Shimano is one of the biggest names in the business for producing high-quality groupsets across all cycling disciplines. In this guide, we'll outline all the road bike groupsets that Shimano produces, so you can make informed decisions when choosing how to set up your bikes in future.
Shimano's range-topping Dura-Ace series provides the ultimate in road bike performance, fit for the biggest races in the world, while its Ultegra and 105 groupsets cater for more budget-conscious racers and endurance riders.
Closer to the entry-level end of the road bike market, Shimano's Tiagra groupset provides reliable performance and durability at an even lower cost, benefiting from technology and performance that trickles down from Dura-Ace.
Continue reading for Cyclingnews' roundup on all of Shimano's currently available road groupsets. If you're interested to know more about the company, jump ahead to Who is Shimano?
Shimano Road Groupsets
Shimano's top of the range, Tour de France-winning groupset, priced accordingly
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Dura-Ace Di2 R9150/R9170 represents the pinnacle of Shimano's road groupset range, delivering Tour de France-winning performance. Both the rim brake and hydraulic disc brake groupsets are priced to match its top of the range status.
The RD-R9150 rear derailleur takes cues from Shimano's mountain bike technologies, with a low profile and more aerodynamic Shadow design. A longer standard cage gives it the ability to use an 11-30T cassette as stock, while it is also compatible with a direct mount derailleur hanger, improving wheel clearance and allowing for easier wheel changes.
The front derailleur sees mainly cosmetic updates from the Dura-Ace R9070 series, but maintains the best-in-class front shifting performance that we've come to expect from Shimano Di2.
The ST-R9150 Dual Control lever (what Shimano calls its integrated shifter and brake levers) ergonomics have also been refined, with a subtly improved hood shape and texture, increased lever reach adjustability and greater tactile feedback from the shifter buttons.
Dura-Ace R9150/R9170 also gains a number of Synchro Shift options. This feature enables the system to automatically choose the optimal front and rear gearing combination, based on the riders selection of either an easier or harder gear (programmable to any combination of shift buttons the user wishes to choose). For those wishing to retain more control, there is also a Semi-Synchro Shift mode, that will simultaneously shift the rear derailleur whenever the rider shifts the front derailleur, in order to help the rider maintain a similar gear ratio and cadence after shifting. Alternatively, the system can still be used in the standard manual mode, where the rider retains complete control over gearing selection.
Though seldom seen on pro bikes, wireless functionality has been added to the groupset, via the EW-WU111 E-TUBE wireless unit, which enables wireless communication between the system and ANT+/Bluetooth LE compatible accessories, such as cycle computers and smartphones/tablets. Shimano's E-TUBE PROJECT app can then be used to easily customise the system or update its firmware.
Continuing the theme of increased options for customisation and connectivity, Dura-Ace R9150/R9170 now has a total of three different types of its Di2 Junction A box; one traditional option that sits under the stem, another that resembles a bar end plug, that can be used with compatible handlebars, and a final option that can be placed inside compatible frames, such as the Cannondale Supersix Evo.
A redesigned crankset features an asymmetric crank arm design that Shimano says offers increased power transfer along with a slight decrease in weight (a reduction of 7g, versus the Dura-Ace R9000 crankset). It also features an updated chainline and teeth profiles that have been optimised for use on bikes with disc-brake systems.
For the first time, a version of the crankset with an integrated, dual-sided power meter is also available directly from Shimano. The ANT+ and Bluetooth LE compatible FC-R9100-P claims over 300 hours of ride time from its internal rechargeable battery, +-2 per cent accuracy (with active temperature compensation), and to be waterproof in all conditions.
The Dura-Ace R9100 rim brakes see a 43 per cent increase in stiffness (compared to Dura-Ace R9000 series rim brakes), improved feel and stopping power, clearance for up to 28c tyres and a quick release lever that tucks into the main body of the brake for improved aerodynamics. The R9100 brakes are available in centre mount or direct mount, with an additional option for direct mount under bottom brackets.
Dura-Ace R9170 represents a big leap forward for Shimano, with the official introduction of hydraulic-disc brakes at the Dura-Ace level (until now, hydraulic disc brakes were considered non-series by Shimano).
This brings a much more refined Dual Control lever, with a vastly improved size and shape compared to previous offerings from Shimano. The new Dura-Ace flat mount brake calipers and centre lock Freeza disc brake rotors are available in either 140mm or 160mm sizes and promise improved braking consistency, modulation and power in all weathers.
If you want the same groupset as the winners of every jersey competition at the 2019 Tour de France, Dura-Ace R9150/9170 is the one for you.
The pinnacle of mechanical bicycle gearing and cheaper than Di2
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Despite its focus on Di2, Shimano didn't rest on its laurels with the new generation of mechanical Dura-Ace, with similar improvements across the board.
