SRAM vs Shimano

SRAM vs Shimano Road Bike Groupset -Detailed Comparison

SRAM vs Shimano is all a cyclist thinks about when they go to purchase a groupset. Shimano and SRAM are the dominant manufacturers of cycling components. The majority of current bikes will feature one of their drivetrains.

Based on personal experiences, some riders prefer one brand over another. Others have different ergonomic preferences.

We cannot say definitively which one is “better”. Rather, the purpose of this comparison is to highlight the resemblances and differences between the two companies and their products.

Important points: SRAM vs Shimano

Shimano and SRAM are both road bike groupset manufacturers, but there are differences between both companies.

  • Shimano has been manufacturing bicycle components for 100 years, whereas SRAM is much younger, having opened its doors in Chicago in 1987. 
  • Shimano has a market share of over fifty percent in road bike original parts spec, compared to just under twenty percent for SRAM.
  • However, as mountain bike use continues to grow, so does the popularity of SRAM’s electronic shifting technology.
  • Shimano introduced electronic drivetrains six years before SRAM. While the latest Dura-Ace and Ultegra groups are partially wireless, their Di2 shifting technology is primarily wired.
  • While SRAM’s electronic shifting technology is becoming more common on mountain bikes, Shimano’s Di2 shifting application in the off-road market has been more limited.

SRAM vs Shimano Hierarchies

Shimano RoadSRAM RoadShimano MTBSRAM MTB
Entry LevelTiagraApexDeoreSX & NX
Mid Range105RivalSLXGX
High EndUltegraForceXTX01
Top ModelsDura-AceRedXTRXX1

SRAM vs Shimano Component Differences

SRAM vs Shimano is something going on for more than 30 years. Many brilliant cycling components have resulted from the competition. This section discusses some of the key technological and design differences between Shimano and SRAM components. Here’s a quick rundown of the differences:

Electronic drivetrainsDi2AXS
Bottom spindleHollowtech IIDub
Road gearingTraditionalX-Range
FreehubsHyperglide and Micro SplineXD and XDR
Gravel gearing1x, 2xOnly 1x
Disc brake fluidMineral oilDOT
Crank materialAlloyCarbon fiber or alloy
Cable-actuated road shiftersSTIDoubleTap

SRAM vs Shimano Shifters

So which shifter design is better? SRAM vs Shimano approach bicycle shifter design very differently. Shimano’s STI shifters separate up and downshift control into two separate shift levers, while with SRAM’s DoubleTap system, both up and downshifts are controlled by a single paddle-shaped lever that is located behind the fixed brake lever. Pushing this lever inward one click moves the drivetrain in one direction. By pushing the lever past the first click, the drivetrain shifts in the opposite direction. Both shifter designs are simple to use and can downshift multiple gears with a single lever stroke. It all boils down to personal preference and ergonomics.

SRAM vs Shimano Crank Arms

Shimano’s Hollowtech II crankarms are well-known. A hollow tech crankarm is one that is made of two halves that are joined together. It keeps the stiffness solid while reducing the weight significantly. SRAM uses carbon fiber because of its higher-end crank offerings. It outperforms steel in terms of strength-to-weight ratio. Both the materials and the crank designs work well. For high-end cranks, carbon is more common. Shimano is among the few manufacturers that use aluminium exclusively. Shimano claims that the Hollowtech II design outperforms carbon while being more durable.

1x Drivetrains

SRAM managed to bring 1x drivetrains into the mainstream with its creative XX1 group. Because of their enhanced simplicity and dependability, single-ring drivetrains are almost exclusively used on mountain bikes today. This setup is also common on cyclocross as well as gravel bikes.

Shimano initially resisted the transition to 1x drivetrains, but in order to remain competitive, it has now developed further single-ring MTB drivetrain options. For gravel bikes, the GRX group still provides some double-chainring choices.

The reduced gear range is a disadvantage for some riders who use 11-speed 1x drivetrains. SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle 1x drivetrains, introduced in 2016, addressed this issue by having to introduce an ample 500% gear range, which has lessened considerably this issue. Shimano announced its first 12-speed BMX group three years after the introduction of Eagle.

SRAM vs Shimano Road gearing

Whether you’re gearing up for a fast group ride or a long-distance tour, you’ll need to know the difference between X-Range and standard gearing.

