As you probably know, Shimano divides their products into different groups that cater to a specific price point, making the shopping process full of tough decisions. Check out our guide to Shimano’s Road product heirarchy, and their major differences.

Shimano Drivetrain Header 950x475

Shimano bicycle components are, simply put, some of the best bicycle components ever created. Their name has long been synonymous for reliable, high-quality and affordable bicycle parts, and the company has been responsible for some of the most groundbreaking advances in bicycle component design. Since about the 70s, Shimano quickly has come to represent the standard for many riders, bringing performance and quality together with incredibly well-engineered components. When you’re shopping for a Shimano road groupset, you’re in good company. Shimano has been at the forefront of bicycle components engineering for over 40 years.

This buyer’s guide is intended to introduce you to Shimano’s Road product line, and their major differences. Shimano divides their products into different groups that cater to a specific price point. Generally, as you go up in price, the components will get lighter in weight, and will also improve in precision and longevity. When set up properly, all these groupsets will function more than well enough for anyone, however, higher-end components have a smoother, more precise feel due to the higher-precision mechanisms, and of course will build into a lighter bike.

Shimano Tiagra 4700 Groupset

Shimano Tiagra represents a balance of affordability and performance that offers entry-level to enthusiast-level riders a great way to jump into road riding without breaking the bank. The redesigned Tiagra 4700 10-speed group offers some of the “trickle down” benefits of Shimano’s highest-end components at a fraction of the cost of the higher-end groups. The primary trade-off between Tiagra and higher-end groups is a higher weight due to a difference of materials used. However, Tiagra is a perfect choice for the rider who wants a groupset that functions well with minimal maintenance and can take a beating.

Shimano 105 5800 Groupset

Shimano 105 is the everyman’s road racing group! While it is considered the bottom rung of the “holy trinity” of Shimano’s racing-grade groupsets, 105 offers many benefits of Ultegra and Dura-Ace at a very competitive price. 105 is aimed squarely at the rider who wants a race-worthy bicycle that will perform season after season, without the hefty price tag.

The jump to 105 gives a rider a lot of bang for their buck, including flexibility in terms of choosing proper gearing for their riding style, and offers a lot of the same precision feel and shifting of Dura-Ace and Ultegra. The primary difference between 105 and Ultegra is that 105 uses no carbon fiber in its construction, and uses steel in certain components where Ultegra would use aluminum alloy, for example. The result is a higher weight, but arguably harder-wearing groupset that will take a licking and keep on ticking.

Shimano Ultegra 6800 Groupset

Shimano’s Ultegra road groupset offers the ultimate price-to-performance ratio. The jump to Ultegra gives you the closest feel to Dura-Ace, and gains many of the weight-saving benefits without Dura-Ace’s extravagant cost.

To many riders, the advantage of the improved shifting and braking feel and the considerable weight savings are worth the jump in price from a 105-equipped bike. The improvement in performance from 105 to Ultegra is much larger than the improvement from Ultegra to Dura-Ace, making Ultegra the privateer racer’s componentry of choice. Ultegra uses some carbon fiber parts, but substituting high-precision alloy parts in place of titanium or carbon fiber on Dura-Ace. This saves weight where it matters most, maximizing performance and maintaining durability while keeping cost down.

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 Groupset

This is it – the jewel in Shimano’s crown. Shimano Dura-Ace is the professional’s choice, built simply to win. It’s been torture-tested on the battlefield by the pro peloton and has won the Tour de France and other incredibly demanding races many times over; unquestionably, this is the pinnacle of Shimano’s road groups.

Why is Dura-Ace so phenomenal? It’s imbued with all of Shimano’s latest engineering and design advances. Dura-Ace uses the highest precision manufacturing with no expense spared, resulting in lightning-quick, effortless shifting, powerful braking and the best ergonomics at the lowest weight possible. Dura-Ace gets all the bells and whistles, from sealed bearings in the brake calipers for the best braking performance to polymer-wrapped cables for silky-smooth shifts.

To many Shimano fanatics, Dura-Ace is the only road group worth owning, and for good reason – it feels amazing to ride, is incredibly beautiful and consistently outlasts lesser components by many years. Think of it as jewelry for your bike – jewelry that works really well. However, the best performance comes at a price, obviously you will pay significantly more for a Dura-Ace bike. But, if you want the very best, Dura-Ace is the clear winner.

