Using Shimano Parts on Cheap Road Bikes: Important Points to Remember

Posted at: Mar 23, 2021

Shimano parts" are often seen in cheap road bikes. Even with the same Shimano parts, the degree of freedom for customization differs depending on the grade. In this article, we've compiled a list of points to keep in mind when purchasing a budget road bike.

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What are “Shimano Parts”?

Shimano parts" are often found on cheap road bikes. If you don’t know anything about road bikes, you won’t understand, but what are “Shimano parts”?

Shimano provides a wide range of parts for road bikes.

  • STI levers
  • Front derailleur
  • Rear derailleur
  • Gears (sprockets)
  • Front and rear brakes
  • BB unit
  • Crank
  • Wheel hub
  • Wheels
  • Pedals

In the case of higher grade road bikes that cost $2,000, if the bike has Shimano branding such as “Ultegra” or “Tiagra”, almost all the parts are made by Shimano.

On the other hand, in the case of “Shimano parts used” cheap road bikes, there are many cases where it is unclear “to what extent Shimano parts are used” as detailed specifications are not listed.

Even if only the front derailleur and rear derailleur are made by Shimano, it can be said that “Shimano parts are used. In this case, the other parts are from unknown brands, so it is important to understand that the durability and performance of the parts are completely different from those of a higher grade road bike that costs $2,000.

Does it have to be made by Shimano?

Of course not at all. There are many cases where non-Shimano parts can be used as well.

However, Shimano is said to have 85% of the world market share for sports bicycle parts, so you can be sure that Shimano-made parts are reliable.

In particular, braking performance and reliability are important for brake levers and brakes, which are linked to the safety performance of bicycles. When buying a budget road bike, try braking on the actual bike, and if you have any concerns, it is better to choose a road bike equipped with Shimano brakes or replace them after purchase.

Points to keep in mind with cheap road bikes

Lower grade (Tourney) components are more likely to be used.

When a road bike uses Shimano components, it is normal to indicate the “grade” of Shimano components for road bikes, such as “Ultegra,” “105,” “Tiagra,” and so on. This is because the grade of the component is the “performance” of the road bike from the buyer’s point of view. Hiding the grade may mean that they do not want you to know the grade of the components.

This is often the case when the bike is equipped with the lowest grade Tourney or Altus, which is common in general cars.

Of course, Shimano components are fully usable in the Turney, but it is definitely a lower grade, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it has Shimano parts, it is the same as a $2,000 road bike. There is a good reason why expensive road bikes are expensive.

The Turney also has different STI levers and wheel construction from the current Claris and higher road bike components. Turney is an old type of STI lever with thumb shift, so it can’t shift using only brake lever and auxiliary lever, which is equipped in Claris and above models. The wheels are often “boss-free” rather than “cassette-free”, which is used in Claris and higher grades, so they are not compatible and upgrades are not possible in most cases.

For more information on Shimano component grades, please click here.

A “Shimano Mix” that is not all-Shimano

A common pattern among budget road bikes is the so-called “Shimano Mix” pattern, where the STI levers, front derailleur, and rear derailleur are made by Shimano, while the cranks, brakes, and other parts are made by unknown manufacturers. In this case, Shimano grade is used for gears, derailleurs, and other parts that can be seen from the outside, to take advantage of the consumer’s psychology to make them feel “safe” because the bike is made by Shimano.

The Shimano Mix is not only common on budget road bikes, but also on entry-level road bikes costing around $1,000, but in many cases, the brakes are not particularly effective on budget road bikes.

Brakes are more important than gear switching on a speedy road bike. From the perspective of safe riding, the braking of the vehicle body is directly related to accidents (e.g. not being able to stop when encountering sudden jumps), so it is a part that should be emphasized more than gears and derailleurs.

As for brakes, Shimano’s higher grade brakes can be purchased separately for $100 to $150, so if you are buying a budget road bike, it is safer to buy the bike body once and replace it with Shimano’s higher grade brakes later.

We have looked at the points to watch out for in a cheap road bike “using Shimano parts”.

Again, there is no such thing as a lower grade bike being bad or an unknown brand being bad. Just keep in mind that if you buy a bike mistakenly thinking that it is the same as a higher grade road bike, you will regret it after gaining knowledge.

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