22 incorporated all of the developments brought to 2012 Red and the 11-speed design. Branding both models ‘22’ made the point that all front and rear gear combinations are perfectly suitable to ride without the compromise of chain rubbing and all the pedaling efficiency losses that go with it, something that electronic groupsets now handle without compromise.

SRAM’s groupsets are well-regarded by many cycling enthusiasts and independent writers. Its relatively light weight, DoubleTap and Yaw front derailleur innovations are frequently mentioned as design pluses that made these standout gruppos when first introduced. But, Yaw was mentioned by both Bike Radar and VeloNews writers as a difficult component to set-up and adjust in otherwise very positive reviews. When not adjusted properly, you will get chain rub and there is no trimming mechanism to overcome it. I’ve heard similar concerns about the need to set up the brakes just right on the new 22 models. My suggestion – if you aren’t handy or have a shop near you that you are confident can deal with fussy adjustments, you might want to steer clear of these groupsets.

The Force 22 update comes six years after the last Force model (which was SRAM’s first road groupset) and includes all the technology and updates made on the Red 22. This makes for a dramatic design and performance improvement over the older model though despite a few grams weight advantage (and a hundred-dollar cost disadvantage), it’s hard to find a reason to recommend it over the other Tier 2 sets, Shimano’s Ultegra and Campagnolo’s Athena, unless you prefer their DoubleTap system and the feel of their hoods. On the other hand, if you do a lot of riding with gloves on in the colder months … may the Force be with you … as it has been for Feed The Habit’s Jason Mitchell.

As part of its 2013 Red 22 introduction, SRAM was first to the market with hydraulic road brakes for both rims and discs in addition to their regular mechanical lever brakes. Unfortunately, the design and manufacturing of the hydraulic levers had problems and all 19,000 units sold were recalled. SRAM is just now coming back to the market with a new design. The attention they’ve given to being first out with their hydraulic road brakes and then having to redesign them under the pressure of a recall as well as their efforts to catch up with two generations of Shimano and Campagnolo’s electronic groupsets have likely prevented them from introducing significant new mechanical groupset innovations since the 2012 Red.

Fortunately for SRAM, their previous developments including the DoubleTap shifting and Yaw front derailleur technology along with their ability to consistently design components that are lighter than Shimano’s and as light if not lighter than Campy’s has enabled them to have very competitive mechanical groupsets in the market. That and the fact that mechanical groupset technology is, as mentioned earlier, mature, converging and innovating slowly, keeps SRAM’s in the game.

It’s also important that you know that the designs of the 11-speed cogsets and chains of all three manufacturers are now compatible with any 11-speed wheel. You can read the results of the test Lennard Zinn of VeloNews did to confirm this. Compatibility wasn’t the case during the age of 10 speeds when Campy and Shimano required different rear wheel freehubs that aligned with their groupsets. SRAM’s components were compatible with Shimano.

Note that a Campagnolo wheel with 9 or 10-speed freewheel body can be used on an 11-speed groupset. However, 10-speed wheels built for a 10-speed Shimano or SRAM cassettes have freehub bodies that are too short for 11-speed cassettes, with the exception of Mavic wheels with M10 freehub bodies. So if you have a 10-speed Shimano or SRAM compatible wheel, you either need to redish it – which isn’t always easy and doesn’t always work out as simply as it does in the video – or try to sell it and get an 11-speed one.

Going to a newer generation mechanical groupset may improve your performance incrementally depending on the amount of change between your last one and new one. Even if your old set has been well maintained, shifting should be a little easier (especially if you are moving from 10 to 11 speeds), braking a little better, weight a little less, and gearing options a little greater with a new one. If you regularly ride on rolling terrain, do climbing rides or are getting older, you will notice an improvement in your ability to do it all by changing out from a 53/39 to a 50/34 and from an 11-25 to a 11-28. I have.

Of course, you certainly will notice a performance difference if you replace your old, worn out set with a new one. Make sure it’s a combination of components that are worn before you get a new set. If the shifters and brakes are in fine shape and all you really need is a new chain or cassette, just replace them and save yourself some money by not buying the rest.

