Road bike groupsets: Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo hierarchies explained

What exactly is a road bike groupset? Should you pick Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo or other? Here's your complete guide to this essential piece of kit for your bike

Road bike groupsets

What is a road bike groupset?

A road bike groupset includes any parts involved in braking, changing gear or running the drivetrain. This includes the shifters, brake levers, front and rear brake calipers, front and rear derailleurs (sometimes called mechs), crankset, bottom bracket, chain and cassette. 

Other components like pedals may also share the groupset's name although they're not considered part of the core groupset.

When you're buying a new bike, after the frame, the groupset is the second determining factor in value for money. Groupsets higher up the hierarchy will be lighter,  may last longer, and in some cases may have improved functionality such as more immediate responses to shifting and braking.

Increasingly, the highest spec groupsets are electronic, where a battery and motors shift gears for you in response to electronic commands sent either via wires or wirelessly to the derailleurs.

There are three main manufacturers of groupsets and bike components. Shimano is the largest and best known, while the other two of the "big three" are Campagnolo and SRAM. All three manufacturers offer a range of groupsets at competing price points.

Read further down the page for information on individual components - whilst you'll find information about the 'big three' providers below...

Shimano groupset hierarchy

The large majority of built road bikes come with a primarily Shimano groupset, though you'll sometimes find they include some components from other brands to keep costs down - such as TRP brakes or FSA chainsets.

The Japanese brand offers a wide range of groupsets - starting with Claris and Sora, which you'll find on entry level road bikes. Tiagra is the next step up, followed by Shimano 105 which is typically specced on bikes costing upwards of £1000.

Shimano 105 is considered Shimano's first performance groupset, and for many people it is the best option in combining performance, value and longevity. Ultegra is next and is very similar to Dura-Ace in terms of performance, though Dura-Ace is lighter. You'll find Ultegra on bikes from around £2500.

The latest versions of Ultegra and Dura-Ace are electronic only, with Shimano's electronic shifting system called Di2. Dura-Ace, Ultegra, 105 and Tiagra models offer the option of hydraulic disc brakes as well as rim brakes.

Shimano also produces GRX, its first dedicated gravel bike groupset, offering it in both mechanical and electronic 11 speed, as well as mechanical 10 speed, and all with hydraulic disc brakes.

Within each groupset there's a series number, so the latest Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 supersedes the older Dura-Ace R9100, which itself was a successor to Dura-Ace R9000, etc. If you're looking to replace parts of a groupset make sure that you've got the right series number; many parts are cross-compatible between series but some aren't.

shimano dura ace chianset

(Image credit: Future)

Shimano Dura Ace - R9200 series

Best groupset for racing

Specifications
Cassette: 12-speed
Shifting: Electronic only
Braking: Rim and disc

Shimano Dura-AceR9100 was superseded by Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 on August, 31 2021. This new 12-speed groupset is semi-wired, with the option of wireless communication from the levers to the derailleurs, which are powered via wires to a central battery mounted within the bike's frame. It also features improved disc braking technology.

Whilst Shimano will continue to manufacture parts to serve existing set-ups, new Dura-Ace is now Di2 only. There is still a rim brake option if you prefer rim brakes.

According to Shimano, Dura-Ace 9200 offers an increase in shifting speed, with a claimed 58 percent decrease in rear derailleur operating time and a 45 percent decrease in front derailleur operating time. 

The shifters have grown in size, Shimano said this was because they'd become too small, and pros complained they felt unstable on uneven ground, but the argument could be made that tech changes made a hood size increase necessary. Electronic shifting systems can be set up with satellite shifter buttons that are wired into the main levers, allowing you to shift from the bar tops or the drops in addition to the main levers.

The groupset is now 12-speed and uses a Hyperglide+ cassette - similar to the brand's mountain bike options. The cassette still starts with an 11t sprocket, the gaps are just now smaller between the 6th, 7th and 8th sprockets. 

Interestingly, Shimano has released a new 54/40 chainset, replacing the 53/39 - the 50/34 and 52/36 still exist. You can buy a dual-sided Dura-Ace power meter as well as a powerless chainset. 

At the back, options range from 11-28 all the way to 11-34, there is no longer an 11-25 as Shimano said few riders opted for this narrow range.

Shimano made a lot of changes to the braking tech within this launch. Firstly, it swapped the rotors for the XTR option featured in its mountain bike line ups, stating that these offer improved heat dissipation and are lighter than the old Dura-Ace rotors. 

The gap between the pad and rotor was also increased, and 'Servo Wave' tech was incorporated - again, this comes from the mountain bike family and is aimed at reducing the free stroke and creating a more immediate connection between the pads and rotors. 

You can read our full launch assessment of Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 here.

Shimano Ultegra R8100

(Image credit: Shimano)

Shimano Ultegra - R8100 series

Specifications
Cassette: 12-speed
Shifting: Electronic only
Braking: Rim and disc

Shimano Ultegra is consistently considered to be the thrifty racer's choice, carrying much of the performance of Dura-Ace, with a reduced price tag. This applies even more so with the launch of Shimano Ultegra R8100, which coincided with that of Dura-Ace R9200 - meaning the groupsets share a lot of identical tech.

The newest 12-speed Shimano Ultegra family - R8100 supersedes 11-speed Ultegra R8000 and the two are not compatible.

The new groupset uses the same semi-wired platform as Dura-Ace R9200 and enjoys Servo Wave tech at the brakes whilst also featuring the same increase in the size of shifter hood.

