Groupset selections provoke a feverish response, with Campagnolo in particular having a set of followers that will not be swayed. My personal preference for Shimano is based on so many years of reliable service and also a commitment from the mighty Japanese manufacturer to the downward mobility of their technical innovation: a trickle down philosophy that has helped mid to low range bikes improve beyond recognition. I put it to the Editor just last week after a trip out on Cannondale’s excellent new Synapse (coming soon to these pages) that no one this side of a pro team needs anything more sophisticated than Shimano 105. My assertion was met with a wry smile and mutterings about me not wanting to test the Factor Vis Vires that we have winging its way to us.
The fact remains that in mid-range offerings such as 105, SRAM’s Rival and Campagnolo Athena, most of us have a set of components that will serve us well for years with just a bit of maintenance and the occasional application of chains, cassettes, cables and brake pads. Designers keep pushing the boundaries, however, and we have electronic shifting, increasing levels of integration of frame and components (witness the wonderful brake solution employed by LOOK on their 695 AeroLight), and hydraulic disc brakes. This last innovation represents another fault line between the UCI’s regulations and the ambitions of designers, neatly encapsulated by Shimano’s “ride what the pros can’t” campaign, which features four members of cycling’s elite WorldTour peloton gazing misty eyed through a shop window at the Japanese giant’s R785 hydraulic disc brake.