The inspiration: Bringing technology originally developed for top-level stuff down to mid- and low-priced products is common in many industries. Apple does it, Honda does it and it certainly happens with bike gear. Expensive materials and time-consuming construction techniques account for a very small part of the functional difference between top-tier component groups and cheaper ones. Mid-grade component groups built without flashy upgrades now perform nearly as well as the most expensive options.
In practice: Shimano and SRAM, makers of the components ridden by the majority of cyclists, both released impressive top-level component groups in 2013 that lived up to expectations and perform better than their predecessors. But both groupsets are expensive. Many of the features that allow both SRAM Red 22 and Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 to perform so well have trickled down into the mid-tier Force 22 and Ultegra 6800 component kits in 2014. Choosing between excellent component performance and price is becoming a thing of the past—relatively affordable bikes will shift and brake better than before due to these new groupsets.