For the first time ever, Shimano also offers a range of all-carbon Ultegra wheels, and as per Dura-Ace, there is the option to spec the groupset with a power meter as standard. 

It's rare for Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra to be launched simultaneously, and this pattern allows consumers to enjoy many of the technologies that would usually take a year to trickle down - immediately. 

Whilst both rim and disc brakes are supported, new Ultegra is Di2 only; Shimano is aware that there are many users still enjoying existing mechanical Ultegra, and it will continue to make these components available.

You can read our assessment of the key differences between Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 here. 

Shimano groupset 105 - R7000 series road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

Reasons to buy
+Competitively priced+Quality shifting and braking+Looks like the higher priced groupsets
Reasons to avoid
-105 name doesn't carry same gravitas as Ultegra and Dura-Ace

Shimano 105 R7000 is now the only 11-speed Shimano groupset and inherits much of the tech used in the older 11-speed mechanical Ultegra. 

You get the thickset crank arms seen in Dura-Ace and Ultegra, and there are three different crankset options (53-39, 52-36 and 50-34) to be paired with 11-25, 11-28, 11-30, 11-32 or 11-34 cassettes.

There are dedicated 105 R7000 hydraulic disc brakes, as well as a rim brake option.

Shimano groupset Tiagra 4700 road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

(Image credit: Picasa)

Reasons to buy
+High end look+Excellent front and rear shifting+Good brakes+Wider shifting range
Reasons to avoid
-Still only 10-speed

Shimano Tiagra groupsets and below have yet to receive the more recent updates, retaining the older rear derailleur shape instead of Shimano's more wrap-around Shadow rear mech profile.

The 2016 update - Shimano Tiagra 4700 - however, did incorporate gear and brake cables that could be fed beneath bar tape, reducing the "anti aero loop" on previous editions. It's compatible with flat bar bikes, too.

Tiagra is also still 10-speed, and the chainsets available are 52/36t, 50/34t, 48/34t and 50/39/30t - the larger, more race focused 53/39t option available higher up the foodchain won't be found here. There is the option for hydraulic disc brakes though.

Shimano Sora - R3000

(Image credit: Shimano)

Reasons to buy
+Super-reliable shifting+11-32t cassette compatible means wide range of gear options+Compact or triple chainsets+Excellent value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Only nine-speed-Poor stock brake blocks-Black finish is a bit low-rent

Shimano showed its Sora groupset (R3000) a bit of love in 2017, with new shifters, brakes and rear derailleurs which carry a more sophisticated aesthetic.

The chainset, like Tiagra, is now four arm which allows it to be lighter - and it comes as a 50-34 compact or 50-39-30 triple and the whole setup can be introduced to flat bar bikes (on a five arm crankset with chainguards). Cassettes can be as large as 11-30, which allows plenty of gear options.

The groupset continues to be 9-speed, but it does have new shifters which allow for neater internal cable routing. The rim brakes are said to be improved with 20 per cent greater stopping performance on the outgoing version thanks to the addition of dual pivot calipers. There's no in-series disc brake option.

Shimano groupset Claris - R2000 road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

(Image credit: Picasa)

Reasons to buy
+Long cage rear derailleur+Reliable rear shifting+Intuitive dual control shifting+Good range of gear options
Reasons to avoid
-Front shifting takes a bit of effort-8-speed means big jumps between sprockets-Spongy brake pads

Shimano's entry level Claris R2000 groupset is 8-speed, provides excellent value and has the clean looks of the brand's higher spec options.

There is a cheaper option - Shimano Tourney - but you won't find it on many built bikes and Claris has one up on it because it uses the same Dual Control shifting action and hidden cabling as the other key groupsets for its drop bar levers. Tourney, on the other hand, still features a thumb lever on the inside of the hood to shift up. Claris also has its own matching brake system and there are flat bar shifters available, as well as double and triple chainsets.

Though Claris is perfectly effective, the letdown is its 8-speed shifting. You can get six different cassettes with ranges from 12-25 up to 11-34, so there are plenty of gearing options. But with only eight gears, the larger range cassettes have large jumps between ratios, which can lead to clunky shifting.

Shimano GRX

(Image credit: Shimano)

Reasons to buy
+Clutch rear derailleur+Great hood feel and braking+Wide gear range
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly heavier than a road groupset-You might need to buy XTR pedals if you have fussy knees

Shimano GRX was launched in 2019, with the goal of offering a groupset tailored to the growing trend towards bikes designed to traverse mixed terrain.

There are three key levels of spec: 11-speed RX810 and RX600 or 10-speed RX400. To make things even more confusing, RX815 is an electronic Di2 system, whereas RX810 has mechanical shifting. There are single chainring and double chainring versions at RX810 and RX600 spec level too.

Gravel ready features include grippy levers, and front derailleurs which are built with 2.5mm more outbound clearance for wider tires. The rear mech comes with Shimano's chain stabilizing clutch system known as SHADOW RD+ to manage ‘chain chatter', and there's integration for dropper seat posts.

11-speed rear mechs come in two flavours: the short cage version for two chainrings will handle cassettes up to 34 teeth, whereas the long cage version works with a single chainring and cassettes with up to 42 teeth. Chainrings are smaller to give lower ratios than those found on Shimano's road groupsets.

Unlike the rest of the Shimano groupsets, where to ensure smoothest operation it’s best to keep the whole groupset within the same range, GRX is more of a pick and mix system, which enables you to match your shifting to your specific gravel/ adventure needs.

