There are plenty of options available when you’re picking what gear to use with your bike. The Shimano Tiagra vs 105 is just one example of that.
All the different choices can seem overwhelming to the novice cyclist, and even more experienced riders may not know which groupset suits their needs.
The Shimano Tiagra and 105 groupsets are both excellent and have minimal differences in the customers’ eyes. The Tiagra set is more affordable, but heavier and clunkier with 10 speeds. The 105 has 11 speeds and a sleek, lightweight construction.
Find out which one suits you best in our in-depth comparison.
Tiagra vs 105: What’s the Difference?
In this consumer-crazed world it’s easy to dive into an upgrade because you presume the new product is better. Instead, take a step back and examine the differences and similarities between the older and newer product groupsets.
Gear and Speed Quantities
The Shimano Tiagra has a system allowing 10 speeds. The 10-speed variant accompanies 20 gear combinations which is more than enough for the majority of people.
On the other hand, some riders just can’t get enough. Admittedly there’s some benefit to having these various speeds and amounts of resistance in a bicycle, but is a one-speed, two-gear upgrade worth it?
The Shimano 105 has 11 sprockets on its cassette meaning you can utilize 11 speeds across 22 gears. It’s not much of a leap upwards but it can make a marginal difference to some people.
For example, those who live in particularly steep areas and don’t have the strongest legs. Another gear could be the difference between a comfortable ride to the top of a hill, and a sweaty panting fest.
Shimano’s 105 brake groupset are dual-pivot and are a dream to handle. The force of the braking spreads across your arms, which is more comfortable for you and helps you keep a balanced power.
A mere touch of the brake lever helps you slow down and stopping doesn’t take much more force.
The latest Tiagra brake groupset is wonderful too, with more stopping power than any Tiagra so far. However despite their dual-pivot nature, they don’t respond as well as the 105 do. They’re excellent when you have to stop suddenly, but lack feedback when you’re slowing gradually.
Brake Tire Capacity
Bicycle wheels come in a range of sizes but often aren’t compatible with the same brakes and other components size-wise.
Tiagra and 105 brakes are both effective with tires 1.2 inches wide, although the 105s can handle 1.9 inch width tires too—providing your bicycle’s rims are large enough to accommodate this tire width.
When it comes to shifters, both groupsets allow for an uncluttered handlebar, routing the cables under the bar. This allows for easy access and smooth shifting, along with a visually appealing effect.
However, the 105 has had this feature for a while where it’s new to the Tiagra. This means the 105 has had more time to perfect the look and performance.
One example of this is how compact 105’s shifters are despite containing a hydraulic brake mechanism. There are even shifter sizes made for small hands.
Then you have the Tiagra, which appears bulbous in comparison to the sleek 105 and doesn’t come with small-hand options.
We already discussed the speed and gear capabilities of Tiagra vs 105 but how do the derailleurs accommodate them?
The Tiagra requires the use of a 46 to 52 tooth chainring, while the 105 goes up to 53 teeth. It’s not a huge difference but if you don’t already have the compatible parts, it gives you a sense of what to buy.
Tiagra and 105’s appearances also differ here, where the 105 once again looks more compact. However, the Tiagra front derailleurs are quieter under pressure despite being bulkier.
The differences with the back derailleurs are minimal. The 105 can handle a sprocket with 30 teeth when using a short cage derailleur and a 40-tooth sprocket with the long cage.
Meanwhile the Tiagra can handle a 28 and 34-tooth sprocket respectively.
The 105’s cassettes are a little stronger than the Tiagra’s as they feature anodized aluminum in their construction for the lockring and spider arm. This beats the Tiagra’s all-over nickel-plated steel construction, which the 105 features in its main body.
Both cassette groups come in a range of sizes, although with slight differences.
The Tiagra’s come in:
Whereas the 105’s:
- 11–34 (new option and fits 10-speed bikes).
The differences between the groupset’s chains are minimal, but the 105 chains are a little narrower and more lightweight. On top of that, you also have their speed differences of 10 vs 11.
The 105 groupset’s pedals are more low profile than the Tiagra’s, and are leanable to 31 degrees. The Tiagra’s, like many of the Tiagra components, are a little bulkier with less of a lean to them.
This means Tiagra pedals are more beginner-friendly as they’re harder to miss if your foot slips, leaving the 105 for the advanced cyclists.
If you prefer your bike to be light, you may enjoy the 105 bottom bracket more. It weighs 0.17 pounds opposed to the Tiagra’s 0.2 pounds. It’s not a major difference but every ounce matters when you’ve been cycling for hours and are nearing exhaustion.
The 105 groupset is pricier than the Tiagra, which isn’t shocking considering the advantages it has over the latter.
With room for more speed and gear combinations, stronger cassettes, lighter chains and more convenient sleek components, the expense is natural.
