Generally, you will find either Shimano Claris or Shimano Sora on entry-level road bikes. They are at the bottom of the Shimano road bike groupset ladder. However, that does not mean that they are not fit for purpose, especially for beginners.
Before we look at the different groupsets in a bit more detail, it is important to note that Shimano Claris is the cheaper of the two. Shimano Sora groupsets work out to be roughly 10% more expensive.
That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that they are found on road bikes under $1,000, you can see why some manufacturers will opt to install Shimano Claris over Shimano Sora.
Often you will find the lesser-known bicycle brands offering Shimano Sora on their more affordable ride bikes, while larger brands rely on their brand and selling power to sell their bikes with the Shimano Claris.
It is also worth noting that a lot of more affordable road bikes come with a mix match of groupsets, so let’s look at the components that make up each of these groupsets in a bit more detail.
Firstly, it is nice to see that Shimano is staying true to their dual control shifting throughout their whole range. This basically means that the Shimano Claris brake levers double up as shifters.
This is a super simple system and once you are used to it allows for swift shifting between gears. The hoods on the shifters are comfortable and even close up, you cannot tell the difference between these and much more expensive options.
The Shimano Sora shifters benefit from the same flawless dual control shifting as those in the Claris groupset. The design of the hoods is very similar, with one noticeable difference.
The Shimano Sora groupset includes internal cable routing. This makes the bars look a lot tidier and makes it much easier to fit a handlebar bag than if you are running Shimano Claris with the wires poking out the side of the shifters.
Shimano Claris vs Sora – Shifters
In terms of performance and comfort, it is a draw. However, the Sora shifter’s internal cabling makes them look a lot sleeker and more like the much more expensive Shimano groupsets.
The front derailleur on the Claris groupset works, however, it is not as smooth as you would expect from Shimano. Dropping down to the smaller chainring is seamless, but you do get some resistance when moving back to the larger ring. For beginners, this may not be an issue, as like I say, it still works, you just have to be a little patient.
On the Sora groupset, you do get a more smooth gear change. It may hardly be noticeable for beginners, but you will not notice that the front derailleur never fails to follow your command to change gear.
Shimano Claris vs Sora – Front Derailleur
The front derailleur is one of the only significant flaws of the Claris groupset. Although it still works, the slight delay and added friction can get very frustrating.
In terms of performance, Sora is a clear winner when it comes to the front derailleur.
The rear derailleur on the Claris groupset performs well. It moves the chain along the 8 cogs seamlessly, and even after many miles, there is no need for readjustment.
Similar to the Claris, the rear derailleur is not really a topic for discussion. It performs the function it is intended to do without feeling loose or sloppy. You get consistent gear changes and need little to no adjustments to maintain the alignment of the chain.
Shimano Claris vs Sora – Rear Derailleur
This round is a draw. Unlike the front derailleur on the Claris groupset, both rear derailleurs perform well and off smooth and consistent gear changes on the rear cassette.
The Claris comes with either two or three chainrings. These gearings are perfect for novices to seasoned cyclists and offer a suitable jump for when you need to put down on the flats or increase cadence on an incline. The rear cassette is 8-speed. Although the range is good, it can feel like quite a jump between each cog, sometimes leaving you wishing you had just one extra cog to play with.
Similar to the Claris, in the Sora set, you can find both double and triple chainrings. The main difference with the Sora is the 9-speed cassette.
Just that one extra cog is noticeable once you become more experienced and are riding over undulating terrain. The performance is excellent and at no point do you hear any additional noise or feel the chain slipping.
Shimano Claris vs Sora – Cassette/Crankset
The cranksets are similar even if aesthetically the Shimano Soras looks a little more ‘high-end.’ The additional cog on the Sora comes in handy, mainly due to giving you more nuanced controls over the gearing (as opposed to any extra speed).
The rim brakes on the Claris set are absolutely spot on. They are effective at helping you come to a controlled stop and super easy to adjust.
We could not have gotten all the way through this comparison without taking a swipe at the Shimano Sora groupset. The rim brakes that come with the Sora are underwhelming at best. It is almost as if the calipers are just not bothered about squeezing the wheel to bring you to a stop.
They are ‘safe’ in the sense that you will come to a halt, but after using the Claris, 105, Ultegra etc – you will notice just how slow the Sora brakes are to react. Apparently, buying alternative brake pads helps to solve their efficacy, but it is surprising to learn you would need to do such a thing on such an important component.
Shimano Claris vs Sora – Brakes
The Claris groupset comes out on top when it comes to stopping power. There is a noticeable difference in how quickly the calipers respond, and brakes engage compared to the Sora system.
Firstly, for beginner cyclists and those looking to get into road cycling, both the Claris and Sora groupsets will serve you faithfully. Some of the negatives mentioned above only stand out when you have ridden with the much more expensive Ultegra and Dura-ace groupsets.
However, that does not mean they are not fit for purpose. For the avoidance of doubt, both Claris and Sora groupsets work great.
Do not forget that the latest technology trickles down, and you find that the modern Shimano Claris and Sora groupsets share a lot of the tech and characteristics that we have come to love on the more expensive and older versions of the likes of the 105, Ultegra and Dura-ace.
Personally, given the option, I would go with the Shimano Claris groupset because you can save a few quid and probably get a slightly better frame with no noticeable drop in performance.
If, however, the number of gears is essential to you, then it is worth spending that little extra to go with the Shimano Sora groupset.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.