This means that there are countless operating systems to choose from, and although we’ve included the most likely options in the table above, we haven’t added in the additional dropper seat post option, with corresponding lever, or the Hydraulic Disc Sub Brake Lever – which can be added to all the options.

Shimano groupset weights and RRPs

Weights and RRPs vary slightly depending upon your component choices - so are approximations
NameWhat is it?Weight*RRP**
Shimano Dura-Ace R9200Di2, disc, 12 speed2438.5g£3700.99
Shimano Dura Ace R9170Di2, disc, 11 speed2389g£3214.82
Shimano Dura Ace R9150Di2, rim, 11 speed2051g£2944.84
Shimano Dura Ace R9120Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2355g (/2445g w cables)£2104.91
Shimano Dura Ace R9100Mechanical, rim, 11 speed2007g (/2097g w cables)£1834.92
Shimano Ultegra R8100Di2, disc, 12 speed2616.5g£2399
Shimamo Ultegra R8070Di2, disc, 11 speed2627g£1979.83
Shimano Ultegra R8050Di2, rim, 11 speed2353g£1669.83
Shimano Ultegra R8020Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2512g£1244.92
Shimano Ultegra R8000Mechanical, rim, 11 speed2266g£954.92
Shimano 105 R7020Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2,478g £816.91
Shimano 105 R7000Mechanical, rim, 11 speed2,467g£595.99
Shimano Tiagra 4700Mechanical, Disc, 10 speed2,585g£749.99
Shimano Sora R3000Mechanical, rim, 9 speed2,660g£456.92
Shimano Claris R2000Mechanical, rim, 8 speedUnconfirmed£396.92
Shimano GRX RX810 – 1 + RX815 (short)Di2, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T or 42T )2334g£1289.92
Shimano GRX RX810 – 1 + RX817 (Long)Di2, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T or 42T)2464g£1254.92
Shimano GRX
RX810 - 2 + RX815 (short)
Di2, Disc, 11 speed 2x
(48-31T)
2762g£1529.91
Shimano GRX RX810 - 2 + RX817 (long)Di2, Disc, 11 speed, 2 x (48-31T)2686g£1494.91
Shimano GRX RX810 – 1 + RX810 (short)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T or 42T )2195g£1099.92
Shimano GRX RX810 – 1 + RX812 (long)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T or 42T )2306g£1084.92
Shimano GRX RX810 – 2 + RX810 (short)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 2 x (48-31T)2401g£1189.91
Shimano GRX RX810 – 1 + RX812 (long)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 2 x (48-31T)2512g£1174.91
Shimano GRX RX600 -1 + RX810 (short)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T)2368g£835.92
Shimano GRX RX600 -1 + RX812 (long)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 1x (40T)2556g£870.92
Shimano GRX RX600 -11 + RX810 (short)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 2x (46-30T)2554g£905.91
Shimano GRX RX600 -11 + RX812 (long)Mechanical, Disc, 11speed, 2x (46-30T)2693g£940.91
Shimano GRX RX600 -10 + RX400(mid)Mechanical, Disc, 10speed, 2x (46-30T)unconfirmed£728.91

* Weights will always be estimates, as they'll vary depending upon chainring size, crank length, cassettes used and some official weights do not include components such as cables and mineral oil/hoses for disc brakes.

** RRPs are based upon Shimano's official retail price of components added together. Retailers create their own RRPs, based upon the cost of individual components, so listed prices will vary.

SRAM groupset hierarchy

Illinois-based SRAM is the newest of the three main brands and in 2015 launched the first wireless groupset, 11-speed SRAM Red eTap. In 2019, SRAM launched two further wireless group sets SRAM Red eTAP AXS and SRAM Force eTap AXS, which also gained an extra sprocket to become 12-speed at the same time. Then, in 2021, it brought eTap AXS to Rival level, cutting the cost of entry into electronic shifting significantly.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS

(Image credit: Future)

All SRAM's electronic groupsets use the same battery, which plugs into the back of the front and rear derailleurs and is recharged by a USB cradle. There's the option to add satellite shifters (which SRAM calls Blips) to Red and Force eTap AXS. 

Turning to its mechanical groupsets, Apex is SRAM's entry level and roughly comparable to Tiagra; like Tiagra it's 10-speed. Next up the ladder is the 11-speed Rival, which was named to rival Shimano 105. SRAM Force is top of the mechanical groupset hierarchy and roughly comparable to the old 11-speed Shimano Ultegra.

All SRAM's groupsets are available with a single ring 1x option at the front and every model in the range is also available with disc brakes. There are rim brake options for some groupsets as well.

Across the mechanical range, SRAM uses 'DoubleTap' - which means that the single gear lever on each side does both the up and down shift. On the right, a short push takes you into a smaller cog (more resistance) on the cassette, and a long swipe takes you into a bigger cog (less resistance).

On the left, a quick click of the lever takes you into a smaller chainring, and a longer push moves you into a bigger ring - though obviously this doesn't apply on the 1x ranges where you get a brake-only left lever or can fit a dropper post control lever.

In 2019, SRAM introduced its AXS groupsets - initially only available in SRAM Red eTap AXS spec, this quickly trickled down to SRAM Force eTap AXS. Then, in 2021, it added SRAM Rival eTap AXS.

The overhaul is about more than just the extra sprocket offered by the 12-speed cassette. SRAM has downsized the chainrings - a 50/37 being the largest double ring option initially available, although SRAM has subsequently introduced chainrings up to 56 teeth

In compensation its cassettes start with a 10-tooth smallest sprocket and offer options up to 36 teeth. This gives riders greater range via the cassette, with smaller incremental jumps, means you need to shift less between the chainrings and gives a lower lowest gear. You're losing nothing in terms of top end ratios - a 50x10 is bigger than a 53x11. 

