Above all else, a bike that fits you will make you happier on a ride, especially over long distances or up a hill. So, once you’ve found the frame that fits, the next biggest upgrade you should be thinking about is a groupset.
Cyclists who ride Campy can be proud that they support one of the most venerable cycling brands that’s synonymous with Eddy Merckx and the 70s golden age of cycling. Founded in 1933, Campagnolo have well over 100 patents for bicycle technology. Every time you ride your Cinelli frame with Campy attached you hear this soundtrack:
It’s worth noting that all the groupsets featured here offer a range of products for any budget, and they’re all good. Campagnolo offer a little panache, a sense of history, and a sense of uncomplicated style – of sprezzatura. As such, they’re favoured by the velominati set. Read into that what you will.
Playing to all the best stereotypes of Japanese industry, Shimano joined the groupset game much later than Campagnolo – but with the sincere belief that they could do things better. When they introduced Shimano Linear Response brakes to their 105 groupset in the 90s, some pro cyclists swapped out their Dura Ace for the cheaper, but a more innovative system.
By the time I was riding serious road bikes in the 90s, it was very difficult to find a reason not to buy Shimano. When their Shimano STI removed downtube shifters in favour of combination brake/shift levers, cyclists were given a significant performance and tactical advantage. Where Shimano innovate, others must follow.
Founded in 1987, the SRAM Corporation are the young pretenders to the throne – although other companies are threatening to break into the groupset market. SRAM have survived and become a go-to for the modern peloton, not least because they appear to be competing with Shimano’s innovation.
Here you see Cavendish discuss the easier reach the SRAM hydraulics provide for his smaller hands. SRAM have long been the go-to choice for my friends with smaller hands. Shimano have responded to this subtle but important distinction by copying SRAM so their 2018 range has adjustable reach, even at lower price points.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself part of the Gruppo, Group-bro, or Group-san tribe, you shouldn’t rule out the competition – keep track of new innovations and look out for the trickle-down effect of these innovations into the budget groupsets. Now is a good time to be looking to upgrade.