Tiagra 4700 is the latest groupset from Shimano to get a makeover, and in doing so it has made Tiagra the best it's ever been. On its own, it's not quite as good as the more expensive 105, but if you're buying a new bike with Tiagra 4700, you won't be disappointed.
Tiagra is Shimano's fourth-tier groupset. It sits beneath Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105. Shimano introduces its newest and best features first on Dura-Ace, then these advances trickle down through the ranges. Now, features first seen at the top have made their way onto this very affordable groupset.
Tiagra 4700 appears commonly on bikes in the £700-£1,200 price range, depending on the frame material and the rest of the specification. I tested the new groupset on a Raleigh Criterium Sport, a brand new aluminium road and sportive model from the British company. It has a £750 price tag, and uses the full Tiagra groupset. It's not uncommon to see cheaper brakes and chainsets substituted to hit certain price points.
The changes that Shimano has made mean this groupset is now much more similiar to the company's more expensive groupsets in appearance, ergonomics and functionality. If you're upgrading from previous Tiagra or a lower level groupset, you'll really appreciate the improvements.
The shifters have been updated, with the cables now routed underneath the handlebar tape, providing a much cleaner look at the front of the bike. No cables to hang your clothes out to dry though... The shape of the shifter body is the same compact shape as 105 and Ultegra – you'd be hard-pressed to notice the difference in your hand. The brake levers aren't carbon fibre, and the alloy lever adds a bit of weight but, importantly, it also reduces the cost and makes no difference to performance.
At the front and rear, the gears shift cleanly, smoothly and quietly. I never missed a gear or felt the shifter being unresponsive when I needed to change gear quickly. It shifts well under load as well. Shift feel is perhaps a little heavier than Dura-Ace or Ultegra, but that's an unfair criticism given the huge price difference, and it's being really picky. Shimano says it has revised the cable pitch on the rear derailleur, claiming it now offers 'precise and long-lasting shifting performance'. It's certainly living up to those claims compared with old Tiagra.
Then there is the all-new chainset. This is the biggest component in terms of visual appearance when viewing a bike from the side, and it's here that Shimano has made the biggest stride forward. It has taken the same four-arm design as first debuted on Dura-Ace all those years ago. The old Tiagra chainset really was an ugly duckling; hopefully Shimano won't make that mistake again.
It's available in 52/36 and 50/39/30 configurations but I suspect the 50/34 compact option I tested will be the most popular chosen by bike brands speccing new bikes. The new four-arm design has a 110mm bolt circle diameter (BCD) and allows you to swap the chainrings to any configuration, which saves swapping chainsets if you want to adjust the gear ratios. Different crank lengths are available too.
Tiagra remains 10-speed, which rules out compatibility with higher level groupsets. I suspect that won't be much of a concern to the types of cyclists purchasing the bikes that will be equipped with the new Tiagra. That's perhaps the biggest decision when choosing this groupset, either on its own or on a new bike: whether you're happy with 10-speed or you really want 11-speed. I suspect the price difference between bikes with Tiagra and 105 will be the deciding factor.
There's no lack of gear range with 10-speed. We all managed just fine before 11-speed groupsets were introduced, after all. Shimano offers a few different cassette options, including the 11-32t cassette the Raleigh was fitted with. I suspect, like the compact chainset, this will be a popular choice. It's a fine choice too, providing enough top-end for high-speed blasting, and similarly at the opposite end there are enough low gears to spin your way up steep climbs quite happily. The long cage rear derailleur can accommodate up to a 34t cassette if you want more range, while the short cage version goes up to 28.
The chainset was fitted to the Raleigh with a tried-and-tested external bottom bracket, threaded into the frame. It's perfectly reliable and spares are easy to come by. I wasn't able to asses bearing life during this test, so a long-term test will be needed to really see if the bearings last. Given previous experience with Shimano bottom brackets, there's no reason to suspect they won't be anything but utterly reliable.
Shimano has given the brake callipers an update and claims an additional 30 per cent braking performance. They do provide more reassurance in their stopping abilities compared with old Tiagra, but the brakes are the strongest reminder of Tiagra's station. Braking performance just isn't a patch on 105. It's not bad, as such, the brakes will certainly stop you in a hurry, they're just lacking in feel and feedback through the levers.
The one-piece brake blocks also exhibit some flex too, and changing brake blocks isn't as simple as more expensive cartridge brakes such as those found on 105 and Ultegra.