The AXS app is used to configure the system, but you don't have to use it - though without doing so you'll miss out on some gearing customisation. It's also used for firmware updates and to check battery status.

Since launch, SRAM has added two other options to eTap AXS. First is the Wide chainset (not available at Red level), designed to offer better clearance for wider tyres, particularly on gravel bikes, and which also offers lower gearing with smaller chainrings. 

SRAM XPLR

(Image credit: SRAM)

Second is XPLR, which gives a single chainring set-up with a 10-44 cassette, designed to provide gear ratios tailored for gravel riding. This is available at Red, Force and Rival levels.

For even more versatility, AXS systems are compatible with SRAM Eagle AXS mountain bike groupsets. That gives the option of a "mullet build" where road bike shifters and chainset are paired with an MTB cassette and derailleur for a massive single chainring gear range of 10-52 teeth.

SRAM Red eTap AXS

(Image credit: SRAM)

Reasons to buy
+Smart gear ratios+Easy installation+Compatibility between all AXS components+Removable batteries are easy to charge
Reasons to avoid
-Integrated power meter makes it expensive to own multiple chainrings

SRAM Red eTap AXS, being wireless, is impressively light; it uses SRAM's own communication protocol 'AIREA' instead of ANT+ or Bluetooth. We've a long-term review of the groupset you can read.

To shift using eTap, you move into a smaller cog at the rear by pressing the paddle behind the right brake lever. You move into a larger cog by pressing the paddle behind the left lever. The front mech is operated by pressing both levers together, although the system is fully programmable and you can alter paddle function or set it up with sequential shifting when it sorts out the front changes for you.

There's a power meter option, although the meter is integrated with the chainset, so you can't easily swap chainring sizes and need to replace the whole thing once your chainrings become worn. This isn't a problem with the next level down Force eTap AXS, which uses chainrings separate from the power meter spider.

SRAM also offers XPLR gearing with Red eTap AXS.

road bike groupsets

Reasons to buy
+Slick, sophisticated wireless shifting+AXS functionality and tunability for £1000 less than Red eTap AXS+Wide gear range means less front shifting
Reasons to avoid
-Needs a wheelset with an XD-R cassette body

Like Red eTap AXS, SRAM Force eTap AXS is a 12-speed electronic groupset available with single or double chainrings and rim or hydraulic disc brakes.

Force eTap AXS shares many features with SRAM Red eTap AXS, just in a slightly more affordable package with a couple of minor shortcuts. That includes the use of less carbon fibre and separate chainrings rather than the one-piece inner and outer chainrings of Red eTap AXS. As with Red, there are options for a power meter and XPLR gearing, as well as the Wide chainset option.

SRAM Rival eTap AXS

(Image credit: Dan Gould/Future)

Reasons to buy
+Wireless, electronic shifting+Good value vs Force/Red and Shimano Ultegra+Inexpensive power meter upgrade
Reasons to avoid
-More weighty than mechanical, wired groupsets-You'll need an XDR-ready wheelset

 

As with the higher spec eTap AXS groupsets, SRAM Rival eTap AXS is 12-speed and you have the choice of hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes, EPLR and Wide. There's also a single sided power meter for a relatively small outlay, currently £230.

The major difference between Rival and SRAM's more expensive groupsets is that the cranks, levers and rear mechs move from being constructed from carbon fibre to aluminium, with a steel front derailleur cage. 

The groupset comes with a rear derailleur which includes a clutch mechanism to reduce chainslap, although the clutch uses a spring rather than the fluid-based Orbit version used by Red and Force.

You can read our full review of SRAM Rival eTap AXS here.

SRAM Force CX1

(Image credit: SRAM)

Reasons to buy
+SRAM's highest spec mechanical groupset+1:1 cable pull ratio for precise shifting+Single ring option for wide gear range

SRAM Force is a mechanical groupset available in either double chainring 22-speed guise or as a single ring 11-speed option. There's a choice of rim or hydraulic disc brakes. It's targeted to be on par with Shimano Ultegra.

The 22-speed version has never achieved much traction in a space dominated by Shimano Ultegra and 105. It's nicely built though with quality features like carbon crank arms to save weight. It also uses SRAM's Direct Actuation system in which, unlike Shimano mechanical systems, there's no gearing up between the cable pull at the lever and the derailleur, which SRAM says leads to more precise shifting.

But the single ring Force 1 groupset is a popular choice for gravel and cyclocross bikes. It can accommodate cassettes up to 10-42, and comes with chainrings from 38 to 54 tooth. A Roller Bearing Clutch derailleur helps guard against chain slap and ensure smooth shifting.

sram groupset sram rival

(Image credit: SRAM)

Reasons to buy
+Affordable 11-speed groupset+Single ring option

 

Like SRAM Force, you can get SRAM Rival in 2x11-speed configuration, 1x (as pictured above), and with hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes. The 1x groupset comes with a rear derailleur which includes a clutch mechanism to reduce chainslap, the major difference from Force being an aluminium rather than carbon chainset.

Rival 1 often appears on mid-priced gravel bikes. You can read our full review of 11-speed SRAM Rival mechanical 1x here.

sram groupsets sram apex road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

Reasons to buy
+Very assured operation+Decent mechanical rim brakes +Suitable for a wide variety of drop-bar cycling disciplines
Reasons to avoid
-DoubleTap has its drawbacks, especially when you’re in the lowest gear-‘Only’ 10-speed-Other ranges have stolen its thunder 

The most notable difference between SRAM Apex and the rest of the line up is that it's a 10-speed groupset, which means jumps between gears become a bit more noticeable.

