In all the excitement, surrounding Campagnolo’s announcement of its 11 speed groups, even I failed to notice that they are abandoning their “entry level” components. According to Bikeradar:
For 2009, Campagnolo is dividing its range into two distinct categories: the three 11-speed groupsets are deemed by Campagnolo to be for ‘Competition’, while those lower in the range – Centaur and Veloce – are designated for ‘Intense Use’ by people who may put in thousands of kilometres a year but don’t actually race.
Campagnolo’s entry-level Mirage and Xenon groupsets will be discontinued.
If you’ve never heard of Campagnolo, they are an old Italian bicycle component maker that used to make nice-looking stuff but now makes really ugly-looking stuff. “Campagnolo” is an Italian word meaning “workaround,” and it refers to the manner in which they innovate. (Think carving hunks out of their brake calipers and cutting crank spindles in half. At Campy, “ground up” is for meat, not engineering.) So it would appear that Campagnolo, on top of turning ugly, has also acknowledged defeat in the entry level/OEM marketplace. Furthermore, Centaur and Veloce, while suitable for “Intense Use,” are now not suitable for cycling if there is anybody around you who is trying to go faster than you. Again, ride Centaur and Veloce as hard as you want: just don’t compete with it or you’ll void your warranty. If you’re going to engage in that sort of behavior you’re going to need Chorus or Record. Or Super Record if you want to actually win.
So who’s actually making entry-level road componets these days? Not SRAM. Their lowest-end group is Rival. SRAM’s site does not specify exactly what kind of rider should be using Rival, and this freedom to choose is simultaneously liberating and frustrating. But since it’s called “Rival” I’m going to infer that it’s OK to use in competition (unlike Centaur and Veloce) since, well, it’s called “Rival.” Also, Rival costs about the same as Ultegra, which is considered a competitive group. But you probably won't win with Rival, because "Rivals" don't win--they just challenge winners. If you want to win you might have a better shot with "Force" (as in "Force to be Reckoned With") or Red (as in "Red-ress of Grievances," which is what will happen to your grievances in the peloton as soon as you bolt a pair of Red levers to your bars. I'm pretty sure that's where SRAM were going with that.) So, like Campagnolo, there’s no “low end” SRAM stuff, but unlike Campagnolo, it’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t resemble some kind of island castaway who’s constantly carving small bits off himself and eating them in a desperate attempt to stay alive. So SRAM is sort of the new Campagnolo, and Campagnolo is simply the Kate Moss of road groups—aging, shriveled, and trading on her former glory.
It seems then that only Shimano still dares to make entry-level components, which is hardly surprising since they dominate the OEM market. Shimano is also considerate enough to provide each one of its groups with little stories, so you know which one is right for you:
Three key words have emerged as the theme for the latest DURA-ACE system: Speed, Smooth and Strength.
Unfortunately, that copy's clunkier than a first-generation Campagnolo Ergo lever. I think they meant "Speed, Smoothness, and Strength." But still, I see what they're going for--all those things start with "S." You know what else starts with "S?" Sex. And Shimano. Think about it.
The beautiful new Ice Grey finish will give the opportunity of even more beautiful and stylish road bikes. Ultegra SL features not only the Ice Grey finish, but also a weight savings of almost 100g compared to the standard Ultegra package.
Translation: it's grey. And grey is the color of excitment. And opportunity. And Ultegra gives you the opportunity to have an excitingly grey bike.
Continuing advances in human engineering technology stand behind road components that provide racing, sport and fitness cyclists with higher levels of control & response.
Ultegra shares Dura-Ace's engineering lineage but has its own unique identity, offering greatly enhanced feel and sleek design that's backed by a new level of performance.
I like the part about having a common lineage but its own unique identity. So basically Dura Ace and Ultegra are like the Indians and the Pakistanis.
Shimano 105 is a lightweight and efficient package which makes "pro-level" technology more accessible to part time racers and fitness enthusiasts. Shimano 105 is a by-product of our premier engineering range but has its own unique identity, offering great feeling and sleek design backed by high performance.
Translation: you can race it, but not all the time! Also, if you're reading carefully, note they snuck the phrase "by-product" in there. So if Dura-Ace and Ultegra are sausage, then 105 is hot dogs. And you know what hot dogs are made from.
Tiagra has been completely reengineered and remastered with a more refined ergonomic design.
Tiagra shares our top groups' engineering lineage offering greatly enhanced feel and sleek design backed by new levels of performance.
Translation: meh. Also, Tiagra shares, and sharing is for losers.
Strangely, Shimano has absolutely nothing to say about Sora. It's just there, like a cold sore.
2200 components bring great value and features to entry-level road sport bikes.
Eureka! It took a lot of digging, but I finally found it. The entry level. I feel vindicated yet dirty.
So there it is. The bottom of the barrel. But what does it mean that only one company is making an entry-level road group? What is Shimano competing with? Well, quite literally, nothing. New cyclists want fixed-gears now, not low-end road bikes. As such, nothing is the entry-level road group for the new millennium. By the time the new fixed-gear riders are ready for gears, Campy and Sram are hoping they'll be ready to become "Intense Users" or "Rivals."