Your complete guide to the Shimano Claris groupset, including its features, strengths and weaknesses

Anybody looking for a new road bike around the £500 mark will be familiar with the Shimano Claris groupset. Although Shimano has lower-priced gearing options in the form of its Tourney range, the full Claris groupset is the most popular choice on mainstream entry-level road bikes.

Why is this? One of the most attractive things about Shimano Claris is the fact it comes with Shimano’s famous STI integrated brake and gear levers. While Tourney uses a pivoting brake lever and thumb button to control gear selection, Claris uses Shimano’s established Dual Control system.

Shimano Claris groupset 2400

That means a paddle underneath the brake lever can be clicked to move the chain down, while the paddle and brake lever pivoting together will push the chain up. In operation, then, Claris works in exactly the same way as Shimano’s other higher-quality group sets, such as Shimano 105.

Claris also comes with the benefit of being a complete groupset — comprising brake levers, brake callipers, chainset, cassette, and front and rear derailleurs — while Tourney doesn’t have its own series brakes.

How does it compare to other Shimano groupsets?

Because Shimano Claris is the entry-level option, you have to expect compromises, and the biggest comes in the form of the number of gears available. Claris is an eight-speed system, meaning the rear cassette has eight sprockets. In comparison to Shimano’s other groupsets, that’s one more sprocket than Tourney, but the next step up, Sora has nine; Tiagra has 10; and then 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace are all now available as 11-speed.Shimano Claris groupset 2400

However, because Shimano Claris is a relatively new offering, the rear derailleur can cope with sprockets featuring anything up to 32 teeth, resulting in a very broad range of gear sizes. Combine this with Claris’s choice of compact chainset — with chainrings featuring 50 and 34 teeth — or triple chainset — 50, 39 and 30 teeth — and you have a perfect system to help new riders cope with climbs. Claris even has a ‘super compact’ chainset with 46 and 34 teeth, but we’ve never managed to get our mitts on one of those.

A small point, but one worth saying, is that the Claris chainset uses Shimano’s Octalink bottom bracket system, which is a little more refined than the old-fashioned square-taper bottom brackets you may find on other entry-level bikes. That chainset is also astonishingly pretty considering its place in the Shimano hierarchy.

Shimano Claris does have one down side. While Shimano groupsets allow a limited mix and match of components, it’s only usually where they share the same available ‘speeds’. So while 11-speed Shimano Ultegra parts may be compatible with 11-speed Shimano 105 parts, because Claris is the only eight-speed groupset currently in Shimano’s line up, its compatibility with other series is restricted.

Shimano Claris groupset 2400

Claris put to the test

In use, Claris is a surprisingly adept performer. As expected, gear changes aren’t quite as smooth and refined as Shimano’s ‘posher’ options, but once set-up correctly, it all works very impressively. The relative lack of rear sprockets isn’t a huge issue — in fact, some would argue the eight-speed system is slightly easier to adjust than the more advanced options — but that largest possible 32-tooth rear sprocket is of noticeable assistance on climbs. As with Shimano’s Sora and Tiagra groupsets, the levers feature a small window so you can see which gear you are in.

The brake callipers look a lot like those found in a previous version of Shimano’s 105 groupset, and also work very securely. As with most stock brakesets, fitting new aftermarket brake blocks will improve their performance. Meanwhile, the levers are comfortable and feel very similar to Shimano’s other systems.

Finally, there’s no getting away from the fact that the lower down Shimano’s order you go, the heavier the groupset becomes. However, in action we doubt any rider would notice any weight difference between this and, say, Shimano Sora or Tiagra.

Shimano Claris groupset 2400

So Shimano Claris features all the engineering expertise you would expect from the Japanese component giant. It might be a little heavier and a little less silky-smooth to operate than its more expensive siblings, but Claris is very much a ‘proper’ Shimano groupset.

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Bikes with Claris

The least expensive new bike we’ve seen fitted with a full Shimano Claris groupset — a Merlin PR7 — has the astonishing retail price of £299.99. However, the vast majority of mainstream bike manufacturers — Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Boardman — tend to fit it to their entry-level models, which normally retail between £500-£600.

We’ve tested it on a number of different bikes — to read our reviews of Shimano Claris in action, click away below.


Dawes Clubman road bike

Dawes is a mainstream British brand, specialist subject being steel-framed bikes — so that’s what we’ve got here topped off…

Score 8

Merida Ride 90

Merida Ride 90

Merida is one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world and the established wisdom used to be that the…

Score 9

  • Ja Son

    10/11 speed chain won’t fit your 8-speed cassette

  • Des Chew

    Anyone has luck changing to a Shimano hollow tech 10/11 speed crankset from Claris 8-speed drive train? I don’t mind changing the chain to 10/11 speed but keeping my 8 speed cassette?

  • bobfairlane

    It looks good to me. A splined compact crank for a low price, and 8 speed rear sets. How many freaking cogs does one need? It’s just an arms-race among manufacturers. They’ll roll out the new (and incompatible, and expensive) 12 speed set when sales of 11 speed slow down enough, or Campy runs 13. hahha. I’m still using 7 speed stuff on a lot of road bikes, and just fixed up an old 2×6.

  • Herve_S1994

    This is the lil amazing beauty i have on my carrera Tanneri CX Limited edition 2015 bike that i have and love it to bits :).

  • Paul Hughes

    I find the 34/32 very useful once the gradient kicks up above 10%. Mind you, there are definitely times when I need a bigger cog!
    On the other hand, 50 / 12 going downhill is just too damn fast

  • steve butts

    I’m in my sixties and cycle regularly but finding hills more of a struggle the chainset and cassette look good at these ratios and will give us older guys more scope for climbing.

  • Brian Greenwood

    It seems they had thought of calling it ‘The Archers’ but then had a change of mind