Shimano, Inc. is a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures cycling parts, fishing tackle, and rowing equipment. It manufactured golf supplies until 2005 and snowboarding equipment until 2008. The company, headquartered in Sakai, Japan, has 32 consolidated subsidiaries and 11 unconsolidated subsidiaries.
Shozaburo Shimano established it in 1921 in Osaka, Japan, and its first product was a single-speed bicycle freewheel. Shimano exported freewheels to China in ten years. Shimano Iron Works Co., Ltd. was formed as a limited company in January 1940.
Is Shimano made in Japan?
Shimano has factories in China, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and probably several other countries. Since they manufacture a wide variety of parts for all styles and prices of bikes. Their stuff is generally fine, but as with most things, the cheap stuff is usually not so good. Shimano manufactures all stages. If they list the name of the specific line (“Dura-Ace”, “Ultegra”, “105”), that’s fine.
Shimano is the market leader in bike groupsets (basically, the gears and brakes on your bike). Shimano is the most common groupset, even more than SRAM and Campagnolo. Shimano’s offering for all bike ranges is one of its best features. They have something for all, from the premium Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets to the entry-level Claris and Tourney groupsets.
Is it cheaper in Japan?
No, it’s not. The cheapest option is to buy from Wiggle or Merlin, which, despite (or maybe because of) their location in the United Kingdom, are typically less expensive than Amazon. Montbell is one brand that is reasonably priced in Japan. It’s a Japanese brand that offers excellent value when purchased in Japan at their own stores.
Why is Shimano so popular?
Shimano is one of the most popular bicycles gearing system in the world. The system is most trusted and reliable amongst bicycle enthusiasts. The brand provides a variety of system for mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes and other bicycles.
What is a groupset?
Groupsets are modules that work together to turn leg strength into motion and then slow you down. On modern bikes, the groupset consists of the gears, brakes, and all the parts in between that allow the bike to travel. The quality of the components used, the number of gears available, and the overall weight are typically the deciding factors between groupsets. The beauty of the trickle-down effect is that even the most recent entry-level options, such as Sora and Tiagra, provide excellent value, dependable results, and premium looks.
Sora v. Tiagra
When you’re out racing, the safest groupset is the one you don’t even care about. You tell it to change gears, and it does so. You tell it to brake, and it does so. The groupset combines the mechanical elements of the bike, such as the gears, chain, brakes, and cranks. It is all the pieces that drive or stop the bike, and they should all act in unison.
Shimano, a Japanese corporation, dominates the groupset industry. Also, within their own range, there is a lot of variety, with options ranging from entry level to pro echelon. The road bike collection consists of six sets. Claris groupsets are the most affordable, going all the way up to the high-end Dura Ace sets.
- Claris (least expensive)
- Dura Ace (most expensive)
In this section, we’ll compare and contrast two of their most common groupsets, Tiagra and Sora.
Tiagra and Sora are Shimano’s entry-level models, alongside Claris and Tourney.
Since they dominate the entry-level road bike market, we’ll look at the Shimano Sora versus Tiagra groupsets and the main differences between them in this article.
The Sora groupset is a 9-speed groupset that is commonly used on lower-end bikes. It is available in both regular double and wide-range triple cranksets. Tiagra is the next step up in the line-up, with a 10-speed groupset that is more akin to the mid-range 105.
The Tiagra, on the other hand, has one-piece brake pads rather than higher-quality brake cartridges. This year, the Tiagra groupset gained hydraulic brakes and levers, bringing it closer to the 105.
Shimano describes both groupsets as being in the endurance and fitness divisions, rather than competitive cycling, time trials, or triathlons.
Let’s look at each groupset’s individual components.
The primary distinction between the Sora and Tiagra groupsets is the number of sprockets on the rear cassette, which is 9 for Sora and 10 for Tiagra. The cassettes are made of the same high strength material, but the Tiagra’s 10-speed is slightly more polished with better machining.
A persistent misconception is that getting more gear would make you a better climber. The reality is that it is the variety that matters, not the number of gears. The Sora and Tiagra’s rear cassettes have nearly identical gear ratios for tackling any climb. The Sora and Tiagra groupsets can be combined with either a compact or triple chainset. The most common alternative is the lightweight 50/34T, which provides more than enough range for riders of all abilities.
Triple chain sets (50/39/30T) have fallen out of favour in recent years, but they remain a viable choice for those seeking fast, relaxed climbing. At the best of times, properly indexing the gears on a triple chainset can be temperamental, and they usually need more maintenance.