If you are ready for a new set, you may wonder whether selecting between current 11-speed Campy, Shimano or SRAM mechanical groupset designs will give you relatively better performance. In my evaluation, designs of these groupsets may drive preference but they don’t drive a performance difference. The ergonomic differences may affect the comfort of your hands or the voice inside your head and result in a happier rider. But, I’m not sure it will allow you to go faster even if you are happier. A move to electronic shifting, even if you are an efficient, experienced mechanical gear shifting maven, will enable you to go faster.


Generally speaking, mechanical groupset components are durable. Shifters, derailleurs, brake levers, brake calipers, chainsets – essentially everything in a mechanical groupset except your chain, cassette and cables – are designed to and do last many years past their warranty period. Riding your bike 2,000 to 5,000 miles per year as most road cycling enthusiasts do should easily ensure you 5 years of trouble-free riding on Tier 1 or 2 mechanical groupsets. Most problems come about from allowing road dirt to build up and from a lack of regular service (minimally once every 5,000 miles). Fortunately, most issues can be addressed with cleaning, lubricating and adjusting. So, wash and tune-up your bike and you’ll avoid most issues. If you are a serious cyclist, there’s no excuse to not take care of your machine.

Campagnolo owners speak about their ability to rebuild any component. Their mechanicals are built to last a lifetime and be torn down and rebuilt as needed. Shimano and SRAM components are not built to that standard (and likely cost less because of it), but I’m not aware of any issues that suggest their parts require more frequent repairs or replacement within the reasonable life of the groupset.

Materials and workmanship warranties span 3 years for Campagnolo components, 4 for an entire 11-speed groupset. Shimano offers a 3-year warranty on its Dura-Ace line and 2 years on its other groupsets. SRAM groupsets are covered by a 2 year warranty. All of these warranties apply only to the original purchaser who has his receipt.

Campagnolo EPS and Shimano Di2 groupsets have been on the market for only a handful of years. I’m aware however of no reported systematic manufacturing defects reported in these units. While happy customers usually don’t take to user forums to heap praise on the reliability of their units, unhappy ones do speak out when they have problems. My unscientific scan of several user forums do show many instances of users returning their EPS units for making unpredictable gear changes and then ceasing to change at all. Replacing the units has taken between 3 and 4 weeks. I’ve seen no user forum comments about Di2 reliability. This doesn’t mean that Di2s don’t have issues or have fewer issues than EPS. It just means that I’m not aware of them.

SRAM has had issues with their hydraulic brake levers and proper set-up and adjustment of their Yaw front derailleurs. I mentioned these above. The brake lever issues are certainly black marks on an otherwise well-regarded company that built its reputation and product experience on the more reliability-challenged mountain bike circuit.

Anecdotal discussions with service shops suggest that Shimano products are generally reliable.

Campagnolo’s new groupsets tend to come out less frequently and be less market driven than Shimano’s. They were first to the market with 11-speed when no one else thought the market needed it. The others saw its value and followed. On the other hand, Campy came to the market with electronic shifting after Shimano did despite having worked on it, they claim for 20 years.

Shimano introduces road groupsets more frequently than Campy or SRAM. Some users have accused them of planned obsolescence though each introduction appears to attempt significant rather than incremental improvements over the prior one. It also tends to space out its introductions between tiers more so than the others, both of whose top two or three groupset lines are getting simultaneous upgrades. I don’t see any of these product life cycle management strategies reflecting positively or negatively on any of the companies.

Shimano is a huge company in the cycling industry and has over 10 times the worldwide cycling revenue of Campagnolo, both of which make other cycling products, notably wheelsets. The US market is less than 20% of Campy’s overall revenue and their full-time US employee base numbers in the single digits. SRAM is larger overall than Campagnolo, larger in the US (though likely smaller in Europe), and larger in road groupsets even though it has been in the road groupset market since only 2008. SRAM also has a large mountain bike business, owns Zipp and Quark along with several other mountain-bike focused cycling brands.

Why do I go through all of this? Service is an important criterion in the quality category evaluation. Much as I admire Campagnolo’s products, fewer sales and direct employees can translate to a smaller number of service shops, fewer trained repairmen, slower roll-out of service training for new groupsets, and few parts available through a smaller distribution network. If you live in the US, you should thoroughly examine how many qualified service shops (not dealers) Campagnolo has near where you ride, what training their shop techs have had, and how experienced they are installing and servicing the groupset you are interested in. You should also ask how long it takes to get key replacement parts (for example, a derailleur or electronic control module) before buying a Campy groupset. Same goes for SRAM’s road cycling products outside the US. I would still check but would be less concerned about Shimano since they are the dominant groupset supplier in most markets.


