I want to talk about road bike components because there is a lot of misunderstanding on the internet about this topic. There are so many wrong things you can read about bicycle components in general online.
First of all, some people think that each and every part of the road bike is a bike component. For example – saddle, tires, wheels, pedals, etc. But this is not the case. When we talk about road bike components we always refer to breaking and shifting.
Having good, high-quality components for shifting and braking ( alongside with a good frame ) and you will have an awesome road bike. But if you have some low-quality components responsible for the braking and shifting and you will have a rubish bicycle with bad performance.
In this article, we will find out which are the best road bike components on the market right now.
What is a groupset?
I’ve been asked so many times this question – what is a groupset. Well, let’s find out. A groupset typically refers to mechanical parts that make up your bike which includes many different parts like:
- Brake and gear shifters
- Front and rear brakes
- Front derailleur
- Rear derailleur
- Bottom bracket
- Rear cassette
Let’s talk about all of them a little bit with more details.
1.Brake and gear shifters
Most of the good road bikes have the shifters integrated into the braking system. This means that you don’t have to move your hands from the brakes when you need to shift gears. Across all the models, the left gear shifter operates the gears in front ( the big jumps between your chainrings ). Whereas the gear shifter on your right-hand controls the smaller jumps in the back.
Shimano STI ( STI stands for Shimano Total Integration ) shifters are probably the shifters you know already because they are very common.
In my opinion, the Shimano STI shifters are the best on the market. They are affordable enough, extremely durable and rigid. One of the models that I like a lot is the Shimano ST-2400 Claris Shift/Brake. It changes gears super lightly and effortlessly. They also have an optical gear display included.
As well as Shimano, other companies produce similar brake & gear shifters which are integrated into each other. Campagnolo and SRAM do manufacture similar products but with a slightly different design. The best model by Campagnolo which I do recommend a lot is Campagnolo Veloce 10-Speed Ergopower.
SRAM, on the other hand, invented a little bit different integrated shifter. And the big difference here is that it has only one lever instead of two. SRAM integrated shifters are more complicated to use and understand. But once you are accustomed to those shifters – they can be great.
Here you have the best SRAM integrated shifters – SRAM Rival Shifters.
The best road bike integrated shifters:
- Shimano ST-2400 Claris Shift/Brake 3×8-Speed Lever STI Set – The best overall road bike integrated shifters!
- Campagnolo Veloce 10-Speed Ergopower Road Bicycle Shifter – Great alternative to the Shimano STI!
- SRAM Force 22 Shifters – The best double tap technology shifters!
- Campagnolo Record 11-Speed Ergopower Road Bicycle Shifter – The best lightweight integrated shifters!
SRAM vs Shimano vs Campagnolo
SRAM integrated shifters – Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace
Shimano integrated shifters – Apex, Rival, Force, Red
Campagnolo integrated shifters – Veloce, Athena, Chorus, Record, Super Record
2.Front and rear brakes
Road bikes in general use caliper brakes. V-Brakes and cantilever are more often used on cyclocross, commuter or hybrid bikes. Recently, we are starting to see more road bikes with disc brakes which gives more stopping power, particularly on wet roads.
The caliper brakes are mounted centrally above the wheel, and they are designed so that when the brake lever is pulled the calipers move inwards towards the rim. If the caliper brakes are set up in the correct way, both brake pads will touch the rim exactly at the same time and angle thus stopping the bicycle.
We don’t have much to tell you about the brakes. Most road bikes already come with good high-quality calipers and reliable brake pads.
Best front and rear brakes for road bikes:
- Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000 Front Brake – The best overall road bike brakes!
- Shimano 105 BR-5800-F Super SLR Brake Caliper – The best affordable road bike brakes!
- Campagnolo Uni Direct Mount Brake Systems Black 49 mm – The best brakes by Campagnolo!
The front derailleur ( often referred to as a front mech ) is the component which moves the chain left or right in order to change rings. It’s a quite simple mechanism and practically it is a cable-operated cage with two metal side plates.
The biggest difference between a mountain bike and road bike front derailleur is the way the cable pulls it. Road bike front derailleur is bottom pull which means the cable comes into the derailleur from the below.
We’ve got two types of front derailleurs when we talk about the mounting.
Band Mounting – as the name implies a band clamps around the seat tube of the frame. You can find two band sizes – 31.8mm or 34.9mm.
Braze-on Mounting – the front derailleur is mounted directly on to a small tab on the frame which is made for this purpose.
The best front derailleurs for road bikes.
- Shimano Ultegra R8000 Braze-On Front Derailleur –The best affordable front derailleur!
- Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 Front Derailleur – Braze-On – The best overall front derailleur!
- Shimano Ultegra Ice Grey FD-6700 Braze-On Front Derailleur – Great cheap alternative!
- Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 Braze-On Front Derailleur – The best lightweight front derailleur!
