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Shimano tiagra. 105, Ultegra, Dura-ace - which one?

I'm kind of disappointed that there is so little choice at the higher end - Campag, shimano and SRAM.

Given how incestuous the whole space is, I really doubt there is much difference between the items at a particular price point - it comes down to advertising, and which of your favourite elites happen to use which brand.

While there have been innovations over the last few years, the whole drive chain is still pretty recognisable to the designs used 30 or 40 years ago. What innovations there have been have tended to come from Shimano, as far as I can tell. This tells me that there is really very little in practice to separate the three brands - the really differences are in marketing and perception.

In practice, I think the middle of the market place is far more interesting, where the are real trade offs to be made between costs and designs/materials used: It's easy to make the most expensive item, a lot harder to have to make choices to produce something a bit cheaper.

Given the vast amount of expenditure that three disciplines take, I'm very much interested in value for money.

My current entry level steed has Campag. Xenon CT. Mainly because I got really really lazy and couldn't decide which brand (I've been a lifelong Shimano customer up til now) to go for, so, in the end, just went to the LBS with a small suitecase of money and told 'em to do the best they could with it.


  • huwdhuwd Posts: 228
    Dura to Ultegra I don't think you are losing much, the main noticable difference will be reduced weight on dura ace.

    From ultegra to 105 I would say you probably sacrifice an additional weight advantage and possibly some efficiency and smooth performance.

    I'm not sure about tiagra but this is probably more the entry level groupset to get started - saying that if you are an occasional rider and not doing huge milage then I'm sure its fine.

    the real question is - are you good enough to use the additional performance and weight reduction on the higher end groupsets? for me - no, i run 105 and when set up well it runs smooth and faultless
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    as a heavy rider weight is not an issue,it is more of one of reliability.My road bike which is over 10 years old and has been used in countless races and training rides upto IM distance is equipped with Campag Mirage, which I think when I bought it as an impulse purchase, may have been the base model.This chainset has been 100% reliable,the gear change is quick and sure.My TT bike is equipped with a Ultegra/Dura ace mix and the reliability on this is not as good.You tend to pay through the nose but as most of us race on a budget,lightness is not the holy grail,in my view it has to be reliabilty,and when the mirage wears out I will do a standard replacement and not bother to upgrade.
  • md6md6 Posts: 969
    my road bike has campag/miche mix, because that's what it came with, but i much prefer campag to shimano, i found on the bikes with shimano that i tested before i bought my bike that i tended to brake when changing with the shimano 'moving brake lever' thing. Also i tested a few 105's and ultegra, imo the ultegra was smoother and quicker/easier to change, but that could just be because the 105's i tried were not 100% set up properly but i don't know really. For me it is the convinence of the 'thumb shift' that will mean campag wins out every time i need to choose a new gaer set.
  • hussler.hussler. Posts: 390
    I run SRAM Red on the Specialized Tarmac S-works training bike and Full Dura Ace on the Argon....

    105 is the lowest groupset you should go for when choosing a bike, anything lower and you are looking at very basic systems. There is a big difference between 105 and Ultegra, both in weight and performance.

    Ultegra is bullet proof, in fact you could probably throw it off a mountain, process scrap metal and put it actually on the sun and it will still shift perfectly......

    Dura Ace is slightly softer compound material, hence the weight difference, there is a slight difference in the performance and this is more evident under load.. ie when your hammering it in a race, it will shift with very little effort and sometimes I dont even notice I have changed gear as it was the smooth.

    For anything less than a race spec bike choose Ultegra...and save the dura ace for your race machine:)

    Obviously some of us are not as blessed with 2 bikes etc so I would go for Dura ace if you can afford it otherwise go for Ultegra:)
    Then there is the campag equivalent, I have never used this system but I guess it would be the same argument crossed over from this Shimano one.
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    I went for full dura-ace on cervelo, i figured i might as well go for the best as I was spending all that money.
    I was thinking of going for campag, but at the time dura-ace came in the same price as the 3rd line campag stuff which was centaur i think. Also I had just read an article that stated that carbon fibre should NOT be used for crank arms as its inherent properties of stiffness based on the direction of the weave made it an excellent frame material but not for cranks! Its a very interesting study looking at forces and stiffness, the dura-ace came out on top by a mile, its super stiff and pretty dam light.

    But when I got my dura-ace (last october) I got the cranks for 135 new so it was worth the money, with the new price rises I think maybe not so much anymore.
    Ultegra is excellent, I really do think its the best stuff to have overall for performance/value for money. That said I love my dura-ace stuff and if I built up another race I would splash out on DA again.
  • diddsdidds Posts: 655
    turn it o its head...

    what are the realistic benefits of upgrading from sora to tiagra? aside from the funny knob thing on the side of the STI v dual usage STI?

