Shimano Sora 3500 groupset  £379.00

8/10

Now with proper dual control, Sora is fantastic value and as good as it's ever been. Only the brakes let it down.

Contact  www.madison.co.uk

by Dave Atkinson   December 14, 2013  

Shimano Sora does 90% of what more expensive groupsets do, and for buttons. Comparatively speaking. Okay it's only nine-speed at the rear and the brakes are a bit average but the shifting performance is excellent for the money; 'proper' Shimano shifting now extends one rung below Sora, to the eight-speed Claris, but this is the pick of the budget groupsets.

Dual Control Levers £159.99

Available as a double or a triple option, and in the same black as the rest of the groupset, the Sora levers are very similar to the old nine-speed Tiagra ones. Plenty of folks have mooted that they're rebadged Tiagra units; whether they are or not you're getting Tiagra-level shifting performance here. The old Sora lever featured the much-maligned Shimano thumb lever and a massive throw to change gear. They weren't great, and these are masses better.

Dual Control, in Shimano parlance, means that all the shifting and braking is done from the lever. The main lever pivots back to brake, and sideways (in towards the stem) changes up the cassette at the rear, or from the small chainring to the big one. Behind that there's a smaller lever that actuates the release for the opposite shift. Sora levers have an optical window showing what gear you're in, which you may or may not like or use; I'm accustomed to it not being there so I didn't look at it that much, but if you're coming from mountain biking it may be more of a draw.

The shape of the lever is comfortable and the action precise and reasonably light. The reach is adjustable via two different shims, for smaller hands, and the shorter throw makes the Sora levers much more usable for anyone not blessed with spades on the end of their arms. Adjustments to the indexing are easy thanks to the integrated barrel shifter; the gear cable loops out rather than sneaking under the bar tape, but that doesn't affect performance at all.

Overall, they're excellent. Shifting is easy and intuitive and they feel much, much better than the last incarnation of Sora. Trickle down at its best.

Rear derailleur £29.99

The rear mech is available in short- or mid-cage, and the parallelogram has been widened to stiffen up the mech and make shifting more precise. The mid-cage mech has a 41-tooth capacity, which means that you can run a compact 50/34 chainset and an 11-32T cassette without any problems; 32 teeth is the biggest sprocket that the mech can cope with.

It's a well-built mech and looks good in the painted black finish, and we had no issues with it during testing; there's very little play in the mech when you pull it from side to side and once the cable run had settled we very rarely needed to tinker with the indexing.

Front derailleur £19.99 (£24.99 triple)

The front derailleur has six variations to cope with braze- or band-on mounting and double or triple chainsets. It's a fairly standard Shimano offering and the effort on the shift is certainly high compared with, say, the new Ultegra groupset, but it's a perfectly functional mech. Nothing much to say here.

Chainset £89.99 (£99.99 triple)

We tested the 50/34 chainset; a triple (50/39/30) and a cyclo-cross double (46/34) are also available. Sora uses Shimano's Hollowtech 2 bottom bracket standard with the axle attached to the drive side; you just push the axle through the bearings, which attach to the outside of a standard 68mm bottom bracket shell, and bolt the non-drive crank on the other end. It's a widely-used system and can be adapted for other bottom bracket standards although that's unlikely to be an issue here; most bikes running Sora will have a standard bottom bracket shell.

The spider and big chainring are alloy, with the smaller inner chainring steel. The rings are Shimano's SG-X design, with pick-up pins and special tooth profiles to ensure accurate shifting between the two. And they work, too: pick-up from the smaller to the larger chainring is pretty good. The cranks use a 110mm bolt circle diameter which makes them compatible with a wide range of aftermarket rings.

It's not as stiff as higher-end chainsets, and noticeably so. There's a bit of rub on the front mech cage if you put the power down, but it's only noise and there's no danger of ghost shifting under load; the chainset certainly wouldn't ever deflect that much.

Cassette £19.99 / Chain £15.99

Sora uses the HG50 cassette which is Tiagra/Deore level. There are all sorts of options from 14-25 all the way through to 11-32. An 11-34 Deore cassette is available too. In theory that wouldn't work and while we haven't tried it, there's usually a bit of wiggle room on those maximum-tooth allowances. Either way, it's a good quality all-steel cassette with Hyperglide sprockets to aid shifting and cut-and-drilled design to save a bit of weight.

The HG53 chain is the same level and features chamfered inner plates and mushroomed pins so you'll need a special pin to re-join it. I prefer to use a third-party split link.

