Closer to Nature, Closer to People.
At the top of the Shimano mountain bike food chain is the XTR groupset - available in mechanical and Di2 to allow you to get the absolute best performance and dependability possible. The R stands for Racing and this super lightweight, strong groupset is worthy of the best racers in the world. It’s also the most expensive component set in Shimano’s mountain bike line.
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Designed and engineered to perform better than any other mountain bike groupset, the Shimano XTR group uses titanium, carbon fiber and high-grade alloys to stay strong while shedding grams. The mechanical set is available in 1x12, 2x12 and 1x11 drivetrains with cassettes ranging from 10-45 tooth to 10-51 tooth rings. Di2 is 11-speed specific with 2x11 or 1x11 options.
Shifting with the M9100 group is precise, as you’d expect from a race-ready system, and offers multi-shift release when downshifting.
Exclusively an 11-speed groupset, the XTR M9050 is the top of the line for Shimano’s Di2 electric shifting groups. Featuring Synchro Shift - an intuitive shifting lever with front and rear derailleurs controlled by the same switch, but the internal software reading the situation and choosing the prime gearing for the moment - the M9050 groupset shares the same lineage as its M9100 mechanical sibling while also providing the luxury of virtually flawless shifting thanks to its customizable electronics.
Usually referred to only with the XT, the Shimano Deore XT groupset is a race-ready, but less-pricey, batch of components that offers high performance, rugged durability and stress-free reliability.
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XT comes in two versions -- Di2 in both 1x12 and 2x12 drivetrain options and a mechanical shifting marvel exclusively in with a 1x11 setup. Cassettes range from 10-45 tooth to 10-51 tooth depending on your preference - or the supply in hand at your shop.
Trusted by mountain bike enthusiasts for eons, Shimano XT has evolved over the years to keep pace with the demands of shredders of all ability levels. Quick shifting in either Di2 or mech, XT gets down to business without the extra bling of XTR and the weight disadvantage isn’t significant enough to matter to all but the most pursnicity of riders.
The Di2 XT version has Synchro Shift - an intuitive shifting lever with front and rear derailleurs controlled by the same switch, but the internal software reading the situation and choosing the prime gearing for the moment.
The Shimano SLX is an excellent mid-range groupset offering quality performance that won’t break the bank. You’ll find SLX at mountain bike races, but more commonly on bikes made for the folks who want to enjoy the ride without worrying about setting PRs on every trail.
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Available in 1x12 and 2x12 drivetrains, Shimano SLX is mechanical shifting only. Up front you’ll find a 36-26 tooth chainring on the 2x systems with cassette options of 10-45t or 10-151t. The 1x setup rolls with the 10-51t cassette and your choice of chainrings from 28 to 34 teeth.
The rear derailleur features a clutch to help prevent chain slap on bumpy rides as well as protect against stress from sudden hard efforts or impacts.
Shifting is considered to be not as refined and quick as you’ll see on the upper end groupsets like XTR and XT, you’ll still have a responsive setup that helps you move with confidence on most trails. As should be expected when moving up or down the component hierarchy, there is a difference in weight with SLX weighing a bit more than XT or XTR. That difference might be felt more keenly in racing or high-performance situations than if you are just out for a ride on single track trails with friends.
SLX cassettes are designed to assist shifting with Hyperglide+ tech. This is a miniature ramp on individual cogs that aids a more smooth shifting feel. The ramps are designed to prevent the chain from transitioning down gears too rapidly.
Though not the bottom of the hierarchy, the Shimano Deore groupsets are the workhorse groups for mountain bikes. Sturdier, but heavier, Deore is most commonly found on entry-level racing bikes or budget-friendly casual riding rigs.
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Drivetrains are available in 10, 11 and 12-speed options with double or triple chainrings - providing lots of range for climbing as well as faster efforts. Upgrades in recent years have given the Deore groupsets much better performance and creating a tremendous bang for the buck on mountain bikes.
Shimano knows not every bike is intended to shred trails, line up for races or bomb descents. For bikes with a more benign purpose - like casual rides around town or on the parkway with family and friends - Shimano offers entry-level groupsets that provide dependable shifting and pedaling, but keep the price low by using less expensive (i.e. heavier) components and parts.
A little bit rock and roll, a little bit country - Shimano’s GRX groupset family was developed to meet the needs of the growing all-road (or gravel) cycling community. Because gravel bikes share basic geometry with road bikes, Shimano’s GRX groupsets can be well compared to the road sets. Model RX800 is the Ultegra level groupset and is available in mechanical as well as Di2 shifting options. With the RX600 group, you have a Shimano 105 level groupset and RX400 comps with Shimano Tiagra.
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The GRX family does not include specific cassettes and chains at each level but you can mix and match from corresponding Shimano road or mountain components to create a complete drivetrain that works best for you.
At the top of the GRX family is the RX800 line. This 11-speed drivetrain can be yours in either 1x or 2x setups with either Di2 or mechanical shifting options.
RX600 gives you 11-speed or 10-speed options but only a 1x chainring and Di2 is not an option.
The budget friendly gravel drivetrain option is the RX400 groupset which aligns with Shimano’s Tiagra road group. Available exclusively as a 1x10 speed drivetrain with mechanical shifting.