However, to more casual cyclists, is the price worth it? Perhaps your bicycle is just a hobby or your commute. You don’t cycle with a group and don’t train for speed or stamina. It’s still tempting to buy what appears to be a better groupset…but ultimately the differences are minimal and may not warrant such a price increase.
One disappointment is that the 105 groupset is made of mostly the same materials as the Tiagra. Perhaps the higher price would be more warranted were the 105—aside from the cassettes—made from stronger and lighter materials.
As it stands, I don’t think the price increase is worth it, but you may disagree—it mainly comes down to preference with these sets.
Tiagra vs 105: A Review
With that information under your belt, how do the groupsets hold up as groupsets rather than as individual components? Much of it is still up to preference, but let’s take a look anyway.
Unfortunately, the Shimano Tiagra groupset isn’t available as a package deal. You have to buy the groupset’s components separately. But once you gather up the gear, it’s an excellent set.
Let’s start with the 10-speed chain, created with an asymmetrical design to allow smooth shifting between gears. Customers found it a decent product, and many a perfect fit. Unfortunately, it comes with no master link, but you can work around this if you have a bicycle chain tool.
The chain works well with the cranks, an anodized aluminum set with a 43.5 millimeter chain line and sleek finish. Customers find that it works well but it’s quite heavy. On the plus side, it’s easy to install and shifts smoothly.
Tiagra’s chainring also shifts well according to customers, further enhancing the ease of how the components work together.
Unfortunately the shifter lever itself isn’t so visually appealing, but it’s a well-rated product.
The front derailleur is a far sleeker product, with a nice shiny finish. Customers describe its shifting abilities as crisp, while stating it’s easy to install. Pair it with the rear derailleur and you have an unstoppable team, although the rear one is less attractive.
It’s also heavy and clunky, but most customers found its performance balanced out their disappointment in that area.
The bottom bracket is another component that’s a little heavier than necessary, but again there were few complaints.
One of the best liked parts of the groupset was the cassette, a little heavy again but still smooth.
Lastly, the brake lever is spared of weighty criticism, and does exactly the joy it’s supposed to.
- Incredibly smooth shifting from all components involved.
- Easy to install set—so long as you know what you’re doing.
- It’s a more budget-friendly model overall.
- High-quality construction with components unlikely to rust.
- Many of the components’ performance outweighs the criticism on weight and clunky visuals.
- Doesn’t come as a package deal, making it a pain to purchase.
- Some of the parts are far heavier than they need to be.
- Front and rear derailleurs have quite a stark visual difference.
- Only 10 speeds and 20 gear combinations.
- Tiagra pedals seem to be unavailable.
A couple of Tiagra customers urged others to spend the extra money on the 105 groupset, due to Tiagra’s weight issues. Did they have a point?
The 11-speed chain is something to consider. Again, no master link, but it’s quiet and works wonderfully while remaining light and sleek. Customers had no mechanical issues, which is the same story as with the chainring.
Shimano 105’s cranks have little to no technical issues too, while being easy to install so long as you have the right expertise. According to customers it’s easier to mount than previous versions of the same crank.
The cassette is a visual step away from the crank, as it’s silver rather than black. Customers found it performed no differently than the Tiagra crank, other than being lighter, and didn’t seem to mind the visual differences.
You’re back to black with the brake set, and customers state it’s definitely an upgrade on other models. They’re also easy to install and pair well with the brake levers.
The brake levers were largely loved by customers, who also appreciated their appearance.
Speaking of appearances, the rear derailleurs are far more visually appealing than the Tiagra. As far as performance goes, customer opinions are again predominantly positive.
The front derailleur is the same story, few complaints, excellent performance, easy installation, as well as attractive. The silver and black look ties in with the rest of the dark components, including the bottom bracket which customers say is light and silent.
- Excellent performance.
- Lighter than the Tiagra set.
- More visually appealing and matching than the Tiagra set.
- Almost all the components had few to no customer complaints.
- More speed and gear options than Tiagra, with 11 and 22.
- Easy to install and tweak.
- Unavailable as a group; you have to hunt down and purchase the components separately.
- Pedals appear to be unavailable.
- Cassette’s only upgrade was getting lighter.
With all the components lined up and reviewed, it’s proving tough to select a winner. Personally I’d pick the 105 for the more matching appearance, but I’m just not sure the upgrades are worth the increased prices.
For example, while customers raved about how smooth the Tiagra groupset felt in performance, similar comments went absent about the 105. For the 105, most praise was about easy installation and a lack of faults. There was little to no specific praise about what customers liked, and far more “great product” with nothing more said.
That said, the additional speeds and gears are tempting with the 105. If only the rest of the components provided a similar sense of an upgrade.
For that reason—the only upgrades being speed, looks and weight—I have to say I feel the Tiagra set is better value. It’s ultimately down to preference, but the Tiagra groupset wins in my eyes.