Groupset buyer’s guide: Shimano 105 vs. SRAM Rival 22 - Road Cycling UK

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Groupset buyer’s guide: Shimano 105 vs. SRAM Rival 22

Shimano and SRAM's popular mid-range groupsets fight it out

The groupset market is wide-ranging, with various tiers suiting every rider, and systems from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. Essentially, you can buy a complete groupset for as little as £350, or you can spend up to £3,000 in search of pro-level kit.

In this feature, we’ve compared two of the most popular mid-range groupsets, Shimano’s 105, and SRAM’s Rival 22, which are designed to give the biggest ‘bang for your buck’. Accessible, race-ready 11-speed shifting at an affordable price point – and, as a result, you’ll see these groupsets specced on plenty of bikes. But which is better?

First, let’s quickly recap on Shimano and SRAM’s mechanical groupset hierarchies. If you’re not familiar, they go like this. Shimano tops out with Dura-Ace, then moves through Ultegra, 105, Tiagra, Sora and Claris, while Red is SRAM’s top-of-the-range groupset, before you get to Force, Rival and Apex. While Shimano have move groupset levels, 105 and Rival sit head-to-head on the third tier.

You’re likely to Shimano 105 and, to a lesser extent, SRAM Rival 22 groupsets specced on many mid-range bikes

Price and weight

There aren’t a huge amount of things in the world that are ‘mid-range’ yet outstanding in their own right. However, Shimano’s 105 groupset has long been a stalwart of the £1,000-£1,500 bike market, and with the latest 5800 iteration released back in 2014, it has largely emulated the performance of the race-ready Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets – with additional weight being the only outstanding difference between the two.

– Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo groupset hierarchies –

Retailing at £559.99 (and half that again if you’re willing to shop around), 105 is almost half the price of Ultegra, and for most riders not trying to hit a featherweight bike build, it’s difficult to ignore that kind of value for money.

Less commonly spotted on factory-built bikes is the, ahem, rival to 105: SRAM Rival 22, which also switched to 11-speed in 2014. It comes at a slight price premium – £635 at RRP – but has also spawned other options, namely with the single-chainring Rival 1 groupset.

– Groupset buyer’s guide: Shimano Ultegra vs. SRAM Force 22 vs. Campagnolo Potenza –

Both 105 and Rival 22 are available with disc brakes alongside standard rim brakes, and all varieties come with 11-speed shifting and a wide range of gear ratio options, for whatever the terrain. Naturally, the total weight varies between the different permutations, but for parity, rim brake Shimano 105 comes in at around 2,498g, while the equivalent Rival 22 set tips the scales at slightly less at 2,333g.

Let’s break it down into its constituent parts, so you can see exactly what it is you’re getting for your money if you can’t decide between Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival 22.

Shifters

Price: 105 (£179.99); Rival 22(£198)
Weight: 105 (486g); Rival 22 (332g)

105 uses Shimano’s STI (Shimano Total Integration) shifter mechanism, much like the rest of the range in their tried-and-tested trickle-down approach to technology adoption. This makes use of lateral movement in the brake lever to actuate a shift either up the cassette or into the big chainring. A smaller lever sits behind this to shift down the the cassette or drop the chain into the small ring. It’s very easy to use and reliable.

SRAM DoubleTap technology means upshifts and downshifts come from the same lever

SRAM Rival 22 also makes use of higher-tier technology, employing DoubleTap, and this focuses upshifts and downshifts into the one lever (the right shifter lever looks after the cassette and the left takes care of the chainset). Quickly hit the lever and you’ll shift down the cassette or into the small chainring; swing it all the way across to move into an easier gear on the cassette or onto the big chainring. Unlike STI, the brake lever is not part of the shift setup; it’s only used for braking. It’s a different setup, with a significantly different shifting action, and there is a polarised opinion on which is better. If you’re not sure, best to head to your local bike shop to see if you can try both.

Where the levers also differ remarkably is in the weight, with Rival 22 a full 154g lighter in the rim brake variety. You also have a unique option with Rival 22, in that a hydraulic rim brake option is also available.

Front derailleur

Price: 105 (£26.99); Rival 22 (£30)
Weight: 105 (89g); Rival (89g)

Much like SRAM Force, which sits one rung up the American firm’s groupset ladder, the Rival family utilises SRAM’s Yaw front derailleur technology. Yaw allows the front mech to also rotate around the frontal area, as well as inboard and outboard. The effect of this unique feature is to reduce the potential for chain rub as the chain moves out the back of the derailleur area. It’s why Rival gets that ’22’ suffix – because SRAM say Yaw makes all 22 gears usable if the front mech is correctly setup. You also get a chain catcher fitted as standard to stop it dropping off the small chainring.

The SRAM Rival 22 front derailleur has a built-in chain catcher

105 is much more standard, with a simple in-and-out movement. At the front end, the ability to trim the derailleur is welcome with a half-click at the lever to avoid chain rub in more extreme situations. The efficiency and feel of shifting is also very similar to Ultegra, thanks to the longer-arm of the front mech, which makes for very light shifting.

Rear derailleur

Price: 105 (£36.99); Rival 22 (from £46)
Weight: 105 (approx. 234g); Rival 22 (approx. 180g)

Both Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival 22 are available with a short or medium cage rear derailleur, compatible with up to a 28t or 32t cassette sprocket respectively. The latter is ideal for new riders or those who live in particularly hilly areas and want the option of a 32t sprocket, while Rival also offers the option of a long-cage mech for even wider gear ratios if you opt for the single-chainring version of the groupset.

