Upgrading Shimano groupset

Hey all,

I'm quite new to the world of cycling, but I'm not so new to realise that the low-end Shimano components on my 16speed Specialized Allez aren't the greatest.

I'm thinking of upgrading them to the 105 groupset, but I'm getting confused by all the different options. I figure I need a 10 speed cassette, a new front and rear derailleur, a new crank set, a new chain, and new shifters.

Questions being: Is that all I need, and what recommendations do you all have for gear ratios? Do I have to match front/rear ratios on the crank/cassette or just choose ones I 'like'?

Is this a massive job?!



  • It's not a huge job but it is fiddly and expensive.  Have a look at the Park Tools website for tips on how to do it.  You'll probably need new bar tape (unless you're very careful removing the existing tape) and new gear cables (inner cables only as you should be able to re-use the outers).  If you have Hollowtech II cranks then you don't need any special tools.  Just a set of allen keys and some cable cutters.  If you've got an Octalink or square taper BB then you'll need a crank extractor as well.


    I would recommend a compact chainset, if you haven't got one already.  Then pick the cassette that suits your riding.  If you're a demon climber then go for something like a 12-25 or even an 11-23.  If you struggle on the hills then go for something bigger, like a 12-27 or an 11-28.

  • You can always shop around at the deals online, pick up a cheap 105 5600 groupset now that the 5700 is out.  Take it to you LBS or even see if they will internet price match, they will probably fit it for a reasonable price.  I did the same with my winter hack and it cost me £40. 

    Personally I am not a fan of compact chainsets (each to their own of course) and would go standard and you can play around with the rear cassette as you get stronger. 

  • What you need to do is take the bike to your local bike shop and say "I've made a mistake, can you convert this to Campag please?"


    Actually, don't forget you can mix and match to a fair extent rather than change the whole groupset.  For example you could change the shifters and perhaps the rear mech (I assume you're running Shimano Sora?) and leave the rest alone.  You almost certainly won't see much benefit changing the front mech.

    You can choose pretty much any ratio combination you like, including compacts, the only issue being that if the gear range is very wide a standard 'short cage' rear mech may not work and you'll need one with a longer cage.

  • Cheerful Dave wrote (see)

    What you need to do is take the bike to your local bike shop and say "I've made a mistake, can you convert this to Campag please?"

    I think the original poster was after sensible advice image
  • I'd question why go to all that bother, on what sounds like a fairly new bike, albeit from the lower end of the range? The cheapest way to upgrade a groupset is to buy a new bike ! You'll find the wheels and most other components are the greatest either - you get what you pay for. Ride it as is for a bit longer, then buy a better bike with 105 and keep this one as your winter hack. Or sell it now, and put the money into a better overall package. You're very unlikely to go noticably faster shaving a few grams off with 105 kit, just buy some 105 decals if you must impress your mates until you upgrade the bike image
  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    Agree with Kanga - what benefits is shelling out for a new groupset going to give you except maybe another sprocket or two at the back and maybe a pound or two in weight off the bike.    Better wheels and tyres would be a more useful upgrade and you could keep them should you get a new bike in the future.  
  • fat buddhafat buddha ✭✭✭
    "I think the original poster was after sensible advice"

    perfectly sensible advice in my books... image

    and I agree with kanga and pops - get a new bike but just make sure it's got Campag or Sram kit - none of this Japanese rubbish
  • You're right, except there's a world of difference between telling the missus that the package just delivered is a 'few bits for the bike' and explaining why you need to go and buy a new bike, when there's a perfectly usable one in the garage.

    There's also something quite satisfying in putting a bike together from the frame up: getting the gear indexing perfectly, getting the bar tape just so, etc.  It still seems worthwhile even when bits start working loose just when you're on that long fast descent.

  • fat buddhafat buddha ✭✭✭
    "It still seems worthwhile even when bits start working loose just when you're on that long fast descent"

    ah - the "perhaps I should have put some locktite on" moment....

    my missus gave me a right bollocking a few years ago as in one race both her tribars and then bottle cage rattled loose - in fact the cage fell onto her chainrings as one bolt rattled completely out and it nearly threw her off...
  • All good advice thanks peeps!

    I understand the point about a new bike, but as I said, I'm new to this, so having got the bike I've realised I'd like better shifters, and ones without the side button. I've upgraded the tyres (wheels will have to wait till I get some bonus!), but I figure upgrading the groupset is a matter of £40 here, £100 there, and I can learn about the bike as I make it better.

    Worst case scenario, once I've done all this I can spend all my money on a great frame, stick the bits I have on it, and replace the old ones on the bike and bingo I have a winter hack and a reasonably decent race steed..

