Inside Line: Shimano brings 11-speed to Deore XT group

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Shimano’s flagship XTR mountain bike line made the jump to 11 speeds last year, and while we have certainly been impressed with its performance, it will always remain a bit of a halo product, out of reach of most mountain bikers. The new Deore XT group features many of the technologies first debuted in XTR M9000, but with a broader target audience. And while it does have a 1×11 setup that many riders are looking for these days, it also continues with double and triple chainrings for super wide gear ratios.

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It all starts with the cassette. The XTR 9000 cassette has an 11-40 gear cluster, as does the new XT M8000 version, but there is a new 11-42 option that is specific to the single chainring setup. Unlike the SRAM XD driver, the Shimano cassettes fit on a standard freehub body.

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The cranksets are available in both Press Fit and threaded options with aluminum arms. The single chainring has a specific, stainless steel tooth profile that Shimano calls Dynamic Chain Engagement, and is said to increase chain retention force 150 percent. It is offered in 30t, 32t and 34t.

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The double crankset has three chainring pairings to optimize shift quality: 34/24, 36/26 and 38/28.

Interestingly enough, the single and 36/26 double cranksets will be available with the +3 mm wider chain line to function with the new 148 mm Boost hubs, a technology that SRAM unveiled a few weeks ago.

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The triple crankset will allow for a massive range in gearing with its 40/30/22 chainrings.

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The rear derailleurs make use of Shimano’s excellent Shadow RD+ system with adjustable chain tension for fine tuning maximum stability vs. lower shift effort. Naturally it will also be available with Shimano’s direct mount option.

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The front derailleur adopts the design of the Side Swing design first seen in XTR. Featuring a different cable routing than a traditional derailleur, it allows for increased tire clearance. It will also be available in a number of more traditional mounting styles too.

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The new shifters promise increased performance with a new slick cable and better ergonomics.

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The XT brakes, one of the most popular options on the market, get even more refined with a sleeker design that takes up less handlebar real estate while still offering tool-free reach adjustment and an adjustable free stroke.

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The new XT M8000 wheels get wider, though they are still not as wide as much of the competition. There are Trail and Race versions, with a 24 mm and 20 mm internal width, respectively. They both use aluminum, tubeless-ready rims and are laced with 28 spokes front and rear. Not clear is if the hubs will be available in the 148 mm Boost version as well.

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The refinements continue with the pedals, also categorized into Trail and Race versions. The platform on each gets larger than its predecessor and the platform height is lowered by half a millimeter. Shimano says the Trail pedals have 11.7 percent more contact area with the shoe and the Race pedals 7.7 percent.

Stay tuned for our first ride report.