Shimano 105 2011 groupset £588.91

2011 version of Shimano’s everyman groupset

BikeRadar score 4/5

The 2011 version of Shimano’s everyman groupset has features including under-tape gear cabling and a new brake block compound. But it’s cheaper than before, so has shaving the price shaved performance?

Shimano 105 has always resembled its pricier groupset sibling Ultegra, without too much of a weight or performance penalty for its lower price. The new 105 – 5700 series – as opposed to 5600 – is closer still, despite Shimano increasing the price gap by making the new 105 cheaper.

It’s available in silver or black, and features improvements including gear cables under the handlebar tape, new brakes that Shimano claims improve wet-weather stopping, and better shifting from its asymmetrical chain.

Rear Mech

The rear mech seems to have more in common with Dura-Ace than anything that once bore the 105 name. After a few hundred miles there’s no detectable extra play in the short cage version – the play that was measurable is exactly the same as when it was new.

Shifting is quick and crisp, and in conjunction with the new shifters the feeling is less like the soft Shimano of old, and more like the Dura-Ace/Ultegra feeling of new. It also worked a treat with 9-speed and even 8-speed systems.

Weight: 214g (short cage)

Cassette

Available in four versions, the new rear cassette sprockets work well with the asymmetrical chain, offering smooth and fuss-free shifting. We tried it with a more standard chain, and although it was noisier when changing gear, there was no detectable difference in performance when riding (although slow-motion video clearly showed the new chain shifted slightly faster and more smoothly).

The largest three sprockets are all one part on an aluminium alloy carrier, with the other seven being loose, so you could change the setup of your faster gears.

Weight: 261g (11-25)

Options: 11-25, 11-28, 12-25, 12-27

Chainset

The new chainset is one of the stiffest we’ve ever ridden, and has very good shifting performance. Unlike Dura-Ace and Ultegra, the inner chainring of the triple option mounts directly on the crank arm, rather than on the middle ring. The chainrings themselves seem to be wearing very little, but in any case aren’t that expensive to replace.

Shimano has controlled costs by not trickling down Ultegra’s stiff but expensive hollow outer ring. The spacing is just over 1mm wider than the previous 105, but made no difference when we tried an old 105 front mech and an even older Tiagra one with it, using the new 5700 front shifter.

Weight: 1188g (52/39 double) Crank lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm

Bottom bracket

With new seals and a slightly modified steel alloy composition for the outboard bearings, the 5700 bottom bracket is compatible for use with all the Shimano Hollowtech II road cranksets.

It fitted into a freshly cut bottom bracket shell, and so far during testing has performed as smoothly as you would expect. We’re abusing it with some aggressive washing to see how it holds up, and so far things are looking good.

Weight: 95g

English and Italian thread available

Front mech

At first glance this looks no different from the previous 105 front mech, but closer inspection reveals that the plates are just over 1mm wider apart, they’re shaped differently, and the parallelogram that drives the mech is a new geometry too.

This is because of the revised cable pull from the left shifter, and the revised spacing of the chainrings. The result is a quick and clean shift, but with more room between the plates to allow the chain to run ‘crossed’ – big ring and bigger sprockets, for example, or small ring and smaller sprockets – without rubbing.

Weight: 97g (braze-on, double)

Chain

The new 5701 chain has to be fitted the right way around in the right direction, because of the shape of the outer link plates. Fitting it wrongly didn’t make much difference to performance, but it would to the wear on the rear sprockets.

It uses the traditional Shimano joining pin system (standard chain tools are suitable too), and we tried a variety of joining links including Powerlink, which all worked fine.

Weight: 266g (116 links)

Brakes

Shimano says the 105 brake callipers have been reshaped in line with the rest of the group, but in use they’re essentially the same as the previous versions. The quality isn’t as high as we were expecting, but they work well, and are nice and progressive – making it easy to control your braking.

They do use a new brake pad compound though, which in some cases worked brilliantly. But there were moments in the wet when it felt as though they had good initial bite, then slowly lost some of it, then regained it. However, this happened during our full-on stopping tests, so isn’t something you would encounter on a daily basis.

Weight: 376g (pair)

Levers

We all liked the new shaped hoods and the internal cable routing makes for a cleaner looking front end, at the expense of some under tape bulges and a slight increase in friction – despite the new PTFE lined cables.

Their shifting performance, although light and smooth, was a little too soft and quiet for some testers. We would prefer a more positive and precise feel closer to that of the flagship Dura-Ace.

The quality of the shift and the shape of the whole lever/hood assembly is a winner, especially considering the price. They’re not as woolly feeling as the previous 105, with the shift action having a more positive feel on both sides. We couldn’t detect the claimed improvement in braking from the hoods, but we never had a problem with the old version.

However, experience with Ultegra makes us worried that the shift will require more force as the cables age because of the extra bends from the under-tape routing. Nevertheless, these levers are the best value bit of road kit Shimano has ever made.

Weight: 484g/pair (double)

Pedals

The 105 SPD-SL pedals have been around for a while and are well-proven performers, with long-lasting bearings assemblies. The latest models run the same bearing assemblies as previous 105 versions – and indeed other Shimano SPD-SL pedals, so should you need to service them it’s a quick and simple job with plenty of parts readily available.

Performance is great and the price – which includes cleats and bolts for your shoes – is fantastic.

Weight: 332g

Overall

We think Shimano has nailed it with the new 105 group. The prices are fantastic – on average nine per cent cheaper than the previous 105 – the build quality is great, and the performance is really good. There are styling cues and real performance features taken from Dura-Ace and Ultegra, and it all works a treat.

It’s not as light as some would like, but this is 105, and the price has dropped, putting it more in line with SRAM Rival. We’re very happy with the new 5700 series 105. Time will tell how it wears, and if we have any issues we’ll let you know.

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