Road bike groupsets 2022 - A comprehensive guide

road bike groupsets
(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

The groupset is the heart of any bike. Sure, you may have an incredible frameset with the best road bike wheels, but without a chainset, gears and brakes you've just got an expensive garage ornament. The best road bike groupsets cover all the unglamorous and dirty parts of making a bicycle move, and importantly stop too.

The main players in the groupset game are always Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo, but with options from Rotor and FSA there has never been a greater diversity of choice. What's more, depending on the bike you're building, upgrading, or buying new, you have the option of electronic or cable shifting, disc or rim brakes, and depending on budget you can find anything from eight to 13 speed options.

At the highest levels things are becoming increasingly electric and disc specific, as fewer and fewer of the best road bikes are coming with rim brakes as an option. Rim brakes haven't been phased out entirely, but brands are putting little to no R&D into upgrading their current offerings, and likewise high end rim brake wheels are becoming an endangered species.

Worry not though, as thanks to the wonder of trickle down engineering, the mid range groupsets of yesteryear now have tech from the very top end of the spectrum, making them an enticing option if you're speccing a race bike on a budget.

If you're not sure what you're looking for yet we've put together a guide at the bottom to help guide you towards the best option for you.

Road Bike Groupsets by brand

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Before we dive into the myriad options out there it's useful to get a primer on where each groupset in the list sits in the manufacturers respective ranges, that way you'll be better equipped to compare Super Record with Dura Ace, and will be less likely to waste your time trying to compare Tiagra with Red.

The big three, Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo, each have a series of groupsets arranged in tiers that are roughly equivalent to each other. 

At the top of the pyramid are the pro-level groupsets, namely Dura-Ace, Red, and Super Record from Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo respectively. The former two are available only in electronic shifting guises, while the ever romantic Campagnolo still offers cabled shifting even on its top end groupsets.

Below the pro-level gear we find the upper echelons of race componentry, namely Ultegra, Force, and Record. Again, the former two are electronic only, while the latter exists with cables too. At this level and above rim brake R&D has all but ceased, with all available resources spent on improving disc braking systems instead.

Things are slightly muddied by Campagnolo at this point, with its Chorus and Potenza groupsets sitting between the 'Race' and 'Enthusiast' classifications. Both are mechanical options, but Chorus offers 12speed shifting, rather than the 11speed of Potenza.

For the enthusiasts, Shimano offers 105, SRAM has Force, and Campag has Centaur. Below this the Italians cease to offer anything. but the Japanese continue to provide, with, in decreasing order of prestige, Tiagra, Sora, and Claris, effectively cornering the budget end of the market. SRAM also has Rival, at approximately the same level as Tiagra.

As you can see, there's a lot of choice out there, so we've split things into electronic groupsets, mechanical groupsets, and budget groupsets, so depending on what you're aiming for you can skip to the section that's most relevant to you.

Electric groupsets

Electric groupsets are commonplace on WorldTour bikes now. In fact, the technology has evolved to the point that it's now considered news if a pro rider doesn't use it.

The three major players all have at least two electronic options, and while the switch to electric shifting was big news a few years ago, the new frontier, led by SRAM, is to do away with shifting wires altogether for an even cleaner, system that's easier to work on and more aero to boot.

Just do yourself a favour and don't forget to charge your batteries; electronic groupsets can go a long time on a single charge, but not indefinitely.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9200

(Image credit: Daniel Gould)
The best road bike groupset currently available

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 50/34T, 52/36T, 53/39T, 54/40T
Cassettes: 11-30T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional shifting
+
Powerful, modulated braking
+
Improved ergonomics

Reasons to avoid

-
No real update for rim braking

Improvement, rather than a total revolution, has been the name of the game from Shimano when it comes to upgrading Dura-Ace from the previous generation.

While Dura-Ace 9100 was an exceptional offering, Shimano have improved on some of its minor shortcomings; namely the braking and ergonomics, in addition to moving to 12-speed and a semi-wireless system.

