Every beginner faces the same challenge when buying the first road bike – which groupset to choose? Shimano is a common choice as it’s the most recognized brand, but even they have six different groupsets. So which one is the right for you?
For beginner cyclists, it’s recommended to choose between Tiagra and 105, which represent the third and fourth tiers of Shimano groupsets. While Tiaga is a decent groupset, 105 is the way to go as you get the most value for your money.
Beginners are often hesitant to spend some extra money to get a better groupset. It is a common mistake that costs cyclists a lot of money in the future, as they pay large sums for bike upgrades. Below I will present why you should choose a better groupset right from the start and not repeat the mistake of many others.
What is a groupset and what does it consist of?
Before we start searching for the best Shimano groupset for beginners, we must know what a groupset even is.
A groupset is all the parts that help you transfer the power from your legs to the rear wheel and then bring you back to the full stop. In other words, all the parts that help you turn the wheels, shift and brake.
Groupset consists of:
- Cassette (sprockets at the rear wheel)
- Bottom bracket
- Front derailleur
- Rear derailleur
- Brake/shift levers (combined)
Shimano groupset hierarchy
Shimano has six road bike groupsets, ranging from entry-level to high-performance racing groupsets. They differ in material, performance, durability, the number of speeds and, most importantly, price.
Shimano groupsets (low tier to high tier):
Claris, Sora and Tiagra are entry-level models, with Tiagra almost jumping over to the performance level. At the latter, we find 105 and Ultegra, while Dura-Ace is considered the high-performance groupset.
Which groupset to choose for your first bike
As with most things in life, the answer to the right groupset for you lies in the golden mean.
As a beginner, you should avoid the lowest-level groupsets, as you will miss many benefits of the higher-level groupsets. On the other hand, the top two groupsets are too expensive for a beginner as you’re paying for features that you won’t utilize at the beginning of your cycling career.
You are then left with two options – Tiagra or 105.
Tiagra vs. 105
|Shimano Tiagra||Shimano 105|
|$410 / €390||$580 / €544|
|6.2 lbs / 2822 g||5.6 lbs / 2566 g|
|C-shaped crank||Hollowtech crank|
|All or nothing breaking (can cause wheel lock)||More even breaking with SLR technology|
Every beginner is faced with a tough decision about his first groupset. You know that you’ll eventually grow into the better groupsets, but where should be your starting point?
I had the same problem when I was starting out and I know I could use a blog like that to make my decision easier. In the end, I chose Shimano 105 and to this day I’m glad I didn’t scrimp then.
So let’s look a what makes 105 a better choice than Tiagra.
The biggest difference between groupsets is in the number of speeds. Tiagra is 10-speed, while 105 has one more. It might not seem like a big deal, but believe me when I tell you you’ll be happy on a climb when you have an extra speed.
The lowest and the highest gear are the same at both groupsets, but with one extra speed, 105 offers a better ratio between them. That way, you’ll find the right gear for specific efforts easier, which is especially important when climbing.
Shimano 105 has 22 gears (2×11), while Tiagra has only 20 (2×10).
Shimano 105 also runs smoother. The shifting is better, more smooth and more responsive. As a beginner, you might not notice the difference at first, but with some miles done, you’ll start noticing the delay that Tiagra has.
Once you know that you’re groupset is not doing its job properly, you’ll start beating yourself up about why you didn’t spend a few extra dollars to get a better groupset. Any upgrading is quite expensive, so you’re stuck with an underperforming groupset. I wouldn’t want to be you.
Both groupsets have rim brake and disc brake versions. However, I recommend choosing rim brakes, as disc brakes are not as reliable at this level as you would want them to be.
If you absolutely want to have discs, then go with 105 – that’s a no-brainer. Shimano 105 has hydraulic disc brakes, while Tiagra only has mechanical. Hydraulic brakes are much more reliable and responsive. That’s why all the best groupsets have hydraulic brakes rather than mechanical ones.
As a beginner you don’t need disc brakes. Rim brakes are much cheaper and do the job well for your needs.
Most beginners will choose rim brakes, and the Shimano 105 is also superior on that front. Not only are the brakes made from better, more durable materials, they actually have a mechanism called SLR-EV that makes the braking smoother and increases the braking power. I’m sure the mechanism will eventually be applied to Tiagra, but for now, the 105 is a step ahead.
