Lower End Groupsets Comparison

I’m trying to advise my friend on getting a bike. He has never done any cycling before and I am looking at lower end gravel bikes.
It looks like most of the bikes in this range, <$1k, are offering tiagra or a non-sram/shimano groupset.

I don’t have any experience with these and am wondering if there is a big enough difference that we should look at 105. Especially how would new Tiagra compare to 105 that may be 5-7 years old?


Good question.

From what I understand, current gen Tiagra is legitimately very good. Perfectly serviceable. For the brakes, Tiagra hydraulic brakes have resin pistons, versus ceramic on 105 and up. There aren’t many qualitative differences like that.

Many people get into cycling, and it’s not really cost effective to buy and upgrade an entry-level bike. I’d argue that Tiagra is likely sufficient. Your friend may outgrow it soon, but they might also have outgrown a bike with 105 or GRX 600 soon. Also, your friend doesn’t necessarily know what they want out of the sport or what they want in a bike, right? A Tiagra-level bike is going to be less sunk cost.


I agree with @Weiwentg. Tiagra has become the “new 105” since the latest update. I’m sure it works really well.

105 is great also and worth the money in my opinion if you want top-level performance. There’s no need to get anything better than 105 unless you’re really serious about racing (again, my opinion).

You’ll probably be happy either way.


I agree with this. If your friend is looking to just enjoy riding, Tiagra will be great. If he wants to make it a hobby, 105 is good. I personally think the bikes at Polygon are amazing deals, like this 105 rim brake model for under $1K.

Ha, I’ll be honest – I’m trying to make it a hobby for him.
Big goal would be to do a longer gravel ride (>50 miles) next year in Utah or Colorado area. But not necessarily racing.
Assuming he’ll stick with it.

I have a GRX400 10 speed and have to say, it’s far from being nice. The shifting is rough and the clicks for the 2nd change in the same movement are very close. I frequently change 2 gears instead of one. If I turn the clutch on then it’s way worse. I’d say very bad.

Breaks are nice, highlighted for me. 10-speed is also budget-friendly as all replacement parts - chain, cassette, etc. - are usually cheaper.

Pros: breaks really good, replacement parts cheaper, ergonomics are good - personal opinion.

Cons: shifting is one of the worst I already have.

I’d assume something needs to be dialed in with your bike or there is a manufacturing defect with some part of your groupset. This isn’t normal for GRX400.


Agreed. My wife has a GRX 10 Speed on an entry level Diverge and when I ride it, I have no issues. I feel like the setup for 10 speed is super easy super tolerant.

I have GRX400 10 speed based on Tiagra and it’s excellent. I also have bikes with SRAM Red Etap, Shimano Ultegra, Shimano 105 and SRAM Apex XPLR mechanical. The quality of the shifting is excellent on all of them except the Apex. Apex XPLR is a hateful experience and very susceptible to bad set up.

The experience with GRX is as good as the higher end mechanical Shimano groupsets. The disc brakes on the GRX have been better than two sets of 105 disc I’ve had.

I’d happily buy a bike with 10 speed Tiagra.

1 Like

This reminds me of one thing. We have:

10s Tiagra
11s mech 105
12s mech 105
12s Di2 105

I don’t know what Shimano plans for 10s Tiagra. I thought CUES was replacing all groups up to Tiagra, but it is a heavier groupset. CUES will have an 11s version.

Anyway, 11s mech 105 could also be fine, and it should be pretty cheap. I bet some bike manufacturers are speccing it as if were an 11s Tiagra group.

One more here to chime in that there must be something wrong with your GRX 400 setup, or some sort of defect. My experience with it was all good for the year I ran it. I’ve since upgraded to GRX 820. But that’s only because here someone posted a too-good-to-miss Christmas deal. It works no better than the GRX 400. It’s just lighter and has two more gears.

This thought had occurred to me, and based on what you guys are saying, it appears that mine is somehow “wrong”. That’s why I replaced the cable, and checked the hanger at least 5 times.

And I agreed that it shouldn’t be bad as I put 25,000km on a Tiagra 10S in the past with no issues at all. I thought this groupset would be good.

Well, I’ll try to check at the local bike shop and feel it.


I would disagree that you outgrow 105 or GRX600 soon. I would consider me relatively serious ( 8-12h a week) and I’m still happy with s 105 mech roadbike. I may upgrade at one point in the future but it handles racing crits and granfondos very well and for gravel the GRX 600 is nice and is mostly compatible with 800.

Tiagra is fine the one time I rode it, worked well no fuss with it. The only group set I wouldn’t touch is SRAM Apex mechanical I had the 11 speed version and never got it to shift well and neither was my bike shop. It all depends I think a bike with GRX400 or tiagra would be totally fine and can provide you with fun for years.

1 Like

I’ve Tiagra on my 4 year old Topstone AL, and I really wouldn’t notice much difference from 105, or even Ultegra for shifting to be honest.

I updated to the crank/ FD to 10 speed GRX from the FSA stock, but that was only because it was the most cost effective option to get power (as I could use an existing hollowtech 2 left crank power meter). I haven’t felt the need to swap out the RD, and while there’s always the allure of n+1 it would be a carbon or Ti frame rather than the groupset driving that!

1 Like

Tiagra is a solid groupset, I wouldn’t worry at all about recommending it to a beginner. Honestly, I think fundamentals like sizing and being set up properly is much more important in practice. A former colleague of mine almost got a great deal on a bike that was 2–3 sizes too small for him.

The RD usually has a much smaller impact, for mechanical shifters, I would exchange the shift levers first.

Well GRX 10 Speed is a clutch RD rather than Tiagra. But I haven’t felt the need.

1 Like

I recommended a 105 based bike to someone on the idea that if they didn’t get into it ‘enough’ it still had a nice resale price, and if they DID get into it, the quality wouldn’t be a hindrance, making them quickly hate it and be pissed because I ‘had them buy a POS bike’ that they out grew too quickly.

My first ‘real’ bike was a 105 Cannondale, and it shifted so nice (compared to what I already had experienced) and made it hard not to enjoy the ride and get sucked into riding, a lot. I ended up doing a quad century on that bike by the summer of the second year I owned it. It just worked really flawlessly. No complaints. Others that I had seen at the bike shop I worked at occasionally had issues with really low end bikes and just gave up on riding because of the hassle. Having test ridden a Campy equipped Paramount, I knew I didn’t need a several thousand dollar bike, but the 105 was still a great ride. I couldn’t see having been ‘stuck’ with a cheaper bike that had ‘okay brakes’, and ‘decent shifting’. I already had experienced that and did want better…

I ended up upgrading that bike to 600EX and still rode the hell out of it. Fighting a cheaper bike could take a lot of the fun out of biking as a noob… The ‘It’ll have a better resale’ argument has worked in the past for people. shrug

I could afford the Cannondale, so price and affordability weighs heavy on choice, but don’t get something too cheap if you/they think they are going to be riding a lot.

1 Like

My comments were meant to cover both, AFAIK GRX 10-speed is based on Tiagra, it is essentially the same tech. :slight_smile:

1 Like

The reality is that a correctly setup low end group set works exactly as well as a high end group set. Spending more money for higher end gives you weight and appearance differences only. The shifting system is just preset indexes on the shifters and cables that move the spring loaded derailleur accordingly. So functionally, they could not be any different unless the engineers screwed up the indexing which would cause it to skip, but they obv didn’t.

Long story short, save your money and get the cheap stuff as a newbie. There may be differences in materials that affect the products longevity, but a big investment isn’t optimal for a person who might not even use the product to the extent they wear it out anyhow