As with Ultegra and offerings from SRAM there is no option for cable shifting, it is a pure electronic setup, but if you want the very best in terms of shifting performance that isn't going to come from cables in this day and age, so it's no great omission.

Check our our Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 first ride review to see how we got on with the system in the real world.

Campagnolo Super Record EPS

Great if you want the same aesthetics as the cable version

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-29T, 11-32T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Very bling
+
Rim and disc hoods are the same

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Campagnolo was fashionably late to the disc brake party, but this tardiness allowed it to avoid the performance and aesthetic growing pains SRAM and Shimano experienced. Using flat-mount callipers, the front comes with fittings for 160mm and 140mm rotors.

As the most expensive drivetrain you can buy, Super Record is heavy on carbon fibre, titanium, and ceramic bearings which drives the price up. The latest EPS V4 features an upgraded junction box, a more compact and longer-lasting battery, and an upgraded front derailleur with more shifting power. Both the mechanical and electronic shifters also feature the famous thumb shifter, and a carbon brake lever complete with reach adjustment.

To make the jump to 12-speed, Campagnolo moved each cog closer together, so the cassette occupies the same space as an 11-speed, which also means a skinnier chain. With three cassette options 11-34T, 11-32T and 11-29T, the one derailleur can handle both, and front chainrings are available in 34T up to 52T.

Given the brand's gravel groupset, Ekar, is 13-speed it's surely only a matter of time before this comes to their top-end road groupset too.

SRAM Red eTap AXS

This is the option for you if you want no wires

Specifications

Speeds: 1x12, 2x12
Chainrings: 46/33T, 48/35T, 50/37T, 36T, 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T, 50T
Cassettes: 10-26T, 10-28T, 10-33T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Truly wireless
+
Integrates with other AXS components
+
Great gear range options

Reasons to avoid

-
Aesthetics not to everyone's taste

Launched at the beginning of 2019, RED eTap AXS is SRAM's top group. It's wireless and electronic and there are 12 gears at the back. It’s available in 1x or 2x versions and features a built-in Quarq power meter, with the extra sprocket at the rear SRAM has removed a few teeth from the front chainring; the biggest commercially available double-ring option is now a 50/37T — though the pros have been riding 54/41T rings. However, there is no loss in gear range, which equates to smaller jumps between the cogs.

The chain is also new, with a flat top, it's narrower and also claimed to be stronger and quieter — but some reports suggest it adds some friction to the equation.

The rear derailleur is clutched using a fluid-based damper, which SRAM says doesn't add shifting resistance like a roller bearing clutch system, while also significantly reducing chain bounce and allowing for 1x or 2x setups with the same components. 

FSA K-Force WE

(Image credit: FSA)
FSA's top-tier electronic groupset

Specifications

Speeds: 2x11
Chainrings: 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-25T, 11-28T, 11-32T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Something different from the norm
+
Relatively affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Less ubiquitous system may mean parts harder to come by

FSA's first groupset has been years in the making and the component brand has employed a semi-wireless system to wrangle your gears. The front and rear derailleurs are connected to a battery hidden in the seatpost, the front derailleur acts as the brain of the system and houses all the hardware that allows it to talk to the shifters via an ANT+ wireless connection — standard coin cell 2032 batteries power the shifters.

Available in both rim and disc brake options, the shift buttons take the form of a rocker. Instead of trying to build adjustability into the shifters for different sized hands, FSA instead opted for small and large-sized levers. 

With 11-speeds at the back, FSA offers its own cassette made from titanium and heat-treated steel and available in three versions; 11-25T, 11-28T and 11-32T. The K-Force crank features hollow carbon arms and is based around a four-arm 110BCD with chainrings ranging from 34T to 53T.

Our FSA K-Force WE first look should give you some more details on the system if you're curious.