The rear derailleur guides the chain from one sprocket to the next. As you can guess already the three major brands here are Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM. All of them use different cable pull ratios.
When we talk about the rear derailleur the most important aspect to consider is compatibility. Your drivetrain, in general, should be made entirely by just one manufacturer. Of course, you can make some combinations but it would be quite difficult.
The best road bike rear derailleurs:
- SRAM Red 10Speed Aero Glide WiFLi Road Bicycle Rear Derailleur – The best rear derailleur made by SRAM!
- Campagnolo Super Record HO RD18 11-Speed Road Bicycle Rear Derailleur – The best expensive rear derailleur!
- Shimano Ultegra R8000 Mid-Cage Rear Derailleur – The best affordable road bike rear derailleur!
- Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8050 Mid-Cage Rear Derailleur – The best overall rear derailleur by Shimano!
5. Bottom Bracket
The bottom bracket on a road bike connects the chainset to the bike itself and allows the chainset to move and rotate freely. It contains a spindle that the chainset attaches to and the bearings that allow the spindle and chainset to rotate.
When we talk about bottom bracket we may find that there are countless standards.
Just to mention some of the most common bottom bracket standards:
- Conventional threaded
- EVO T47
Yeah, things got very messy here. As I really hate the bottom bracket topic I will give you this super nice video which will probably explain much better.
Chainset is also known is some parts of the world as a crankset. But I prefer to use the word chainset. Crank is another part of the road bike which I will explain to you later.
There are two types of chainsets for road bikes – triples, and doubles. Triple chainset is one which has three rings, and the double has two rings. Double chainsets are available in different ratios. For example, a compact chainset has a 50/34 ratio which means that the bigger ring has 50 teeth and the smaller one has 34 teeth.
In general, the bigger the teeth number the bigger the gear. Rings with higher teeth number achieve higher speeds, but they are harder to push ( some simple physics here ).
Another popular ratio for double chainset is the classic 53/30 teeth which more suitable for racing road bikes. Actually, there is another one which stays in between. It’s called the mid-compact ratio and it features 52/36 teeth combo.
My recommendation is this. If you are a beginner road cyclist you should definitely go for a compact chainset with 50/34 ratio. You can always upgrade to another ratio when you get more experienced and strong.
Triple chainsets are found really very rare on the modern road bikes despite the fact they offer the greatest range of gears. Triple chainsets are more often used on mountain bikes and hybrid bikes.
The best road bike chainsets:
- Shimano 5800 Road Bike Crankset – 34/50 – Best compact road bike chainset!
- Shimano 6800 Ultegra 11-Speed Crankset – Another great compact chainset!
- Shimano Sora 9 Crankset – Triple – The best triple chainset!
- Shimano FC-2450 50/34T Double 8-Speed Claris Crankset – Best affordable compact chainset!
The cranks are the arms that are connected to the chainset and attached to your pedals. Cranks can vary typically between 160-180mm. The size of the cranks is dependent on the size of the frame you choose.
The chain is mostly dependent on the number of gears you have. For example, an 8-speed chain is designed for an 8-speed cassette, etc.. Also an 8-speed chain is wider than an 11-speed chain which is much more narrower. Chains do wear out over time and they will most probably be the first mechanical part that you will need to replace.
The best road bike chains:
- Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 Chain – The best road bike chain!
- KMC X11SL 11 Speed 116L Bike Chain – Another great option!
- SRAM PC 1051 Chain – Best affordable road bike chain by SRAM!
Cassette refers to the collection of sprockets on the rear wheel. They are available in a very wide range of ratios. Most road bike cassettes have 11,12 or 13 teeth on the smallest sprocket, and between 21 and 32 teeth on the largest. The most common type used is 12-25 cassette which means 12 teeth on the smallest sprocket, and 25 teeth on the largest sprocket.
This type of cassette is perfect for most cycling terrains when it is paired with compact or standard chainset. On the other side if you ride a lot on hills or struggle with hills climbing I would suggest trying a cassette with a lower ratio. For example, having the largest sprocket with 27 or more teeth would be very beneficial.
It’s very important to check if your rear derailleur can handle larger sprockets before buying one. If you are not very familiar with the matter, you can always visit a local bike shop. I’m sure that they would always help you with any issue.
The best road bike cassettes:
- Shimano 6800 Ultegra 11-Speed Cassette – The best road bike cassette for climbing hills
- SRAM XG-1190 X-Dome 11-Speed Cassette – Another great cassette for big hills
- Shimano HG51 8-Speed Cassette – The best affordable 8-speed cassette!
My recommendation is this. Always go with a groupset made by one manufacturer and one line. This is going to ensure that you will get the best performance and longevity. Also, if you are not sure about anything you can visit your local bike shop. Some matters about the mechanics of a road bike are really complicated, and you don’t have to know it all.