Road Bike Groupsets. Shimano Road Round Up 2023
As the 2023 season begins we’ve rounded up everything you need to know in order to choose the right groupset for your new NorthRoad bike. We’re going to highlight mid-range and beyond but don’t forget, we’re experts and if you can’t find the information you need here, just ask!
They’re the industry standard for a reason. The Japanese manufacturer has been hitting home runs in the bicycle groupset department for literally decades. Their mechanical (non-electric) groupsets are smooth, quick, and reliable. Spare parts are rarely needed but when they are, they’re easily sourced – and there’s a suitable Shimano groupset for most budgets.
Often referred to as the groupset of the people. Shimano 105 11 speed mechanical has been out for some time now and is considered one of the best value groupsets on the market. Although never formally used at pro-tour level conventional wisdom suggests that a pro rider thats winning stages in the worlds biggest races would probably still win those stages if they were using 105. It’s that good. Most 105 builds use 2 chainrings up front with a wide (by road standards!) range rear cassette. This gives enough range to winch up the Sunday morning club climbs and fly down the other side again.
New for this year is Shimano’s electronic take on the revered groupset, we’ve got our first deliveries of that one coming through shortly so keep your eyes peeled!
Choose 105 if you appreciate great value and trickle down technology from the higher end options
Give it a miss if you want to keep an eye on weight as the higher tier options are lighter.
If 105 is the groupset of the people. Ultegra is the groupset of the enthusiast. Lighter and (arguably) more responsive. Ultegra comes in mechanical and electric options. The mechanical version is probably the groupset we have built the most bikes with in NorthRoad history. It’s a reliably brilliant groupset that never skips a beat and has proven race credentials, too.
Many of the smaller pro tour teams spec Ultegra components to save cost over the top end Dura-Ace options. Whilst Ultegra is heavier than Dura-Ace, the UCI weight limit of 6.8KG means that sometimes weights are added to bikes in the pro peleton in order to bring them back up to compliance. A smaller team may instead choose to save money and use Ultegra instead of Dura-Ace to make up this weight difference. It seems crazy to think that you might have to make decisions to increase the weight of your pro-bike but here we are!
The Electronic version, Ultegra Di2 is now 12 speed and boasts a whole raft of technology including super fast gear changing, “hidden” buttons that can control your head unit on top of the hoods, and micro-adjustments to get the indexing just right – repeatedly. So well thought through is this system that you could, in theory, micro adjust between different wheelsets and make a note of the micro-adjustments so you can have perfectly running gears even with the miniscule differences in tolerances between different wheelsets. Clever.
Ultegra, both mechanical and Di2 still comes with a similar gear range as 105, with semi-compact chainsets (50-34) and wide range rear cassettes (11-34) being the norm. Bigger options are available for the powerhouses out there.
This year, Ultegra 12 speed Di2 has also made significant upgrades to the braking system – Taking key features from the mountain biking world. The result is a lever with less throw required to engage the braking system and brake pads that retract further when not in use. This reduces rubbing and residual engagement with the rotor after extended braking efforts that can cause the rotor to temporarily warp.
Choose Ultegra if you want top end performance and the latest technology
Give it a miss if you don’t want or need electronic shifting, 105 is arguably better value.
The crème-de-la-crème. The top of the chain, the big dog. Dura-Ace claims the top spot in Shimanos groupset Hierarchy. It’s refined, reliable, and about as light as you can get without going seriously exotic. Compared to the older 11-speed option the new Dura-Ace R9200 has faster shifting with more powerful motors in each of the derailleurs. This means that changing under load is smoother and more reliable, even on the front derailleur.
This year also see’s Dura-Ace options for a wider range cassette. Previous years have seen a 32t max compatibility on the rear derailleur when Ultegra would allow for 34 (Officially, 36 was usually fine if you were careful!). Clearly, Dura-Ace is aimed at elite riders who wouldn’t need the 1:1 gear ratio us mere mortals learned to love so much, but as time has gone on and cadences increased, Shimano have finally given us what we’ve been asking for.
Everything mentioned previously within the electronic Ultegra option is of course present, but at a lighter weight and a truly stunning finish.
Choose Dura Ace if You won’t accept anything less than the best
Give it a miss if You don’t need world tour level kit and prefer value over out and out performance.
Other things to think about when choosing which Shimano groupset
This quick round up takes into account the new 2023 Shimano line up. We’re still seeing suppliers taking orders for the “old” 11 speed options in both mechanical and electronic flavours. Far from being a complete revelation, new equipment from Shimano shows incremental gains in performance compared to their outgoing counterparts so it’s worth talking to us about options. We make some pretty special bikes but we’re also no strangers to making sure you get the most value out of your new machine.
You can also mix and match many of the components between groupsets to suit your riding style and budget. It’s not uncommon to save money by choosing a 105 cassette on an otherwise Ultegra build, for example.
If you’re unsure, contact us today. We’ll give honest advice and make sure your new bike is a keeper.