As you should expect, each Shimano GRX group is a quality set, but as the price point goes down, the weight goes up. If component weight factors into your riding style with racing or speedier goals, the 800 line will obviously have its advantages. If you’re more concerned with just having a great ride with dependable components, dropping down to the 600 or 400 lines will ensure your ride is awesome without breaking the bank.
Shimano is arguably the most trusted and respected name in bicycle drivetrains. With decades of experience designing and building components that have become synonymous with road cycling, you find Shimano is the most common brand in your group ride. There’s plenty of good reason for that. With setups ranging from the World Tour worthy Dura-Ace Di2 to the entry-level Sora and Claris groups, riders of all abilities have quality, dependable options provided by Shimano. But which is best for you and your bike?
When it comes to performance, Shimano’s Dura-Ace is hard to beat. With incredibly durable, dependable and lightweight parts, Dura-Ace is the pinnacle of Shimano’s road groupset. You’ll find Dura-Ace on bikes throughout the professional peloton as well as on bikes belonging to weekend warriors.
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Available as a 2x11 speed drivetrain, Dura-Ace has options that allow you to ride, or race, with the best setup possible for your preferred riding style. Chose between rim brake or disc brake setups as well as mechanical or electric Di2 shifting. Finding the optimal gearing for any situation is assisted by Synchronized Shift - a little bit of tech Shimano added the Di2 software that coordinates shifting between the front and rear derailleurs to create the sweet spot for your gearing.
Lightning fast shifting, excellent power transfer from pedal to wheel and superb stopping power make Shimano Dura-Ace an easy choice for the cyclist in search of the best performance possible and is willing to spend like it.
Shimano Dura-Ace is also available with an integrated power meter for those who want to take their training, and racing, to another level with detailed analysis of watts and strength.
An entire Dura-Ace gruppo weighs between 2,007 grams (mechanical, rim brakes) to 2,389 grams (Di2, disc brakes)
Shimano’s Ultegra may be its most popular groupset. Offering excellent performance at a price noticeably lower than Dura-Ace, Ultegra is a fail-safe option for demanding cyclists who want quality and know the best way to get faster is to ride harder.
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For the price, Ultegra provides Shimano’s best value with performance rivaling Dura-Ace in many regards but weighing a bit more. Like Dura-Ace, Ultegra is available in disc or rim brake versions and has a Di2 upgrade offering for those who prefer electronic shifting.
While Ultegra is first and foremost a road groupset, you’re beginning to see it used frequently on gravel or all-road bikes. The durability and versatility pay off well in either style of riding and is available in disc or rim brake options.
Ultegra is an 11-speed drivetrain and, depending on the model, will weigh between 2266 and 2627 grams and cost 40-50 percent less than Dura-Ace.
For cyclists in search of quality, but also conscious of keeping within a budget, Shimano’s 105 groupset is a popular option. In fact, it’s not uncommon when asking about what bike to buy, the phrase “As long as it has 105 or higher, you’re good” has been standard advice for a very long time.
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Available as an 11-speed drivetrain with rim and disc brake options, 105 does not offer a Di2 version - yet.
As you might expect when talking road bike drive trains, the lower the price, the higher the weight. 105 is no exception to this rule and tips the scales noticeably heavier than Ultegra and Dura-Ace, but the penny pinching cyclist will appreciate the quality performance 105 delivers.
Though described as an entry-level groupset, 105 has benefited over the years from advances in technology in the other groups. As new tech is introduced, older tech is passed down the hierarchy. The result is that today’s Shimano 105 groupset compares very well to Ultegra from a few years ago.
For the dollar, Shimano 105 provides tremendous value and offers excellent performance for newer cyclists getting into the sport or experienced riders satisfied with a good ride experience and having some funds left over for ice cold drinks when the ride is over.
When it comes to road bike performance, Shimano’s Tiagra is most accurately described as the entry-level group set. Adequate performance and dependability, but not to be confused with 105, Ultegra or Dura-Ace in most regards.
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Coming in a traditional 10-speed version, Tiagra has plenty of options for cyclists on a budget. Double or triple chainrings up front are heavier, but help bump the gear ratio into more comfortable climbing combinations.
Tiagra comes in rim brake and disc brake setups so you can add that level of customization to your bike.
Perhaps the best quality of Tiagra is its affordability. Cycling can be an expensive sport, but does not have to be. With a Shimano Tiagra road drivetrain, you can expect Shimano quality while you just enjoy the ride.
If the bike you’re looking for is more of a get-around-town bike than a racing machine, you’ll find Shimano’s Sora groupset on a lot of bikes. Strong and dependable but a bit clunky in regards to weight, Sora comes exclusively with rim brakes and mechanical shifting for its 9-speed cassette.
Sora also has double or triple cranks and comes with a traditional road cycling feel. A great groupset for youth just learning to ride with drop handlebars or experiencing junior racing for the first season.
We don’t like to describe anything as ‘lowest quality’ in regards to bikes because everything and anything bikes is cool in our books. But, Shimano’s Claris groupset is the truly entry-level set and is designed to get the job done without frills. Claris comes with an 8-speed drivetrain in either double or triple crank options.