SRAM has recently challenged the conventional gearing that has been featured on road bikes for years. The X-Range gearing system is used by the innovative eTap AXS 12-speed group. It is intended to decrease front shifting, enabling riders to remain in the big ring for prolonged periods of time. It accomplishes this by reducing the size of the chainring and employing cassettes with 10-tooth cogs and relatively small steps between cogs. Shimano still uses the traditional gear ratios, which have proven to be very successful over the years. Only time will reveal whether X-Range gearing will triumph over traditional gearing.

Cassettes and freehubs

PowerdomeX is the name of SRAM’s most recent high-end cassette design. This design consists of a connected dome of cogs that have all been manufactured from a single block of steel. This significantly reduces weight. These cassettes, however, are significantly more pricey than a traditionally constructed cassette.

Shimano still employs the traditional cassette design, with specific cogs placed and divided by spacers or attached to aluminium carriers in clusters.

Shimano’s Hyperglide freehub design is the most common, with many brands producing gears and hubs with suitable freehubs. SRAM cassettes have always had the same design. This compatibility enables riders to switch between brands without modifying their wheels or hubs.

SRAM vs Shimano Rear derailleurs

Shimano uses its Shadow Technology in its derailleurs, which means that these derailleurs are designed for off-road and rough-surface riding. They also slim the derailleur as well as keep it raised and out of harm’s way. For better chain retention on rough terrain, Shimano employs a friction clutch that holds the derailleur in place. The toggle switch for Shimano’s clutch mechanism allows for quick wheel removal.

All of SRAM’s structural 1x  derailleurs drivetrain use a clutch as well. SRAM uses a cage lock to lock the derailleur enclosure in a flexed conformation for wheel removal in place of a toggle switch.

Electronic drivetrains

The component hierarchies of Shimano and SRAM are topped by electronic drivetrains. They stand for the apex of their drivetrain science.

In 2015, SRAM unveiled its first electronic drivetrain, the eTap Red. With the introduction of eTap AXS and Eagle AXS by the AXS group in 2019, wireless shifting technology was extended to mountain bikes. Nearly all of SRAM’s product lines include AXS technology: for road bikes, Red, Force, and Rival; for mountain bikes, XX1, X01, and GX.

The Dura-Ace Di2 group marked the debut of Shimano’s electronic Di2 drivetrain technology in 2009. In 2011, it gradually made its way into the Ultegra Di2 group, which was more affordable. Only high-end groups can purchase Di2. For streets, road cycling, and gravel bikes, there are Dura-Ace and Ultegra, as well as XTR and Deore XT.

Want to read more about shimano groupset levels? Click here here

Expert Opinion

As our creative director Thomas M. Howard said “I’m a professional cyclist. I’ve been lucky enough to ride more bikes than the average consumer, and I’ve also known a lot of coworkers who have strong brand loyalty.

Although both SRAM vs Shimano produces high-quality goods, their methods and philosophies differ. Shimano tends to be the more traditional of the two. SRAM has increased its drivetrain innovation efforts over the past ten years. Shimano has frequently been compelled to react in order to compete.

 A good example is how it reacted to SRAM’s revolutionary Eagle drivetrain by creating a new 12-speed 1x drivetrain. So there is always something to look forward to between these two companies.


Some riders can switch companies like a second adolescent. They keep coming back to their first bike, and then they start riding new stuff.

And for some people, that’s fine! You’ll figure out which company works best for you and your needs as you go along. We’ve seen a lot of people try different brands and decide that one is right for them—and then stick with it!

If you’re unsure, though, we recommend trying both so you can adjust as necessary. It’s always good to have multiple options at your disposal when making important decisions like this one.

What SRAM is equivalent to Ultegra?

The Force eTap AXS is SRAM’s equivalent of the Shimano Ultegra.

What is the hierarchy of SRAM groupsets?

Apex 10-speed, Apex 1 11-speed, Rival 11-speed, Rival eTap AXS 12-speed electronic, Force 11-speed, Force eTap AXS 12-speed electronic, and Red eTap 11-speed.

How is SRAM different from Shimano?

Their main difference is their shifting actuation—SRAM uses a twist grip lever for its higher-end models like Red and Force, while Shimano uses a shifter with an indexing mechanism. The former also uses carbon fiber cranks, while the latter uses aluminum ones.

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