Thanks. I guess what got me thinking about this was two things. First I'm in the process of upgrading, second, when I was getting back into biking last spring, at the bike shops, as I was learning the new groups(at the time I had never ridden SRAM), the salepeople were less vague than alot of you guys on here.
They were for the most part.
"how much do you want to spend"
"105 is better than apex, rival is better than 105. If you have the money get Ultegra"
pretty much period. Not too much telling me about my preferences or anything. To them is was a straight tier system based on priced. I think you've got to understand that not all of us have been riding as long as you and it's ok to ask a beginner question and not treated like a piece of dirt for not knowing. Either that or there will be alot of people that just believe the salesman when they say Force is better than Ultegra.
But on here you say it is not so simple, and I tend to believe that. That Force and Ultegra are comperable and it's really user preference at that point. But there is a hierarchy. Dura Ace is better than Apex. And all systems are not equal, it's all about price, performance, strength, weight.
I'm not trying to get into a Shimano vs. SRAM debate. I understand that the highest group by each manufacturer can be viewed as the best by it's fans and each has something to recommend. It's a big investment though. I'd like to think that I would like Campagnolo, I would like to get it, but I have never ridden it. I don't have a shop in town that has a Chorus or record equipped bike in my size for me to try, so I have to either take a leap of faith or stick with what I know.
What I've got right now is really good. Really good, in fact, better than I thought I would have at this point, but I've gotten bitten by some bike bug and I keep wanting to upgrade. I guess that's part of the hobby for me now. Part of the fun, to upgrade, switch, try new things.
To make it more clear, if you want a better response we need to know more about your use case.
Answer the following as best you can:
What kind of riding do you do? Long training rides, commuting, etc.
Do you want to race?
What is your budget?
What frame is this going on?
What about your physiology? Are you a big chap, are you a tiny climber type?
These things matter. Without knowing more about you and how you intend or do ride (intend is important too: maybe you want to race crits next season, maybe you want to do some audax type riding) all anyone can do is give you vague answers.
Yes, the big three all make nice group sets. Yes it comes down to preference at some point. I'd love to tell you "get apex" or "ultegra di2" but I have no idea what you want to do or what your budget is.