The biggest problem with Tiagra is that it has all or nothing breaking. It is difficult to gradually apply the brakes, as there is no response when the brake lever is slightly pulled. At some point, the brakes then fully respond, which can lead to a locked wheel that exposes you to a potential crash.
Cyclists are obsessed with the bike’s weight, but as a beginner, you shouldn’t be obsessing about a few ounces. But I know how it is, even I had a hard time following my own advice. So let’s look at the weight difference between Tiagra and 105.
The better and the more expensive the bike part is, the lighter it gets. That’s just how it is. And since 105 is better than Tiagra, it’s also lighter. My calculator says the difference is 9 ounces (256 grams) – 6.2 lbs vs. 5.6 lbs – which is not that much considering your first bike will probably weigh around 22 pounds (10 kg).
Don’t worry about the bike weight. There are many cheaper ways to lose overall weight, starting with yourself.
I have to mention that Shimano 105 has an extra speed, meaning it also has an extra cog that brings in significant weight. So, given that the total weight of the 105 groupset is still lower than the Tiagra, you know how much lighter the other parts of the groupset are.
Main weight reduction in the 105 groupset is done with a different crank model than in Tiagra. The latter has the basic, old-school C-shaped crank, while 105 has a Hollowtech crank. It’s a special Shimano technology that allows the crank to be hollow but stiff enough to be on top of its game. Naturally, a hollow crank is much lighter than a full crank.
You want your groupset to be as durable as possible. And there is another big difference between the groupsets in question.
Shimano 105 uses better material (glass-fiber reinforced plastic and aluminum) than Tiagra (aluminum), making it more durable. Due to the coating, 105 is also more prone to corrosion, one of the main enemies of every groupset.
If you’re going to take care and store your bike correctly, then both groupsets will last a long time. But with every season, you’ll start noticing bigger and bigger differences between them. Tiagra’s rate of deterioration will be much faster than the deterioration of 105.
The price is the biggest deciding factor when choosing between Tiagra and 105. Many beginners will pick fewer speeds to save a few tenths of dollars.
The price difference is noticeable, but you don’t pay the full price when you’re buying a new bike. The bike comes with a certain groupset, making the overall price higher or lower. However, you’ll notice that the price difference between the same bike model with a different groupset is smaller than the difference between the individual groupset.
“I’m not rich enough to buy cheap.“
Upgrading the groupset after you already own a bike is an expensive job to do. Most cyclists never upgrade the groupset alone but rather wait until they think it’s time for a new bike with a better groupset.
Believe me, when I say you won’t upgrade your groupset anytime soon after you get your first bike. If you’re going with Tiagra, you probably won’t even notice any problems. You’ll only realize what you were missing when you finally move to the higher-tier groupset.
My suggestion is not to skimp on your choice of the groupset, as you will be condemned to inferior elements to save a few dollars. Instead, save money on other less important cycling gear or buy fewer jerseys.
One aspect that beginners always overlook when choosing a groupset is the value that it adds to the bike. That’s because they don’t think about selling a bike in the future, but they really should.
Every cyclist will sell their bike at some point either because he’s gonna buy a better bike or he doesn’t want to be a cyclist anymore (but that’s not very likely, is it). We all want to get the best price for our bike and an installed groupset can play a big part in that.
You’ll sell a 105 groupset bike faster and more expensively.
Most people on the secondary market want to get a bike with at least Shimano 105 groupset. The demand for Tiagra is much less, meaning you will be selling your Tiagra bike much longer and get much less for it.
The biggest difference in the used bike market is between the Tiagra and 105. There is not such a big difference in demand and price between any of the other two groupsets. The reason is simple, the Tiagra belongs to the entry-level, while 105 already belongs to the performance level while still being affordable for most people.
Ninety percent of the time, beginners will choose between Tiagra and 105 groupsets, as they are the most suitable for the start of the cycling journey. However, choosing between them can be hard, especially if you have never owned a road bike before and don’t know what’s necessary to have and what’s just a marketing trick.
Actually, the choice is pretty simple.
Shimano 105 is the best groupset for beginners. Yes, it cost a bit more, but after a month or two, you’ll be happy you decided to spend the extra money. It’s superior to Tiagra in all aspects and offers a better overall experience.
Shimano 105 has one speed more, which alone is worth the extra money. It’s also more durable, lighter, brakes better and adds extra value to the bike, making it easier to sell in the future.
Really, it’s not even a debate. Shimano 105 is the way to go!