What is a Groupset?
When you’re buying a bicycle, the range of bike types, materials and component options can be bewildering. First, you need to decide how much you’re prepared to spend. With a budget in mind, you want to do some research.
Bike = Frame + Groupset + Wheels?
The frame is the heart of your new bike and it’s where the majority of the budget goes. This will be the last thing to be changed, just make sure that it fits well, otherwise you will have to change it before it ‘expires’.
The next important area of your new bicycle is the groupset and wheels. They would wear out, you can upgrade the groupset and wheels as they wear out, and end up with a better bike.
The wheels heavily influence how the bike rides, feels and responds, but you can easily replace. While the groupset take up a large chunk of the bike’s overall cost so they’re more expensive to upgrade.
If you’re buying a bike, then, after the frame, the groupset is the second thing that you should look at, and is a key determining factor in working out whether the bike in front of you offers good value for money or not.
So, what is a groupsets? A groupset is the collection of bike components which could include shifters, brakes, chain, crankset, cassette and derailleurs.
Shifting – Transitioning from one gear to another, allowing the cyclist to maintain a constant cadence despite changes in resistance or incline on the road or trail. The shifters on a road bike, Shimano’s STI (Shimano Total Integration) shifters are the most common design — its combines the braking and gear shifting controls into the same component, this allows shifting gears without having to remove a hand from the bars.
The things that make you stop. Variations include rim brakes (which squeeze the rim of the wheel to slow) and disc brakes (which squeeze a metal disc at the hub). Currently, disc brakes are not UCI-legal (meaning they can’t be ridden in UCI road races) but they can offer much improved braking power and modulation.
A loop of roller links that transfers power from the pedals to the rear wheel to propel the bike forward. The type of chain is dependant on the range of gears, ie a 11-speed groupset requires a 11-speed chain. More expensive chains feature alloy coatings that are more resistant to wear, and are often lighter.
Chainrings — circular metal discs with teeth that are closest to the front wheel and next to the pedals. Your bike can have one, two, or three chainrings depending on the bike or type of riding you do. Together they make up the crankset (in US called, in UK called chainset), which is rotated by the crank arms that connects the pedals to the chainrings.
Crankset are available in different ratios, for those new to cycling, the numbers refer to the number of teeth on the chainring and the bigger number, the bigger the gear. A bigger front gear is harder to push but can achieve higher speeds. While a granny gear feels like effortless spinning. On steep climbs, sometimes the granny chainring is necessary for survival.
The cassette refers to the collection of sprockets(the pyramid shaped set of gears) on the rear wheel. These are available in wide range of different ratios. The chain moves up and down these gears to make riding easier or harder depending on the cyclist whether on flat or hills terrain.
The derailleurs (also called mechs) are responsible for guiding the chain from one sprocket to the next. One in the front (move chain to chainrings work) and one in the back (move chain to cassette work). Derailleur is arguably the most important component of a groupset.
Now you should have a general understanding of groupset when buying a bike look at the components it comes with. It is common for bike manufacturers to supply a bike with a whole groupset, minus the brakes and crankset. These are sometimes (but not always) swapped out for cheaper parts to bring the overall price of the bike down.
Get a solid frame with a decent groupset and basic wheels to start with. Then start riding. Start thinking of upgrades when you can’t push the bike any faster and further anymore. If you want to know more about their levels and prices, you can browse there two posts: How to Choose a Road Bike for Beginners and How to Choose a Mountain Bike for Beginners.