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When you are looking for a groupset, be it an upgrade, build or new bike, how do you decide on which one to go for?

Are there pros / cons to each brand or are they all pretty much the same and you just pick the right level of spec?

30 comments

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Canyon48 [930 posts] 3 months ago
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They all produce really great groupsets.
I stick with Shimano because parts are so much easier to come by. Campag is very expensive too generally.

I like sram for their 1x stuff!

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Welsh boy [515 posts] 3 months ago
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I started with Shimano, changed to SRAM then gave campag a go. I have now gone back to SRAM, I prefer the way it shifts and the shape of the levers. So, all down to personal preference.

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ChetManley [95 posts] 3 months ago
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If I had to pick, I'd go with SRAM but that's just a personal preference on the lever shape and double tap.

I have Shimano, because that's what's on my bike. No complaints at all, I just like SRAM better.

I'm put off Campy by the cost of parts.

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Grahamd [949 posts] 3 months ago
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I have SRAM on my cx and Shimano on my road. Agree with welshboy and chetmanley sram just feels better and the double tap is great; however have never been able to get my sram front derailleur up shifts  as crisp as Shimano.

ps. Don’t forget to buy the correct JIS screwdriver for adjusting your Shimano gears.

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Boatsie [230 posts] 3 months ago
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I like Shimano as parts are readily available.
Being a tight ass I went with 9 speed such that modern wheels would fit, 9 speed seem very cheap, durable and not sure whether cassettes where being sold as end of stock, I bought a box which should last 200 kms pw 15 years.
Sram look nice though.
Hence depending upon use (I don't pace at paloton rate)
A recently upgraded transmission (kept crank and front deraileur), new chainwheels, cassette, chain, microshift shifters and rear deraileur, cables and long lengths of cable housing cost approximately $300(£140).
Not racing yet 9 speed will allow easy upgrades of wheelsets is my main reason.
Pros. Close ratio box should shorten chain(weight)
Stronger chain.
Ideal along flats and punching headwinds
Cheap.
Durable.
Fits 9-10-11 speed wheels in case I afford aero 1 day.
Cons.
Lowest ratio 39-23
I'll probably boycott the local 10% climb.
I'll probably fail the local 7% climb.
5% ok but probably much slower than a paloton pace.

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KendalRed [187 posts] 3 months ago
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Given they all work as they should, then I think it's whichever will look the best on the bike you intend to put it on.

I have two road bikes, both have Sram, and I am so used to it now I wouldn't want to change - I built up my custom steel frame with Sram Force and I haven't needed to adjust it that much in two years (although being the summer bike it doesn't get that much of a hammering unlike the winter/commuter bike with Sram Rival). It still shifts effortlessly.

However, if I came into a serious amount of money (yeah, right) then it would be an Italian made steel or Titanium frame and that would just have to be Campagnolo.

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G1989 [4 posts] 3 months ago
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Agree Shimano is more widely available than Campag, but with the advent of online delivery it's less of an issue. Have to disagree on the cost of Campag parts though. Maybe if you're talking about Record/Super Record - but if you're riding those groupsets you're either racing- where the tiny weight saving is factor (or you don't pay for them), or you're wealthy enough that it doesn't matter. 'Lower' end Campag replaceables- chains, cassettes, pads etc from Centaur, Potenza, Chorus ,can be had for a similar or only marginally  higher price than 105 and Ultegra. The only difference being less titanium than the higher end stuff and a tiny weight penalty. I've found it very durable also.

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the little onion [190 posts] 3 months ago
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When opening a bottle of expensive wine, I do recommend that you use the Campagnolo corkscrew, rather than a Shimano fishing tackle.

 

I have both Campagnolo and Shimano. To my mind, Campagnolo is better made, works better and feels better in the hands. But it is essentially down to personal preference - I value the ergonomics of Campagnolo, even if spare parts are slightly more difficult to get from the LBS, though just as easy on the internet.

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kil0ran [851 posts] 3 months ago
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Ride them.