    Dave, you're right. Couldn't swing a new bike in a million years...
  • Ben Wickham wrote (see)
     Couldn't swing a new bike in a million years...
    Sound like you need more specialised advice ..... image
    Ben Wickham wrote (see)
    Worst case scenario, once I've done all this I can spend all my money on a great frame, stick the bits I have on it, and replace the old ones on the bike and bingo I have a winter hack and a reasonably decent race steed..
    Unless you're a born fettler, and there are a few of those strange beasts on this forum, this is a great theory that may not work in practice. I'd rather spend my non work and family time riding that fettling, although no doubt I would learn something and be proud of doing so. Individual parts are stupidly expensive, and you spend ages checking what is compatible and where you can get it cheapest, before then spending hours in the shed swearing at the remains of your bike.
    On the upside you learn something, can stagger the financial hit, and possibly stay married, but it's a slow and more expensive way of getting a better bike. But if that's your only option, good luck with it, I'm crap at mechanics image
  • Cheerful Dave wrote (see)

    There's also something quite satisfying in putting a bike together from the frame up: getting the gear indexing perfectly, getting the bar tape just so, etc.  It still seems worthwhile even when bits start working loose just when you're on that long fast descent.

    Id argue there is something quite satisfying about leaving the bike at the shop and picking it up with all the work done.

    Horses for courses and all that image
  • My Specialized Allez Elite bought in 2005 has 105's on it as standard.  Specialized have now downgraded the Allez standard groupset level to Tiagra for some strange reason .... I think the Tarmac range has taken over and is now given the higher range groupsets.

    That said I imagine the newer Allez's with Tiagra groupsets may well be as good as the older 105 groupsets on the older Allez's .... as technology progresses, althought the base price of the new Allez is now somewhat lower than the old one used to be ... so perhaps not ? 

    I believe Specialized do however seem to create balanced bikes and as others have said upgrading a groupset may not be beneficial as you may pay almost the cost of a bike to do so and then the wheels will be substandard for the other componentry you currently have etc etc .... bit like buying better speakers for a stereo only to find they show up the substandard quality of the amp ... or perhaps worse buying a better amp and hearing no difference due to substandard speakers and not realising that anything has changed at all except your bank balance (not sure which is the worst way around to be honest ?)

    Why not shop for a good secondhand bike instead with better spec? ... somebody mught be flogging an old Colnago with Campy shifters and Ultegra mechs, chainsets and clusters ... then your laughing as you cash in on their old gear just because of their latest desire for the S-Works Tarmac SL3 simply because Contador and Schleck happened to both be riding one this year !!!  .... you might pick something special up for the price of a groupset ... an if you so love the geometry of your existing frame and like building bikes you can migrate the whole lot onto your old frame, wheels an all !

    Not sure why I suddenly posted to this old thread  ... anyway have fun. S

  • Personally I'd put the money to one side for the new groupset - dip into it if you need to replace something, but really you'd not notice much difference.  When you have enough for a new bike - just get the same colour as the last bike was. She'll probably not notice.

    Oh - burn all photos you have of the last bike - just in case. 

  • .... or tell her you need a new frame as the geometry of the old one is hurting your back, pretend to be changing components over in the garage (more free time to yourself)  ....when all along you have simply replaced the entire bike and got the odd spanner out and squirted oil on your fingers whilst tinkering with your new toy.

    Better still tell her you are merey spending money on spray paint as you fell off and damaged the paintwork on the frame ... then buy a can of spray paint and pretend you are creating a new look for your old bike but secretly throw it in a canal when she's not looking, or give it away to a friend several hundred miles away and unconnected to your woman's circle of friends (that'd possibly need to be on another planet as their underground networks are massive !) ... and then come in on the day of the new purchase looking slightly heady from the spray paint with the odd spot of paint on your hands and a few bits of bogus backing newspaper covered in the stuff grinning with satisfaction ... she'll think it is your ego puffed up from a good paint job and so you needn't hide the grin that the new dream machine has brought into your life !

    .... or just buy new speakers for your stereo ..... and then try and convince yourself that you can feel the speed gain and smooth gear changing when you next get on your bike (requires almost the same leap of faith as simply fitting a new group set)

    Serious response to your original question:-

    If you change the cassette to a 10 speed you'll need a different chain size and the mech will need to move sufficiently to cover the 10 speed range (width of the cassette) or if the cassette is more compact you'll need to change the mech and the shifters as you'll need ones that move the cable and mech slightly less for each shift in gear .... appart from that you can mix and match the ratios to your hearts content on the cassette itself and for the chainset (within the range of what is available for the chainset .... with a small 30 tooth sprocket on the chainset at the front and 28 tooth selectable sprocket on the cassette at the back you have 30:28 which is approaching a 1:1 ratio for very very steep hills ... most riders will tell you this is uncool ... you may end up grinning however if you are able to climb to the top of a hill when they have had to dismount ... probably not necessary for winning triathlons though ?).

