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Road Groupset: Everything you need to know

You look at your bike, you want an update Maybe it’s all SRAM groupset, and you want to put in a Campagnolo rear derailleur. Will it work

But what if the bike is build with Shimano, but you only want to upgrade part of the equipment. Should the Shimano 105 5800 derailleur works fine with Shimano 105 R7000 shifters?
Can an 11 and 12 speed groupset be combined? 

The list of questions about the compatibility of road groupsets with each other is very long, and you always want to know the answer in advance, so as not to waste either time or money. Actually, that’s what the article was written for. 

The three major road groupset manufacturers – Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM (The Big Three) – have approached the gear shifting issue differently.
SRAM, for example, uses a system where 1 mm of cable offset equals 1 mm of derailleur offset (1: 1). Shimano and Campagnolo use ratios from 1.4 to 1.9: 1.

This was followed by an increase in the number of gears from 6 to 12, which required the expansion of the rear hub body. 

In parallel with this, chains and cassettes began to change – the distances between the gears became smaller, the chains became thinner.
As a result, we get incompatibility of components between different manufacturers and within the same brand .


    Road Groupset: Everything you need to know

    It is important to understand that any replacement of components will inevitably affect the quality of the ride.

    The bad news is that any variations in equipment are reflected in the power consumption of the drivetrain. That is, some of your Watts will go into heating up the metal instead of moving you forward.

    The good news is that all (almost all) chains and cassettes are compatible with each other and the bike will run anyway. And the power loss is so small that it will hardly be felt by even the most seasoned rider. 

    Chains, cassettes and bodies

    When SRAM entered the road groupset market in 2006, it prudently adopted Shimano’s chain and cassette standards.

    Thus, these two manufacturers are completely interchangeable for this part. The SRAM cassette will ride with Shimano chain and derailleur, though rumor has it that incorporating American parts into the Japanese mechanism will increase the volume of the drivetrain. 

    Some delays in switching may also become noticeable and the durability of the replaced elements may decrease.

    The situation is different with Campagnolo. The Italians have become quite isolated and have formed their own standards. Campagnolo cassettes have a different spacing from the competition, and their chains are wider. The increased width, by the way, has a beneficial effect on the durability of the chain, which is confirmed by quite serious tests in the laboratory.

    However, fitting a Campagnolo cassette wheel to a Shimano or SRAM road groupset is possible. The transmission will run louder, shift lazily … but it will drive. 

    The transition of all three manufacturers to 11- and 12-speed road groupsets has a positive impact on the compatibility of their chains and cassettes.

    Despite some nuances, SRAM chains and cassettes, Shimano and Campagnolo are completely interchangeable. In some variations it is worse, in some it is better.

    Road Groupset – Shifters

    Manetas Campagnolo Super Record Ergopower Ultra Shift 12V Lordgun Tienda De Bicicletas Online

    The interchangeability of components within the same brand occurs in different ways.

    At Shimano, Dura-Ace road groupsets can be complemented quite freely with duals or derailleurs of lower levels and vice versa (Ultegra, 105, GRX), provided they are designed for the same number of speeds. Shimano 105’s recent upgrade from 5800 series to R7000 series did not negatively impact compatibility – you can mix.

    For Campagnolo, it boils down to the fact that the components of different models at the same number of speeds are not compatible.

    The company has uniform shifters only for Super Record, Record and Chorus. Everything. In other cases, the company warns that replacing components will lead to unpredictable consequences.

    SRAM stood out significantly from its competitors. In addition to the compatibility of components of different levels, it is possible to make a simplified transition from a 10-speed to an 11-speed groupset. 

    Only shifters, chain and cassette need to be changed. The switches can be left under 10 and the system will work quite correctly at all 11 speeds.
    Competitors never dreamed of this.

    They don’t even stutter about the rear derailleurs – no options, only replacement. The front derailleurs, even if they match the number of speeds … also need to be replaced. 

    The problem is that from model to model Shimano and Campagnolo change the shoulder, which regulates the amount of travel of the derailleur. That is, with front shifters from 11, the front derailleur from the 10-speed road groupset will not work.

    Road Groupset – Brakes

    Buyers Guide To Road Bike Brakes - Merlin Cycles Blog

    As for rim brakes, there is good news – all manufacturers are compatible with each other in terms of attachments to the frame (single bolt). 

    Differences in the arrangement of components will be reflected in the braking force. Campagnolo and SRAM go shoulder to shoulder here (best interchangeability), and Shimano has made significant changes to the brake lever length (noticeable power reduction).

    It is also possible to install third-party brakes (for example, Tektro) on the whole three. True, such systems differ in the presence of compromises in design to take into account the characteristics of each of the Big Three.

    Intra-brand rearrangements using different levels of equipment are possible for all three manufacturers, there are no restrictions. While not forgetting Campagnolo’s warnings, their equipment requires strict compliance. 

    Shimano and SRAM have the same method of pads fastening, they are interchangeable. Campa, as usual, has its own standard. When designing the Potenza, however, the Italians probably decided to experiment and try the same mount with the two main competitors.
    In fact, all brakes of all brands can be changed with each other, but this will not provide guaranteed stable braking due to the different length of the levers.  

    As for the disc hydraulics, here everyone has arranged everything in their own way.

    SRAM uses DOT 5.1 brake fluid, while Shimano and Campa use mineral oil. The oil similarities between Italy and Japan are misleading; there are many differences in brake design and connection fittings. They are not compatible with each other.

    In addition to fluids, differences lie in the size and geometry of the brake pads. Three manufacturers – three types of pads.

    However, the pads can change even within the brand when moving to another level of equipment. Supports and dual controls in such systems are quite compatible within the same company, regardless of the level.

    Review Groupset Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12


    In general, the topic of compatibility of components of different companies is very interesting and even within the framework of one article it is impossible to cover it properly. 

    And we only touched on the topic of road groupsets. But there is also MTB … and some users are worried about the compatibility of mountain groups with road racing … yes, the topic is very voluminous. 

    All the answers, probably, cannot be found.

    By the way, we would be grateful if you share with us your experience of combining the incompatible in the comments of our Facebook group.

    By: Berthy Perez