As you can see from the earlier chart of Groupset Models and US Market Prices, Shimano groupsets are currently less expensive than SRAM’s or Campagnolo’s, which are roughly equivalent across all three top tiers. The differences are at least

–          Tier 1 electronic: $300 or 10%

–          Tier 1 mechanical: $250 or 18%

–          Tier 2 electronic: $300 or 21%

–          Tier 2 mechanical: $50 to $150 or 7% to 17%

–          Tier 3 mechanical: $50 to $75 or 9% to 13%

These are not insignificant differences in the electronic and Tier 1 mechanical sets and should add into your decision, and did into my evaluation, though not dominate it.

For groupsets, the purchase price is obviously a key factor in evaluating the product cost. But because some of the components in a groupset wear and need to be replaced and others need to be periodically tuned, the cost of ownership after the initial purchase must be considered. You should plan to periodically replace out your chains, cassettes, brake pads (same) and cables (same). Depending how much and how your ride, expect to spend a $100 to $200 a year plus service charges to replace these, more for Campy parts than those from the others.

New cables stretch in the first couple hundred miles of use and mechanical derailleurs and rim brakes need to be tuned periodically as cables and components are affected by operating and environmental use.  You can have this done as part of an annual service visit for a $100 or so or do it yourself.

Your shifters, derailleurs, brake levers, brake calipers, cranks, front rings, junction box and wires should hold up fine over the life of a good groupset like those I’ve evaluated for this review, though if you take a fall and damage one of these, you may need to replace it. Shimano seemed to be conscious of this when they designed their electronic derailleurs which somehow are supposed to get out-of-the-way if they sense contact.

Some cycling enthusiasts are good with a wrench and can significantly reduce their cost of ownership by maintaining their own groupset. For those used to going to the shop, the trips to replace and tune your components can add up in both money and time. I’m always adding to my own little service area in the basement to fix some of the things I can do myself and reduce my cost of ownership while avoiding the hassle of making those trips to the shop and losing riding time. The cost of getting the tools and such are probably almost a wash compared to what you’ll save doing your own maintenance in the first year, but you’ll be ahead after that. It will also make you more aware and confident about what’s going on with your bike. If you want to do more of your own maintenance, check out the video series on BikeRadar or VeloNews, both very good.

Where will I get the best prices and customer service?

With groupsets evaluated against these criteria of performance, design, quality and cost, you can select which groupset is best for you by looking at how you ride and what your goals are. For us cycling enthusiasts, this is somewhat of a binary choice. If you are going to race a fair amount and weight is really important, consider going with a Tier 1 groupset – you’ll save 300g or so over a Tier 2 set but you’ll pay a heavy price for it. If you only race now and then and even if you put on a lot of miles riding and training each year, you will do really well with a Tier 2 groupset and save a lot of money in the process. And if you can afford it, and I’d suggest you find a way, I’d strongly recommend you go for a Tier 2 electronic groupset (at 2x the purchase price but with a reduced cost of ownership) over a mechanical Tier 2 as there will be a notable performance difference. Finally, if you are considering a Tier 2 electronic vs. a Tier 1 mechanical whose purchase prices are about the same, I and everyone I’ve talked to believe strongly you should go with the Tier 2 electronic gruppo.

While I made my recommendations earlier, I recognize that you may view it differently.  With that in mind, you can find links below to each of the current model year Tier 1, 2 and 3 groupsets from stores who carry them and offer the best prices I’ve found.  If you only need to replace or pick up a couple of components, these same stores have some of the best prices and inventory on individual components too.

If you like what you read here and want to save yourself serious money the next time you buy some cycling gear, you can do so in a way that also supports the costs of cranking out these reviews.  Simply click on and buy through the red links next to each product I’ve reviewed.  These will take you to the lowest price, in-stock listings across stores that sell online and have high customer satisfaction ratings.  I regularly update these links in each review by looking at over 60 stores.  Some pay this site a small commission when you buy through them but I pick the best stores either way, same as when I’m buying gear myself.  If you prefer, you can support the site by making a contribution here using your credit card or Paypal account or when you buy anything through these link at Amazon or eBay.  There’s more on all of this at the about and support pages.  Thanks.

