Shimano vs. SRAM: Which One Should You Choose? An Objective Comparison

S-Works road bike with SRAM RED eTap AXS groupset vs. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with the brand logos in the middle.

Shimano and SRAM are the leading companies in bicycle components. The debate over which one is better seems to be never-ending.

I won’t give you a definitive answer on which is better as everyone has different preferences. I recommend trying both groupsets to see which one suits you more.

Instead, I will share my experience and highlight the differences between them. Although I have more experience with road groupsets, I will also tell you more about MTB groupsets.

To write this article, I asked my friends why they favor one over the other and read forums such as Reddit for more diverse opinions.

Let’s dive in!

Shimano vs. SRAM: Summary

Below, I highlight the main pros and cons of Shimano vs. SRAM.

Pros• Users and mechanics agree Shimano groupsets are more reliable
• Widespread compatibility
• High quality across most groupsets
• Electronic groupsets are fully wireless and easier to install thanks to the lack of cables
• Electronic groupsets are compatible with SRAM smartphone app and SRAM AXS web app
• (Electronic) groupsets are more affordable on average
• More innovative
• More reliable power meters
Cons• (Electronic) groupsets are more expensive on average
• Less inovative
• Electronic groupsets are semi-wireless
• Less reliable power meters
• Less reliable
• Shorter battery life
• Less compatible
• Worse quality among low-end groupsets
This table shows the pros and cons of Shimano vs. SRAM components.

My Experience

I am a long-time user of Shimano groupsets on my road bikes. I have a lot of experience with Shimano 105 and Shimano Ulterga Di2. However, I have also tried the SRAM RED eTap AXS.

Shimano has always suited me a bit more, maybe because I grew up on it and am used to it.

On the other hand, I appreciate SRAM’s wireless electronic shifting and the ability to swap batteries from the front to the rear derailleur and vice versa.

The AXS electronic kits are also easier to install because they are wireless.

On mountain bikes, I’ve only had experience with the lower ranges like Shimano Deore and SRAM NX Eagle.

As a less experienced mountain biker, I haven’t noticed any major differences between them.

However, my friends have pointed out that with SRAM, you have to pay more for quality – the cheaper lines do not last as long as Shimano’s.

Components Differences

Before exploring the differences between each component group, I list the groupset hierarchies below for a better orientation.

LevelShimano Road GroupsetsSRAM Road GroupsetsShimano MTB GroupsetsSRAM MTB Groupsets

SX Eagle
NX Eagle
105 Di2
Rival eTap AXS
GX Eagle AXS
Mid-range / Pro
Ultegra Di2
Force eTap AXS
XT Di2
X01 Eagle
X01 Eagle AXS
Dura-Ace Di2
XX1 Eagle
XX1 Eagle AXS
A comparison of Shimano vs. SRAM road and MTB groupsets (from entry-level to pro).
Di2 and eTap (AXS) groupsets are electronic.


One of the most significant differences between SRAM and Shimano is the shifting method of the road groupsets.

Shimano mechanical groupsets have two movable shift levers (brake lever + shift lever). We find two buttons in Di2 electronic groupsets (the brake lever is fixed).

The right shifter of the Shimano 105.
(A beaten up) Shimano 105 shifter
Shimano Ultegra shifter.
Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifter

You might also be interested in the pros and cons of mechanical vs. electronic groupsets.

SRAM mechanical sets use only one lever. This shifts the drivetrain in one direction on a single click and in the other direction on a double click. AXS groups use one lever on each side to shift in one direction, and their simultaneous press shifts the chainrings.

NOTE: SRAM road bike shifters are bulkier and less aero, so if you are a marginal gains hunter, keep that in mind.

Mountain bike groupsets use Rapid Fire-style shifters. These are mounted on the handlebars in such a position that you can operate them with your thumb and index finger. They also allow you to shift multiple gears depending on the depth of the squeeze.

The only difference between the Shimano and SRAM systems is that the Shimano system allows shifting when the shift lever moves in either direction (by pushing or pulling).


In addition to the visual differences in road groupsets, there are also differences in their materials, construction, and spindles.

Shimano is known for Hollowtech II, a technology that optimizes stiffness and weight. And as this video showed, it’s certainly not perfect, as some aluminum cranks are prone to corrosion.

Shimano 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace last 3 generation cranksets compared (3 rows, 3 columns).
Shimano 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace cranksets compared

SRAM uses carbon for its higher-end series (Force and RED), which is more corrosion-resistant and has a higher stiffness-to-weight ratio than steel or aluminum.

SRAM Rival vs. Force vs. RED eTap AXS power meters compared.
SRAM Rival vs. Force vs. RED eTap AXS power meters

Unfortunately, Shimano and SRAM cranks are incompatible due to the different spindle designs. Shimano uses the aforementioned Hollowtech II standard, while SRAM uses DUB.