    The ratios overlap substantially between front chainset and rear cassette combinations .... especially when the cassette increases to a 10spd .... the reason riders want 10 and 11 spd cassettes is more for the "tooth at a time" fine adjustment whilst riding on the same front sprocket, to help maintain even cadence and even effort as the road conditions, wind etc vary slightly and to help maintain even effort as you accelerate.

    If you go for a triple chainset at the front you may need a new bottom bracket and front mech due to the extra width. This is only my understaning I have never done this myself! I am probably more of a novice cyclist than you are but this is my understanding and may help. Any good cycle shop will set you right though and shouldn'y let you buy components that don't marry up. I'd avoid e-bay for new components that i am fitting myself when I am still learning how things work and when the many many historical versions of the "same named" groups sets seem to get upgraded as often as Microsoft Windows! (i.e. Shimano 105's but which version, or what season etc).  Good luck. S

  • I'm in exactly the same possition, as the first poster.

    Just done my second season on a specialized allez. For this season just finished I upgraded the wheels and tires. To kysirium equips and continental gp4000 tires this made a huge differnence, especially on the climbs. The sora chainset and casset are now in need of replacing, along with the bottom bracket. Cyclist friends have said to upgrade the entire groupset to ultegra (approx £600) Triathletes have said to get a new bike. I can just about the £600 for the upgrade but a new bike seams a bit out of reach just now. Any one else got some pearls of wisdom?

  • mmmmm. now this is interesting.

    I wonder If I could grab a tt framset and retrofit my campag record 16spd onto it with a few extra's and then buy a entry level groupset for the old racer ?

    extra's being seat post, saddle, bar shifters, tape, bars and stem......

    then a few basic bits onto the old racer and ive got my unnaproved tt bike and a winter trainer to ruin on the turbo.

    mind you.....I might just change the stem, bars and shifters on the racer at first. so much easier to sell a £300 investment when youve 'accidently' left pages of bike porn on the browser when the OH picks up the laptop.

  • Can I ask a question, while people are talking about this stuff?

    My wife's just acquired a road bike, and while the bike is nice and she has no problem with the gear ratios, the shifters/break levers are giving serious grief.

    She's on Shimano Sora. The actual hoods (the bit between the handlebars and the top of th ebrake levers, if I've got the wrong word) seem very long, so that the actual brake levers are difficult to reach properly - she has to rotate her wrists from the normal riding position to get enough leverage to pull then with any strength. There is also the problem that once down on the drops, its impossible to reach the gear up thumb lever at all. I put her up on the basic Campagnolo set on my Ribble and she has no problem at all.

    I understand that one answer is "change the bike" but that really isn't an option for us at the moment - and it really is only the shifters that are the problem. Not-particularly-local bike shop said that it was impossible to change them without changing groupsets and mechs as well - but it seems a real pity to throw away a lot of stuff that works perfectly well. Does anyone know of any compatible shifters that I can drop onto the bike that will work with the existing components?

    Thanks for any help!

  • ....and no, she can't have my Ribble!

  • Shimano do short reach shifters to overcome this common problem - they're  ST-R500, ST-R600, or ST-R700 models but I don't know which is suitable (or if it's suitable) with a Sora groupset.  It may also depend on the gearing as they may be dfifferent versions for 8/9/10 speed set (maybe that's what the LBS were alluding to when suggesting upgrade).  I also think that Shimano (and Spesh) also do so shims that do the same job and can be fitted to existing STIs.   

    best talk to a Shimano specialist centre - should be some contact details for these on their website to help you on that front.

    and as you have found Campag don't have this problem - all the best riders use Campag as it works.....image

  • That's seriously useful, Buddha - thanks. We have a new bike shop just about to open in the town - I'll see whether they are at that level on Shimano.

    Thanks for the response.

  • a decent LBS mechanic should know about these items - accomodating people with small hands has been a Shimano problem for years so I would be very surprised if they hadn't come across them.  

    there is something you might be able to do yourself - check the box that says "ST-3400 reach adjustment" on this page - http://techdocs.shimano.com/media/techdocs/content/cycle/SI/SI_6LS0A_001/SI_6LS0A_001_En_v1_m56577569830615004.pdf.   but that will depend on if the Sora model she has is 3400 version - there are a number of varieties but once you find it, check on techdocs for any info

    and just found this elsewhere - "Older Sora 8 speed has an adjuster screw for reach adjustment. Newer Sora 9 speed comes with (when bought in a box, can't speak for when installed on a bike OEM) shims for adjusting reach."

  • Useful - that would help the brake problem, certainly. Will check the model. Thanks again.

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