  • risris Posts: 1,002
    it would be lovely to pick the groupset by itself but how many of us are looking at complete bikes rather than assembling parts? if the price bracket i'm looking in includes a great bike with ultegra rather than tiagra then maybe i'll make that jump, but otherwise it's a weigh-up of the whole bike package rather than the groupset for me.

    i suppose i'd go for the best kit i could get for the money, i did look at a sale model gt bike with utegra but eventually went with a bike i could try out to see if it fitted. if i was assembling a bike from stratch then i'd want at least 105/ultegra, or perhaps look at sram or campag more seriously.

    sora to tiagra... don't know if there is much of a weight difference, you lose the button thing (which my hands don't like when down on the drops). i think early on sora was 8spd and tiagra 9spd, but i'm not sure that's the case anymore.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    I've got Sora on the front and Tiagra on the back of my Trek, and my Allez had the same set up.

    They work fine. I get all the gears no problem and after a couple of weeks bedding in I have no annoying rattling noises from the chain rubbing.

    I'm guessing the biggest advantage of the more expensive stuff is the weight saving.
  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    I went from Sora on my last bike to Ultegra SL, and I don't know how much difference the frame makes, but the difference is incredible.

    The front derailleur is just silky smooth - one tap of the finger and a silent, clean shift. The rear, I've had some troubles keeping well tuned. Every week I'll have to realign the indexing, which only takes a moment but I'd think the cables would stay settled for longer than this.

    The cranks are really where I can notice the biggest difference between the ultegra and sora though. So stiff, and very very smooth. I can't feel any wiggling or movement even standing up out of the saddle sprinting with everything I can put into it.

    Would love to try DA just to see what that rides like. For an over the top spending binge, I saw Di2 for the first time last thursday built up on a Pinarello and according to the guys at the shop, its an incredible improvement over DA.

    Also, the gun metal finish of the SL is just so pretty... it was really the icing on the cake.
  • Barny51Barny51 Posts: 16
    Where chainsets are concerned I woudl urge everyone to try their utmost to get a 10 speed set up. (so that throws sora and tiagra out the window).

    10 gears is the most tangiable benifit of the higher end groupsets as having the closer gearing make finding the correct one for speed vs. cadence is so much easier.

    This also make you future upgrade proof.... try upgrading a tiagra or sora at a later date without changing the entire groupset...

    11 speed compag - rip off!
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    In the absence of treefrog to start shouting "buy DA or go home, you whingers!!" I'm in the "I bet you can't tell the difference" camp.

    Sure, my Ultegra makes a nice click sound compared to the thump of my old Sora/Tiagra, but they both change gear without the chain falling off, gears snapping or taking 15 minutes about it.

    Reliability: never had a probs with the cheap stuff in 1000s of miles. Never had a prob with ulty, either. So far as I'm concerned they're equal in this respect.

    Weight: Oh, please. Dura Ace is how ever many grammes lighter than cheaper stuff? Try taking one mouthful less water in your bottle.

    Dura Ace crank is stiffer: Yeah, it might be ON A TEST JIG. If weedy human legs can actually spot the difference in flex between DA and the cheaper stuff then I'll eat my saddle. IMHO the place where you'll get flex in the crank system is going to be the pedal spindles/bearings, which is nothing to do with the crank.

    Best thing about the Ultegra groupset for me is the brakes, which work bloody well compared to my old Tektro ones. Oh, and the extra cog.

    When I got my new bike I also noticed that it felt a lot 'stiffer' hammering up hills. After a few moments thinking I've worked out why... crank? Nah. Frame? Well, I'd be astonished if I was capable of bending my old heavy alloy one. No, I reckon its the wheels. My new wheels don't rub against the blocks under power like my old ones do.

    Just because Dura-Ace IS lighter, IS stiffer and apparently IS more reliable then it is always going to be an aspirational thing. Even it it makes c*ck all difference.

    [Bopo ducks]
  • WannabetriWannabetri Posts: 219
    Placebo effects of components on performance..............now there is a study waiting to happen.

    I will jump in full on with Bopomofo. I recently bought a shiny new dura-ace chain to upgrade from my 105 and crap all difference. My road bikes have either sora or 105 and again couldn't tell the difference. I reckon only the very best of the pro's would be able to sit on two bikes that were identical except for components and be able to tell you what the cheapest was with confidence. Sure - some might guess it, but to actually know....................not many IMO.