This means that the two types require a different center compound, so this is something to remember when building a new bike, for example.


While road bikes almost exclusively use 2X groupsets, mountain bikes can be fitted with 2X and 1X groupsets.

SRAM has been instrumental in making 1X more common on mountain bikes. 1by drivetrains are becoming the industry standard on mountain bikes (although histories have shown that Shimano has been reluctant to make this transition).

They are simpler, lighter, and, most importantly, more reliable. They are also popular on gravel and CX bikes for these reasons.

Logically, there was a need to compensate for the lower gear range somewhere. This means the jumps between gears are larger, and the cassettes provide a bigger difference between the lightest and heaviest gear.

But we’ll talk about those in the next section.


Shimano and SRAM cassettes are interchangeable because they use the same spacing between sprockets. This applies to road and mountain bike groupsets.

However, you will hardly ever see a roadie with a Shimano groupset and SRAM cassette or vice versa. Mountain bikers are not so conservative and commonly use these combinations.

I want to highlight SRAM’s high-end PowerdomeX cassettes made from a single piece of steel, resulting in lower weight but a much higher price.

But there has to be another catch here, right?

Yes. There is. One of the most widely used freehub designs is Shimano’s Hyperglide. It’s compatible with numerous wheel and hub brands.

SRAM cassettes have also historically used this design, making things easier for consumers. The interchangeability ensures riders don’t have to change their wheels or hubs.

However, this changed when SRAM released a proprietary hub, XD, designed to fit the PowerdomeX cassettes. SRAM’s road groupsets use 12-speed XDR freehubs.

Not wanting to be left behind, Shimano has introduced the Micro Spline hub for 12-speed cassettes in response to SRAM. It has a different design from the XD Drive and can also be used with 10-speed cassettes.

Shimano vs. SRAM 12-spd MTB cassettes compared.
Shimano vs. SRAM 12-spd MTB cassettes

However, due to the different designs, these are not compatible with each other for these two types of hubs.


Shimano and SRAM differ in shifting. For clarity, I’ve divided this section into individual subsections.

Road Gearing

Road cyclists need a wide range of gears – from heavy ones for fast descents to lighter ones for climbing hills at their preferred cadence.

For a long time, we’ve been used to “standard” gears. But as the picture below shows, SRAM has changed the game with their X-range gearing.

In fact, it was designed so there was no need to shift the front chainring as often. This was achieved by making it smaller but, at the same time, increasing the gear range of the cassette.

SRAM's infographic on the X-Range vs. traditional gear ratios.
SRAM’s X-Range vs. traditional gear ratios | Source: SRAM

For completion, here is the table showing the available chainring and cassette options:

SRAM (X-Range)Shimano (traditional, road)
Chainrings50/37, 48/35, 46/33T53/39, 52/36, 50/34T
Cassettes10-26, 10-28, 10-33, 10-36T11-23, 11-25, 11-28, 11-30, 11-32, 11-34, 11-36T
A comparison of Shimano vs. SRAM road gearing.

MTB Gearing

As I explained above, 1X MTB groupsets are becoming standard. Therefore the following table contains only their gear options (and not 2X).

SRAM (Eagle)Shimano (MTB)
Chainrings30, 32, 34, 36, 38T28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38T
Cassettes10-50, 10-52T10-45, 10-51T
A comparison of Shimano vs. SRAM mountain gearing.

In mountain biking, it’s a constant tug of war between SRAM and MTB. SRAM introduces new stuff, Shimano catches up or beats them, and on and on (see the 10-50T Eagle, 10-51T, and 10-52T Eagle cassettes).

Gravel & CX Gearing

And finally, let’s briefly talk about gravel and cyclocross gearing. Here I talk about gravel-specific SRAM XPLR and Shimano GRX groupsets. Shimano GRX has 1X and 2X options, and XPLR is 1X only.

NOTE: Some gravel bikes use road-specific groupsets (SRAM Rival/Force, Shimano 105/Ultegra, etc.).

SRAM (XPLR)Shimano (GRX)
Chainrings36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50T1X: 40, 42T
2X: 48/31, 46/30T
Cassettes10-36, 10-44T11-30, 11-32, 11-34, 11-36, 11-40, 11-42T
A comparison of Shimano vs. SRAM gravel/cyclocross gearing.

Rear Derailleurs

Rear derailleurs have a big influence on the operation of the whole system. So let’s take a closer look at both manufacturers’ clutch systems.

Shimano Shadow RD technology is designed for more aggressive riding. As Shimano further explains:

Because of its low profile and single tension construction, the derailleur does not hit the chain stay in rough riding conditions. The result is a smooth and silent performance.

