Basic Guide: Introduction to Shimano Road Groupsets

Easily one of the most important advancement’s in the history of road cycling came out of Shimano’s Osaka labs in the early 1990’s. Shimano Total Integration (STI) revolutionized the way bike shifters worked, by finally integrating the shift levers into the brake lever, thereby enabling cyclists to shift gears without having to reach to the downtube. It also completely redesigned the brake hoods, making them a functional and comfortable extension of the handlebar.

This advancement helped propel Shimano to lead the component manufacturing industry, and forever changed the way cyclists ride.

Today, Shimano offers 5 mechanical STI groupsets and 2 electronic groupsets, in a range of gears and pricepoints. When naming their groups, Shimano uses both a name and a number. The name tends to stay the same year after year, while the number changes with every redesign of the components.

Figuring out which component groupsets fall where are and how they relate to each other can be tricky, so here’s a guide to help you figure out what’s what.

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Dura-Ace Di2: This is the crème de la crème of Shimano’s road bike groups. It’s an electronic group that is available in both 9070 11-speed and 7970 10-speed varieties. This is the gear favored by pro-racers, and has been ridden to 2 Tour de France wins, a Giro d’Italia win, and 2 Vuelta a Espana wins, plus several classics victories. If you’re a rider who simply has to have the best, there are few competitors out there that can match the level of performance you’ll find in Dura-Ace Di2.

To learn more about electronic shifting, click here.


Dura-Ace: Mechanical Dura-Ace is easily the most popular high-end groupset out there, and with good reason. Design wise, mechanical Dura-Ace is exactly the same as Dura-Ace Di2, except it uses traditional cable actuation instead of electronic servo motors to shift the gears. Dura-Ace is available in 11-speed 9000 or 10-speed 7900. Liberal use of carbon fiber, titanium, ceramic and precision machined aluminum makes Dura-Ace one of the lightest and most reliable groups available. If you demand high performance, but don’t need the added cost and maintenance of electronic shifting, then Dura-Ace is the way to go.


Ultegra Di2: Ultegra Di2 is an electronic group that is in many respects the same as Dura-Ace Di2 (the two systems are largely cross compatible—except for Dura-Ace 7970). The materials used are slightly heavier than the cost-is-no-obstacle stuff used in Dura-Ace, so the components are a little heavier, but in terms of looks and function, they’re nearly identical. Ultegra Di2 comes in 6870 11-speed and 6770 10-speed options. This group is a favorite of amateur racers, and provides pro-level performance at a great value.

To learn more about electronic shifting, click here.


Ultegra: Ultegra was created to answer the demand of amateur racers who wanted the performance advantages found in Dura-Ace, but didn’t need the exotic materials and superlight construction. Ultegra usually incorporates all the technological advancements made in Dura-Ace, but at a slightly heavier weight and lower pricepoint. Ultegra mechanical uses traditional cable actuation to shift the gears, and comes in 11-speeds with 6800 or 10-speeds with 6700. For cyclists who ride hard and expect results, Ultegra delivers race-winning performance in an affordable package.


105: 105 is Shimano’s mid-tier group, and is currently available as a 10-speed mechanical group. Most of the features found on Dura-Ace and Ultegra can be found on the 105 groups, and it is cross compatible with 10-speed Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups. Features like “under the cable cable routing”, ergonomic levers and high-end rear derailleur performance put 105 in a league of its own when it comes to performance and value.


Tiagra: Tiagra is available in 4500 9-speed or 4600 10-speed varieties. Tiagra is often found on mid-level carbon fiber road bikes, and offers plenty of performance for the beginning road rider or racer. 10-speed Tiagra is cross-compatible with 10-speed Ultegra and 105, thanks to full STI technology, a wide range of crankset and gearing options, and responsive front and rear shifting, Tiagra is packs a lot of performance into an exceptional package that will grow with you as you improve as a cyclist.


Sora: Sora is Shimano’s entry-level series groupset, and is available in an 8-speed 3300 version or 9-speed 3500. Sora is usually found an mid-level alloy bikes and some carbon fiber bikes, and offer great performance at an excellent value. Sora is excellent for the rider who’s more interesting in having a good time on the bike than having the latest technology. Thanks to full Shimano STI technology, crisp and responsive shifting, and bomb-proof construction, Sora provides a great level of performance that will last for years.

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