I went from Shimano flat to SRAM drops and didn't like the double tap shifting (also the front mechs are difficult to set up compared to Shimano in my experience) so I went back to Shimano. Have been through Ultegra and 105 and am now settled on a Tiagra/105 mix - best price/performance for me as I don't *need* 11-speed.

However, I'm also a fan of style over substance and because I ride steel bikes I could be tempted by any modern group that was available in polished chrome, even if it was Campy. Growing up Campy was always the lusted after manufacturer but its so incompatible and expensive that unless it came on a new bike I don't think I'd bother.

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fukawitribe [2383 posts] 3 months ago
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G1989 wrote:

Agree Shimano is more widely available than Campag, but with the advent of online delivery it's less of an issue. Have to disagree on the cost of Campag parts though. Maybe if you're talking about Record/Super Record - but if you're riding those groupsets you're either racing- where the tiny weight saving is factor (or you don't pay for them), or you're wealthy enough that it doesn't matter. 'Lower' end Campag replaceables- chains, cassettes, pads etc from Centaur, Potenza, Chorus ,can be had for a similar or only marginally  higher price than 105 and Ultegra. The only difference being less titanium than the higher end stuff and a tiny weight penalty. I've found it very durable also.

I'd agree with a lot of that bar the cassette prices - things are closer now than they were but the difference between Shimano and Campagnolo blocks is significant. That said, with modern 11-speed you could just mix a Shimano cassette with the rest of the Campag groupset - still not heard too much feedback on how that feels in practice beyond "it works" - be interested if anyone has any experience with it.

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Crampy [115 posts] 3 months ago
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The mixing and matching of campag / shimano / sram cassettes with the other companies groupsets is all fine and well, but one must take into account that the free hub body must also be swapped.

Shim/sram have one spline shape, campag another. The two are not compatible. 

Im currently upgrading my ten speed cx bike to 11 speed and, for various reasons, plan on using a shimano cassette with the otherwise campag bits. Ive also noted that Campag bits are becoming cheaper; especially Centaur. 

 

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fukawitribe [2383 posts] 3 months ago
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Crampy wrote:

The mixing and matching of campag / shimano / sram cassettes with the other companies groupsets is all fine and well, but one must take into account that the free hub body must also be swapped.

Shim/sram have one spline shape, campag another. The two are not compatible. 

Oh indeed, apart from the Edco freehubs - I was looking at this in the context of self-builds from the earlier comments, in which case getting a Shimano wheelset vs Campag one would just be another decision (more choice too).

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philhubbard [135 posts] 3 months ago
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I use a Campag drivetrain with an Ultegra cassette and Sram chain. I know it's sacrilege but you can use any 11 speed wheels and it shifts just as well. My Athena carbon was cheaper than 105 at the time 

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Canyon48 [930 posts] 3 months ago
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philhubbard wrote:

I use a Campag drivetrain with an Ultegra cassette and Sram chain. I know it's sacrilege but you can use any 11 speed wheels and it shifts just as well. My Athena carbon was cheaper than 105 at the time 

I guess you are using Shimano or Sram levers for that to work?

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fukawitribe [2383 posts] 3 months ago
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wellsprop wrote:
philhubbard wrote:

I use a Campag drivetrain with an Ultegra cassette and Sram chain. I know it's sacrilege but you can use any 11 speed wheels and it shifts just as well. My Athena carbon was cheaper than 105 at the time 

I guess you are using Shimano or Sram levers for that to work?

It'll work with Campag levers - cassette spacing is the ~same for SRAM/Shimano/Campagnolo 11-speed.

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Canyon48 [930 posts] 3 months ago
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fukawitribe wrote:
wellsprop wrote:
philhubbard wrote:

I use a Campag drivetrain with an Ultegra cassette and Sram chain. I know it's sacrilege but you can use any 11 speed wheels and it shifts just as well. My Athena carbon was cheaper than 105 at the time 

I guess you are using Shimano or Sram levers for that to work?

It'll work with Campag levers - cassette spacing is the ~same for SRAM/Shimano/Campagnolo 11-speed.

Every day is a school day!

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LastBoyScout [440 posts] 3 months ago
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Nearly everything I've got is a flavour of Shimano - both MTB and road. It works.