Below are the stores with inventory at the best prices and high customer satisfaction ratings.




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  • Thanks so much for the information. I have a Roubaix SL4 comp compact. Have already upgraded wheels to C35’s. Outfitted with mechanical Ultegra group set, and mechanical breaks. My frame won’t allow me to go disc. I am considering di2.
    1. I curently have 50/34-11/32 setup. If a go Dura ace with 11/28 is that a significant loss? The equivalent of loss last gear on my current setup? I do steep climbs and the 32 has been useful.
    2. Are you convinced that I could use the Ultegra Di2 (GS) rear derailleur with an otherwise Dura ace Di2 group set?
    3. If I go for the full Ultegra Di2 compact setup which accommodates an 11/32 will it soon be obsolete? I am reading the 11/32 may be on its way out. I can’t afford to spend good money twice.
    Thanks Steve.

    • Ron,

      1. If you use and like the 11-32 cassette, you can stay with it if you order an Ultegra medium cage rear derailleur. The new Dura Ace will allow you to go to an 11-30 with the short cage rear derailleur. They don’t/won’t offer a longer derailleur that would accommodate an 11-32. Hard for me to say whether you need more than a 28. Consider how often do you use the 32.

      2. I haven’t seen the final specs on the new DA Di2 groupset but currently, you can use a mix of 11-speed 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace components. I’d expect they would be forward/backward compatible within the 11-speed range but I won’t know until it comes out. What they announce and what actually deliver aren’t always the same.

      3. Shimano updates each next tier a year after the prior one. If that holds true, the new Ultegra Di2 would come out in MY 2018. That said, what makes it DI2 is currently common between DA and Ultegra. The differences are in the mechanical stuff. So the STIs, derailleurs, cranks, brakes, etc. So you can always upgrade what you want. I have an Ultegra 6870 Di2 hydraulic that I’ll probably upgrade the electronics on with the new Di2 boxes and keeping everything else the same. Or I may upgrade the levers to the DA ones if I like the action or ergonomics better. But everything else can stay the same.

      Note, these are all assumptions. As said before, until they actually release, you don’t know for sure.


  • I have a Felt B14 Tri bike with dura ace, and a Trek Madone. Is it possible to switch out the groupsets on these bikes? I was injured last year, and the tri bike is too uncomfortable to ride now. Thanks!

  • The key is finding a competent mechanic at a store that builds road bikes. Most stores get bikes and components sent separately and they build them. Some chains might have that done in a central location and then delivered to the individual store. Others will do it themselves. If they have a decent service shop with a number of mechanics on hand, it’s likely they can handle. There’s nothing specific to a tri-bike or bike brand like Trek that makes them more or less capable. They should have training/experience building and servicing road bikes with Shimano and Dura-Ace components. Steve

  • Steve, based on your helpful reviews plus others, I’m poised to upgrade my 2-3 year old Roubaix Sport to the Ultegra 6870 Di2 groupset and Dura Ace C35 CLs with Continental 4000S II clinchers. Any reason that that is not a good combo to go with in my retirement gift to myself?

    Also, only my shopping prices did I learn that the crank arm comes in different lengths (ignorance is bliss?). I currently have 172.5 with original equipment. How would I know if/whether to consider a different length? (I’m about 5-10, 145-150 lbs dripping wet.)

    Re tires, any meaningful difference in performance (not simply convenience of portability) in folding vs. non-folding versions? Some vendors seem to offer only the folding ones.

    Finally, why do you recommend the light butyl inner tubes? (Again, had never heard of this as an option. I am learning a lot from your reviews — especially starting at my baseline. Kudos! The charts are particularly helpful.)