Both SRAM and Shimano offer short cage (left) and medium cage (right) rear derailleurs

As far as the mech is concerned, SRAM’s system uses Exact Actuation technology, utilising the 1:1 shift ratio. No magnification between shifter and mech – the movement you put in directly results in a shift. SRAM claim this increases tactile response and accuracy.

Cassette

Price: 105 (£39.99); Rival 22 [PG-1130] (£51)
Weight: 105 (276g); Rival 22 [PG-1130] (296g)

Each of the groupsets offer the following cassette options – remember, you need the medium cage rear mech to accommodate a 32t sprocket.

Shimano 105: 11-28t, 11-32t, 12-25t
SRAM Rival 22 [PG-1130]: 11-26t, 11-28t, 11-32t, (11-36t with SRAM Rival 1)

A medium cage rear derailleur can be used with anything up to a 32t cassette sprocket to provide a wider range of gears

The cassette options aren’t as wide ranging as the second-tier Shimano Ultegra and SRAM Force groupsets. However, thanks to both being 11-speed, it is possible to change out the cassette for the more premium version if you want a different ratio.

Chainset

Price: 105 (£119.99); Rival 22 (£134)
Weight: 105 (approx. 725g); Rival 22 (approx. 860g)

At the other end of the drivetrain, Shimano offer three chainset options, with the usual choice of compact (50-34t) semi-compact (52-36t), and standard double (53-39t) ratios all available.

Interestingly, SRAM don’t offer a 53-39t chainset for Rival 22, and instead give you the choice of 52-36t, 50-34t and 46-46t. The standard double is very much the preserve of racers these days, and with Rival 22 pitched at the mid-range, perhaps that’s why SRAM only offer ‘easier’ ratios. Still, there’s plenty of choice from both Shimano and SRAM, depending on your fitness, strength and requirement, and each will do the job perfectly well.

The 105 groupset makes uses Shimano’s four-arm chainset design

The Shimano 105 chainset uses the aluminium, four-arm construction first introduced on Dura-Ace, but now also featuring on Ultegra, 105 and, most recently, Tiagra. It’s said to increase stiffness and improve power transfer over the previous design.

SRAM Rival 22 uses a five-arm setup, complete with a machined thicker construction (known as ‘X-GlideR’), which helps with wear rates while tailoring the the rings to work optimally with the yaw action front derailleur.

Both the 105 and Rival 22 chainsets use a universal Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD), so you can change the rings without buying a completely new chainset, if you decide to switch up your gearing.

– The evolution of the chainset and the rise of the semi-compact –

The other major feature of all the chainsets is crank length. SRAM are incredibly flexible on this, offering up Rival with 165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, and 175mm options – ideal for those with very specific bike fit requirements. 105 has four options (165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm) of crank length.

Interestingly, despite SRAM’s overall and general trend towards lighter weight, the chainset bucks the trend, with 105 approximately 135g lighter.

Brakes

Price: 105 (£69.98); Rival 22 (£68)
Weight: 105 (378g); Rival 22 (300g)

105 calipers are very similar to their Ultegra counterparts, making use of a powerful dual-pivot action, and the option for a direct-mount version that mounts via two bolts to sit directly on the frame of the bike. The effect is to give greater power and efficiency, but does require the bike to come with the mountings required for the setup.

SRAM also use a dual-pivot design, and there’s the additional option of a hydraulic option at the rim, with claims of increased performance and modulation. You’ll need the specific shifters for those, though, and a bigger wallet – they’re £254 each. There’s no direct mount brake for SRAM Rival.

Shimano and SRAM both offer hydraulic disc brakes at 105 and Rival 22 level

As we’ve already mentioned, Shimano and SRAM offer hydraulic disc brakes at this level, both providing excellent modulation, power and performance. The SRAM lever is a bit bulkier but the shifter/brake lever is still ergonomically designed and sits comfortably under hand.

The prices and weights quoted above are for standard rim brakes – if you want hydraulic disc brakes then a pair of levers and calipers will set you back £399.99 for Shimano 105-level discs (they’re not officially part of the groupset) and £292 for SRAM Rival 22.

Chain

Price: 105 (£21.99); Rival 22 (£19)
Weight: 105 (257g); Rival 22 (259g)

Both Shimano and SRAM offer specific chains for each groupset, to maximise efficiency in the drivetrain.  

Shimano’s chain features a ‘Sil-Tec’ coating which helps reduce friction all round the drivetrain, and uses hollow pins. You can break and link the chain by using a connector pin and a chain tool. SRAM’s PC-1130 chain can be broken and joined using a PowerLock connecting link – handy as you don’t need tools to use it.

A third way? The Campagnolo conundrum

There are three main players in the groupset market – Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo – so why have we only featured two here?

The thing about Campagnolo is that their range doesn’t completely match the clearly-established Shimano/SRAM tiers. For example, if you take price as your main deciding factor, it’s the Italian firm’s bottom-of-the-range Veloce (and, at a long stretch, their next-tier alloy Athena) that most closely matches 105 and Rival (which both clearly sit on the third rung of Shimano and SRAM gruppo ladders) at £432.99 and £624.95 respectively.

Campagnolo is the closest competitor to Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival – but it’s not a direct comparison

However, Veloce is also only ten-speed, and so on this fundamental level, it actually draws level with Shimano Tiagra and SRAM Apex.  Veloce does offer a few more cassette options, including 13-26t and 13-29t sprockets, albeit with only a 50-34t compact chainset. As a result, if racing is your aim, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

As you can see, even at a glance it’s difficult to throw a Campagnolo groupset into the mix here as a direct comparison to Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival 22, but that’s certainly not to say you shouldn’t consider Campag when buying your next bike or upgrading groupsets.

 

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