When I bought my best bike, I wanted an Italian frame with an Italian groupset. The only concession is Shimano pedals, for compatibility with shoes and because they are fool-proof.

I have SRAM cassettes on the mountain bikes. I haven't avoided their groupsets, I just haven't yet bought a bike with that already on it.

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philhubbard [135 posts] 3 months ago
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wellsprop wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
wellsprop wrote:
philhubbard wrote:

I use a Campag drivetrain with an Ultegra cassette and Sram chain. I know it's sacrilege but you can use any 11 speed wheels and it shifts just as well. My Athena carbon was cheaper than 105 at the time 

I guess you are using Shimano or Sram levers for that to work?

It'll work with Campag levers - cassette spacing is the ~same for SRAM/Shimano/Campagnolo 11-speed.

Every day is a school day!

 

Yep, should have been clearer. Athena Carbon shifters, cranks and deraileur. Only works on 11 speed though. The KMC chain is slightly better than the Sram to be honest but last time I swapped it it was the only one I had to hand

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jterrier [186 posts] 3 months ago
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This is fairly easy to sum up. Stay away from campag unless you are loaded and a bit obsessive. SRAM make everything under the sun but the quality is always a bit suspect and it breaks. That puts Shimano in the middle, wherein the prices are reasonable and the engineering is really good from 105 upwards.

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Jimmy Ray Will [907 posts] 3 months ago
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Hmm, I'm another one that say its all about the eye of the beholder. 

All three make good gear. 

SRAM is the choice if weight is your focus, although I'd argue they are generally a little behind top end performance wise and its resistance to the weather less than the others. 

Campagnolo is the choice if style is your focus, especially for the top end groups. They work beautifully and look beautiful

Shimano is the choice if you go for function over all else. It works, it lasts well, its balanced between cost, performance, longevity, weight. 

The other thing I'd say is that the spacing between shimano / sram and campagnolo cassettes are not identical. The are incredibly close... to the point that they'll work OK, but campagnolo is a smidgen wider in real terms. I know this because I was running bikes with both campag and shimano last year and swapped a powertap wheel between the two. If I was being sensible, I'd swap the freehub and cassette over (take 10seconds) but I was often too lazy.  It works, but its not perfect. 

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mike the bike [1070 posts] 3 months ago
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One seldom mentioned advantage of Campag becomes apparent in winter when you wear thick gloves.  Their system of separate levers for up and down changes makes it less likely you will end up in the wrong  gear.  It's a small thing but  ..........

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bechdan [138 posts] 3 months ago
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cool, all good advice and interesting stuff. Ill give SRAM a go next time I 'need' to change something, or decide to build n+1 

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Tjuice [257 posts] 3 months ago
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mike the bike wrote:

One seldom mentioned advantage of Campag becomes apparent in winter when you wear thick gloves.  Their system of separate levers for up and down changes makes it less likely you will end up in the wrong  gear.  It's a small thing but  ..........

This is a good point.

I have Shimano Ultegra (mechanical) on my race bike, but SRAM Rival on the winter training bike.

With the thick, warm lobster gloves I wear during the winter, I find shifting the Ultegra a bit fiddly, whereas I have no issue with the Rival. 

I do find the Ultegra a smoother, lighter shift though. 

 

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srchar [849 posts] 3 months ago
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bechdan, to answer - "how do you choose a groupset?":

There's not much you can do before you buy other than a bit of research and some test rides.  Unfortunately, with a groupset, a test ride won't be anywhere near long enough for you to evaluate it properly, sussing out all its foibles and discovering its advantages; you'll only be able to tell if you like the ergonomics or not, and even then only over a short ride.

What I and most people seem to do is to start with whatever's on your first bike, which you probably chose because you like the colour.  Then, go through a potentially expensive multi-year process of buying and selling bike bits on eBay before you realise what you like to ride.  Once you know which manufacturer you prefer, I suppose it's a case of "which level can I afford/justify".

