Groupset advice? RED/Chorus/105.. are they worth it?

eightdigitword Posts: 20
edited April 2011 in Road buying advice
Wise, tight clothing people of the road cycling community,

Its finally time for me to make the move from comutified mountain bike to a quality road bike. I have decided on my frame and decided on decent wheels, but for the Groupset I'm all over the place. I originally decided on shimano 105 then considered Sram force, then thought i was set on campag chorus, now i'm considering sram red.

I know very little about road components and found the high asking prices very surprising compared to similar MTB kit. Even the 'low end' group sets are expensive( £430 for Shimano 105). Is cost the deciding factor? I mean, if I can afford an Sram red group set should I go for that?

Obviously weight is important. weight difference from Shimano 105 to Sram red is 800 grams, not an enormous amount spread over so many components on non rotating parts but at a cost of £620 extra. Less difference when you compare £630 force to £1050 red at only 164 grams difference for your £420.

I cycle a lot and can afford the best but I don't want throw money away for the sake of getting the most expensive parts.

My question is how much better are these more expensive sets?how much is it marketing? is it just bike bling? or are they justified?

weight penalty aside is 105 all you really need?

is red really that much better than force?

The more reviews I read the more confused I'm getting!

any advice/experiences would be much appreciated,



  • Uchiga
    Uchiga Posts: 230
    105 is perfectly adequate. Unless you're racing in which case spend the extra amount of money on some expensive group set. You'd be better off saving that money and buying a better set of wheels that are lighter. I know many cyclists who have gone from initially wanting Ultegra or Dura Ace and going back to 105 because for its price its bloody value for money!

    If you prefer SRAM then you cant go wrong with Force or even Apex, RED is the equivalant to Dura Ace, so not worth it unless your racing. Campag, im not really up to date with their stuff. it looks good but im not one to touch it as im unfamiliar with it.

    In short, Get the 105 you can't go much wrong! It's like SLX, its solid, reliable, that bit heavier than Ultegra but is still worthy and good enough to be placed on your bike with pride.
  • rake
    rake Posts: 3,204
    sram rival works in a very similar manner to force and red, and is also fairly light compared to shimano. i think your only paying for weight difference at the end of the day. id buy 105 or rival.
  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,551
    current 105 is pretty good, each year shimano trickles down features from higher-level groupsets

    i've got one bike with the older 9-speed 105 and one with sram red, the old 105 is fine, it may be heavier but i've nothing bad to say about it

    to decide between shimano/campag/sram around the same price range, they will all work fine, so really you should consider ergonomics - which shifters do you prefer? which hoods are more comfy?

    when i was choosing bits for my new bike, that's how i ended up chosing red, i tried several different ones and just liked the feel of the hoods and the shifter operation vs. super record and dura-ace
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • Ciclicasati
    Ciclicasati Posts: 740
    Ultimately the more expensive groups DA/ SR/ RED are better. They shift better due to better machining on cassettes/shifter mechanism/derailleur mechanisms, they are lighter, due to better materials and more advanced machining, they are more durable (in some respects) cermaic bearings, titanium and seals. You will notice the difference betwen 105 and Da due to the sum of these differences.
    But first of all you need to be happy on your bike. Happy with perfomance and physologically. For me this means i wanted Campy, just because the SR rear derailleur is the nicest thing ive seen in a while hanging off a bike and my bike wasnt what i wanted it to be until i had it. Secondly i preferred the feel of the lever hoods on campy to Sram (though DA are nice). I pieced my groupset together deciding what i needed to spend cash on: Levers (record-better mech than chorus 11 and liked the air vents), rear mech (Super Record 11 - cermaic jockeys, lush carbon), cassette (record - titanium for longevity), chainset (chorus, same strength and stiffness but a bit heavier and not ceramic but cheaper), front mech (chrous- 2g or so heavy than SR but half the price, no need for carbon plate), Brakes (Record- needed to be black).... etc.

    There is a difference, buy what you can afford but know why you are buying it. TEST some different bikes. I think Athena looks great value.
    Uchiga wrote:
    105 is perfectly adequate. Unless you're racing in which case spend the extra amount of money on some expensive group set.

    Ignore this too...You dont need to race to have top end kit. Just buy it cos you like it.
  • ride_whenever
    ride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    I've had a similar decision recently. First proper roadie, definitely wanted sram as I knew I got on with it better than the other two. I ended up with a mix of red and force (although through misinformation on the old sram website I didn't quite end up with what I wanted...)