Available chainsets are 50/34 and 48/34. You can still accommodate an 11-32 cassette thanks to the availability of the wider range rear derailleur and there is a 1x option and flat bar shifters in the line up, too.

SRAM groupset weights and RRPs

What is it?Weight*RRP**
SRAM RED eTap HRD AXS, 2xElectronic, disc, 12 speed2518g£3349.00
SRAM RED eTap HRD AXS, 1xAs above, single chainring2103g£2849
SRAM RED eTAP AXS, 2xElectronic, rim, 12 speed2254g£3159
SRAM RED eTAP AXS, 1xAs above, single chainring2070g£2559
SRAM RED eTap HRDElectronic, disc, 12 speedTBC£2658
SRAM RED eTapElectronic, rim, 12 speedTBC£2472
SRAM RED 22 HRDMechanical, disc, 11 speed2119g£2044
SRAM RED 22Mechanical, rim, 11 speed1741g£1890
SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD 2xElectronic, disc, 12 speed2812g£2274
SRAM Force eTap AXS 2xElectronic, disc, 12 speed2453g£2164
SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD 1xElectronic, disc, 12 speed, single chainring2572g£1924
SRAM Force eTap AXS 1xElectronic, disc, 12 speed, single chainring2213g£1814
SRAM Rival eTap AXS HRD 2xElectronic, disc, 12 speed3205g£1314
SRAM Rival eTap AXS 1xElectronic, disc, 12 speed, 1x2,776g£1102
SRAM Force 1Mechanical, disc, single chainring2466g£1234
SRAM Force 22 HRDMechanical, disc, 11 speedUnconfirmed£1127
 
SRAM Force 22Mechanical, rim, 11 speed2097g£975
SRAM Rival 1Mechanical, disc, single chainring2690g£979
SRAM Rival 22 HRDMechanical, disc, 11 speedUnconfirmed£1025
SRAM Rival 22Mechanical, rim, 11 speed2348g£691
SRAM Apex 1Mechanial, disc, single chainring2719g£828
SRAM ApexMechanical, rim, 10 speed2419g£576

* Weights will always be estimates, as they'll vary depending upon chainring size, crank length, cassettes used and some official weights do not include components such as cables and DOT fluid /hoses for disc brakes.

** RRPs are based upon SRAM's official retail price of components added together, Retailers create their own RRPs, based upon the cost of individual components, so listed prices will vary.Not all retailer prices contain every element of the groupset, and you may need to factor in additional parts.

Campagnolo groupset hierarchy

Campagnolo, affectionately referred to as "Campag" or "Campy", is a company rich in cycling heritage. The Italian brand can boast of equipping the winning bikes of the 2020 and 2021 Tours de France.

Historically it is famous for inventing the rear derailleur and many other key innovations, such as quick release skewers.

The entry-level groupset, Centaur, is 11 speed, with next-up Chorus sitting just below the Record components, while Super Record sits atop the Campagnolo mechanical groupset hierarchy. Chorus, Record and Super Record are all 12-speed groupsets.

Campag offers one electronic groupset, Super Record EPS (Electronic Power Shift), which is the most expensive commercially available groupset.

Campagnolo Super record chainset

(Image credit: Future)

In May 2017, Campagnolo announced its new disc brake groupsets - with discs available across Chorus, Record and Super Record groupsets. It teamed up with Magura, the German brake and suspension brand, to develop the cylinder system and claimed the braking was 23-26% faster in the wet when compared with the competition.

Campagnolo's shifting system differs from Shimano and SRAM with a lever behind the brake on the 'Ergopower' shifters which moves the chain one way, and a thumb lever on the inside of the shifter which sends it the other way. The other magic trick is 'Ultrashift', which makes it possible to give the lever a longer push to smash through multiple gears on the cassette in one go.

The brand's systems are well known for their distinctive 'clunk' - something Campag says dedicated users value so much that the electronic system was developed to provide the same degree of feedback.

EPS is available at Campagnolo Super-Record level. The system powers itself via a rechargeable battery which sits in the frame with an Interface Unit that is housed in the bar end.

The front derailleur adjusts itself slightly if you're chain crossing, to help facilitate a smoother change. Configuration is set up via the 'MyCampy' App which can transmit information wirelessly via Bluetooth (BLE) or ANT+.

road biker groupsets

Reasons to buy
+Looks and style+Disc brake feel and power+Tactile feel of the shifters and shifting
Reasons to avoid
-Hood size -Thumb shifters can still be difficult to reach-Very expensive

Campagnolo Super Record is available in EPS rim brake, EPS disc brake, mechanical disc brake or plain old Super Record mechanical rim brake.

The 12-speed system comes with new chainsets, front and rear derailleurs, rim and disc brakes as well as shifters - but it's compatible with existing wheels and frames. There are three cassette options - 11-29, 11-32 and 11-34 - the reasoning being that racers don't need to stick to smaller gear ratios in order to minimise gaps between cogs with the 12-speed system.

Being top of the performance ladder, Super Record is loaded with carbon and titanium, allowing for a low overall weight. The crankset, for example, is carbon, with alloy chainrings and a titanium axle, the derailleurs are predominantly carbon with ceramic bearings used and the body of the shifter is constructed from composite.

