BEGINNERS GUIDE TO MOUNTAIN BIKE GROUPSETS

 
You often see bikes that are cheaper than other companies, yet they are fixed with better groupsets. Well, mountain biking world is very competitive and indeed it can be very confusing, especially when it comes to groupsets. Sram, Shimano, XT, XTR – For a beginner, it will probably mean nothing else than a headache. In the beginners’ guide to mountain biking groupsets, we’ll do our best to explain basic levels and usage of two largest and basically the only players in MTB groupsets business that count – Shimano and SRAM. If you read our article on advantages of more expensive mountain bikes over cheap ones, you’ll easily suss out what you will get buying more expensive groupset components.



WHAT ARE MOUNTAIN BIKE GROUPSETS ?

Mountain Bike Groupsets - MTB Treks


A mountain bike groupsets are organized collections of mechanical parts that generally refer to all of the components that make up a bicycle excluding the bike’s parts such as tires, wheels, fork, frame, stem, and a rider contact points, such as the handlebars and saddle.



Mountain Bike Groupsets - Shimano

Shimano has been the leading component company since the 1980s. Apart from inventing some breakthrough technologies in the history of cycling, the Japanese company also has an ability to make the most advanced bike technology available on less expensive bikes. From entry level to the best, we subdivided groupsets into their own respective groups of intended use. Here’s our mountain bike groupsets quick guide to Shimanos’ various levels of components.




RECREATIONAL

Level 1- Tourney
Tourney may offer a gear range suited to off-road riding, but its durability and construction mean it’s the most basic mountain bike groupset, and it’s best kept for recreational use.
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Level 2- Altus
Available in 8 and 9-speed, altus’s features are a good bargain at entry-level price. However it still lacks the durability for regular off-road use.
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Level 3- Acera
Shimano Acera is often seen on many entry level hardtail mountain bikes. Offering more corrosion-resistance and durability, Acera offers a fine upgrade over Altus. Still not up to it when it comes to regular and more serious off-roading.
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Level 4- Alivio
The 9-speed, hydraulic disc brakes, multiple gearing options, and a lighter/more durable crank design. Although best of first three groupsets and even seen on some very basic full suspension bikes, we still consider Alivio a starting point that won’t last very long if you’re looking for a serious, abusive and regular mountain biking.

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XC / TRAIL / ENDURO

Level 1- Deore
By many considered to be shimano’s first off-road ready groupset. At a reasonable price it offers many of the features seen in upper-level groupsets but at the cost of higher weight.
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Level 2- SLX
SLX offers race-ready technology at an affordable price. It has nearly all the features seen in Shimano XT, but yet again cheaper materials mean additional weight and a marginally slower shifting.
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Level 3- Deore XT
The 10 speed gearing, double or triple-ring cranksets. This groupset offers all the features and performance that you will need either for competition or hard trail riding, but at a weight penalty when compared to the next tier XTR.
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Level 4- XTR Race
By combining light weight materials and removing some of the features in favour of saved grams, XTR Race is the lightest of Shimano’s mountain bike groupsets, and is what you’re going to see on serious competitors’ rigs. It offers 11-speed gearing, single, double or triple-crankset configurations, materials such as high-grade alloys, carbon fibre, and titanium, and of course the top-end design. XTR will also include features that no other groupset level receives, such as multi-shift release when downshifting.
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Level 5- XTR Trail
The main difference here is in the brakes, rear derailleur and crankset options. Trail is a feature-packed option that will suit aggressive trail riders, with a few additional grams for greater braking power, adjustability, and even chain retention.
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Level 6- XTR Di2
XTR Di2 being the first mountain bike groupset with electronic shifting is the most expensive option. No mechanical cable means no mud and dirt messing with shift quality. Another advantage of the electronic system over cables is consistent, faster gear shifts and very low maintenance. XTR Di2 also adds a feature of sequential shifting. Both front and rear derailleurs are operated with a single control, and it’s up to system whether to shift at the rear or front for the next closest jump.
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DOWNHILL / FREE RIDE