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and XTR vs. SRAM RED eTap AXS and XX1 Eagle rear derailleurs compared.
Shimano vs. SRAM road and MTB rear derailleurs

Shimano gravel and MTB groupsets have a clutch switch that you can toggle on and off, which helps you with wheel removal and maintenance.

An interesting detail is that SRAM AXS groupsets use Orbit Damper, which doesn’t rely on springs like Shimano Di2 groupsets but uses a fluid damper to maintain the correct chain tension.

And, of course, selected SRAM groupsets also have a clutch switch for easier maintenance.

Electronic Groupsets

At Shimano, the nomenclature of electronic groupsets is simple. These are the groupsets abbreviated Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence). SRAM refers to its electronic road groupsets as eTap AXS and mountain groupsets as Eagle AXS.

There are significant differences between these series. I discuss them in detail in the articles Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra vs. Dura-Ace (Di2) and SRAM Rival vs. Force vs. RED (eTap AXS).

Or you can watch the following video:

Shimano Di2 vs. SRAM eTap AXS

In short, the differences are as follows:

Shimano Di2 groupsets are wired or semi-wireless. This means they have cables running from the battery (in the seatpost) to the front and rear derailleurs and shifters (wired) or from the battery to the derailleurs only (semi-wireless).

SRAM, on the other hand, is completely wireless. Each derailleur has a battery, so there is no need to use cables, and the group is easier to install.

*Shimano claims 1500km battery life. SRAM batteries last up to 60 hours.

The good news is that SRAM batteries are interchangeable, which is pretty cool if one of your derailleurs stops working.

When you run low battery on Shimano, FD stops working to allow you to change rear gears. Once you completely drain it, the FD drops to the smallest gear. On SRAM, the gear stays in the last gear.

And finally, the last difference is in the shifting technique. SRAM road uses one shift paddle on each shifter. But they work differently than SRAM mechanical groupsets.

Each paddle shifts gears up or down (depending on the settings) and if you press them simultaneously, you switch the FD up or down (depending on its current position).

The Di2 road bike groupsets have two main buttons on each shifter and also one hidden button on top of each shifter. All these buttons are programmable.

Di2 MTB groupsets work like Rapid Fire shifters. SRAM Eagle AXS groupsets have a button that you move up and down with your thumb and a button behind the shifter that you press with your index finger. These buttons can also be programmed.

NOTE: Shimano Di2 owners can also customize the settings via a smartphone app (E-Tube Project) because the 12-speed groupsets have Bluetooth/ANT+ connectivity. However, Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed users must buy a wireless module (EW-WU111/EW-WU101) or an MTB display (SC-MT800 or SC-M9051) to connect wirelessly.

By the way, I find the SRAM AXS smartphone app much more user-friendly than Shimano’s E-Tube Project.


Let’s take a look at the brakes now. Their functionality and reliability is critical on all bikes, but especially on MTBs.

Design, Feel, and Reliability

Experienced mountain bikers told me that they feel Shimano maintains groupsets high-quality across the board, while the cheaper SRAM groupsets tend to wear out over time. The brake levers then have an annoying amount of play.

The brakes also vary in feel. Shimano brake levers feel more responsive. This is thanks to Servowave technology. Shimano explains it as follows:

When you pull a SERVOWAVE brake lever, initial pad travel is fast, so little lever movement is needed to bring the pads into contact with the rotor. The power multiplication factor then increases rapidly at the pad-to-rim contact so more of the lever stroke is used to apply greater braking power with improved control.

SRAM uses Swinglink technology. The custom-designed cam shape inside the brake lever helps reduce deadband while increasing progressive power throughout a pull.

Swinglink results in a more progressive feel. So, in the end, it depends on your personal preference. But you can rely on both.

The last feature to highlight is that the SRAM brake levers can be utilized on both the left and right sides. And that’s without having to rebleed the entire system.


Both systems use brake fluid to rebleed the system. SRAM uses DOT 5.1 brake fluid and Shimano mineral oil.

In short, their pros and cons are as follows:

  • Mineral oils are longer shelf life and stable boiling point but are easily containable with water. They are also non-corrosive and harder to clean.
  • DOT fluids have limited shelf life and variable boiling point (due to their hygroscopic properties). On the other hand, they are easy to clean and corrosive.

Power Meters

Power meters are becoming increasingly popular on road bikes and both SRAM and Shimano offer groupsets with and without them.

Unfortunately for Shimano, their power meters’ reputation is not as positive due to the accuracy and reliability issues. Watch the following videos for more info.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9200-P Power Meter Review: Generation II and STILL Not Accurate!
GPLama reviews Shimano power meter
Shimano Power Meter (R9200P): How is it this bad?
DC Rainmaker reviews Shimano power meter

On the other hand, SRAM uses Quarq power meters, known for their accuracy and reliability. So unless you plan on using a 3rd party meter, such as the Favero Assioma pedals, SRAM clearly wins here (also in terms of price).