The groupset I've been testing came attached to a bike, so I wasn't able to weigh all the individual components – and Shimano hasn't published a weight yet. So we called them in and weighed them for you. Here are the numbers:
Chainset - 910g
Cassette - 355g
Bottom bracket - 90g
Calliper brake (rear) - 179g
Calliper brake (front) - 181g
Rear derailleur - 277g
Front derailleur - 106g
Levers - 486g
That all adds up to 2,584g, although cables will add another 200g or so.
Tiagra is a really impressive groupset. To get this level of performance, finish and attention to detail on such an affordable groupset is hugely impressive.
It's both better looking and better performing than the previous Tiagra, and in the changes that Shimano has made, the gap to the more expensive 105 has been significantly narrowed. The most notable improvement is the updated shifter bodies, which function very similarly to the more expensive groupsets, with the same shifter body shape. And the new chainset is a much better-looking bit of kit too. It doesn't look cheap, it looks expensive. That's good.
If I was buying a bike with the new Tiagra groupset, such as the Raleigh Criterium Sport, I would be very happy indeed. It does everything you want from a mid-level road bike with only a few very minor quibbles. The biggest decision to make when buying a bike at this price is whether you're really fussed about having the 11-speed of Shimano's more expensive 105, and will come down to your budget.
How about if you're building your own bike? At retail prices, the difference of around £100 between Tiagra and 105 might make it worth saving up a little longer, if only for the better brakes, small weight gains and the upgrade to 11-speed, which better future-proofs your bike against any purchases down the road.
If you're buying a new road bike with the latest Tiagra, there's no doubt about it, you're getting a better bike for your money.
Improved ergonomics, appearance and functionality make this a big step forward for Tiagra
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset
Size tested: 50/34, 11-32
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Shimano says: "Offering progressive all-road performance and an even better introduction to road cycling...The new TIAGRA 4700 adopts key technologies featured on Shimano's other race-proven group sets, DURA-ACE, ULTEGRA and 105.
"Shimano's new TIAGRA group set gives grassroots and new road cyclists the opportunity to ride a group set inspired by professional riders, whether for challenging sportives, everyday commutes or long weekend rides."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Shimano says: "For the first time in its history TIAGRA supports internal cable routing, which gives the road bike a much more clean and professional look. Along with internal cable routing TIAGRA has also adopted the iconic four-arm crank design which is available in the popular gear combination for entry level riders of 52-36T and 50-34T. With the standard pitch cycle (bolt circle) diameter of 110mm both chain ring combinations are interchangeable because they fit on the same crank set.
"TIAGRA 4700 runs on a 10-speed drivetrain operated by improved ergonomic shift/brake levers (STI). The slim and compact bracket grip offers easy reach to the brake/shift lever from the hood position and a comfortable lever feeling for a wide range of riders. Besides the integrated shift/brake lever there is also an instant and two-way release flat handlebar shifter (SL-4700) available.
"With the new TIAGRA 4700 group set Shimano offers a great balance between performance, easy operation and low maintenance. The new rear derailleur has a revised cable pitch which offers precise and long-lasting shifting performance and is compatible with up to a 34T cassette. Meanwhile the new TIAGRA brake system offers consistent all-round control in all conditions. Compared to the previous generation the braking power has increased by 30%, while the modulation of the brakes has improved too."
Usual Shimano excellence on display here.
Performance is a big step up from old Tiagra, a noticeable improvement in ergonomics and functionality. The brakes could be better, they're merely adequate rather than sterling.
This wasn't a long-term test, but the groupset was fine for the time I was riding it on the Raleigh Criterium Sport test bike.
You don't buy Tiagra for its low weight. I tested the groupset on a bike, so wasn't able to weigh the groupset components, but we got our hands on the separate parts and weighed them.
The shifter body is comfortable in the hands and the gear levers are light and easy to operate.
It's offering a shedload more performance than old Tiagra, and it looks much better as well. The gap to 105, if buying a complete groupset at discounted prices, is surprisingly narrow, so you might want to save up. But if you're buying a new bike with Tiagra you're getting a great deal, with the costs absorbed by the manufacturer.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The performance exceeds anything else at this price, and even though Shimano doesn't really have many rivals at this price point, it's still invested technology into Tiagra, which really benefits anyone buying a sub-£1,000 bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks really good and works well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The brakes could be better. And it's not 11-speed, but that's not really a deal-breaker.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If I couldn't afford 105, then yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Excellent construction, very good performance. With better braking it would perhaps be a 9...
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.