My "road groupset journey" went (IIRC)

Ultegra 6600 (loved it)
105 5700 (hated it - every new version of 105 is touted as "just as good as Ultegra, but heavier"; this was nonsense IME)
Ultegra Di2 (bit nonplussed - hated the mouse-click buttons and their placement so close together)
Campag Athena aluminium (shiny - liked it a lot!)
Campag Chorus (carbon bling and Ultrashift - marriage material)

On the commuter, I've dabbled with Alfine and singlespeed but ended up on Athena.  A bit more work to maintain than the other two, but worth it.

So, umm, yeah, that's how you choose a groupset  7

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graybags [100 posts] 3 months ago
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I've got all three on three different bikes and boy do I wish I'd stuck with just one brand, in all liklihood Shimano, just so I could interchange parts. If I chose all over again I'd just stick with Shimano, better availability, reliable and cheaper. I've gone off SRAM, just don't like the double tap shifting and seems to go out of adjustment really easily.

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matthewn5 [1190 posts] 3 months ago
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Pick the one that you like. They're all great though each has their own foibles.

I've found Campag very durable for commuting. Chains and cassettes seem to last twice as many miles as the Shimano Ultegra kit I was using on the bike before. YMMV.

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Crampy [115 posts] 3 months ago
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My choice would be Campagnolo, all the way. I've tried quite a bit of their stuff; from first gen 11 speed Super Record, through new 11 speed Athena (re recently discontinued one - not the vintage stuff), second gen Centaur and the new 11 speed Centaur stuff - even bargain bin 10 speed Xenon. It all just works - you do need to stay on top of the cleaning and maintenance, though.

My CX / winter bike has a mixture of 10 speed Centaur shifters, 11 speed Centaur cranks, 10 speed Xenon rear mech, an Ambrosio Shimano spline / Campag pitch cassette (Wiggle Cosine Disc wheels with shimano freehub were just TOO cheap not to buy) and Athena 11 speed front mech, just a collection of bits I had laying around / bought cheap - winter bikes tend to be fairly knackered after a couple of years in Norway (I killed a set of Avid BB7s in one wonter season through lack of cleaning. When trying to remove the rear caliper, I found that the bolt had welded itself with road shit to teh calpier body, which subsequently cracked and broke off at teh bolt hole... They use strong shit on the roads here in Norway...). 

It just works - but I really need to keep on top of the cleaning and maintenance - I take two full bidons on my commute - one for drinking and another for rinsing all the road salt and diverse shit from the mechanical bits once I arrive. 

My Mtb has Shimano XT throughout and it is still going strong with very little mainenance after 7 years of commuting, gravel and general off road tomfoolery. So I would guess Shimano road stuff is fairly bomb proof. It just doesnt woo me the way a Campag set up does, though...

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700c [1250 posts] 3 months ago
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Like others have said really, I prefer and use Campag but Shimano is more readily available, Campag is possibly more 'repairable'.

I'm kind of stuck in a legacy Campag 10 Speed set up  but as availability decreases and prices go up I will have to make a decision on changing to 11s Campag or Shimano.

If getting a bike from scratch now I might be pragmatic and specify Shimano, TBH

 

 

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BehindTheBikesheds [1865 posts] 3 months ago
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I'd go Suntour late 70's to late 80's, you can forget the rest ...

Shimano for me, though I had one sweet Campag set up, 3*8, 48/40/26 + this all alloy 'special' 13-30 cassette, shifting and gear choice was just lush. Had it on an old British racer that escspes me.

I do think shimano aesthetics have gone to pot though, ugly as these days. Give me 7400/7700 in a 11 speed version and I'd buy it immediately gloss black or high polished 'silver'.

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nllsam [9 posts] 3 months ago
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I'm old school so Campagnolo it is for me.  It didn't stop me buying a Sram groupset, second hand, for use on a frame I'd  bought,

 

As most people have said, once up to mid-range they are all good but the enormous power of Shimano does mean most people use that as it is what comes on the majority of bikes these days. Try the different groupsets and see which fits/feels better for you.

 

Oh, I almost forgot, the best group set I used was an old Dura-Ace one on a second hand purchase. Lasted until LBS shifter broke on a ride, I was very disappointed that I couldn't source a replacement and had to go down to Ultegra. Ok guys, it's only one of my many first world problems.