The Dual Control lever ergonomics have been refined in line with their Di2 counterparts, across both the rim and hydraulic disc brake models. Both gain a shorter lever stroke (meaning quicker shifts than before), a lighter front shifting action, improved hood shape and texture, and a larger range of reach adjustment for a more customisable fit.
As with Di2, it's the levers for hydraulic disc brakes that benefit the most from the updated and refined hood shape - though they gain about 170g in weight compared to the rim-brake versions, they are only slightly larger in profile and share a similar reach and grip diameter.
The updated rear derailleur shares the Shadow design of the R9150 Di2 version, and the ability to mount via direct-mount hangers, to offer increased wheel clearance and easier wheel changes, compared to a standard hanger.
In contrast to the Di2 version, the mechanical front derailleur design sees a complete overhaul. The FD-R9100 is much smaller in profile than the previous generation (increasing tyre clearance and improving aerodynamics), offers more cable routing options and, notably, it also comes with an integrated cable tensioner that removes the requirement for an inline cable tension adjuster.
Though perhaps not quite as technically advanced as Dura-Ace R9150/R9170 Di2, the mechanical Dura-Ace groupsets, R9100/R9120, nevertheless share many of the same components (such as rim brakes, disc brake callipers and rotors, cranksets, cassettes and chain) and therefore very similar performance characteristics. It's also a little cheaper, so if you want Dura-Ace but can't stretch to Di2, this is the groupset for you.
Professional level performance at a substantially lower price point, while only adding a few grams of weight
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Ultegra R8050/R8070 is Shimano's second tier Di2 groupset, offering almost identical performance to the Tour de France-winning Dura-Ace Di2, but at a much reduced price (though it could still be difficult to argue that it's 'affordable').
Throughout the groupset, Ultegra components use cheaper and slightly heavier materials and manufacturing methods than Dura-Ace, which account for the drop in price. The Ultegra front derailleur uses a heavier steel outer cage, for example, rather than the aluminium one found on Dura-Ace. Furthermore, the rear derailleur cage uses aluminium rather than carbon fibre, and the cassettes lose the titanium sprockets in favour of heavier, all-steel sprockets.
All of these minor changes add up to the headline difference between Ultegra and Dura-Ace, which is the slightly increased system weight. Ultegra gains about 200-300g over the Dura-Ace groupset. How important that is, is really up to you, but bearing in mind that a filled bidon weighs somewhere in the region of 500g, it's unlikely to hinder anyone's performance too much.
Ultegra R8050/R8070 brings compatibility with the new integrated Junction A boxes, and the EW-WU111 E-TUBE wireless unit, that enables ANT+ and Bluetooth LE connectivity, and the ability to customise the groupset via the E-TUBE PROJECT app on smartphones and tablets.
It also benefits greatly from Shimano's redesigned Dual Control levers, across both rim and hydraulic disc brake models. They are almost identical to the Dura-Ace versions, but gain a few grams from their use of slightly heavier internal materials. The disc-brake rotors also lose the special heat dissipating coating from the fins.
Rim brakes have been redesigned inline with the Dura-Ace R9100 series, with increased clearance for up to 28C tyres, and a quick-release lever that integrates more cleanly in to the brake arm.
Considered by Shimano to be a more versatile groupset than the purely race-focussed Dura-Ace series, Ultegra gains the ability to utilise wider ranges of gears, through the choice of either a short cage (SS) or medium cage (GS) rear derailleurs. The SS version can handle up to an 11-30 cassette as stock, but the GS version can accommodate an 11-34T cassette, giving a huge range of gears that should enable riders to climb even the steepest hills.
Throughout the rest of the groupset, Ultegra R8050/8070 maintains a remarkably similar aesthetic and performance to Dura-Ace R9150/R9170, but its general appearance is admittedly less polished.
Again, this is unlikely to hinder performance on the bike, and the question of whether it's worth the extra expense to make the step up to Dura-Ace comes down to personal preference.
Ultegra comes so close to Dura-Ace that even some WorldTour teams have been known to use Ultegra components on to their bikes at times. If it's good enough for the WorldTour, it's probably good enough for most other racers too.
Professional-level mechanical performance and significantly cheaper than Di2, while only a few grams heavier
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Like Dura-Ace R9100/9120, the mechanical Ultegra R8000/R8020 groupset sees improvements and refinements across the board, relative to the previous generation.
The shift and brake levers have the same redesigned hood shapes and textures, and the same smaller profile for the disc-brake-compatible models.
Furthermore, the rear derailleur gains the same Shadow design and is available with either a short cage (SS) or medium cage (GS), increasing the gearing range above and beyond that of Dura-Ace.