In the case of the Tiagra, having more sprockets means smaller variations in cadence when shifting gears. Having more gears allows you to fine-tune your cadence. This feels stronger and easier, and it will eventually be quicker.
Only asymmetric dual pivot rim brakes with the same quick-release mechanism as the more costly Shimano rim brakes are included with the Sora groupset. The single compound pads aren’t the best, but upgrading to cartridge pads is easy.
The brakes are possibly the most noticeable difference between the Sora and Tiagra groupsets. The Tiagra has the same rim brake option as the Sora, but it also has hydraulic disc brakes.
Disc brakes have gradually gained popularity in the pro peloton and are now standard on even entry-level road bikes (under £1500). Having that option means improved modulation and stopping power under all conditions. It also means that larger tyres can be added to the vehicle, making gravel riding a possibility.
Shifters and Levers
Thankfully, the Sora groupset no longer includes the reviled thumb shifter and has been upgraded to Dual Control, as have the Tiagra and higher-end Shimano groupsets. The gear and brake cables are also now routed under the bar tape for a cleaner appearance in the cockpit.
Shimano’s Tiagra shifters, or STIs (Shimano Total Integration), are slightly slimmer than the Sora’s, but the lever throw is exactly the same.
Shimano shifters are ergonomic and accurate around the board. In a blind test, it’s unlikely that anyone will say the difference in groupsets solely based on the feel of the shifters. Both groupsets have flat-bar shifter and brake options, making them equally common among commuters and road cyclists.
The reach adjustment screw for the shifters is located underneath the hoods but is easily available.
Total Groupset Weight
Sora – 2.2kg
Tiagra – 2.1kg
Starting with the Shimano Sora, the company describes this groupset as being aimed at sports and fitness cyclists. There have been a number of significant changes to efficiency since the most recent update. Better dual-pivot disc brakes and the ability to use a wide-ranging 11-34t cassette put it in line with its more expensive competitors.
The design has also been revised to ensure a smarter finish, with internal cabling available to keep wires tidy and a 4-arm chainset to keep it current. The main differences between more expensive models and the Sora are the constant 9-speed (the number of gears available) and the extra weight as compared to better versions.
However, Sora maintains its reputation as a reliable groupset offering good performance.
- A dependable and durable 9-speed groupset; • Technology derived from higher-level groupsets.
- Dual Control gear shifters, with the brake lever moving the cassette down and the smaller lever moving it forward.
- Chainset options include double and triple chain sets.
- The rear derailleur will hold an 11-32t cassette and a 50/34t compact chainset.
Shimano Tiagra groupsets have grown in recent years, making them closer to Shimano 105 groupsets. The Tiagra has traditionally been regarded as the starting point for road biking. However, with the introduction of a 10-speed Tiagra, it has grown in popularity as a road biking alternative. Its overall results, however, falls short of that of the 105 and the premium Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets.
The latest Tiagra modifications gave it a more 105-like appearance, with the same four-arm crank set and shifter, as well as concealed gear and brake cables. The main distinction between Tiagra and higher models is its 10-speed transmission. There is also no option for a 53/39t chainset.
Shimano’s reasoning is that no one will be using a Tiagra groupset for competitive racing, so they won’t need the higher gears. The Tiagra, on the other hand, has 52/36t, 50/34t, and 50/39/30t triple chainset options, so there are still plenty of options.
- Dura-Ace technology is used in this 10-speed groupset, which has a broader frame compatibility.
- A 30% improvement in braking power.
- Hydraulic STI units with improved lever form and shifting.
- A wide range of chainset options, from 52-36t to 46-34t, to accommodate all skill levels. There is also a triple option of 50-39-30t.
- Tiagra hydraulic disc brakes or dual-pivot rim brakes.
The differences between the two
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: The Tiagra groupset comes with the option of hydraulic disc brakes. The Sora groupset uses rim brakes.
In general, the shifters on the Sora are a little cumbersome, making the Tiagra a better option. Gear changes are slicker, and overall performance is marginally higher, as the Tiagra moves closer to the 105 groupsets. The Sora and Tiagra groupsets aren’t clumsy at all.
While being squarely in the entry-level market, the Sora and Tiagra groupsets compete admirably against more expensive alternatives. Overall, the Tiagra groupset’s hydraulic disc brake option adds more flexibility to your bike and the places you can ride, but both the Sora and Tiagra provide reliable and predictable performance for all riders.
Essentially, the Tiagra is a better option if you want a slightly lighter & quicker groupset. If you want a mix of performance & value, opt for the Sora. If you are looking for more performance (without having an 11-speed groupset), opt for the Tiagra.