    • John, Thanks for your kind comments. I don’t know (or don’t remember if you told me before) about your rider profile but I certainly recommend all of that gear for enthusiast level riders. Depending on when you are retiring, you might want to hold off on the DA C35 CLs until next spring, especially if you put a premium on wider wheels as so many riders are doing today. I find the C35 to be very comfortable and not in need of a wider rim but Shimano is following the crowd on this one and will introduce a 17mm internal width rim on their new 38mm deep DA “C40” clinchers likely available in the spring to replace the C35. I don’t know how it will be priced or discounted compared to the C35 but I did want to mention that to you. The next model Ultegra Di2 will not likely come out until 2018 and, based on the new DA Di2 which comes out next spring and which the new Ultegra will be based on, most of the change looks to be in added electronic features, which you can certainly upgrade to when the time comes if you want without needing to change the Ultegra hardware.

      Crank arm length depends on your what’s best for the overall fit of your bike. Irrespective of overall height, some people have long legs and short torso, others have short legs and long torso and there’s every thing in the middle. I’m a similar height as you, with close to the center of the bell curve proportions and a 165 to 170 length crank works is best for me. The trend here is to shorter lengths.

      Most all of the best clincher and tubeless tires come in folding versions these days. I really don’t know any that come in non-folding versions anymore. Perhaps tubular tires? I recommend light butyl tires for those who are trying to get every last watt out of their rolling resistance. Light butyl have been shown to save a watt or two at racing speeds and offer close to the rolling resistance benefits of latex tubes without the hassle. Probably not something you need to worry about unless you are planning to race.

      With all the gear you are buying and heading into retirement, I would also urge to buy your gear online. Shimano gear especially is usually about 40% off what you’ll spend at your local retail shop so you’d save enough to go on a nice vacation with your new cycling gear. Any bike shop worth their salt would be more than willing to install your new groupset and wheels for $150-200.


      • Thanks again, Steve. As I’ve already retired, I think I’ll get the C35s soon rather than wait for better technology next year that I might not be able to appreciate. I’m still a bit puzzled re the crank length. My shop suggested that 172.5 is the sweet spot/length for something like 5’4″ to 6’2″ folks. However, given your comment above, I’m tempted to go with the 170. I not sure how I would tell if that’s too short for me, but it sounds like a reasonable ‘risk’ given that the trend is toward shorter lengths. By the way, what’s behind that trend?

  • Any plans to update this to include SRAM Red eTap?

    • Mike, Yes, I’m working on that now as part of a Best Electronic Groupset review but it will be a few months. Thanks for your interest. Steve

      • Steve, i have not few months.Can you help me for choosing groupset?
        i use Shimano 105-5700 groupset.i want to upgrade.
        Sram etap or Campagnolo Record EPS? which one of do you choose ?

        • Sefa, That’s quite a jump. Exciting. Unless there’s something about the ergonomics (the way the shifters feel in your hands) that you think is worth the extra cost, I’d suggest you go with the Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2. It has flawless performance for at least half the price of the other Campy EPS and SRAM eTap. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    Have a Spesh Tarmac with full ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset, and wanted to upgrade to Ultegra 6870-Di2, from your review I see it’s a good upgrade worth the money.
    So non of the mechanical parts can be re-used with electronic set, right?

    • Isaac, you would need new shifter/brake levers and new front rear derailleurs and the control units, battery and wiring etc. that comes with this. Many of the same stores I link to in this post sell this as an “upgrade kit.” The other components – crankset, brake calipers, chain, cassette can stay though those are the less expensive parts. If any of those are wearing or you want to switch say from a standard to compact crankset, you can often find the entire groupset for not much more than the upgrade kit. Steve

  • Hi Steve
    First let me say your blog is one of the best out the- really happy i stumbled on it…Bravo! Thank you so much..

    I am 44, used to race when in my late teens to early 20s, even for the national team [ Singapore]. However, had a bad back injury and stopped riding until again in my 30s, I made a brief comeback. Before, was using a steel Colnago with Shimano, then a Lemond steel with mix Campy and DA. In 2002, when i came back to riding i got a Pinarello Prince – the aluminium / carbon seat stays and Onda forks model – with Campy Record 10 speed. Wheels are Campy Record 32h hubs laced to Mavic rims. Deda bars/stem/ fizik Aliante and 105 pedals are the rest.

    But subsequently, due to work and change in lifestyle and moving.. i literally stopped riding after a few years, just only a few casual rides and for transport.. just did not have the motivation and discipline, also was having some personal issues and with health.