Alongside the impressive performance of the disc brakes, we've always found Campagnolo's direct mount rim brakes - available down to Chorus level - quick to react and effective.

The derailleurs allow for full use of the cassette, in either chainring, without chainrub on the front mech, and the chainsets come in 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34 combos.

Campagnolo Record

Reasons to buy
+Almost as good as Super Record but at a lower price
Reasons to avoid
-No electronic shifting option

The performance differences between Super Record and Record aren't huge - there's a little bit less carbon, which reflects in a slight weight increase - for example, the crankset weighs 651g as opposed to 603g at Super Record standard.

The shifters still have a composite body, as is the majority of the derailleurs structure, though the ceramic bearings have disappeared from the rear and been replaced by bushings. 

Campagnolo Chorus Ergopower H11 groupset road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

Reasons to buy
+Tech from Super Record and Record+Same look and feel as top Campy groupsets+Very fast shifting
Reasons to avoid
-Shimano people might not like the clicky shifting-Limited tyre clearance 

Chrous comes with disc or rim brakes, and with the same 12 speeds as the upper echelons offer.

The rear derailleur uses rubber pulleys as opposed to the ceramic bearings at Super Record level. The crankset has been beefed up to 683g (compared to 603g for Super Record), and there are similar weight increases across the groupset.

Campagnolo Centaur

Reasons to avoid
-Only Campagnolo 11-speed groupset-Rim brake only

The closest comparison to Centaur is Shimano 105. The dropped inner thumb paddle has been continued into this level, and the chainsets available are 50/34 and 52/36 - denoting that Campag doesn't consider this to be a race level product with a missing 53/39. 

Campagnolo Ekar

(Image credit: Campagnolo)

Reasons to buy
+Wide range with 13 speeds starting with 9 tooth options+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Needs a Campagnolo N3W freehub

In September 2020, Campagnolo added Ekar - a 13-speed gravel specific groupset, available in mechanical only, disc brake configurations. We've got a full review of Campagnolo Ekar available to read.

Campagnolo Ekar retails at around £1,449 / $1,764 / €1,696. Given Campagnolo is often known for being a high ticket choice, the prices surprised us by being closer than expected to the likes of SRAM and Shimano's offerings.

It's light too, with weights starting at 2,385g in the lightest configuration with a 9-36 cassette.

As well as going 13-speed, Campagnolo adjusted the thumb paddles on Ekar, making them easier to reach when riding off-road. 

Cranksets are available in 38T, 40T, 42T and 44T, with cassettes at 9-36T, 9-42T and 11-44T. A clutch rear mech helps to keep the chain quiet, and narrow-wide tooth design also aims to prevent chain drops. 

You do need wheels designed to work with Ekar cassettes, using the N3W freehub format. All new Campagnolo wheels will use this standard and it's backward compatible with Campagnolo's 11 and 12-speed road cassettes.

Campagnolo groupset weights and RRPs

Super Record, 12 speed EPS DiscElectronic, disc, 12 speed2505g£4099.99
Super Record 12 speed EPS, RimElectronic, rim, 12 speed2255g£3809.99
Super Record 12 speed discElectronic, disc, 12 speed2453g£3937
Super Record 12 speed rimMechanical, rim, 12 speed2041g£2600
Super Record H11 (disc) EPSElectronic, disc, 11 speedUnconfirmed£3937
Super Record EPSElectronic, rim, 11 speed2078g£3712
Super Record H11 (disc)Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2228g£2878.60
Super RecordMechanical, rim, 12 speed1940g£2603.05
Record 12 speed, discMechanical, disc, 12 speed2453g£2144
Record 12 speedMechanical, rim, 12 speed2213g£1750
Record H11 (disc) EPSElectronic, disc, 11 speedUnconfirmed£3627
Record EPSElectronic, rim, 11 speed2178g£3174.55
Record H11 (disc)Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2260g£2160.57
RecordMechanical, rim, 12 speed2039g£1750.06
Chorus EPSElectronic, rim, 11 speed2308g£2203
Chorus H11Mechanical, disc, 11 speed2613g£2047.07
ChorusMechanical, rim, 12 speedUnconfirmed£1330.65
Potenza DiscMechanical, disc, 11 speedUnconfirmed£1387.50
PotenzaMechanical, rim, 11 speed2412g£818.76
CentaurMechanical, rim, 11 speedUnconfirmed£588.12
VeloceMechanical, disc, 10 speedUnconfirmedUnconfirmed
Campagnolo EkarMechanical, disc, 13-speed2,385g£1449

* Weights will always be estimates, as they'll vary depending upon chainring size, crank length, cassettes used and some official weights do not include components such as cables and mineral oil/hoses for disc brakes.

** RRPs are based upon Campagnolo’s official retail price of components added together. Retailers create their own RRPs, based upon the cost of individual components, so listed prices will vary.

Buyer's guide to components of a road bike groupset

Shifters

campagnolo disc brakes shifters 2 road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo

The shifters on a road bike are used to change gear. Shimano's STI (Shimano Total Integration) shifters are the most common design. The brake lever can be pushed inwards (sideways) to change up into an easier gear. To change down, there is a second lever behind the first that can be separately pushed inwards. To apply the brake, the brake lever is pulled backwards, towards the rider, which also moves the second shift lever backwards.

With shifters from Campagnolo and SRAM you brake in the same way but they each have slightly different shift mechanisms. With Campag you shift down using a shifter behind the brake lever, and change up using a thumb shifter on the inside of the hoods.