    As a middle of the road AGer, as long as it works it is fine. Marginal gains in power output, speed due to reduced bike weight and such like are the reserve of top AGers and pro's.
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Cheers wannabetri. I was rather hoping for some foaming mouthed 'My Dura-Ace makes me better than you' flaming on this thread.... maybe Cornhole is right and the 220 forum is dying.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    Bopomofo wrote:
    Cheers wannabetri. I was rather hoping for some foaming mouthed 'My Dura-Ace makes me better than you' flaming on this thread.... maybe Cornhole is right and the 220 forum is dying.
    Someone buy me a set of DA bling for my bike and I'll flame all you like
  • risris Posts: 1,002
    but my dura-ace* does make me much faster than you, without dura-ace you might as well not compete. i was saying the same thing to a guy at work who was thinking about having a go at a sprint and i told him - your bike isn't even 105, pal, so don't bother. his bike wasn't even carbon ffs!

    * my dura-ace in this case is actually tiagra, but we'll just overlook that for the purposes of this thread. we can all agree that my tiagra makes me faster, except for occasions where i am actually slower.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    ris wrote:
    don't bother. his bike wasn't even carbon ffs!
    The best fun off all when I'm racing is overtaking people on carbon bikes
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Godd point, well made, Ris. Your Dura-Ace set-up isn't actually Dura-Ace, but might as well be because it works as well as you need it to and hasn't strangled you with the chain mid gear-change. Just like Lance's. Although some spotter is going to pitch in a say "Lance uses SRAM, actually... neerrrrr".

    Anyway, no point letting facts get in the way.

    Jules: if you're overtaking them then obviously they're not carbon. Just cast-iron with carbon effect stickers on them. Everybody knows carbon bikes are non-passable unless you're on a carbon bike yourself. It's to do with magnetism, or Kryptonite, or something.

    So have we finally reached a conclusion? As far as this forum is concerned the high end Shimano stuff is better than low-end because:

    a) It has 10 speeds instead of 9.
    b) ...ummmmm.....
    c) ...nope, can't think of anything.
    d) Ah, yes. Bike-porn boasting in Transition.

    So, buy 105. Ultegra is more shiny and not much more money, so looks better if you can afford it. Most of us don't need DA as we wouldn't know why it was supposedly better - and I can't find any hard facts to back up the apocryphal stories about DA having a shorter life because of softer light-weight materials.

    Arguments, anyone?
  • ZacniciZacnici Posts: 1,385
    I had Tiagra on my Giant SRC2 with Truvative crank- it worked.

    On my present bike i have SRAM Force Front/Rear derailleurs and cassette with FSA Gossamer chainset again it works - but better. It is very smooth, hasn't needed adjusting except when I swapped out my 50/42 for a 50/36, the installation took about 15 minutes and as it was my first time the adjustment took about 30 but never had to adjust the rear and even my lbs left the rear untouched after a service.The chainring cost me about £75 and I have a spare Mega Exo BB.

    Can't say about DA, Ultegra, 105, Compag etc as never used them so guess we need the opions(s) of someone who has used them all.

    I think if I were to go mega then it would be Ultegra as everypne says it is good but don't know if that is because of good marketing/Emperors new clothes syndrome or yes it is the dogs.
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    Isn't the new ultegra basically the old DA? Happens every year so the 09 tiagra may well be the 05 DA...sorta.
  • TesseractTesseract Posts: 280
    I've DA on my self build, and a tiagra/truvativ/? mix on my training bike, and there's a clear difference.

    Having said that, it's not massive, and I reckon if I gave my training bike a proper overhaul, clean and lube, the differnce would be much less.

    The DA shifters are a little more responsive, with a better feel, and more precise changing.
    The front mech is def smoother
    The rear mech is better, but not as noticable as the front.
    I've got a ceramic bottom bracket, so can't comment on that.
    The chainwheels, chain and cassette, all do what they need to do, so I can't say I notice any difference there.

    Overall, yes it's better, but is it worth the extra £££? That's up to you and your budget I guess, but my gut feel is it won't make you any faster....
  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    No one has ever lost a race for having Ultegra instead of DA, but when I was shopping for a bike and there was a marginal price increase for Ultegra instead of 105, I went for it. Call me a sucker to advertising but I'm very happy with the decision. To upgrade to SRAM Force would have been another few hundred, and that seemed like throwing money away.
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    I have two bikes currently - my TT bike has full ultegra except for the bar end shifters which are ancient dura ace, and my training bike is tiagra with a 105 crank. I find the difference to be enormous. Yes the TT is full carbon and the hack is 7005 with a carbon fork and seat stay but they used to have the same wheelset, and the ultegra gear used to be on an alu framed Trek 1500 before I eviscerated it to build my race toy.
    Shifting is noticably more accurate and smoother on ultegra than on tiagra. I definitely don't have the confidence with tiagra that I do with ultegra that the gear selection will be quick and will stay in the chosen gear if the hammer is down. The part of the groupset I am MUCH less happy with is the brakes - yes, they do stop me, but compared to the ultegra they might be made of marshmallow. Stiffness? Any flex I feel is surely in my bars, frame, wheels, since I can lever those far more than 17cm of forged crank arm.
    I am disappointed in the quality of tiagra so I wouldn't go for anything lower than 105 for a future bike, ultegra if I could afford it. I haven't ever ridden a bike equipped with DA, but I understand the main benefit is in the reduced rotational weight. I'm about to buy a bike through the Halfords c2w programme and that will probably be a Boardman with SRAM Rival, so I will have something else to compare to and might get round to posting my thoughts about it if it ever turns up...
  • diddsdidds Posts: 655
    this probably doesn't prove a thing but my new trek 1.9

    come with complete ultegra.