    Now i live in Indonesia, where road riding is becoming popular, and although roads are bad often, there are much more than before in Singapore.I want to start riding again soon, as it is still my passion and i need to get healthy and mentally better again.

    But for now, priority is to get some fitness back, lose weight and get back to enjoying riding..and i need to be comfortable – my back is better now but i have lost flexibility and i am not as strong now in my neck and shoulder muscles.

    May i please ask your advise? Sorry if the message is long…

    1. The 2002 Pinarello Prince frame and forks seem all fine, no cracks or dents or anything. Still stiff, a bit harsh and solid. It is not a comfort ride but its still in good shape. I guess I can still use it for now, until I come across some bargains or sales on framesets. I ride a 56 Pinarello, and here most frames only are in small sizes.
    Or do you think Aluminium has a lifespan? I think there is about 20,000km on the bike now.

    Currently i am 1.8m tall and 85kg… used to be a fitter 75…and 20 years back my racing weight was 65!

    2. My wheels are also in need of replacement. However, here in Indonesia, Campy is rare and not popular and higher priced. Shimano is surprisingly lower priced [ probably made here and Malaysia nearby] . So if i just change wheels and keep the groupset as it is, likely will need to just swap wheels to a pair of Sciroccos or equivalent which accepts my older Campy 10 speed cassette. May cost about USD275. I really liked my Mavic and Record hub wheels but.. bearings are worn and rims also.

    3. The other alternative is.. to change the entire groupset – yes, more expensive but will add to the enthusiasm and fun! Although my Campy is still functioning well enough, there are times i need to keep adjusting the gears, brakes, and eventually wont be able get parts for them here. And i still like the look of the older campy cranks..

    if I change, am considering –

    1. Ultegra 6870 Di2 11 speed – read your blog and seems the most interesting and fun and comfortable..
    But just need to get used to the aesthetics of the cranks and brakes [ the DA 9000 does look nicer ].
    Cost around usd1200

    2. Ultegra Mechanical 6800 11 speed – the price is really good – USD550

    3. Dura Ace 9000 Mechanical – same price almost as Ultegra Di2 – but only for the aesthtics advantage really.. I know I dont require that level, and besides, I need durability and comfort more…but still.. DA is always nice…

    4. Shimano 105 5800 – super valued stuff..but.. price is near 6800… so guess 6800 is better value here.

    5. If i can save up enough… while riding again and wait … perhaps a mix of Ultegra Di2 with Dura Ace 9000 cranks and 9100 brakes

    So, this means if to change groupset now to Shimano… i will need new wheels..I was considering the Ultegra wheels,, USD 420… or what do you recommend for a durable, comfortable and decent weight wheels which wont cost too much? If one day i start to race or ride fast again, or in events, will consider another pair of lighter weight deeper profile wheels.. but for now, just need to get on the bike again and enjoy the ride

    So am still wondering…stick to the Campy 10, change wheels and tires… and save up for a whole new bike,,,,but that will take time and i cant afford all this yet..

    Or – change the groupset [ you think will fit onto my Prince? its using the older type BB and standard brake mounts ] and later can swap parts onto another frame if i ever change bikes.. A new groupset also needs new wheels.. and yes, I am not fat in the wallet.. just want to get the ball rolling, and if I save, i can still stretch perhaps to the Di2 and wheels.. but it will be a real strretch,,,but will save on beer and change lifestyle and diet.

    Sorry this is a long message Steve.. but.. I could use your thoughts and ideas.. and once again, really appreciate your blog and work.

    • Rajvinder, Glad you found us. Please note that most questions/comments are shorter than yours. The shorter they are the sooner I’ll respond.

      Generally, I wouldn’t try to upgrade components around a 10 year old+ bike. Much has changed (and greatly improved) so you’ll have some compatibility issues trying to put new components on an old frame (e.g. internal cabling, bottom brackets, clearances) and many performance imbalances between new/old frame, groupset, wheelset, etc. components. My suggestion, look at getting a new carbon frame bike with a 105 groupset and stock wheels (Ultegra is stock level) and upgrade from there. Can do a lot in the USD$1500-2000 range now from larger companies like Giant as there is a lot of unsold inventory in the pipeline.


