[This article was last updated on October 23, 2017]
If you’re choosing between Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival 22 groupsets, here’s everything you need to know in order to make the right decision.
Starting right at the beginning, a groupset is a component manufacturer’s collection of mechanical parts, usually covering the derailleurs, shifters, brakes, chainset, bottom bracket, cassette and chain. Brands group these parts into various different levels. 105 and Rival 22 are the third tier road groupsets from their respective manufacturers.
Shimano 105 is much more commonly fitted as original equipment on complete bikes than SRAM Rival 22. It rules the roost on bikes priced from about £1,000. You might easily find yourself having to decide between a bike fitted with 105 and one in a Rival 22 build, though, or you could be looking to upgrade from Shimano Tiagra or SRAM Apex and want to check out the options open to you. Either way, the aim of this article is to explain the differences so you can make an informed choice.
A complete Shimano 105 groupset, available in both silver and black finishes, costs from £559 at RRP while a SRAM Rival 22 groupset is priced from £524.
SRAM Rival is also available as a 1x system with a single chainring matched up to a wide-range cassette. We’re not covering that here because it has no direct rival from Shimano. Just bear in mind that SRAM Rival 22 and SRAM Rival 1 are not the same thing.
We’ll go through each component in turn.
In use, the biggest difference you’ll notice between 105 and Rival 22 – and between any other Shimano and SRAM groupsets, come to that – is in the way the shifters work.
With Shimano’s design (above), you change to a larger sprocket by sweeping the brake lever inward, and you change to a smaller sprocket by pushing a lever that sits behind the brake lever. Shifting the chain between chainrings follows the same principle. It’s a very light action thanks to polymer coated cables.
SRAM uses what it calls a DoubleTap mechanism. A shift paddle located behind the brake lever handles both upshifts and downshifts. You tap it to move to a smaller sprocket, and you push it further to shift the other direction. Shifting at the front operates in a similar way.
We wouldn’t say that one system is inherently better than the other, but they are different. We’d suggest you try out both systems before making a buying decision, perhaps at a local bike shop, to see which you prefer. This will also tell you whether you find the hoods of one brand more comfortable than those of the other. You’re likely to spend a lot of your riding time with your hands resting on them.
105 provides 10mm of reach adjustment for smaller hands while Rival 22 offers individual reach adjustment of both the brake lever and the shift paddle.
Rival shifters are lighter than their 105 equivalents. When we reviewed 105 here on road.cc, our levers weighed at 490g. Rival 22 shifters are about 150g lighter.
If you go for a hydraulic brake system, the shifters will be a different shape because they have to incorporate a master cylinder. The levers of the SRAM Rival 22 Hydro system (above, £284 per wheel) are chunky, though not as large as SRAM’s original hydraulic levers, and some people just don’t like the look of the tall front end. On the other hand, the high hood can be easy to grab, especially if you're riding with your forearms parallel to the road.
Both the Shimano 105 and the SRAM Rival 22 chainsets are made from aluminium with hollow arms to save weight (go up to SRAM Force and the cranks are carbon-fibre).
Shimano (above) now uses a four arm rather than a five arm spider to secure the chainrings, with uneven spacing between those arms. The idea is to provide the strength where it’s most needed while dropping the weight of the fifth arm. SRAM uses a five bolt system.
The Shimano 105 chainset has a reputation for being super-stiff. When we reviewed it we said, “Regardless of how much power you put through the cranks, there’s no detectable flex there whatsoever.”
Shimano lead the field here but we’ve been impressed by the SRAM Rival 22 chainset too. Our man Dave Atkinson reported, “I had no issues with derailleur rub under power which suggests [the chainset] is nice and stiff.”
You can get the 105 chainset in a standard 53/39-tooth option, semi-compact 52/36, and compact 50/34. There’s no cyclocross-specific option, though.
SRAM’s Rival 22 chainset (above) is available in 52/36, 50/34 and 46/36-tooth options. With both Shimano and SRAM, you can swap to other chainring sizes quite easily.
Shimano offers 105 cranks in 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm lengths – which will cover the vast majority of people –while SRAM provides all of those plus 167.5mm and 177.5mm options.
The Rival 22 chainset is available in both 24mm and 30mm axle options whereas Shimano offers 24mm only. Whichever you choose, you obviously need to get the correct bottom bracket for your bike (105 £21.99, Rival 22 £29).
The 105 chainset we reviewed here on road.cc hit the scales at 737g while you’re looking at over 100g more for Rival.
SRAM boasts that you don’t need to adjust the position of your front derailleur (below) to avoid your chain rubbing on the side plates, no matter which sprocket you’re using. This results from what it calls ‘Yaw’ technology that has trickled down from its higher end groupsets.