Level 1- Zee
Zee is the first one of Shimano’s entry-level the discipline-specific mountain bike groupsets. Designed for fast and rough downhill riding on a budget, it has many of the features seen in the top-end Saint group. Cheaper materials will keep the price down, but obviously mean higher weight.
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Level 2- Saint
Top level components for competitive down hill racers. Lighter and incredibly strong build that is designed to handle any abuse of freeride, downhill, and any other extreme forms of mountain biking. You’ll also get in this package additional chain retention features, and only a single-ring crankset.
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Mountain Bike Groupsets - SRAM

SRAM Corporation was founded in 1987 and unlike its Japanese competitor, it is a private company which currently is based in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Today SRAM is one of the best and largest high-end component manufacturers supplying MTBs and road bikes. It’s also selling under the brands of Avid, RockShox, Truvativ and Zipp. The brand name “SRAM” stands for Scott, Ray, and Sam- the names of its founders. SRAM’s mountain bike groupsets are split between single-chainring groupsets marked with a ‘1’ featured in the name, and the double and triple options.




RECREATIONAL


Level 1- X3
SRAM kicks off with incomplete groupset offering a 7-speed gear system. Cassettes, chains and cranksets are sold separately and are ‘non-series’ options here.

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Level 2- X4
X4 is next in the line-up and like SRAM X3 it isn’t a true groupset. With just a shifter set and rear derailleur in the package, you’ll often see it mixed with other brands.
Compared to its predecessor, the X4 offers a better durability.
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Level 3- X5
Here SRAM introduces first full mountain bike groupset with 2×10 gearing system. Although these groupset fully specced or mixed with other brands can often be seen on many new hardtails and full-suspension bikes, it’s not an ideal choice for full time trail shredding.
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XC / TRAIL / ENDURO

Level 1- X7
Things slowly start to get more serious here. Often seen on lower-priced hardtails and full suss, SRAM X7 is not a bad choice for regular off-road use on a budget. X7 offers some technology from higher range and improves level of control, precision and reliability.
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Level 2- X9
Being on the same level as Shimano SLX, X9 offers clean and crisp shifting which is built to last. This groupset has nearly all the performance features you will need. Cheaper construction methods and materials keep prices down, but the weight is higher.
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Level 3- X1
X1 is a single-ring groupset and has nearly all of the performance and features of XO1 and even XX1. But more aluminium and less carbon make it heavier and of course cheaper.
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Level 4- X0
Being at the higher-end of SRAM’s groupset, X0 offers performance of accurate, smooth and trouble-free shifting. Although it’s often compared to Shimano XT, it’s more expensive due to the fact that it’s lighter.
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Level 5- X01
Its versatility and durability make it a perfect choice for all riding styles. XO1 promises a nearly the same level of flawless, light weight and precise shifting as the more expensive XX1 group.
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Level 6- XX
Being at an equal level of Shimano XTR Race, XX is a choice for the weight-conscious cross-country riders. Flawless X-Glide shift performance, mix of carbon and lightweight aluminium mean it comes with a top end price tag.
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Level 7- XX1
Very top end of the company’s components collection made perfect for hardcore enduro riders and gram-counting cross-country racers. SRAM XX1 is the first of mountain bike groupsets that started the whole single-ring revolution. Its expensive lighter carbon fibre technology means it remains for those who want the best and have a thick wallet.
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DOWNHILL / FREE RIDE

X01-DH
X01 DH is SRAM’s specific groupset built for downhill racing. It shares much of SRAM’s single-ring technologies but with a much smaller gear range suitable for downhill racing. Available either as a 7 or 10 speed setup.
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BEGINNERS GUIDE TO MOUNTAIN BIKE GROUP SETS – BACK TO TOP

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Showing 2 comments
  • Stephen Bradford

    Shimano has 9 wonderful groupset brands, each forming a whole hierarchy of engineering and cloth nice, starting from entry stage to elite expert. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  • perfect kare

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