The overhauled front derailleur design also trickles down from Dura-Ace R9100, with a smaller profile, and the addition of a cable tensioning screw that eliminates the need for an inline cable adjuster.
Again, mechanical Ultegra shares many of the same components as Ultegra Di2 (such as the crankset, cassettes, chain, rim brakes, disc-brake calipers and rotors), so if you can live without electronic shifting, you can save a significant amount of money and still get the majority of the same performance.
Trickle-down technology from Dura-Ace at a fraction of the price, but gains a few more grams over Ultegra or Dura-Ace
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Released around a year after the Ultegra R8000 series, Shimano's 105 R7000/R7020 groupsets offer almost identical day-to-day performance as its more expensive stablemates, but at a fraction of the price.
Thankfully, the non-series RS505 Dual Control levers, that previously brought hydraulic disc brakes to 105 level groupsets, have been consigned to history. The Dual Control levers for both rim and hydraulic disc brakes, receive an aesthetic and ergonomic update in line with Ultegra and Dura-Ace. There is also a new 'small hands' option, for the hydraulic disc brake Dual Control levers, which have smaller levers and ergonomics specifically tuned for riders with, as you may have guessed, smaller hands.
One minor compromise is that 105 R7000/R7020 have painted aluminium brake levers (as opposed to the marginally lighter composite levers found on Ultegra and Dura-Ace), and across the rest of the groupset, the story is similar - aesthetically and functionally, every part of 105 R7000/R7020 is incredibly close to Ultegra and Dura-Ace. The only downside is it gains a few extra grams here and there, due to the use of cheaper, heavier materials and manufacturing processes.
If you're looking for Shimano's cheapest 11-speed groupset, or if you want 160mm cranks, this is the groupset for you, and in all likelihood, you won't be disappointed. 105 may not have the same prestige or cool factor as Ultegra or Dura-Ace, but it's hard to argue with the incredible value it offers.
Functional groupset offering a budget friendly entry point to Shimano's performance road groupset range
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Tiagra 4700 Dual Control levers have been redesigned in line with Dura-Ace R9000, bringing improved ergonomics and, finally, internal-cable routing - which also massively improves its appearance. Interestingly, Shimano has recently released improved hydraulic disc brake dual control levers (and Tiagra level disc brake calipers) that offer the improved ergonomics and design of Dura-Ace R9120, and like the 105 R7000, there is also a 'small hands' option.
Rim braking performance has also been improved by 30 per cent over the previous generation of Tiagra, offering similar performance to 105 R5700.
The crankset gains the four-arm design of higher end Shimano groupsets that aims to balance weight without compromising on stiffness, and unlike Shimano's higher end groupsets, Tiagra 4700/4720 has the option of a triple crankset, for those who need even more gearing range than a standard compact crankset can offer.
The front derailleur design inherits the extended lever arm design, first seen on Dura-Ace R9000, which delivers a lighter shifting action, and the rear derailleur is available in either short cage (SS) or medium cage (GS). The SS version can accommodate up to an 11-28T cassette, and GS versions rated for up to an 11-34T cassette (when paired with a double crankset).
The only major drawback is the 10-speed groupset configuration, Tiagra 4700/4720 components are not compatible with those from Shimano's 11-speed groupsets, so the upgrade path isn't as easy - if you wanted to upgrade to 11-speed, you would need to replace the whole groupset in one go.
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to 105 R7000 though, or you simply want a good value 10-speed groupset, Tiagra 4700/4720 series provides performance and looks similar to what was previously top of the range for Shimano, at an entry level price.
Who is Shimano?
Established in Sakai, Japan, by Shozaburo Shimano in 1921, Shimano has made bicycle components since its inception and released its first full groupset, Dura Ace 7100, in 1973.
In 1984, Shimano revolutionised bicycle gearing by introducing the Shimano Index System - the world's first indexed gearing system - and in 1988 Andy Hampsten (riding for the 7-Eleven team) took Shimano's first Grand Tour victory at the Giro d'Italia (having taken the race lead with his famous attack in the snow over the Gavia Pass).
Since then, Shimano has gone on to become the world's largest manufacturer of cycling components, with an estimated global market share of 70-80 per cent, and a market leader in performance cycling components.
Aside from dedicated groupsets for road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, e-bikes, urban bikes and BMX bikes, Shimano also manufactures performance wheels, components (such as handlebars, stems, seat posts and saddles, under its PRO brand), cycling clothing, eyewear, footwear, accessories and even a sport camera.
Though not the first company to bring an electronic groupset to the market, Shimano has arguably perfected its implementation, with the release of its first Di2 groupset in 2009. Electronic gearing quickly became a new standard in the professional peloton, and competitors soon followed suit.
In 2021, 13 out of 19 WorldTour teams are running the Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, including Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep, to name but a few.
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