Buyers guide to road bike groupsets

Post by:
Christian Moss

Need a new gear and braking system for your bike? A groupset will save you money, but how do you know which is the right one for you? We show you how.

Through regular use, your bike is naturally going to require new brake and gear components over time. A groupset integrates the whole gearing and braking system, allowing your bike to perform to its best ability.
campagnolo 80th anniversary groupset boxEach set will differ slightly, but the spares you can generally expect them to contain are:

  • Bottom brackets
  • Brake calipers or discs
  • Brake levers
  • Cables
  • Cassette
  • Chain
  • Chainset (cranks and chain rings)
  • Gear levers
  • Gear mechanisms

By purchasing a professional groupset, you will be saving money when compared to buying the parts separately, and you will also be preventing the chances of early wear in the individual components by replacing all of them at the same time.

The Main Manufacturers

shimano di2 groupsetThere are plenty of choices out there, with the three main manufacturers for bike components being Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM. Each of these have several ranges suited for diverse needs and abilities.

Shimano is the most popular of the brands, making components for both expert and novice riders, for both road and mountain bikes.

Campagnolo on the other hand, are the higher end product, having kitted top road cyclists with the most innovative equipment.

SRAM are the newest kids on the block, gaining traction for creating road and mountain bike groupsets with a difference. Price wise, this company sit in the middle of Shimano and Campagnolo.

The Ranges

With each manufacturer there is a hierarchy of ranges, allowing any cyclist to pick the products that suits their experience. At the top of the list sits the specialist groupset, sliding down to the more recreational kit.


  • Dura Ace
  • Ultegra
  • 105
  • Tiagra
  • Sora


  • Super Record
  • Record
  • Chorus
  • Athena
  • Centaur
  • Veloce


  • Red
  • Force
  • Rival
  • Apex

What You Need To Consider

So now you know the different makes and ranges, you need to know what to look out for when making your choice.

As the manufacturers do not package the components together, when it comes to selecting your groupset, you can still choose between the different part options as well. Here are some of the areas to think about:

Riding position

Depending on how you position yourself when riding, you will want the gear lever system to be placed conveniently.


Are you a fan of downhill cycling, or are you looking to mostly tackle flat terrain? You need to consider this when choosing how many gears are needed.

If you are going to be combating different styles of terrain, you will likely want the maximum number of gears. This will inform your decision on which chainring and cassette you will need – the more teeth on the cog, the higher the gear will go.


It’s important to know that the gear systems of the three companies are not compatible with each other due to the unique set ups.

Whilst some parts such as brake calipers can be interchanged, the performance will not be as good, as some key elements can be lost.


If you are looking for long lasting quality (which you should be), you will need to look carefully at the pricing. The higher the level, the more benefits you will begin to see.

For example, the higher-end sets will usually be much lighter than the low end. Any cyclist worth their salt will know how beneficial a lighter frame will be.

Another benefit you will notice is the smoother shifting between gears, as they will be more powerful and responsive. You may also find that a more professional set will have a smarter finish.

Some groupsets have been specifically developed for certain applications such as freeriding, track or downhill cycling. If you are unsure of the parts you need, be sure to discuss it with a cycling specialist before purchase.

To view our full range of groupsets and to find out more about each product, take a look at our selection in our online store.

Image courtesy of BigStock Photo

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