We’ve got our hands on 2012 Shimano XT

By Justin Steiner

Shimano’s venerable XT group is turning 30. To celebrate, Shimano has infused the groupo with a host of new technology trickled down from last year’s completely redesigned XTR. We briefly covered the group’s public introduction at Sea Otter, and I’m at Lake Tahoe to put the new group through its paces. Shimano invited a group of us media hacks out to take what may well be the first public rides aboard the 2012 group.

Much like the recently revised XTR group, the new XT is aimed at both cross country and trail riders with wheel, drivetrain, pedal and brake options specifically catering to both groups. Not only that, but the new group is available in both silver and black.


Some things don’t change for 2012, like Shimano’s use of cup and cone bearings and center-lock rotors on both the trail and XC wheelsets. Both wheel options utilize 24-spokes front and rear, but rim widths and axle options differ. The XC wheels offer a 19mm-wide rim, with standard QR and 15QR axle options up front and a standard QR rear hub. Trail wheels boast a 21mm-wide rim with 15QR axle up front, with standard QR or 142x12mm rear hub options. Both options are tubeless compatible.


The tighter ratio crankset we first saw with the preview 10-speed XT group retains its 42-32-24t chainrings, while cassette options also remain the same. New for 2012 are a pair of double chainring cranks. The trail version serves up 38-26t rings, while the XC offers racier 40-28t gearing. Teamed with 11-36t, 11-34t, or 11-32t cassette options, there should be gearing combos for just about everyone.

With the continuous advancement of shift ramps and pins, it comes as little surprise that Shimano has developed directional chains. The outside links of the HG-X chain are designed to better “hook” the chainring’s shift pins, while inside plates get busy working their way up and down the cassette.

Shifting also benefits from XTR-developed technology in terms of new lower cable pull ratios, which allow more margin for error when tuning, and even out the amount of force required to execute shifts throughout the range. Shimano’s Multi-Release technology allows for two shifts down the cassette with a single press of the two-way finger/thumb trigger.


Pedal options, you’re seeing the theme here, are an aesthetically updated version of the old XT design—with five times more contact area than the previous pedal—for the XC-minded, along with a smallish platform version for the trail group—said to have 8.5 times the contact surface of the old XT pedal. 


Perhaps the biggest news with the groupo’s redesign is seen in the braking department. Lever, master cylinder, and caliper borrow heavily from the new XTR design, and share many of the same technologies: Ice-Tech rotors and brake pads as well as options to integrate shifter mounting with the brake lever.

The Ice rotors sandwich an aluminum layer between stainless steel faces in order to take advantage of aluminum’s superior heat transfer. The aluminum core of the rotors acts like a heat sink, helping the rotors to run up to 100-degrees Celsius cooler. The sweet-looking fins on the Ice brake pads perform the same role, keeping the pad surface another 50-degrees cooler. 150-degress Celsius is a huge leap forward in cooling capability. Both Center Lock and 6-bolt Ice rotors will be available in 160, 180 and 203mm sizes. 

So, how’s it ride?

Good question. The kind folks at Shimano set up the the trusty Yeti 575 reviewed in issue #154 with the new group—it’s looking pretty sharp.
Read our ride impressions here.
Over and out for now,
Your intrepid reporter…


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