On mechanical SRAM groupsets, you shift up by pushing the lever in one notch, and change down by continuing to push it in slightly further. However with SRAM’s eTap electronic systems you shift up the rear derailleur by pressing the right shifter, down at the back by pushing the left shifter, and push both simultaneously to shift the front derailleur. Like other electronic systems it’s programmable, so you can change this.

Brakes

shimano dura ace uses xdr rotors

(Image credit: Future)

Road bikes come either with cable-operated calipers that engage with the wheel rim or with hydraulic or mechanical (cable operated) disc brakes. 

Disc brakes have taken over in a big way in the last few years and many bikes are only available with them, although you can still find bikes which can be purchased with either rim or disc brakes and some that are rim brake only.

Hydraulic disc brakes have superior performance to mechanical ones and, since the hydraulic hoses are a closed system, they’re not as prone to performance degradation as mechanical disc brakes. They are more expensive to buy and maintain though.

Rim brake bikes now often feature direct-mount rim brake calipers, which offer superior performance to single mount calipers, but they are only compatible with specific frames.

Chainset

campagnolo chorus crankset road bike groupsets shimano sram campagnolo


(Image credit: Flickr/Glory Cycles)

Chainsets housing the front gears can be split into three main categories – one-by, double and triple. A one-by system (also called single ring: you’ll often see it designated by a 1x at the end of the groupset name) has a single chainring, a double has two chainrings while a triple has (you guessed it) three.

The chainset also features the cranks, which attach to the pedals. The length of the crank arms can vary, typically ranging from 160mm to 180mm. The length of the cranks that come fitted to a complete bike is usually related to its size — for example, a 56cm frame will often have 172.5mm cranks whereas smaller frame sizes may drop to 170mm. 

Longer cranks offer a bigger mechanical advantage and larger effective gear, but can be harder to turn. Shorter cranks are sometimes favoured in criteriums, as they offer more ground clearance to let you pedal around corners and they’re popular with triathletes, as they allow them to keep up a higher cadence.

Single ring chainsets

Specialized S-Works Crux

(Image credit: Future)

Single ring systems make up for only having one chainring by offering much wider range cassettes at the rear, with 11-42 being a common range and SRAM electronic systems going as wide as 10-52 teeth. There are larger gaps between ratios than with a double chainset, but the latter will have overlapping gear ranges between the two rings, so the actual number of usable gears and the overall range can be similar with a 1x system.

Benefits of a single ring system include better chain retention, since the teeth on the chainset can be made deeper and alternate between wide and narrow teeth to mesh better with the chain. 1x groupsets also have a clutch in the rear derailleur to help keep the chain engaged. Not having a front derailleur means there’s less to go wrong and there’s a weight saving too.

Double chainsets

Double chainsets are available in different ratios, with 53/39t being the standard combination favoured by road racers (for those new to cycling, the numbers refer to the number of teeth on the chainring and the bigger the number, the bigger the gear. A bigger front gear is harder to push but can achieve higher speeds).

Compact chainsets have a 50/34t ratio and are currently the most common gearing fitted to road bikes. The smaller 34-tooth chainring makes this type of chainset ideal for riding in hilly terrain. A third, increasingly common ratio known as mid-compact, with a 52/36 ratio, is also available, and is good if you want to be able to push a big gear down fast descents, but also want a smaller inner ring to fall back on in the hills.

You’ll also find two chainring set-ups dubbed “super-compact” or “subcompact”. They’re popular on gravel bikes, where the lower ratios they provide help you get along off road. Common options include 48/32 and 46/30 but you’ll find others offered.

Triple chainsets

Triple chainsets are uncommon now and usually confined to cheaper bikes, where the rear shifting offers fewer ratios. The front shifting is a bit more tricky than a double ring system to keep working well and there’s extra weight from the third ring. They are sometimes found on touring bikes as they offer a wide range of gears, which is useful when riding a bike laden down with heavy kit. The most common ratio is 50/39/30t.

Cassette

Cassette

(Image credit: Future)

The cassette refers to the collection of sprockets on the rear wheel. These are available in a wide range of different ratios. An 11-speed cassette will have 11 sprockets on the cassette, which can be arranged with close ratios such as 11-25t, which will be good for time trialling and racing on flatter terrain, as the close gears allow for fine adjustment and very smooth shifting, or a wider ratio like 11-32t, which gives you more gear range to choose from when riding in hilly terrain.

You can change your cassette and it is common for cyclists to own a few different ratios. However it is important to remember that the size of the biggest ring on a cassette is limited by the length of the cage on the rear derailleur, so check with your local bike shop or on manufacturers’ sites on line before you splash out on that 32-tooth granny gear!

You have to have a cassette which matches the number of ratios in your groupset so you can’t, for example, use an 11-speed cassette on a 10-speed groupset.

Chain

shimano dura ace chain and front mech

(Image credit: Future)

 The type of chain is dependent on the range of gears, i.e. a 10-speed groupset requires a 10-speed chain; an 8-speed chain is considerably wider than an 11-speed chain. More expensive chains feature alloy coatings that are more resistant to wear, and are often lighter. Chains, like cassettes, wear over time, so will need to be replaced periodically. You can buy a chain wear indicator inexpensively, to check to see when your chain needs replacing. 

Derailleurs

SRAM Red eTap AXS

(Image credit: Future)

The derailleurs (also called mechs) are responsible for guiding the chain from one sprocket to the next. A cable is usually responsible for the shifting, but electronic groupsets, such as Shimano Ultegra Di2, SRAM Red eTap AXS, or Campagnolo Super Record EPS, use small motors to move the derailleur. 