      • Hi Steve… ooops yeah sorry i got carried away.. well just goes to show your blog is so great! Thanks again

        Ok, you are right.. i decided to just keep the old bike as it is, just one day rebuild the wheels up when i get hold of some rims and hubs.

        i got a deal on a mint condition Cannondale Super Six Evo HM 2015 for like USD1100 at my size.. will consider that with a 105 group.. and if budget allows… C24 wheels.. any thoughts?

        thanks again Steve

        • Raj, No worries. I’d be all over that bike at the price. If it’s used, though, make sure to have a good tech check it out for any cracks in the carbon or other issues. Seems too good to be true.

          As for the C24 wheels, I think you’d find them a little flexy at your weight. Take a look at my review of upgrade wheels for some other choices https://intheknowcycling.com/2016/05/03/best-road-bike-wheel-upgrades/. Steve

          • Thanks Steve… yes i will check again with the Super Six carefully… its actually a 2014 model and he bought it in 2015.. but will see.. also got an offer for a S Works Tarmac SL4 at same price… also same size.. both are just framesets only with post.. the S Works comes with ceramic speed bearings..Tough choice!
            Groupo – yes, will try 105 .. will be fun to use and later if need be upgrade to newer Ultegra di2. perhaps it will be in a year or two they may come out with a new group..

            As for wheels.. not sure the others recommended are easily available here..will look around.. just that Shimano is usually cheaper here than elsewhere..


  • Hello Steve, need your opinion again to upgrade my components. I am about to replace the 105 I have on my Izalco Max (came from my old bike) but the thing is althought this is an amazing frame, It seems focus produces 2 types: one for mechanical and another for eletronic. The version I have is mechanical so I was told DI2 wont fit.

    From where I stand I see these options:

    Upgrade to either ultegra or dura ace mechanical ( any value in dura ace over ultegra in the real world?)


    Upgrade to Sram Etap. probably I would use an ultegra crankset with the upgrade kit as I dont want to spend the amount of the complete kit plus I need my 4iiii pm to work!

    If you were in my position, what would be your decision?

    Are the eletronic groupsets so much better that justifies the price?

    Thanks !

    • Carlos, There may be some misunderstanding in what you were told. I don’t believe Focus, or any bike maker for that matter, would produce a different frame of the same model for different groupsets. A quick look at the Izalco MAX Ultegra and Ultegra Di2 models on the Focus website didn’t suggest difference in the frame.

      As to the choices you present, it’s really a question of preferences and budget. As I laid out in this post, I see little reason to do a full Tier 1 groupset like the Dura Ace for most enthusiast level riders unless you prefer to do so and have the budget for it. There is little performance difference that you will notice. I personally prefer an electronic groupset over a mechanical one but a mechanical one is more than adequate and half the cost. Also, I wouldn’t mix components from SRAM and Shimano in the same groupset. Steve

  • Invaluable blog Steve!
    About to buy new endurance road bike.
    Between a Giant Defy advanced pro 2 (2016) $2600.00

    Giant Defy advanced 1 $2200.00

    Giant Defy 2 $1800.00
    Would you be just as satisfied with Defy 2 as the other choices?
    I am not racing at all. I will do some group rides and many rides by myself.
    I have the money for these bikes already saved.
    Also considering considering Di2.
    Again I have the money, but would that make sense or spend less and as technology advances buy another bike at that point.

    • Michael, My guess (I haven’t compared all the models) is that the difference between these is the groupset. If you plan to do a couple thousand miles a year, I’d suggest you get the Ultegra groupset. Less, you’ll probably be fine with the 105s. Di2 is a welcome addition if you are willing to spend the money. Steve

  • Additionally Steve, do I care if the specs on a bicycle are:
    Advanced grade composite,hybrid overdrive steerer**** or:
    Advanced grade composite,
    Full composite overdrive 2 steerer.
    And regarding disc hydraulic disc breaks, do I care if rotors are 140mm or 160mm?
    Is it really just more important to pick a bike that fits correctly and Is appropriate for the riding conditions. Don’t get too caught up in specs… Get on my bike and ride. Thanks again.

    Rotor size 140mm
    Vs 160mm?

