Shimano Road Bike Components: Brand, Grade, and Identification

Posted at: Mar 23, 2021

A summary of Shimano's road bike component brands, grades and how to identify them. The model numbers and features of each are also included.

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Types of Shimano components for road bikes

There are seven brands of Shimano components for road bikes.

  • 105
  • Tiagra
  • SORA
  • Claris
  • Tourney

The different grades are as follows.

Brand Grade Application Set price Current model number
DURA-ACE 1 Pro Specs $2,500 XX-R9000
ULTEGRA 2 Race-Ready $1,700 XX-R8000
105 3 race-ready $1,200 XX-R7000
Tiagra 4 Basic $800 XX-4700
SORA 5 Introduction $600 XX-R3000
Claris 6 Introduction $400 XX-R2000
Tourney 7 low price - -

The top-of-the-line DURA-ACE is the level used by professionals, and the component set alone costs more than $2000. On the other hand, the entry level Claris is about $400 for a set, which is cheaper than the DURA-ACE STI lever set.

If you remember the price of each grade, you can calculate the “price of the bike” - “price of the components” when you buy a road bike to know the cost performance of the bike.

For example, a full Claris road bike in the $400 range for an entry-level road bike is a pretty good deal, since you are buying a body set for almost the price of the components.

Let’s pay attention to the “generation” of components.

You can identify each generation of Shimano components by its model number.

Shimano’s model number naming convention includes the rule XX-0000.

  • XX (part name)
  • 0000 (grade, generation)

If you look at current models, most of them have the model number configuration XX-R0000 with an “R” after the hyphen. The exception is TIAGRA, the current generation is the 4700 series.

Example generations of Shimano 105 components

For example, for 105 STI levers, the current model is the ST-R7000 series, followed by the ST-5800 series, ST-5700 series, and ST-5600 series. The ST-5700, which is two generations ahead of the current R7000 series, is a component that is only two generations old, but it was released in May 2010, which is over 10 years ago.

Model Number Release Year Compatible Rear Shifting
ST-R7000 2018年 11速
ST-5800 2014年 11速
ST-5700 2010年 10速
ST-5600 2005年 10速

Even though it is the same 105, the ST-5600 can be obtained in the used market at a reasonable price, but the performance difference is huge since it is a 15 year old model, and most importantly, the durability of the parts remains a concern for a 15 year old product.

The difference in performance is “generation difference (old and new) > grade

Shimano says that the difference in performance is “generation (old/new) > grade”.

Therefore, when it comes to Shimano components, a higher grade does not necessarily mean better performance. In some cases, an older higher grade may not perform as well as a newer lower grade, so be careful when acquiring a used one.

As shown in the 105 example above, a component that is two generations old may be a 10-year old model, so when considering an older generation component, it is recommended to check the function and performance differences with the current lower grade on Shimano’s official website or reviews by actual users.

Compatibility varies by generation

Even with the same grade of Shimano components, detailed specifications such as the number of gearshifts supported vary by generation. The different rear shifting of the STI lever seen in the 105 example above is one example of this.

If the parts are not compatible with each other, they will often not work properly. Therefore, when installing components that are different from the grade and generation currently equipped on your road bike, be sure to check the compatibility of the parts.

The compatibility between Shimano components is described in the official manual, but it is somewhat difficult to find the compatibility information due to the large number of pages, so if you want to check the compatibility easily, please visit the following page.

Which component grade is best?

Component grade depends on the application

When you ride a road bike, you will inevitably want a higher grade, but the use of a road bike varies from person to person.

If you are a race rider, 105 or higher may be better, but that doesn’t mean Tiagra is not enough. On the other hand, if you are just a weekend cyclist, 105 will be more than enough.

In addition, the lower grade is more cost-effective in terms of maintenance cost, since you can get replacement parts such as chain and sprocket at a lower price.

If you are a beginner and want to customize your bike, I recommend Claris or higher.

If you are a beginner and want to start out cheap and upgrade later, I recommend a road bike with Claris or higher components.

This is because Shimano components are basically interchangeable between upper and lower grades, but only Tourney wheels are not interchangeable, so when you upgrade your components, you must also replace the wheels. By the way, the way to identify a Tourney for road bikes is “a road bike with a 7-speed rear gear.

In components for road bikes, the number of rear gears is 8 for Claris, 9 for SORA, and 10 or 11 for Tiagra and above (some Tiagra are 9-speed).

For Shimano road bike components, you should remember the following three for entry-level grade.

  • 7 speed = Tourney
  • 8 speed = Claris
  • 9 speed = SORA

On new road bikes sold for 30,000 to 60,000, you will see the catchphrase, “Equipped with Shimano components for peace of mind,” but a road bike with “2x7 14-speed” or “3x7 21-speed” is a Tourney. Even if the front and rear gear ratios are not written, there are no multiples of 7 in grades other than Tourney, so if it’s a “14-speed” or “21-speed,” you can assume it’s Tourney.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that Tourney is bad, but if you plan to customize your bike later on, it’s better to use a compatible one to have more options and save money.

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