    Personally, if doing it again...

    Red shifters (zero-loss is noticably better)
    Force Cranks (very very similar, differences are in chainrings and bb mainly)
    Force front mech (steel cage vs. Ti but shifts better, not that i've noticed with my red one)
    Red rear mech (ceramic bearings and much nicer to look at)
    Red cassette (massive weight saving, work of art, slighty noisier though)
    KMC X10-SL chain
    Force brakes (a little heaver but almost identical)

    It's a case of sitting down and seeing what benefits you get from each upgrade. Personally I wouldn't spend much more simply for lighter weight, but I would for better performance or aesthetics (I'm shallow). The cheap groupsets are great, and function well; The more expensive ones are nicer to use, if it isn't going to take food out of your mouth then why not.
  • mr_poll
    mr_poll Posts: 1,547
    I cannot comment on the above as I run 105 and previous to that sora. However despite your comment about affording what ever you need if you decide to go 105 have a look at Merlin cycles

    With the VIP club discount of 10% (free to join) that brings it in at £315 rather than the £430 you quoted. Worth a look if you decide to go for 105.
  • Ciclicasati
    Ciclicasati Posts: 740
    This is 5600 not 5700 though...nb.
  • petejuk
    petejuk Posts: 235
    My advice would be to try some out. The hand position and grip on the hoods is different between the manufacturers and all shift very well when set up correctly. Therefore the comfort on the hoods could be the clincher.
    Furthermore, I have no doubt you would get on with any of the groupsets but I can't help feeling if you have the money to spend on a great frame and great wheels, why not complement them with the best groupset you can afford? Agreed, it might not make a massive performance increase but at least you wouldn't be looking to upgrade in a few months.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    I think the opposite of some on here. If you are riding long distances for enjoyment/doing sportives, then get the best you can afford. Because it's nice to have good stuff. If you are racing you want cheap but reliable as crashes are much more prevalent, only buy what you can afford to replace...
  • micken
    micken Posts: 275
    As you can see, this is a horses for courses debate and decision and there's a lot of good advice along the lines of try out the groupsets and see what suits you and your riding.

    NapD's comment about enjoyment is spot on.

    My own experience is with 105 (5600), Ultegra (6600) and very recently SRAM Force. I can make the following comments.

    My wife's Trek WSD bike came with full Ultegra on a triple setup and is faultless for what she wanted it for, the light shifting suits her.

    I had 105 on a compact and due to the left shifter issue (supposedly double or triple compatible) I eventually went over to Ultegra 6600 shifters. Whilst I could get the 105s to work on the compact they were never really settled and I felt that the left shifter would eventually fail due to a well documented fault on double/compact use. These were put on my wife's winter bike with triple setup and have been fine. I've found the Ultegra 6600 shifters (double) have performed without fault in replacing the 105s for use on my compact setup.

    On rebuilding my summer frameset I've gone for an SRAM Force groupset (minus cranks) and this has been a revelation. I find it very fast and precise and the mechanics suit me for use on a compact crankset. I'll stick with this and I'm happy with the Ultegra shifters on my winter bike.

    Horses for courses.
  • nmcgann
    nmcgann Posts: 1,780
    I've got 105 and Ultegra and Ultegra is nicer - the shifting is smoother and the overall action is slicker and lighter-feeling.

    If you are building a bike to ride in the summer I'd say get the best groupset you can afford (unless you are racing - as per NapD's comments). If you are going to ride the bike all year round (and maybe use it on the turbo too) then something cheaper may be an idea as it is hard to avoid salt corrosion/damage.
    "Because the cycling is pain. The cycling is soul crushing pain."
  • Gazzaputt
    Gazzaputt Posts: 3,227
    I run Rival on one bike and Red on the other.

    The Red is noticeably better than Rival but you'd expect that. The Rival setup I find to be better than any Shimano setup I have ever had.

    Personally I'd go for what you can afford and justify.
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    If you need to ask the question then no is probably the answer. What you do get with high end components is lighter weight and often durability because of better materials or finishing but it doesn't survive crashes any better. There appears to be a view that you need pro quality kit to race these days which is a bit silly if you're paying for it yourself. Functionally the mid-range stuff is as good just don't expect it to last as long and expect to need to fettle it more often.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • Uchiga
    Uchiga Posts: 230
    Uchiga wrote:
    105 is perfectly adequate. Unless you're racing in which case spend the extra amount of money on some expensive group set.