Brake callipers £21.99 each

Something has to give, and the brakes are the only part of the groupset that disappoints. The dual-pivot design and simple quick release are very similar to some of Shimano's more expensive groupsets, so it's not that really: it's mostly the pads that let them down. You don't get cartridge pads, and the pads you do get are hard and scratchy on the rims, with poor modulation. Swap them out for a decent set of cartridge ones straight away for a much better experience.

Overall

It's hard to quibble with the performance that you get from Sora, for the money that you're paying. The shifting is precise, the transmission is stiff and efficient. Only the braking lets it down, but better braking is a decent set of cartridge pads away.

Verdict

Now with proper dual control, Sora is fantastic value and as good as it's ever been. Only the brakes let it down.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Shimano Sora 3500

Size tested: n/a

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Well made with a tough black painted finish.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Very good shifting performance and efficient transmission; braking lets it down a bit.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

The groupset has been lasting very well under normal use.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
6/10

Not one for your light build, but that's not really the point of Sora.

Rate the product for value:
 
10/10

Really good value for money. If you want a good groupset for a lower-budget build, this is it.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Good shifting.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Poor brakes.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 102kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

19 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Behind that there's a smaller lever that actuates the release for the opposite shit.

Freud lives Smile

posted by sidesaddle [64 posts]
14th December 2013 - 16:37

like this
Like (54)

Not sure what Sora goes for retail, but I've purchased complete Tiagra compact groupsets for £300 this year. Other than the dorky gear indicator needles, I'm very happy with the price/performance.

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [116 posts]
14th December 2013 - 16:40

like this
Like (41)

sidesaddle wrote:

Behind that there's a smaller lever that actuates the release for the opposite shit.

Freud lives Smile

Curses, beat me to it.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

Cooks's picture

posted by Cooks [476 posts]
14th December 2013 - 17:07

like this
Like (34)

sidesaddle wrote:

Behind that there's a smaller lever that actuates the release for the opposite shit.

Freud lives Smile

every time. i think my F key must be dodgy

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7237 posts]
14th December 2013 - 18:31

like this
Like (39)

Dave Atkinson wrote:
sidesaddle wrote:

Behind that there's a smaller lever that actuates the release for the opposite shit.

Freud lives Smile

every time. i think my F key must be dodgy

Looks like it's completely ucked

posted by VeloPeo [210 posts]
14th December 2013 - 18:36

like this
Like (46)

"the gear cable loops out rather than sneaking under the bar tape, but that doesn't affect performance at all"

Can We Haz recognition that going under bar tape is always gonna make shifting worse, like-for-like? Many prefer old-school Tiagra specifically *becuase* it didn't go under tape. (Plus the free poor-mans-aerobar feature Smile )

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [432 posts]
14th December 2013 - 21:25

like this
Like (36)

I've not checked the tech docs but my money is on Sora 3500 shifters being Tiagra 4500 under the paint. Why fix what ain't broke?

But the rear derailleur must have changed, as it's rated up to 32 teeth while the 4500 only officially coped with a max of 27 or 28t on the cassette.

Most budget brakes (and the adjacent rims) benefit from aftermarket cartridge pads so this is no deal-breaker. KoolStop dual compound do the job for me.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1889 posts]
14th December 2013 - 23:53

like this
Like (40)

I agree entirely about the brakes, the pads that Shimano supplies just aren't up to the job. I tried to persevere and get used to them and only succeeded in scaring the life out of myself. I replaced them with a set of Aztec pads and they work fine. I'm still surprised that Shimano penny pinch in such a safety critical area, the replacement Aztecs cost me about £15, which I suspect would work out at no more than a few extra quid on the groupset if they came as standard.

posted by FMOAB [219 posts]
15th December 2013 - 0:45

like this
Like (39)

The great thing about this new Sora is that it's easier to recommend the cheap sale bikes to new starters safe in the knowledge that they get something at least as good as last years Tiagra. Hell, it's probably as good as 5 year old Dura Ace.

posted by bendertherobot [247 posts]
15th December 2013 - 9:12

like this
Like (26)

The supplied brake pads aren't just crap at retardation, they also wear at a frightening rate at this time of year. A pair of Ultegra cartridge pads are about a tenner from Wiggle, and improve the braking beyond belief.

For KiwiMike, Tiagra 4600 still has the exposed gear cable routing. For all, a Sora groupset is £209 at Ribble, Tiagra is £289.

posted by TimC340 [27 posts]
15th December 2013 - 9:50

like this
Like (29)

biggest real world performance difference between Sora and Tiagra is the crankset?

