Shimano Road Derailleur Ranking Hierarchy Old and New Tiers

Shimano has been making road bike derailleurs for a very long time now, so long that there is some confusion about the hierarchy of their vintage components.  I’m going to try to cover all the old derailleurs I know of and give them a tier ranking of entry level, mid-level, or upper level.  I’ll be referencing the current lineup a lot since most are familiar with it.  Because of this I’m going to start out with their current lineup.

Current Hierarchy

Tourney – budget entry level.  These are pretty good for entry level mountain and hybrid bikes, but I only see them on the cheapest of road bikes.  I haven’t seen any of the good brands use these.  Originally released in 1971 but has changed a lot.

Claris – this is the standard entry level road derailleur for Shimano, used by all the big brands.  It currently has 8 speeds.  It’s a little clunky, but reliable.  Originally released in 2013.

Sora – I would call Sora lower mid-level.  I think it’s really quite nice and feels much smoother than Claris and has 9 speeds.  Introduced in 2012.

Tiagra – upper mid-level.  A very nice 10 speed derailleur.  Introduced in the late 1990s.

105 – this is the bottom of their pro(upper) level models.  It’s 11 speed like the more expensive components, just a little heavier.  I really like mine.  Introduced in 1982.

Ultegra – the middle of the upper-level models.  11 speed and a little lighter than the 105.  Introduced in 1988.

Dura-Ace – the top tier of Shimano road derailleurs.  11 speeds and super light.  Introduced in 1973.

Dura-Ace Derailleur

Classic and Vintage Derailleurs Tiers

300EX – lower mid-level like current Sora.

400 – these would be the Tiagra of their time, just below the 500. 

400EX – upper mid-level like current Tiagra.

400FF – a 400 level derailleur for the short-lived Shimano front freewheel system. The freewheel was in the crank.

Shimano 400FF Derailleur

500 – in it’s time it would be like the 105 currently.  It was similar to the 600, but heavier.  Introduced in 1975.

500EX – lower upper-level, like current 105. 

600 – these would later be rebadged as Ultegra.  They were just below Dura Ace. 

Shimano 600 Derailleur

600 arabesque – a pretty version of 600.  Design reminds me more of some Campagnolo components. 

600 tri color – the last version of 600.

Altus – from best I can find out it was either upper entry or lower mid-level.

Altus LT – lower upper level like 105.  Lighter and slightly better quality than the Altus ST.

Shimano Altus LT Deraileur

Altus ST – upper mid-level like Tiagra.  First derailleur with Shimano self-centering tech.

Crane – top of the line predecessor to Dura-Ace.  Introduced in 1971.

Crane GS – long cage Crane derailleur.

Eagle – introduced around 1970.  Entry-level derailleur, heavy and made with steel.  Strong and reliable, has a bashguard.

Exage – lower upper-level, similar placement as current 105.

Lark – entry level, same as the Skylark, but with the cable mounted on a sprung cable saver arm.

Le Tour GT300 – these were made for Schwinn and are the same as the Crane GS.

Le Tour GT400 – Schwinn approved, the same as the 500. 

Schwinn Approved GT400 Derailleur

Le Tour GT420 – Schwinn approved, never version of GT400, same as the 500.

Light Action – a mid-level derailleur like the current Tiagra.

Positron – Entry level, the first attempt at indexed shifting.  Released in 1974.

RS – entry level derailleur that was an improved Skylark.

RSX – lower mid-level like the current Sora.

RX100 – mid-level, like Sora or Tiagra.  Right below 105.

Sante – most consider upper level, between Ultegra and Dura-Ace. 

Schwinn GT100 and GT120 – branded for Schwinn, same as Eagle.

SIS – entry level indexed shifters from the 80s.

Skylark – heavy steel, entry level derailleur.  Same as the Eagle, but without guard.  From the 1970s.

Thunderbird – heavy, early entry-level. 

Titlist – these were just below the Crane, so the predecessor of the 600.

Shimano Titleist

Titleist GS – long cage version of the Titleist, so the predecessor of 600.

3 thoughts on “Shimano Road Derailleur Ranking Hierarchy Old and New Tiers

  1. I really have to thank you Jim, I love bicycling and I live in a very, very bicycle friendly city and you just about have convinced me I have to do it too. Greetings from València, Spain.

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