Road Bike Components
Shimano - The Japanese component manufacturer offers three lines of 10-speed group. Entry level 105, mid-range Ultegra, and high-end Dura-Ace. Shimano pioneered 10 speed drivetrains and outboard bearing bottom brackets.
Camapagnolo - The Italian made choice of cycling purists and skilled mechanics. The history of Campagnolo and European pro racing is inseparable. Campagnolo is the only brand of components that can be completely rebuilt. The "Campy" range runs from Veloce, Centaur, Chorus, through top-end Record.
FSA - FSA's long rumored group set is said to be in the final stages of testing. They already offer cranks, brakes and front derailers, a full group in the near future seems realistic. But don't hold your breath, the road from prototype to the showroom floor is a long one.
When comparing groups, it is best to do so within a brand. Each step of the Campy ladder has clear cut advantages over the group below it (and a price hike to match). It is difficult to compare Force, Ultegra and Chorus, all three hover in the same price range, have comparable weights and work great. One is not necessarily better than the other, they're just different. While the differences between Ultegra and Dura Ace are easily discernable.
Shimano and SRAM enjoy a reasonably compatible component relationship. Cassettes share the same freehub body (except for Shimano 10-speed only freehub bodies, which have been discontinued) , chains and cranks are interchangeable. Though each brand's shifters must be used with like derailers, as the actuation is different.
Campagnolo is in its own world. Shifters, derailers, chains and cassette are Campy specific.
At WesternBikeworks.com HQ, we've got bikes equipped with the full range of components. The racers lean heavily on Dura Ace, though their results would probably be no different pushing Ultegra. But Dura Ace is reliable, and you don't have that voice in the back of your head saying "you'd be faster if you just bought this," which is worth something.
Our super-mechanic rides Record, and he should, because he enjoys the maintenance, as Campy components can be a bit temperamental. He'll keep it forever, rebuild it and take good care of it. The hard-core commuters run Chorus and Veloce groups, which retain Campy's classic looks at a more manageable cost.
The true cycling connoisseur will appreciate the eye-blink fast shifting and butter smooth operation of Record, Dura Ace or Red groups. If your a racer, and you can afford them, go for it. They're no excuses group sets. Also, if you plan on reselling the bike at any point, a full top-of-the-line group will keep resale value high.
For the amateur racer or performance oriented recreational rider, a mix of mid and high end components will provide the most speed for your buck. Picture this, a Force group with SRAM 2011 Red Carbon Crankset and SRAM 2011 OG-1090 Red Powerdome Cassette. That would give you great shifting, a ceramic bearing equipped crankset, the lightest cassette on the market and save several hundred dollars over a full Red group. Heck, maybe even substitute some Rival derailleurs (which take a beating on race bikes anyways) and save even more change. Of course, similar component switches can be done within any brand. These mix and match groups are quite common, even at the highest levels of racing, and are a great way ensure that the money spent on parts really helps you ride faster.
On any drivetrain, maintenance is also key to top performance. Manufacturers design their top of the line groups to be maintained by professional mechanics. There is no reason to spend thousands on a group set is it quickly becomes caked in road grime and left to sit in the garage. It's worth it to have a certified mechanic do the initial set up. Then, make sure you know how to handle your lubes. Most importantly, clean the chain a couple of times a week.
Please contact us at 1-800-651-4050 or email@example.com with any questions regarding component selection and maintenance.