Rear derailleurs come with specs to handle different sizes of cassette and there’s often a “short cage” or “mid/long cage” option. Make sure that a replacement derailleur matches your cassette both in number of speeds and cassette range.

Derailleurs for 1x systems (see above) have a clutch built into them to keep the chain taut, as do some designed for use with double chainrings. The more expensive rear derailleurs feature ceramic bearings in the jockey wheels.

Front derailleurs are either band on (where the derailleur includes a metal clamp that bolts around the frame) or braze on (where the frame has bolts built in to attach the derailleur to), so make sure you select the correct option if purchasing separately from your frame. 

Band on refers to a circular clamp to attach to the frame. This is not always possible, as bike frames are not always round. To counter this, braze on derailleurs are riveted or bolted to the frame. 

Electronic vs mechanical shifting

Shimano dura ace now comes with new chainring sizes

(Image credit: Future)

If you've got more than £3,000 to spend on a new bike then you will likely be faced with a choice of whether to go for electronic or mechanical shifting. Which you choose to go for depends really upon what your priorities are and the sort of riding you do.

For out and out performance, electronic groupsets are the natural choice, as shown by the fact that riders in the professional peloton now choose to use it thanks to the slightly sharper shifting and the ability to shift through multiple gears at once. And don't be put off by the fact that the batteries have to be recharged (once in a blue moon) or the idea that it might be susceptible to the elements (in fact we'd argue that gear cables are much more vulnerable to wet and muddy roads than electronic wires).

Brands generally put their best tech into their electronic groupsets too. If you want a 12-speed Shimano or SRAM system you have to choose electronic, for example. 

Of course there are still many benefits to mechanical groupsets. The shifting on most mechanical groupsets is still very good, and if something goes seriously wrong then it's much easier to fix than electronic. But perhaps most importantly, it's also considerably cheaper, with Campagnolo Super Record EPS being a massive £1,200 dearer. Individual components are also much cheaper to replace in mechanical systems.

What do you get for your money when buying a road bike groupset?

Groupsets vary in price a great deal, but what changes as the price goes up? 

The first thing to consider is weight. A lighter bike will accelerate faster and climb quicker than a heavy one, but components also need to be strong and stiff. As the price of components increases the weight decreases. In order to maintain strength, durability and stiffness of the lighter components, more expensive materials are required. For example, an entry level groupset will have a steel cassette, with a top end cassette often featuring some titanium gears.

Performance

Manufacturing tolerances are much closer on a top end groupset, which means that with an increased price, you get improved shifting between gears. More expensive components are smoother, more precise and quicker to shift. Electronic groupsets are currently the benchmark in shifting performance, offering smoother shifting when changing gear under load, such as when riding out of the saddle or grinding up a hill. In these situations the lower end groupsets can be very clunky and strained, whereas the electronic shifting is sublime.

Something to consider is that the shifting performance does tend to level out for the top two tiers. For example, the shifting quality between Ultegra and Dura-Ace is very similar, and the difference between the two primarily comes down to weight.

More expensive chainsets tend to be lighter and stiffer too. This can transform a bike, as a stiff crankset is more efficient at transferring the power from the pedals into forward motion. A chainring that flexes slightly under load will absorb energy, and decrease shifting performance too. 

Durability

As one would expect, durability generally improves as you move up in price. Quality mid-tier components such as shifters and derailleurs last a very long time if properly maintained. However it is important to consider that the top-tier groupsets, such as Super Record and Dura-Ace, are not designed for workhorse everyday use. 

These components are designed to be the lightest, with everyday use a secondary concern, which means that durability of groupsets tends to peak around the second highest tier. Running costs should also be factored in, as chains and cassettes are expected to wear out and be replaced several times throughout the lifetime of a bike. Replacing a Super Record chain and cassette will incur a much greater cost than a Chorus equivalent.

Other road bike groupset options

The big three are Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM, but there are a couple of other groupset options for road bikes:

Rotor road bike groupset

Rotor 13 speed groupset

(Image credit: Rotor)

Spanish manufacturer Rotor has long been making cranksets and power meters, but also has a 1x13-speed groupset. This uses hydraulic fluid to move the derailleurs (and brake calipers) rather than cables or wires. It's pitched its groupset particularly at gravel bikes. 

FSA road bike groupset

FSA K Force WE rear mech

(Image credit: Future)

Another rarer groupset is FSA K-Force WE, with WE standing for Wireless Electronic. Best known for its cranksets and finishing kit like handlebars and seatposts, the Italian company also sells the K-Force electronic groupset. This is 11-speed and uses a wireless connection between the shifters and the derailleurs, which are powered by a battery in the frame, for a configuration that's similar to that in the latest 12-speed Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra. 

Microshift

On entry-level bikes, you’ll sometimes see Microshift components specified. They’re cheaper than Shimano and generally compatible with Shimano’s groupsets, so often a single Microshift component is paired with Shimano parts, although the company does make full groupsets too.

Top Tips when looking at road bike groupsets on built bikes

When buying a bike look at the components it comes with. It is common for bike manufacturers to supply a bike with a complete name brand groupset, minus the brakes and chainset. These are sometimes (but not always) swapped out for cheaper parts from the same maker or a different brand to bring the overall price of the bike down. 

If you are unsure, enquire to establish what you are getting. In some instances it can also be worth investing in a quality frame with a lower end groupset, with a mind to upgrading the components at a later date.

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.


When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.


Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6. 


Height: 166cm

Weight: 56kg