Upgrading entry-level bike with modern groupset

Hello to the group. I’m becoming active in road biking this past year and winter training on my Saris H3. I bought a Purple Trek Domane AL2 disc mid-year that came with the 8-speed Claris setup (UN300 square BB/RS200 solid crankset/HG-31 11-32 cassette/Tektro mechanical disks). I’ve already replaced the heavy Bontrager rims and tyres with Hunt 4454 carbon and Schwalbe Pro One tubeless and measured a substantial HR reduction.

What I’m obsessing over and would like some opinions are my groupset options since I’m worried the Claris setup will hold me back (weight/friction) and want to start doing weekly Group rides of 24 or 36 miles plus stretch myself this year. I plan to spend probably $1,500 on either a full Ultegra R8020 mechanical, SRAM Rival AXS or maybe a 105 Di2 setup. I favor the State Trails for now so no need for racing or an expensive carbon frame.

Would it be a mistake to upgrade to a proven but now discontinued platform like R8000 Ultegra mech or should I future-proof the bike with AXS/DI2? I figured Ultegra would lighten it 2.25lb taking the Domane down to 18.5lbs (the Hunts/Pro One dropped 3lbs).

For Di2 with an aluminum frame, I’ll either use the external battery/wiring or get creative with the internal seatpost routing. I like that SRAM has two external batteries to make it cleaner.

Thanks for the help!

Why not regular 105? Just throwing it out there for money:value balance.


I would consider putting the original wheels back on the Domane, selling that bike, then adding the proceeds to the $1500 you’re prepared to spend on a groupset and start looking for gently used or previous year models that already have the groupset you’re looking for and hydraulic disc brakes. The new bike will likely have entry-level wheels, so slap your Hunts on and sell the others or keep’em for backup.


That was my original thought and Black Friday sales made an Ultegra available about the same price (I didn’t act so the price expired).

Why are in-place upgrades frowned upon?

it’s not that they’re frowned upon, it’s just that you’re likely to end up with a better bike for the same $$. every situation is unique, so it’s not a steadfast rule but one i certainly wouldn’t overlook.


As long as it’s tuned up properly, it won’t.


I ride an Allez with Claris. The group set is in no way holding me back. Shifts just fine, the only thing that might be annoying sometimes is big jumps if I have a power goal but usually not an issue. I have considered going 11 speed with Sensah team shifters and a 105 rear derailleur but it’s not really high on my list.

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My Domane also came with the HG-31 which I found is probably #4 down the list of 8-speed cassettes, the HG-50 being the best. So yes there are options in staying with Claris and swapping out different ranges. I seem to run most of the time in the 50/21 or 24 pairings.

Perhaps the cartridge square BB isn’t as bad as I’m imagining.

I have the HG51 cassette (11-28), which for me takes care of the large majority of riding I do. The benefit of 8 speed is that parts are inexpensive and in some ways easier to get than higher end, at least during the supply chain issues during the height of the pandemic.

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If I were you, my two options would be

  • Go for hydraulic disc brakes. Make sure to replace the rotors with 160 mm IceTech rotors, too.
  • Shimano 105 mechanical or
  • SRAM eTap AXS Rival.

Here is my reasoning for each:

  • With Shimano, going 12-speed means going electronic, and I don’t think their 105 electronic groupset is a great buy. Their 11-speed groupsets are great and if you want to stick to 2x in the front, I don’t see a huge incentive to go 11-speed. If you want more reach, put a SRAM 11-36 cassette on it, and it should work out of the box. Ultegra 11-speed is not a good buy, it is “only” lighter than 105 mechanical, but functionally identical.
  • If you want to go up, go for SRAM eTap AXS. The Rival groupset has probably the cheapest (first- and third-party) power meter. Yes, it is one-sided, but also, it only costs $250. Shimano has nothing here. Unlike with Shimano, I think you really gain flexibility. I’d seriously consider a 10–36 cassette, which gives you lower gearing than a Shimano drivetrain. SRAM also supports 1x natively if that is your thing. I run a 1x12 setup with a 10–36 cassette and a 42-tooth chainring. Works great for me. I’m not arguing you should or have to go 1x, but you have the option.

Invest the money you save into new wheels.

Thanks @OreoCookie this helps.
I originally spec’d a 105 setup for around $600 keeping the Tektro and $1k with hydros. Taking this plus what the AL2 is worth now after 1/2 year ($800) is less than a new AL5 would go for ($2100) and my Purple Abyss color isn’t available on anything new.

The Claris works good on the Saris in ERG mode as today I did Icefall -6 at 95rpm in 50/21 which see to be my go to combo. Honestly then any brand with a similar ratio will work inside. I’m still at 119 FTP (a few months starting out) so once I get into SSLV 2 and pushing upwards I’ll do ok.

I do like the idea of a power meter and AXS also means 12 speed and electric. Ok on Ultegra being overkill, it was an eBay deal for $1075 that I hesitated as the cost was close to the 105 estimate which made me consider it as being higher quality and only 60 miles away. Some of the 105 parts seem to be shipping from overseas lately at least in auctions as many vendors are out of stock.

Way too much time with a notebook and analysis paralysis of the components and weights. Then there’s the whole Mineral oil vs DOT 5.1 talk.

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Thinking about it some more, I’d definitely go for 105 mechanical.

Go with hydraulic brakes for sure. That’s a huge upgrade and one you won’t be able to do later on, at least not without significant expense. Perhaps you can get some of the parts used?