Red 22 is another electric road bike groupset from SRAM

(Image credit: SRAM)

SRAM Red eTap

Good for SRAM performance at a lower price point

Specifications

Speeds: 2x11
Chainrings: 46/36T, 50/34T, 52/36T, 53/39T, 55/42T
Cassettes: 11-25T, 11-26T, 11-28T, 11-30T, 11-32T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Top quality shifting
+
Better price than Red AXS

Reasons to avoid

-
No derailleur clutch
-
No 1x, unlike other SRAM options

Red eTap was the first modern wireless group to hit the market, and it built the foundation for AXS. It no longer sits at the top of SRAM's hierarchy, but it's still a top-performing groupset. eTap was also the first instance we saw of SRAM's intuitive shifting system - press one shifter for a harder gear, the other for an easier one, and both to shift chainrings at the front. 

Each component uses its own battery, with the shifters powered by coin cell batteries and the derailleurs using rechargeable versions. Unfortunately, AXS and eTap don't speak the same language and the parts are not compatible with one another. 

Available in rim or disc brake varieties eTap has 11 gears at the back and is compatible with SRAM's standard brakes, cranks, cassettes and chains. That said, there is no clutched rear derailleur or 1x solution. 

Shimano Ultegra R8100 groupset detail of drive side crank arm

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Perfect for 12-speed shifting without the Dura-Ace pricetag

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 50/34T, 52/36T
Cassettes: 11-30T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Trickle down tech has improved braking
+
Rapid shifting performance
+
Dura-Ace performance at a cheaper price

Reasons to avoid

-
Button ergonomics still could be better

Shimano's Ultegra Di2 offers nearly the same performance as the flagship Dura-Ace, with only a small weight penalty and a substantially lower price tag. 

With 12 speeds at the back, Ultegra is available with hydraulic disc or standard rim brakes. When it comes to shifting quality and speed the difference between Ultegra and Dura-Ace is negligible and the second tier group also offers Syncro and semi-Syncro shifting. 

Like Dura-Ace, the hollow cranks are only available in one bolt-circle diameter, meaning they will work with chainrings from 34 teeth all the way up to 55. But, if you're after a power meter, you'll have to look for a third-party option. 

For fans of decent brakes however it is heartening to see the second tier option benefit from the Servo Wave system brought in previously at Dura-Ace level, whereby the pads are spaced further apart for less chance of rubbing, but with an increased pad take-up in the early part of the lever stroke to account for the space, and also provide better fine level modulation.

To see how we got on with the groupset take a look at our Shimano Ultegra Di2 8100 review.

SRAM Force Etap AXS

A good option for SRAM fans without a mega budget

Specifications

Speeds: 1x12, 2x12
Chainrings: 48/35T, 46/33T, 36T, 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T
Cassettes: 10-26T, 10-28T, 10-33T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
12-speed gear range
+
AXS compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than Red

Much the same as Ultegra is to Dura-Ace, so SRAM's Force group is to Red. Force AXS is 12-speed, sees the same motors and highspeed chipset in the wireless derailleurs, and the Orbit fluid-based damper too, however, there's a bit less carbon, no ceramic bearings to be found and a small weight penalty over Red.

While the Force AXS chainset is a few grams heavier than the elaborate one-piece Red version, for the consumer we would argue it's a better option. Not only are the one-piece Red chainrings expensive but if you wear one out, or want to go bigger or smaller, you have to replace the integrated power meter too — SRAM does have an exchange program, but it adds a few steps and doesn't reduce the cost all that much. 

Force AXS also uses a flat top chain which some friction testing has shown to actually be about half a watt faster than its Red-branded compatriot. 

SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset

(Image credit: SRAM)

SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset

Good for wallet friendly electronic shifting

Specifications

Speeds: 1x12, 2x12
Chainrings: 48/35T, 46/33T, 43/30T, 40T, 46T
Cassettes: 10-30T, 10-36T
Brakes: Disc only

Reasons to buy

+
Electronic shifting at a lower price point
+
AXS compatibility 

Reasons to avoid

-
Potentially more gravel focussed than road

It was always a matter of time until SRAM added its third-tier Rival road groupset to its wireless AXS family, which happened just a couple of months ago. It may be that Rival has a reputation for being a gravel riding groupset, but SRAM says this new electric iteration will double up for use across a multitude of disciplines both on and off the tarmac. It’s available as an electronic groupset only and makes use of full wireless technology and hydraulic disc actuation.

Naturally, SRAM built the Rival eTap AXS around the same blueprint as its other AXS siblings, though the third-tier groupset uses heavier materials to cut costs and make it more affordable. It comes with SRAM’s proprietary flat-top chain and 12-speed X-Range cassette, a spring-actuated clutch rear derailleur and a virtually identical braking system. All the while it retains the same aesthetic and AXS cross-compatibility, and benefits from a nifty DUB-spindle-specific power meter.

Mechanical Groupsets

While electronic shifting is definitely where the future of groupset tech lies, mechanical shifting is still as good as ever and will always have its fanbase thanks to its simplicity and ease of repair. Yes, you will have to replace a gear cable or housing every so often but it will never run out of battery when you are miles from home. 

Super Record is Campganolo's best mechanical road bike groupset

(Image credit: Campagnolo)

Campagnolo Super Record

Good for 12 speed fans who don't want to go electronic

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-29T, 11-32T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
12-speed with cables is one of a kind at this level
+
Same aesthetics as electronic system
+
Discs and rims share same hood ergonomics

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Campagnolo Super Record was the first groupset to make the jump to a 12-speed rear cassette. Utilising a newly designed direct mount rear mech, new front derailleur and four-arm carbon crank, the group also has improved shifter ergonomics and flat-mount disc brakes with fittings for up to a 160mm rotor. 

Don't worry Campy fans, the veritable thumb shifter is still here, and so is the Ultra-Shift tech which allows for three downshifts and five upshifts with a full swing of the respective lever. 

A single rear derailleur accommodates all the available cassettes including the wide range 11-34T, and the new four-arm crank allows for the same compatibility with chainrings. 

Rotor makes a hydraulic road bike groupset called the UNO

(Image credit: Rotor)

Rotor Uno

Perfect for something completely different

Specifications

Speeds: 1x12, 1x13
Chainrings: 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T, 50T, 52T, 54T
Cassettes: 10-36T, 10-39T, 10-46T, 10-52T,
Brakes: Disc

Reasons to buy

+
Novel system
+
Hydraulics don't stretch

Reasons to avoid

-
Proprietary everything

Rotor is always a brand to think outside the box, and its 13-speed hydraulic Uno groupset is the perfect example. While everyone else was faffing over batteries and motors to move the chain, Rotor opted for hydraulic fluid. The thinking here is the same as with hydraulic brakes; once you get a set properly bled they will work perfectly for years with little to no maintenance. So why couldn't it work for a groupset?

It's available as a 1x12 and 1x13 speed option or 2x11speed. The derailleur and shifters are compatible with the 12- and 13-speed cassette and can be swapped without the need for tools. The rear mech has a clutch to keep the chain from swinging around too much and the cassettes are compatible with any standard HG freehub so you can keep using your current wheelset. 

SRAM Force is also a mid-range road bike groupset

(Image credit: SRAM)

SRAM Force

SRAM's mid-range road bike groupset

Specifications

Speeds: 1x11, 2x11
Chainrings: 46/36T, 50/34T, 52/36T, 53/39T, 55/42T, 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T, 50T, 52T, 54T
Cassettes: 11-25T, 11-26T, 11-28T, 11-32T, 11-36T, 10-42T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Integrated power meter
+
1x Options

Reasons to avoid

-
DoubleTap shifting takes a bit of getting used to

In terms of performance, Force is largely the same as Red, but it uses slightly cheaper materials making it heavier.