    • re: disc brakes check out https://intheknowcycling.com/2015/01/15/best-disc-brakes-road-bikes/
      re: dis bikes check out https://intheknowcycling.com/2016/02/05/best-road-bikes-with-disc-brakes-2016/
      that and more is available if you look around the site

      rest is marketing bs

      • Hi Steve: thank you for your responses on April 4, 2017. I read the links you suggested on disc brakes
        and road bikes with disc brakes 2016. That was most helpful. Decided that hydraulic disc brakes are the way to go for now and the future. One of the bikes I am most interested in, turned up on your suggested picks. The Giant defy advanced pro 2 2016. While the 2016 has Ultegra groupset, it appears the 2017 version is 105? Two other Giant bikes in my original post to you come in about $500.00+ cheaper.So may go that way. However,while i have a mechanic stand and some tools, I haven’t done enough maintenance or repairs on my Trek 7.3fx. My intention is to do more.While I asked you about Di2, which I am interested in, I know its costly, but could that be offset by not having much to pay for adjustment or tuneup? I haven’t always stayed with a tuneup schedule either, just to be clear. So, in the long run would Di2 save me cash, if I don’t make it in for adjustments? Additionally, is it more cost effective to buy a bike loaded with all the components that I like or to add them in afterwards? My thinking is if I will need to upgrade the wheelset and anything else, is it better to step up to a better bike that has those features already.I don’t feel like I want to start changing wheelsets with rotors involved etc. Di2 initially or add on later if at all? What makes sense, I have many questions. Again, I am not racing ever. Looking at endurance bikes for group rides and rides by myself. I would like to purchase a bike and not forever be hunting. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

        • Michael,

          You really need to keep your bike maintained, no matter if it is mechanical or electronic, rim or disc. They require different types of maintenance and I’d suggest that an electron disc is the easiest to maintain but if you aren’t into maintaining a bike, buy the cheapest mechanical rim brake you can find as you’ll be wasting the least amount of money.

          As to wheels, it is better to buy a bike with the least expensive wheelset you can find and upgrade from there. Many bikes offer higher level wheelsets but the best wheels are sold aftermarket rather than OEM. It’s the opposite for groupsets.

          Take some time going into a few bike shops and reading more to get up to speed on your questions, many of which an honest bike salesman or some further reading will answer.


          • Steve,
            My intention is to have proper maintenance done, especially on a new bike. Sorry i misled you on that somewhat. I have done a lot of reading and gone to a few bike shops. The 2016 Giant defy advanced pro 2, that i liked and you named as one of your three picks, would that need an upgraded wheelset in your opinion? Could that bike be enjoyed as is with out swapping out parts, at least initially, until I feel the necessity if at all? Regarding Di2, despite substantial more cost initially, would I be better off and have less hassles.I was thinking , no stretched cables or warn pads etc…. I understand the brakes do need to be bled.From reading I see an upgrade of Di2 is do in 2018. I figure that be more costly, being new, so don’t necessarily wait for it. Even though i have the money allotted, I don’t want to just be frivolous. Is technology moving that quickly that I should buy something middle of the road and then buy again in a few years.
            In closing, any bike I buy I will definitely take care of. For the riding I described to you earlier, is Di2 a silly idea, even if I have the money. I have camera bodies and lenses that cost more than bicycles. Just in this scenario, no matter what I purchase is a blessing for me. Not sure if that Giant bike is more than enough of a bike, ($2600.00)
            I know you discuss buying on the internet. Would you ever consider Bikesdirect.com or Nashbar?

            Thank you for your patience. I’m almost there,

  • Hello Fellow Enthusiasts,

    For those of you who may be wondering, the exclusive ITK10 discount code for In The Know Cycling readers at PBK UK is still very much alive. You simply need to go to PBK UK from any link on this site and it will work fine. You can find links to PBK UK in the right hand column of any page on this site.

    The code will no longer be accepted if you go to the PBK site directly or through a site other than this one. This avoids other sites from publishing the ITK10 code and PBK providing discounts that were intended exclusively for ITKC readers.


  • Steve, just FYI I have recently asked users of FB group in my country, Poland, which groupset manufacturer they use. 245 responded. Results:
    1. Shimano 83%
    2. SRAM 10%
    3. Campagnolo 7%
    4. Microshift less than 1% (exactly 0,2%)

    Does it represent similiar results to what is popular in USA or Western Europe?

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