Shimano Di2 Groupsets

Shimano Di2 (which stands for Digital Integrated Intelligence) revolutionized the world of cycling when it first exploded onto the scene in 2009. The electronic groupset shifts your chain using servomotor-equipped derailleurs and relies on sophisticated electronics to deliver perfect shifts at the push of a button, all the time, every time. Since Di2’s release, it has changed the way component makers think about component and bike design, and has ushered in a new wave of innovation to create the perfect bicycle drivetrain.

How does it work? Di2 does away with traditional cable-actuated drivetrain and replaces it with a wired electronic system. The front and rear derailleurs are connected to the shifters, which are little more than brake levers with electronic push-button shift paddles. The system delivers delivers intelligent feedback to the central “brain”, so it knows when a shift has been properly executed. Best of all, it’s set-and-forget. Once a Di2 system is set up, it is unlikely to go out of adjustment, perfect for mechanically-challenged riders, or folks who just don’t want to have to fuss with their bike’s drivetrain all the time. What about battery life? The Di2 battery lasts thousands of miles on a full charge – that’s several months for most riders. You’ll have plenty of warning before your battery runs out.

Riding a Di2-equipped bike is a completely different experience than riding a mechanical bike. For starters, the amount of effort required to shift the bike is dramatically less – you are simply pressing a button on the shifter paddle instead of actually moving the derailleur with the shift lever. The derailleur then perfectly executes the shift and delivers feedback to the system that the shift has occured properly. The shifts are nearly instantaneous and shift quality doesn’t degrade over time due to corrosion or cables wearing out (a key note – you will save money and time by not having to replace cables every season). Additionally, chain rub, trim and dropped chains are a thing of the past, as the front derailleur delivers a perfect shift, then auto-trims after executing the shift to deliver silent performance. You can even hold down the shifter button to auto-shift up and down the entire cassette, 1 cog at a time. Finally, Di2 can integrate with optional auxillary “sprinter” and “climber” buttons that can mount anywhere on your bars, to execute shifts in any hand position. Finally, you can custom-program every button on your shifters. want your left shifter to handle the rear derailleur instead? Just plug it into a PC, check a few boxes and you’re set.

Di2 is available as Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace Di2 road groupsets.

Ultegra Di2 6870

Ultegra Di2 delivers the myriad benefits of Di2 at a competitive price, considerably below the cost of Dura-Ace Di2. As with the mechanical groupsets, the performance is very similar between Dura Ace Di2 and Ultegra Di2, and the primary differences between the two lie in some small aesthetic touches, overall precision, and weight; Di2 Ultegra is ever-so-slightly heavier than its mechanical equivalent, while Dura-Ace Di2 impressively comes in lighter than its mechanical version. Ultegra Di2’s derailleurs are a little bulkier and built of slightly heavier materials than Dura-Ace, but function nearly identically. Ultegra Di2 is perfect for the rider who wants perfect shifting performance all the time, and doesn’t want to bother with having to tune and retune his/her bike.

Dura-Ace Di2 9070

Dura-Ace Di2 is the pinnacle of electronic shifting! On top of it’s perfect shifting performance, of course, Dura-Ace gets the full aesthetic treatment with the highest quality finishes, shiny carbon and titanium bits for maximum weight savings. Its motors are the smallest, lightest units available, lending to a significantly-reduced form factor over Ultegra Di2. Additionally, electronic Dura-Ace Di2 comes in lighter than its mechanical equivalent. Nothing comes close to the precision and attention to detail wrapped into Dura-Ace Di2, making it the most technically-advanced drivetrain on the market.

Disc Brakes

For riders desiring disc brakes, Shimano now offers Road Disc Brakes as an option for Disc-ready road/CX bikes. The disc brakes are offered as a complete unit (shifter and brake caliper) and come in Di2 or Mechanical 11-speed options, for Flat Mount or standard disc brake mounting. We’ll evaluate the pros and cons of road disc brakes a bit deeper in a coming article. So keep your eyes peeled!

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