Also, if you want to upgrade from 105 (say, you see a deal on ebay), start with the STI levers. (You see this a lot when you buy bikes, manufacturers would mix components from different groupsets. “Visible” components like rear derailleurs would be upgraded, but “invisible” components like STI levers and cassettes would not.)

Then the next thing I’d address is a bike fit: have you had a proper bike fit yet? That might necessitate changing some of your touch points (stem, handlebars, saddle and pedals). That’ll be the most significant upgrade in my opinion.

Yes the initial fit (one hour) came with the purchase and we lowered the stem 5mm, seat adjusted and he suggested I change the seat post angle (can’t remember if zero or 7 degrees). Including the Saris I have almost 400 miles ridden on it since July 1st. I bought clip in pedals from the outset and run a nice Voler kit. Really made a difference Post COVID and work from home stress relief getting outside again. Building strong Z2 using TR as I’m a data guy and enjoy matching the metrics.

My bike has a mix of Claris 2400 and R2000 parts, it’s a 2021 model sold in 2022 so probably built from whatever they had available. I did look at a SL5 initially but it was sold before I could get there. Was just reading on the UN300 BB and it seems ok and not some big box store part :slight_smile:

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Not frowned upon by any means. Theres just a point where no matter how much you throw at it, its not going to be as good as buying a newer one would be. Putting a $1500 groupset on a bike that was $1200 new is long past the point of upgrading.

Id keep the domane on the trainer or sell it. Take your $1500 upgrade budget and put it towards a newer bike. Find a bike a few years old that already has ultegra or 105 on it, throw your new wheels on it and youve got yourself a solid rig!

The frame is usually shared between various models, so even if you spend more on an SL5 or whatnot, the frame is identical. And going for a more expensive frame means you’ll go for a significantly more expensive bike. There are some aluminum bikes that are sold in a premium config (Cannondale’s CAAD12 and CAAD13 as well as BMC’s aluminum Teammachine machine come to mind).

Upgrading selective components over time makes sense if you do it right. Selective upgrades could make a huge difference. Going from Claris to 105 is a huge upgrade. Adding e. g. a carbon seat post is a huge upgrade. Getting a nicer saddle that fits your anatomy or a more comfortable set of handlebars could have a great impact on how your bike feels. And another big one is tires.

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I absolutely agree, but If your $2000 car needed $3k in transmission work, youd buy a new car

Unless you’re doing the work yourself, this is a complete strip down and rebuild. Have you taken labor into account here?

I still stand by my opinion that a newer bike will be cheaper and better.

Willier, carbon frame, sram red—$900

Orbea Orca…has that ultegra you want… $750

Domane, also ultegra…for the cost of the drivetrain budget

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I agree with this thinking as well. I’m investing in the Groupset as I did the Wheelset for the longer term. The frame is only to hold it together and give me a place to sit on. I can always swap the parts onto something else in a few years as I enjoy mechanics and spending time with the bike even not when riding it.

I don’t like AL frames getting a bad rap like they were made of aluminum foil or something fragile (no one here did that). I can’t afford $4700 for a new SL6 or getting a new bike every year like people do with a car or phone. Plus supplies are still limited. Maybe someday I’ll see the value of buying a carbon frame if I’m not racing it. Many upgrades like @OreoCookie mentioned above will make the bike more enjoyable - the Hunts and tubeless Pro Ones felt great over the OEM Bontrager rims and R1 tyres.

I just checked eBay again, that Ultegra full kit mentioned above is back on sale again at $1079 for 15 more days. Pricing 105 mech parts w/brakes comes out to be the same; Rival parts a little more.

So it comes down to I either enjoy the Claris and not worry about bottom end parts or upgrade my frame set to Ultegra since the cost is equal to 105 and shave a few more pounds off the bike which will help me do longer rides without getting as tired.

This has been a good discussion and I appreciate all the replies from everyone.

I don’t think this analogy holds here. E. g. an entry-level CAAD13 will have the same frame as the top-end CAAD13 (save, perhaps for the fork). So it is as if you are comparing a VW Golf with the smallest engine with a decked out Golf R — both are Golfs.

IMHO we are proposing to change the engine for a little more than what the better engine would have cost out of the factory.

This is a consideration, that’s for sure. However, the same applies when you buy used.

You linked to used bikes, not new bikes, though. Now getting a used bike instead is worth thinking about. But I don’t think you can fairly compare two older bikes with older components to a new bike with newer components. If these older components are worn out and need replacing, you’ll pay a lot more than $700.

FWIW, I got my new-to-me mountain bike used for $1,200. It was a bargain as it came with a carbon frame, a top-end XC fork, an XTR groupset (sans XTR brakes) and quality aluminum wheels. A sub-10 kg built. However, I did need to put in another $1,000 in parts (new chainring, new brakes, new handlebars, new saddle, new pedals). And I had the bike checked out by my LBS. So when you buy e. g. a bike with a Red groupset and the chainrings are EOL, you’ll have to pay Red prices for new chainrings. (I learnt how expensive XTR chainrings are really quickly. :astonished:)

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Even if you are racing, if you have a small budget or want to spend your money smartly, aluminum is the way to go. I’d much rather have an aluminum frame with e. g. 105 or Ultegra, disc brakes and quality wheels than a carbon frame with more budget components.

Also, some components are more easily transferable across bikes. Wheels come to mind.