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The best groupset is the one you don’t even think about when out cycling. You ask it to shift gears and it shifts. You ask it to brake and it does.
The groupset brings together the mechanical components of the bike; the gears, the chain, the brakes, the cranks. It is all the parts that either move or stop the bike and they should all work seamlessly together.
Japanese company Shimano dominates the groupset market. Even within their own range there is a lot of choice, for entry level riders right up to the pro peloton.
The road bike range comprises of 6 sets. Claris groupsets are the most budget, ranging up to the high-end Dura Ace sets.
- Claris (least expensive)
- Dura Ace (most expensive)
Since they dominate the entry-level road bike market, in this article we look at the Shimano Sora versus Tiagra groupset and the key differences between them.
Groupsets are components that are designed to work together to convert leg power into motion and then slow you down again.
On modern bikes the groupset can be thought of as the gears and brakes and all the parts in between that make them move.
The difference between groupsets usually comes down to the quality of the components used, the number of gears available and the overall weight. The beauty of the trickle down effect is that even the latest entry level options, like Sora and Tiagra, offer exceptional value, reliable performance and premium looks.
Although the groupset can affect the feel and interaction between rider and machine, even entry level groupsets compete valiantly with higher end groupsets. It will not be the fault of the Sora or Tiagra groupset if you don’t claim a local Strava KOM.
Sora vs Tiagra: The Key Differences
- Number of sprockets: The Sora comes with a 9-speed sprocket compared to a 10-speed sprocket on the Tiagra.
- Weight: The composite backplate, the slimmed-down derailleur and the more refined cassette makes the Tiagra slightly lighter than the Sora groupset.
- Brakes: TheTiagra groupset comes with the option of hydraulic disc brakes. The Sora groupset uses rim brakes.
Let’s compare the individual components of each groupset.
The fundamental difference between the Sora and the Tiagra groupsets is the number of sprockets on the rear cassette, 9-speed for Sora and 10-speed for Tiagra.
The cassettes themselves are made from the same high strength steel although the 10-speed on the Tiagra is slightly more refined with better machining.
A myth that refuses to go away is that having more gears will make you a better climber. The truth is that it is not the number of gears but the range. The rear cassettes on the Sora and Tiagra offer almost identical gear ratios for tackling any climb.
Both the Sora and Tiagra groupset can be paired with either a compact or a triple chainset. The compact 50/34T is the most popular option and offers more than enough range for riders of all abilities.
Triple chainsets (50/39/30T) have fallen out of fashion in recent years but they are still a solid option for those who want easy, laid back climbing. Properly indexing the gears on a triple chainset can be temperamental at the best of times and they generally require more maintenance.
Having more sprockets, in the case of the Tiagra, means smaller changes in the cadence when changing gears. Having more gears lets you dial in your cadence. This feels better and smoother and can ultimately be faster.
The Sora groupset comes with asymmetric dual pivot rim brakes only with the same quick-release mechanism found on the more expensive Shimano rim brakes. The single compound pads are not the best but upgrading to cartridge pads is a simple process.
Read more: The best road bike brake pads
The brakes are perhaps the biggest difference between the Sora and Tiagra groupsets. With the Tiagra, there is the same rim brake option as the Sora but there are also hydraulic disc brake options.
Since finding reluctant acceptance within the pro-peloton, disc brakes are now common on even entry-level road bikes (sub-2000 dollar bikes). Having that option means better modulation and stopping power in all conditions.
It also means that bigger tires can be fitted to the bike so that even some gravel riding is not out of the question.
Shifters and Levers
Thankfully the Sora groupset no longer comes with the much maligned thumb shifter and has been upgraded to Dual Control like the Tiagra and the higher end Shimano groupsets.
The gear and brake cables are also now routed underneath the bar tape for a much cleaner looking cockpit.
The Tiagra shifters, or STI’s (Shimano Total Integration) as Shimano likes to call them, are slightly slimmed down compared to the Sora but the lever throw is essentially the same.
Across the entire range, the Shimano shifters are ergonomic and precise. In a blind test it is doubtful if anyone could tell the difference in groupsets based only on the feel of the shifters alone.
Both groupsets come with flat-bar options for the shifters and brakes which makes them just as popular for commuters as they are for road cyclists.
Underneath the hoods but easily accessible is the reach adjustment screw for the shifters.
|Total Groupset Weight
There is nothing clunky about the Sora and Tiagra groupsets.
Although firmly in the entry level market, the Sora and Tiagra groupsets compete admirably against more expensive options.
Discussions about groupsets can become partisan quite quickly but we would love to know your thoughts on the best entry level groupset. Leave a comment below.
Overall, the hydraulic disc brake option on the Tiagra groupset brings more versatility to your bike and the places you can ride but both the Sora and Tiagra offer reliability and predictable performance for all riders.
Read More: Tiagra vs 105
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