Essentially, the front derailleur cage rotates slightly when you shift from the small chainring to the large one, so its angle relative to the chain remains the same.
When he reviewed SRAM Rival 22, Dave Atkinson said, “It's a bit of a fiddle to set up, but once you have it dialled in it works perfectly, and I didn't have any derailleur rub at the front even when I was crossing the chain on purpose.”
With 105 you’ll sometimes find that you need to trim the position of the front derailleur as you move the chain across the cassette.
When we reviewed 105 here on road.cc, we found that the lengthened link arm of the front derailleur (above) creates more leverage and therefore less effort is required for shifting.
“Couple that with a new spring mechanism and the shifting is smooth, fast and precise,” reviewer Stu Kerton said.
There’s not much to choose between them in terms of weight, the 105 front derailleur coming in at 88g on the road.cc Scales of Truth and the Rival 22 one a claimed 89g with a chainspotter included (to stop the chain coming off the inside of the inner chainring; you don’t get one of these with 105).
We’ve been massively impressed by the Shimano 105 rear derailleur (below).
“The shifting is absolutely spot on… Up and down the cassette, the chain goes in a blur,” we said in our review.
We’ve not had any issues with SRAM Rival 22 shifting either.
With both SRAM and Shimano, you need to choose the correct sized rear derailleur for the gears you are running. Shimano’s 105 GS rear derailleur and the mid-cage version of SRAM’s Rival rear derailleur (above) allow you to use a maximum sprocket size of 32-teeth.
We weighed a short cage Shimano 105 rear derailleur at 230g while the SRAM Rival 22 equivalent is a claimed 50g lighter.
Shimano’s 105 twin pivot brake callipers (below) are exceptionally good, offering loads of power and plenty of control.
“Slowing rather than stopping can be achieved with just a couple of fingers applying pressure to the lever and it's easy to avoid locking a wheel,” we said in our review. “A new brake pad compound has been used, and while it's a small improvement, it does feel a little more grippy in both the wet and the dry.”
If you have a frame with direct mount points, you can use the BR-5810 versions (£39.99) built to the same SLR-EV design but with two frame mounting points rather than the traditional single.
There’s no direct mount option in the Rival 22 lineup but the dual pivot callipers come with very good SwissStop pads. Both 105 and Rival 22 are compatible with tyres up to 28mm.
The Shimano 105 brake callipers we weighed were 390g the pair while SRAM claims 300g for its Rival 22 brakes.
Both the Shimano 105 (above) and the SRAM Rival 22 groupsets include hydraulic disc brakes (see under 'Shifters', above) that are more powerful than mechanical rim brakes, and less affected by wet conditions. Obviously, you need the correct frame and fork to take these.
In terms of overall performance, they’re very similar.
“Shimano's units feel a bit more powerful overall but the SRAM brakes (above) are a bit more progressive through their range of power, so it's swings and roundabouts,” said Dave Atkinson.
“If I had to choose one or the other, the SRAM brakes would probably edge it. They're a bit more keen to squeak when they get wet, but in my experience there's less rotor rub after heating the discs up on a long descent.”
We’ve found that bleeding the SRAM brakes is a bit more of an involved process than it is with Shimano.
SRAM also offers hydraulic rim brakes (above, £254 per wheel, though you can now pick them up for just £156.49) that will fit to a standard (non-disc) bike, although we can’t say we’ve seen these fitted as original equipment on any bikes.
Both 105 and Rival 22 are 11-speed systems, and each offers cassettes in various tooth ranges.
One SRAM cassette covers 11-36 teeth, although you’d have to use that as part of a 1x system with a specially designed rear derailleur.
You’re looking at weights from around 260g for both brands, depending on the size option you choose.
We’ve found the chains of both systems to be smooth and reliable, although the SRAM chain is easier to set up thanks to the inclusion of a PowerLock connecting link that doesn’t require the use of any tools. With Shimano (below), you have to use a connecting pin and a chain tool, or buy a connecting link separately.
A SRAM Rival 22 chain weighs a claimed 259g for 114 links while our Shimano 105 chain weighed 265g for 116 links, so they’re about the same.
Properly setup, both Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival 22 offer similar levels of performance to the top-level components from their respective manufacturers, it’s just that they’re a little heavier.
Each system has its strengths. We highly rate Shimano’s braking, for example, and we really like the Yaw technology that SRAM uses in its front derailleur.
By far the biggest difference that you’re likely to notice between 105 and Rival 22 is in the shifting, not in their level of performance but in the way that they’re designed to operate. You’ll probably adjust quickly to either shift system – most people do – but just make sure you’ve had a test ride before you lay down your cash.
We'd be interested to hear about the experiences of readers who have used both systems.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.