Force uses the same DoubleTap shifting mechanism and features the YAW front mech along with both WiFLi and standard versions of the rear derailleur. It's available in both rim and hydraulic disc brake versions and uses a two-piece arm and spider design. 

Force also comes complete with a Quarq power meter built into the crank, and the good news is it's not directly integrated into the chainrings, meaning when they wear down, they can be replaced without the need for an all-new power meter.

Gearing comes in the form of a 46/36T up to a 55/42T at the front which can be paired to cassettes ranging from 11-25T up to 11-36T.

There is also a 1x version of Force (previously known as CX1), using many of the same components as its road fairing stablemate. The main differences are in the rear derailleur with a rolling bearing clutch, X-Sync wide narrow chainrings and the wide range cassette — which requires an XD driver. 

Campagnolo Record 12 speed disc road bike groupset

(Image credit: Campagnolo)

Campagnolo Record

As good as Super Record, but less bling

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-29T, 11-32T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Super Record level shifting
+
More affordable than the very top level

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks the ultra-prestige of Super Record
-
Heavier than Super Record

The only difference between Record and Super Record is that the former features slightly less titanium and carbon fibre used throughout. Most importantly it still functions the same (including the thumb shifter), has 12 speeds at the back, a four-arm crank, comes in the rim and disc brake flavours and the derailleurs are based around the same exact design. 

All of this adds up to a groupset that's around 200g heavier, but with a noticeably lighter price tag.

Campagnolo Chorus

The only option for 12-speed mechanical at this level

Specifications

Speeds: 2x12
Chainrings: 52/36T, 50/34T, 48/32T
Cassettes: 11-29T, 11-32T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
12 speed system
+
Lower gearing options available

Reasons to avoid

-
No 53/39 chainring combo

Chorus takes another step down in Campagnolo's pricing hierarchy but it still offers 12 speeds, the thumb shifter and carbon crank arms.

Before the Campagnolo Ekar gravel groupset was introduced in 2020, Chorus was seen as the brand's off-road offering, thanks to its slightly different gearing combinations. Instead of the standard 53/39T chainset, Chorus is available in a more mountain-friendly 48/32T, while still offering three cassettes.  

The group is available in both rim and disc brake guises, however, the latter loses the ability to adjust the bite point though you can still tailor the lever reach. 

Budget Groupsets

Groupsets have come along way from downtube shifters, and even the lower end of the pricing spectrum performs extremely well. 

Don't expect to find much carbon, titanium or ceramic here, but these groups will be hard-wearing, easy to maintain, and perhaps most importantly of all, cheap when it comes to parts replacement.

Shimano 105

The best option for general competative riding

Specifications

Speeds: 2x11
Chainrings: 50/34T, 52/36T, 53/39T
Cassettes: 11-28T, 11-30T, 11-32T, 11-34T, 12-25T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional performance for the price
+
High end aesthetics

Reasons to avoid

-
Discs lack Servo Wave tech of Ultegra 

Shimano's 105 groupset has always been the workhorse in the range, and the latest R7000/R7020 11-speed version offers similar performance to its more expensive siblings, for considerably less outlay. 

The Dual Control levers have received an ergonomic update, and thankfully, the introduction of the hydro-disc levers have killed the non-series RS505 lever — the ugliest thing Shimano has ever made. 

Throughout the groupset, Shimano has utilised aluminium and steel in lieu of carbon and titanium, a compromise needed to hit the lower price point. You'll still find the four-arm cranks which will accept rings ranging from 53T down to 34T and a wide range of cassettes including the turn-a-mountain-into-a-molehill 11-34T.