Sora uses a "non hollowtech" forged solid arm (with relief on rear faces)

Tiagra uses the "hollowtech II" manufacturing technology

there is a noticeable difference in crank stiffness as well as weight between these 2 cranksets

otherwise Sora is fantastic once the brake pads are swapped out to cartridge type with Dura Ace / Ultegra inserts or similar

we normally see the stock Sora pads worn out by the time a customer has their first free service

posted by hampstead_bandit [111 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:14

like this
Like (32)

KiwiMike wrote:
Can We Haz recognition that going under bar tape is always gonna make shifting worse, like-for-like? Many prefer old-school Tiagra specifically *becuase* it didn't go under tape. (Plus the free poor-mans-aerobar feature Smile )

it's not possible to compare like for like though, so it's hard to say. New Ultegra 11spd has a shifting action that's far, far superior to this Sora groupset (more on that soon) but that's a different lever, with a different type of cable and a different outer, pulling a different mech. Short of making a system that's identical save for the routing, I don't know how you'd tell. the under-tape routing doesn't seem to be holding ultegra back in terms of performance though. Tiagra 10spd directly compared to 105 10spd is probably the closest you'll get. they're difficult to tell apart in terms of shifting performance

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7237 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:36

like this
Like (31)

TimC340 wrote:
The supplied brake pads aren't just crap at retardation, they also wear at a frightening rate at this time of year.

yeah, the pads on the test groupset only lasted a few hundred miles... a shame they can't spec something better, not necessarily cartridge pads but just a decent compund

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7237 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:40

like this
Like (26)

With additional 10% Xmas discount you could a 105 groupset from Ribble and pocket £25.....or buy Sora Rolling On The Floor

posted by Al'76 [126 posts]
15th December 2013 - 15:56

like this
Like (29)

hampstead_bandit wrote:
biggest real world performance difference between Sora and Tiagra is the crankset?

Sora uses a "non hollowtech" forged solid arm (with relief on rear faces)

Tiagra uses the "hollowtech II" manufacturing technology

there is a noticeable difference in crank stiffness as well as weight between these 2 cranksets

Can you honestly feel a difference in crank stiffness? The Sora one must be made of play-dough.

The figures I've read give the weight of a Tiagra compact as 903g and Sora 929g. My 9 speed Tiagra triple weighs an momentum-sapping 1028g.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1889 posts]
15th December 2013 - 17:06

like this
Like (30)

Al'76 wrote:
With additional 10% Xmas discount you could a 105 groupset from Ribble and pocket £25.....or buy Sora Rolling On The Floor

You can have a full Sora groupset for about £200 if you shop around. £379 is the list price.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7237 posts]
16th December 2013 - 10:59

like this
Like (34)

You can get a bike attached to the groupset for 20 quid more at wiggle now - felt f95 is 399 !

posted by arfa [440 posts]
17th December 2013 - 14:50

like this
Like (33)

Al'76 wrote:
With additional 10% Xmas discount you could a 105 groupset from Ribble and pocket £25.....or buy Sora Rolling On The Floor

Yes it always pays to look around.Chainreaction Wiggle and Ribble seem to always have some good deals.I have accounts with all of them.My lbs hates me.

big mick

posted by big mick [172 posts]
18th December 2013 - 12:56

like this
Like (22)

This groupset came with my Spesh Roubaix SL4 (except the brakes) and i have found the shifting very responsive. After over 180 miles i don't have any complaints so far. I haven't used the more expensive sets higher up the range to compare so i'm not sure how much more responsive they are but i would imagine Sora would be more than adequate for most riders.

posted by BigYell [4 posts]
29th March 2014 - 21:49

like this
Like (10)

road.cc reviews

Latest reviews

6/10
£49.99
July 14, 2014
8/10
£1149.00
July 13, 2014
7/10
£90.00
July 13, 2014
8/10
£110.00
July 12, 2014
9/10
£175.00
July 11, 2014
8/10
£39.99
July 10, 2014
8/10
£271.99
July 9, 2014
8/10
£2.99
July 9, 2014
9/10
£1499.00
July 9, 2014
7/10
£59.99
July 8, 2014
7/10
£59.99
July 7, 2014
8/10
£4.99
July 6, 2014
8/10
£59.95
July 5, 2014
9/10
£105.99
July 4, 2014
8/10
£110.99
July 4, 2014
7/10
£29.99
July 4, 2014
9/10
£79.99
July 3, 2014
 
1