Which groupset for touring?

With Shimano making road ever harder to combine with mountain, is it time to try another brand? In short: if I were building a new tourer and wanted STI-style shifters on drop bars, should I buy Shimano, or Sram, or perhaps even Campagnolo?

Mike Ormond

We haven’t seen a drop bar touring groupset since the 1980s. Mix and match is now our game, with Shimano raising the stakes every year. But Sram has lately provided an interesting option. Check out the Salsa Fargo I’m reviewing on p66. This has dropped bars with Sram Apex road dual controls (STI-like), operating mechs from their ‘XX’ (twice ten) mountain bike groups. Front and rear cable pulls are the same across all Sram’s 10-speed systems, so it all works fine together.

Sram don’t do road triples, so you’re limited to a double. In the past that would have been a problem, but since MTBs went 10-speed at the back they’re also reverting to doubles in front. And unlike so-called compact road, these doubles are really compact. The review bike’s 27-tooth inner is as small as can be fitted to its FSA Comet chainset, but Truvativ XX (another Sram brand) fits 26 inners and Shimano’s several MTB doubles go down to 22. With sprockets up to 36, crawler gears are here!

Front chainline will be a bit wider than a road double, so the rear hub had better be 135mm for smooth running in those low gears. But that’s normal for touring, where an even wider MTB triple crank might otherwise be specified.

If you adopt flat handlebars, like the majority of European cycle tourists, then Shimano’s Deore LX trekking group falls neatly into place. Or any sort of MTB equipment that takes your fancy can of course be fitted.

As for Campagnolo: they do road groupsets only. Sometimes – perhaps by accident – they make something useful to those of us prepared to adapt it to work with something else from Shimano. But I don’t think you wanted any more workarounds!

Chris Juden


This was first published in the October / November 2012 edition of CTC's Cycle magazine.