Appearance is highly subjective, but I decided to include it anyway. Below are some examples of what the cranksets of both groups look like.

Shimano wins for me. How about you?


Standalone Shimano groupsets tend to be more expensive on average than SRAM.

But unless you’re a bike builder, you’re more likely to buy a whole bike. Here the story is a little different.

Some brands sell the same bikes with SRAM groupsets for more than Shimano and vice versa. So it always depends on the specific case.

Specialized SL7 Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 vs. SRAM RED eTap price comparison.
Specialized SL7 Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 vs. SRAM RED eTap price comparison
Trek Madone SRAM RED eTap vs. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 price comparison.
Trek Madone SRAM RED eTap vs. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 price comparison

Shimano History

Shimano is a Japanese multinational company founded in 1921 by Shozaburo Shimano.

Initially, they produced bicycle freewheels but later expanded to produce other cycling components such as derailleurs, brakes, and shifters.

Throughout its history, Shimano has been at the forefront of technological breakthroughs in the cycling industry. I list some of them below.

Shimano’s Main Technological Innovations

  1. Shimano Index System (SIS): In 1984, Shimano introduced index shifting, a technology that made it easier for riders to shift gears precisely and quickly. This was a significant improvement over the previous friction-shifting systems.
  2. Shimano Total Integration (STI): In 1989, Shimano released its first clipless pedal system, the
  3. Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD): In 1990, Shimano launched the SPD system, which allowed riders to clip their shoes onto the pedals for improved efficiency and power transfer.
  4. Dual Control Levers: In 1990, Shimano also introduced the Dual Control Lever system, which combined the gear shifting and brake levers into one unit. This technology simplified the shifting/braking on bikes and the overall experience.
  5. Digital Integrated Intelligence (Di2): In 2009, Shimano launched its Di2 electronic shifting system, which uses an electronic motor to shift gears instead of a mechanical cable. This technology provides precise and consistent shifting, and can be customized to suit the rider’s preferences. Later in 2014, they brought it to the XTR mountain groupsets.
  6. Semi-wireless shifting: In 2021, Shimano introduced new generations of semi-wireless Ultegra Di2 (R8100) and Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200) groupsets. It removed cables from the shifters to the battery.

These are just a few examples of Shimano’s technological breakthroughs. You can check them all on the Shimano History page.

SRAM History

SRAM is an American bicycle component manufacturer founded in 1987 in Chicago, Illinois, by founders Scott, Ray, and Sam.

The company started out producing grip shifters but later expanded to produce a wide range of cycling components, including derailleurs, brakes, and cranksets.

Today, SRAM owns brands like Avid, RockShox, Quarq, Zipp, TIME, and Hammerhead.

SRAM’s Main Technological Innovations

  1. Grip Shift: In 1987, SRAM introduced their first product, the Grip Shift, a twist-style shifter that allowed riders to shift gears without moving their hands from the handlebars. This technology was a game-changer in the mountain biking world and to a certain extent, it is still used today.
  2. DoubleTap: In 2006, SRAM launched DoubleTap, allowing riders to shift a derailleur in both directions using a single shifter paddle.
  3. 1X Drivetrains: In 2012, SRAM introduced their 1X (pronounced “one-by”) drivetrain, eliminating the front derailleur and simplifying the shifting system. This technology was a significant breakthrough in simplicity, weight savings, and chain retention becoming a standard on mountain bikes.
  4. Wireless Electronic Shifting (eTap): In 2015, SRAM launched its eTap wireless electronic shifting system, which uses a wireless signal to shift gears instead of a mechanical cable. This technology eliminates the need for cable routing.
  5. eTap and Eagle AXS: In 2019, SRAM introduced the 12-speed road and mountain bike groupsets compatible with SRAM smartphone apps, allowing easy customizability.

Learn more about SRAM’s history here.

Shimano vs. SRAM FAQ


Both Shimano and SRAM offer high-quality components. While Shimano is more popular among road cyclists, SRAM is more widespread among mountain bikers.

If you’re unsure which groupset manufacturer to choose, I recommend asking your friends if they would lend you their bike (with a given groupset) so you can try it out.

Both manufacturers’ groupsets have some specifics. Personally, I prefer Shimano, but SRAM may suit you better.

It’s also important to say that both brands do a great job, and their groupsets are great, so you can’t go wrong.

Anyway, I hope this article has helped you decide or provided valuable information.

Let me know in the comments which groupset you ultimately decided on and why.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “Shimano vs. SRAM: Which One Should You Choose? An Objective Comparison”

  1. Profile picture of Petr Minarik - the founder of

    Wow, thank you for the articulate, detailed article. Interesting and helps a consumer make better decisions.

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