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group test: All aboard the 105

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1st June 2010 Words: Simon Smythe Photos: Roo Fowler

We saddle up three bikes fitted with the ‘workhorse’ Shimano groupset. Which is the best ride?

Shimano 105 is often referred to as its ‘workhorse’ groupset. Groupsets — the collective name for all the moving parts on a bike — vary massively in price, weight and quality, with the top-line set-ups from the big three (Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM) costing four-figure sums. And this is before you’ve even bought a suitable (read expensive) frame on which to hang all the gleaming, super-light pieces of forged aluminium and sculpted carbon-fibre.

Gear for that sort of money is made for the pros and is unaffordable for most people, but the good news for the keen amateur is that the technology from the flagship groupsets is trickling down to the mid and lower-end equivalents pretty quickly these days. In Shimano’s hierarchy, 105 is fourth from the top, and is the first ‘serious’ set-up. It has 10 sprockets like its more expensive cousins, whereas the cheaper Tiagra, one step down from 105, has nine.

Most frame manufacturers would not hesitate to spec their pro-level frame with 105 to bring it in at a lower price point. Coming at it from the other end, some will fit a cheaper frame with 105 to bump up price and desirability. So, we’re looking at three bikes which all use Shimano 105. American brand GT returns to the road market with a new range and we have a GTR Carbon Sport — the only carbon bike here. Swiss firm BMC is the title sponsor of a professional team that includes world champion Cadel Evans this year, and has supplied the aluminium Streetfire.

Cannondale — the best known brand here — provides the CAAD8, the latest in a long line of well respected aluminium frames. The GT is twice the price of the Cannondale, with the BMC somewhere in the middle, but closer to the Cannondale. Will that be the finishing order in this test? Read on!

group test: 105 road bikes introduction
Cannondale CAAD8 105
BMC Streetfire SSX01
GT GTR Carbon Sport
group test: 105 road bikes verdict