    My previous GR series 4 had sora... and the difference is immense. super smooth changing, SOLID pedalling.

    Its a totally different ball game, as we may expect of course.

  • gingertrigingertri Posts: 277
    i've got sora on my trek 1.2, is it acutally worth me spending money on new gear sets? or would i be better off training harder and possibly getting lighter wheels? diverts away but hey!
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    I don't know for sure, but since this is the internet, I can post my thoughts, present them as fact and accept no responsibility when they are wrong.

    If you moved from Sora to, say, Ultegra, based on other posters' feedback and Shimano's blurb, you would be transmitting more of your energy to the rear wheel and losing less to friction on the way
    For any given amount of energy then this should mean better acceleration and a higher top speed for longer.

    Better wheels, similarly, allow you to get to and maintain a faster speed due to being variously, lighter more aerodynamic and having a lower rolling resistance (choice of tyres, and pressure you run them at).

    So a better groupset will get you up to speed with less effort and stay there, and a better wheelset will too.

    You could probably get better wheels for a couple hundred notes (including the income from selling the old ones...) and for a similar outlay you could probably get a ceramic BB, new cranks and rear derailleur.

    I think I would probably go for a piece by piece groupset upgrade.

    Aside from that, yes, train harder, lose weight, htfu and stop wasting training time posting on the tinterweb.
  • gingertrigingertri Posts: 277
    Cheers Nivagh,

    Its a good job i've not got GAT! i might treat myself once i pass my Msc in september.....or do i do it sooner
  • DamonDamon Posts: 6
    Surely it's the engine and I'll be amazed if more than 1% of those competing and riding for pleasure would be able to tell the difference between Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-ace etc in the real world! I ride a bike (arguably one size too big) that I bought for £350 which is equipped with Tiagra and I regularly finish within the top 15 overall at local races and get top 10 age-group places at the larger national events. Yes, I have no doubt that a full carbon aero bike with race wheels and an aero helmet will knock a few minutes off my time (and propel me into the top 5 or possibly higher) but until I can afford such luxury there is a perverse satisfaction is kicking the butts of the stereotypical triathlete who rocks up to a race dripping in carbon and dura-ace! Long-live those who put their efforts into training to improve their performance rather than spending money on components that in the real world will make very little, if any, difference to their overall performance or race results! If you are that concerned about the weight savings of Dura-ace I would probably suggest looking in the mirror to see if you can shave a few pounds off your own weight which will not only help on the bike but also help on the run and swim!
  • ZacniciZacnici Posts: 1,385
    Damon, agree with many of your points and delighted that you are achieving excellent results on your Tiagra equipped bike.

    I must say however, that there is a difference bewteen my Giant SCR2's Tiagra mech and my Focus Izalco's SRAM Rival set up (sorry put down previously SRAM Force, but I had just been looking at Force, DA & Ultegra carbon bling as part of research before posting - wishful thinking I suppose). The difference is noticeable in that the changes are much more positive but would I upgrade again? Probably not as it does what is required and money would be better spent on the other components IMHO.

    I definitely agree with Nivagh about the brakes, my Giants Tiagra(?) brakes have the stopping power of putty compared to the FSA Energy brakes on my Izalco.

    I think the thing to take away from this is that you will find a Tiagra set up on a bike where the other components are similarly specced and likewise an Ultegra/DA spec bike will have the bling wheels, chainsets etc. A lighter more aerodynamic frame, reduced rotational mass, more aerodynamic wheels etc. will make for a faster bike but there again Lance Armstrong on a Postmans bike will zipp past me like I am standing.

    My 'engine' powering the Izalco is a good 5 minutes faster than with the Giant but that is not down to one particular component, it is the synergy of those parts.
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    I agree with the overall sentiment of your post, Damon - training harder brings bigger benefits than splurging huge amounts of cash, and is ultimately much more rewarding too, but you're mistaken if you believe 99% of riders couldn't tell the difference between tiagra and D-A.
    Whilst the weight saving might not be discernible, the accuracy and smoothness of shifting, and the quality of the braking are enormous.
    This is not the same argument as what quantifiable difference it makes to a rider's results, but trust me, I can feel the difference between Tiagra and Ultegra and I've only had a bike for about 18 months.
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