Shimano Tiagra 4720 is a 10-speed disc brake road bike groupset groupset

(Image credit: Shimano)

Shimano Tiagra

The best 10 speed system

Specifications

Speeds: 2x10, 3x10
Chainrings: 48/34T, 50/34T, 52/36T, 50/39/30T
Cassettes: 11-25T, 12-28T, 11-32T, 11-34T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
3x options available
+
For a 10 speed system it's very slick

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 10 speed
-
Look isn't as refined

Tiagra is one of Shimano's 10-speed beginner groupsets. It drops a cog at the back and is a significant beneficiary of trickle-down tech from Shimano's higher-end groupsets, offering designs seen at the Dura-Ace level not all that many years ago but at a budget price.

For many years, Tiagra used older style externally routed STI levers, however, Shimano has trickled the internally routed Dual Control levers down to Tiagra. You'll also find the four-arm hollow cranksets and chainrings that all utilised the same bolt circle diameter — Shimano makes these in triples for a massive gear range. 

At the front, shifting borrows the design from the Dura-Ace 9000 derailleur, and at the back, there is the option for a short or long-cage cassette. The biggest drawback here is when it does come time to upgrade, Shimano's 10-speed components aren't compatible with the 11-speed kit, so it's an all or nothing upgrade

SRAM Rival is a budget friendly road bike groupset

(Image credit: SRAM)

SRAM Rival

Good for budget-friendly 1x

Specifications

Speeds: 1x11, 2x11
Chainrings: 46/36T, 50/34T, 52/36T, 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, 46T, 48T, 50T
Cassettes: 11-28T, 11-28T, 11-32T, 11-42T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
1x options available
+
Trim-free front derailleur

Reasons to avoid

-
1x only compatible with hydro discs

Rival borrows heavily from Force; there are both 1x11 and 2x11 options with DoubleTap shifting and the YAW front derailleur that allows for trim-free cross chaining. 

At first glance, the levers look more or less identical to their Force cousins; however, the carbon is replaced by aluminium. The discernible performance difference is limited and really amounts to a different number on the scale. 

With up to a 32t cog at the back, Rival has standard and WiFLi rear mech options, though at this price point the largest chainring combo you're going to get is a 52/36.

SRAM also produces a 1x version but it's only compatible with hydraulic disc brakes. To keep the chain from bouncing off the front chainrings, it has narrow-wide teeth, which is paired to a roller bearing clutch in the rear derailleur. 

SRAM Apex is a 10 speed road bike groupset

(Image credit: Sram)

SRAM Apex

Best for entry level gravel

Specifications

Speeds: 2x10
Chainrings: 48/34T, 50/34T, 40T, 42T, 44T
Cassettes: 11-23T, 11-26T, 11-28T, 11-32T, 11-36T, 12-25T, 12-26T, 12-27T, 12-28T, 12-32T, 12-36T, 11-42T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
1x at a 10-speed level

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks dated
-
Lacks trimless front derailleur

Apex is SRAM's entry-level road groupset, which offers 2x10 shifting with the brand's patented DoubleTap mechanism. At this level there is no YAW from derailleur so you'll need to trim as you shift.

Apex was the first road groupset to offer a 32T rear cog, inspiring the other two to follow suit. SRAM offers short cage and WiFLi versions of the derailleurs, and you won't find disc brakes here. 

There is a 1x version however which is decidedly more modern than its 2x sibling, it has 11 speeds, the rear mech as a roller bearing clutch and there is a wide-narrow chainring at the front and even hydraulic brakes.

Campagnolo Potenza 11-speed road bike groupset

(Image credit: campagnolo)

Campagnolo Potenza

An 11-speed road bike groupset from Campagnolo

Specifications

Speeds: 2x11
Chainrings: 53/39T, 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-25T, 11-27T, 11-29T, 11-32T, 12-27T
Brakes: Disc / Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Lovely aesthetics
+
Downshift 3 cogs at a time

Reasons to avoid

-
More pricy

Released in 2016, Potenza was Campy's attempt to get a share of the OEM market. With 11 speeds, it's available in both rim and disc brake versions and with black or polished silver components.

