Shimano 105 used to be the workhorse of the Shimano range, slightly lacking in glamour but it would get the job done. Then came the 5600 ten-speed incarnation, and now it’s available in black slate ﬁnish. No wonder these days the 105 groupset is something worth aspiring to.
But before we start talking about the performance beneﬁts of having a black groupset – er, there aren’t any – just what’s so good about 105?
Essentially, 105 delivers a large amount of bang for a relatively small amount of bucks – as groupsets go. There is a marked jump in performance terms between it and the Tiagra range below, but not such a big step up to the even more reﬁned worlds of Shimano’s Ultegra and the range-topping Dura-Ace.
All four groupsets use outboard bottom brackets, ﬁrst developed for Dura-Ace and derived originally from the world of BMX. The beneﬁts are a noticeable improvement in rigidity and ease of servicing and replacement.
The main differences between 105 and its more illustrious stablemates is weight and durability: 105 is heavier overall and uses cheaper manufacturing processes for some of its main components – the chainrings are pressed rather than machined steel and the proﬁle of the teeth isn’t quite as polished as it is on Ultegra or Dura-Ace.
That’s not to say that it won’t last as long, more that over time it will lose some of its initial crispness quicker than the two more expensive groupsets. It will still do the job though and you can always upgrade the rings or even the whole chainset as they wear out.
However, from new, 105 offers a smooth shifting, sure braking package with a real feel of quality – those STI levers might have a plastic rather than aluminium inner lever and be slightly chunkier, but they don’t feel so very different from Dura-Ace.
There is a good range of gearing options with a choice of three double chainsets: a 50/34 compact plus a 50/39 and a 53/39. Or you can have a 50/39/30 triple. There is also a choice of short or medium cage rear mechs and braze- or band-on front mechs (in 34.9mm or 28.6-31.8mm). Hubs come in 32 or 36-hole versions so all bases are covered for using it in either performance or touring and commuting set-ups.
So, the black slate ﬁnish? Well it looks good and if the colour is a reason to choose a groupset (it wouldn’t be ours) it should keep its look for a reasonable length of time. Eventually, with constant use it will probably start to scuff, but the ﬁnish seems very tough in that respect so it may take a long time.
That’s not to say it won’t mark in the short term – as you’ll ﬁnd if you accidentally get the limit screws wrong on the front mech and over-shift ﬁrst time out. Ouch! That kind of accident will damage the finish of the crank arm. Should you be so unlucky you’ll ﬁnd that the coating, though tough and scuff resistant, isn’t very scratch resistant.