    Ignore this too...You dont need to race to have top end kit. Just buy it cos you like it.

    I'd agree you don't need to race to have top end kit, but then top end kit is designed for racing. I wouldn't stick XTR components on a bike i'm going to be commuting on, and Niether would i stick Dura Ace on a bike that i'd commute on. It's a waste. Sure it feels nice etc, but you want something that simply does the job well and will work no matter what. This is why they made, Deore, SLX and 105 and Tiagra which are the work horses of the two differant groupsets.

    For a begginner are they really going to be at a level where they can utilize Dura Ace or Sram Red? Do they really need that kind of Groupset? To me it's a waste of money. But then i'm a college student who has to save on money and have to look at things realisticaly...
  • a well balanced collection of opinions there, thanks.

    One of the most important aspect I had missed was durability, this makes me lean towards the higher end group sets. Also I had hoped I could make my decision on research alone, I now know I will need to get my hand on shifters and levers to see what feels right. I have shops near by but none sell parts I'm interested in or have competitive prices plus I didn't want to waste they're time. also getting people to let you try a bike without putting down a non refundable deposit has been tricky. The shop that I plan to purchase the frame and kit from is 200 miles away. however I think I'll take a trip down and spend a bit of time seeing what feels right. Overall I can see most people believe the high end group sets justify their price if you can justify the need!

    Thanks again for all of your opinions they have been very helpful,
  • Uchiga
    Uchiga Posts: 230
    Well my local bike shop holds club rides, this is when they suggested i took a test ride, it meant they could check/see you weren't doing anything wrong or to the bike adversely and it also meant you could go on a ride in a group over a fairly long distance allowing you do do most things on a bike. If your local bike shop does club rides suggest the idea to them and see what they say.

    Top end parts are lighter for a reason, and sometimes it means that they compromise on the durability. It's certianly the case for off road parts, i'm only assuming the same can be said with road parts. Top end stuff in my experience on the mountain bike has not lasted as long as the lower end stuff i've had, but the performance whilst i've had the top end stuff was top end...
  • Avezius
    Avezius Posts: 132
    I read these threads with lots of interest (while I'm still waiting for my cyclescheme voucher!!!).

    Currently have 105 triple & it's my first drop bar shifters. I really like them & have a warm feeling when comparing them to friend's Sora's - I like being able to shift from the drops (despite spending most time on the hoods, but I could if I wanted to!).

    For my first proper new bike, I'm pretty set on Sram Rival compact because:

    - It's at my price point
    - Similar to / slightly above 105 in level (arguably!)
    - I like the idea of single trigger for changes rather than the whole brake lever
    - I don't want a thumb shifter
    - On Trying it, shifting seemed intuitive
    - The right shifter was positive in a good way (sometimes my 105 is so smooth I'm not 100% if it has switched)
    - Left shifter seemed more clunky than positive, but I can live with it.
    - Hoods felt fine.
    - Review say all the shifters at this level are pretty good so no bad choices.
    - I noticed a significant number of forum posts from people pleased with a switch from shimano to sram (not scientific & not all but enough of a trend for me).

    I know nothing about cycling history or brands (Surfing is my primary sport) so I'm at the ignorant end of the snobbery chart, but this is how I came to my conclusion - however insightful or flawed it is! :wink:
  • skyblue337
    skyblue337 Posts: 135
    For Campagnolo from my own experience and what I've read around I think Athena alloy (approx £500 ish) and Chorus represent the best value buying as complete groupsets. 2011 Athena levers and down are functionally different from Chrous and above in that you can only upshift one sprocket at a time vs 5 for Chorus and above.

    If you are mixing and matching I think going all Chorus with the Super Record chainset (assuming you can get it for a decent price) is a good mix - the bearings on Ultra Torque chainsets seem to be a bit of a weak spot and the CULT bearings in SR need no sealing and v little maintenance. In terms of the levers if you look at the Campagnolo spares pdfs you'll see that Chorus, Record and SR are almost identical bar some titanium bits in SR and cut outs on the brake levers. From what I've read on roadbikereview the all steel Chorus cassettes last longer than the titanium sprockets on Record and SR cassettes

    From a usability standpoint I like the thumb levers because it's easy enough to press both at the same time to downshift at the front and upshift at the back to smooth the transition.