Photography by Paris Gore and Sterling Lorence
The long-awaited updates to Shimano‘s Deore XT and SLX groups have finally arrived. Last year the top of the line XTR group took it to 12-speed with a lot of significant updates and upgrades to the componentry. As of today, XT and SLX enter the 12-speed arena with similar updates to the XTR. Perhaps most important for Shimano fans is that all three groups are interchangeable and compatible with one another.
The all-new Deore XT has a trail rider focus towards the group. Twelve-speed cassettes with a 51-10 gear ratio, four-piston brakes, and a nifty little dropper lever are just scratching the surface on the latest version of Deore XT.
For all of the single front chainring riders out there Shimano has gone a long way to improve chain line and Q-factor to accommodate a variety of frame types. Perhaps the most significant change in the drive change is HYPERGLIDE+ technology. Shimano completely redesigned the chain plates and shift ramps on the cassette which provides not only faster shifting but smoother shifting under load.
So what does all of this mean for the ride experience? I’m glad you asked. Last week we were able to sneak a few rides in on the new groups from Shimano to see just how well they would perform on the trails of Bellingham, WA. Riding in Bellingham is a perfect mix of long steep climbs and fast and rowdy descents, demanding the most of bike and body, so in other words, an ideal location to put new componentry to the test.
While we huddled around the driveway discussing the finer points of the HYPERGLIDE+ and Microsplines, I wondered how much of this is just industry jargon and how much of it will affect what we felt on the bike?
We began our day by climbing up to the top of Galbraith Mountain, undulating between steep and steady we got a quick working out of the controls. Shimano users will be familiar with the very distinct actuation in the shifters. The action is firm but also smooth moving between gears. Perhaps the most noticeable attribute of the new XT group was the lack of sound coming from the drivetrain. Even top of the line road groups have a hint of metal passing over metal, but the XT chain and cog interface was virtually silent. To me, this feature is almost magic. I asked a few of the Shimano people on hand to explain how it is possible, and basically, it comes down to the reconfiguration of the plates and roller bearings on the chain and the way they interface with the cogs and chainring.
Descending on the new XT was no less enjoyable than climbing. The four-piston trail brakes offered insane stopping power and precise modulation. The latest version of the brake is slimmer and cleaner looking, taking up less room on the handlebars.
While we are on the subject of handlebars, Shimano designed their own dropper lever to compliment the group. The dropper lever resembles a sleeker version of the shift paddle, with smooth action for both dropping and extending the post.
Both Deore XT and SLX will have the options of being a single or double chainring in the front, which leads us to the rear derailleur. Shimano will be offering two distinct rear derailleurs to compliment a single or double front set up for optimal shifting and clearance for the 51 tooth cog on the single ring configuration.
After two days of heavy riding, I can confidently say Shimano has done it again. Perfectly tuned by Shimano’s own mechanics, I never once experienced a missed shift, let alone chatter out of the drivetrain. If you are in the market for a new groupset or if you have been waiting for this update, you will not be disappointed. XT groups will be available for purchase through retailers beginning June 14th and SLX will become available sometime in July. For more on the newest offerings and latest updates, visit Shimano.