The shifters maintain the thumb lever, however, Potenza features what Campy calls Power-Shift, meaning you can downshift three cogs, but lose the ability go up by five — if this is a feature you're after head back up to Chorus. 

Here you still get the four-arm crankset and all the chainrings abiding by the same BCD for universal compatibility, and up to an 11-32T cassette, though you'll need the medium-cage derailleur to turn this cog.

Campagnolo Centaur 11 speed road bike groupset

(Image credit: Campagnolo)

Campagnolo Centaur

Campy's entry-level groupset

Specifications

Speeds: 2x11
Chainrings: 52/36T, 50/34T
Cassettes: 11-29T, 11-32T, 12-32T
Brakes: Rim

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful, especially in silver
+
11-speed, despite being lowest tier

Reasons to avoid

-
Rim brake only

While the polished silver colourway makes it look pretty Gucci, Centaur is Campy's entry-level groupset, and like the similar options from SRAM and Shimano it greatly benefits from trickle-down tech.

The shift levers are fibre-reinforced plastic, the brake levers are aluminium and there is no option for disc stoppers. Like Potenza, the 11-speed cassettes come as big as 32T, but you will need the medium cage version of the derailleur and all the chainrings utilise the same BCD thanks to the four-arm crank. Unfortunately, if you're after disc brakes, you'll need to work your way upwards in the Campy price hierarchy.

How to choose the best road groupset for you

What is a groupset?

The groupset comprises everything needed to make the bike go and stop. We're talking crankset, chain, shifters, derailleurs, cassette and brakes. 

Everything else is either the rolling chassis (frameset and wheels) or finishing kit (seatpost, bars, saddle, tyres etc).

Is electronic shifting worth it?

Electronic shifting, regardless of the system, has a number of advantages. It never goes out of true, it shifts perfectly every time and faster than mechanical equivalents, and it is better at shifting under load.

It is however expensive, and reliant on batteries, so if you're on a budget or extremely forgetful then you might be better of with old fashioned cables.

Cable actuated shifting has worked since time immemorial, and is as good now as it has ever been. While electronic shifting dominates the upper tiers, if you choose Campagnolo you can still get the very highest level with cables. What's more, the tech from the very best cabled groupsets of a few years ago has already been amalgamated into the mid range and budget groupsets of today, meaning you don't have to spend an absolute fortune to get decent shifting.

Are disc brakes worth it?

As with electronic shifting, the upper tiers of componentry are increasingly disc-dominant. While none have totally eschewed the rim brake entirely, very little if any R&D is going into improving rim braking for top level groupsets.

At the mid range this trend is becoming more evident too, and so to futureproof your choices we'd recommend going disc. However, rim brakes haven't stopped working just because discs are on the scene, so for those with smaller budgets, retro tendencies, or for weight weenie lunacy, rim brakes still have something to offer. Just don't expect the same level of performance, especially in the wet.

Can I put any groupset on my bike?

Alas, no.

Not everything is compatible, and older frames might struggle to take new bits. Likewise to run discs you need a disc compatible frame, and it needs to be the right kind of disc mount too (post or flat, though converters exist).

Your bottom bracket will also impact which cranksets you can run. However, a lot of issues have a workaround, so if you're wedded to the idea of running modern Super Record on a vintage Colnago there's probably a way of doing it.

Don't be fooled into thinking you can mix between manufacturers though. Some limited combinations are possible, but for ease it's best to stick to a single system, especially once electronics enter the game.


How do I choose the right gear?

Unless you're Filipe Ganna you probably won't be needing a 60t front chainring. For the majority of us a compact (50/34) or a semi-compact (52-36) crankset is probably the best place to start, depending on the terrain you ride and your fitness levels. 

If you're racing then maybe a 52/39 might be more your thing, but you're only really likely to find this at the upper end of the scale as an option.

As derailleurs get more capable and gear ranges get larger the front chainset becomes less of a concern too, which helps. A 10-34t cassette certainly opens up more terrain than an 11-25 ever did.