Test­ing the New Shi­mano XTR

The com­po­nent maker re­booted its per­for­mance moun­tain bike sys­tem. The re­sults are im­pres­sive.

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Matt Stet­son

An im­pres­sive re­boot of a top moun­tain bike sys­tem

Sprint­ing out of the sad­dle and shift­ing gears reck­lessly at the same time is some­thing that has al­ways been frowned upon. Most times, your driv­e­train will protest. So when Shi­mano moun­tain bike prod­uct man­ager Nick Mur­dick ex­plained that the com­pany de­signed the new xtr group to han­dle shifts un­der ped­alling load, I was ex­cited to give the sys­tem a try while we were in Crested Butte, Colo. When Shi­mano set out to re­fresh the xtr group, the com­pany opted for a full re­design, in­stead of mak­ing im­prove­ments on the ex­ist­ing parts. The re­sult was ac­tu­ally two groupsets, one for cross coun­try-ori­ented rid­ing and one for en­duro. Dur­ing the de­sign process, Shi­mano called upon some of its top pro rid­ers to help with de­vel­op­ment to en­sure the end prod­uct could per­form at the high­est lev­els of rac­ing while also of­fer­ing ad­van­tages to rid­ers not chas­ing podi­ums.

I rode the cross coun­try group first, which comes with a 1-by spe­cific xtr crank and 10–51 tooth, 12-speed cas­sette mounted to the new xtr Scy­lence free­hub. The hub comes by its name hon­estly: it’s quiet. Though I do en­joy a loud buzz from the hub while scream­ing down­hill, you can re­ally hear your tires on the trail when your bike is silent. As re­sult, you can judge trac­tion bet­ter. I could see this si­lence catch­ing on. It was great to hear the tires drift­ing so I could cor­rect steer­ing be­fore to­tally los­ing grip.

Sit­ting at 2,715 m of el­e­va­tion, Crested Butte has a lot less O2 in the air than I’m used to at sea level. As we started to climb higher into the moun­tains, I could tell I was go­ing to make good use of the 51-tooth cog, and I was go­ing to shift into it while stomp­ing on the ped­als.

Part Shi­mano’s xtr re­design is the new Hyper­glide+ shift ramp­ing in the 12-speed cas­sette. The fea­ture en­sures that when you shift gears, the chain moves from one cog to the next in pre­cise stages. It feels fluid to you, but the chain al­ways has a se­cure hold, which means you can ac­tu­ally shift un­der ped­alling load. The Hyper­glide+ was a real

“It was great to hear the tires drift­ing so I could cor­rect steer­ing be­fore to­tally los­ing grip.”

ad­van­tage on steep, tech­ni­cal climbs that re­quired me to shift into an eas­ier gear. I didn’t need to ad­just my ca­dence to get that clutch ef­fect to ac­com­mo­date a shift. In­stead, I could fo­cus on keep­ing my mo­men­tum and choos­ing a good line. I could sim­ply click away at the shift lever with­out wor­ry­ing about skip­ping or jam­ming a chain. For rac­ers, Hyper­glide+ will help them as they shift into harder gears while sprint­ing, which could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning and sec­ond place. Don’t for­get, the “R” in xtr is for “race.”

Af­ter climb­ing to the top of Mount Crested Butte, it was time to scream through the as­pens on the way down while see­ing how the new brakes would stack up against the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. I have never been a big fan of Shi­mano brake feel. It’s a lit­tle too on/off for my lik­ing. Thanks to ath­lete feed­back, the new xtr brakes have great feel and much more mod­u­la­tion than pre­vi­ous mod­els. The XC brakes are quite dif­fer­ent from their en­duro coun­ter­parts. The for­mer use car­bon brake levers and dual-pis­ton calipers, while the lat­ter have larger alu­minum levers and four-pis­ton calipers. The en­duro brakes also have a tool-less reach ad­just­ment. On a big back­coun­try loop, we en­coun­tered some pretty long de­scents that re­ally made me a fan of the new en­duro brakes. The slightly larger lever feels re­ally good with one fin­ger hooked over it. There’s plenty of power on of­fer so it’s easy to con­trol the speed with min­i­mal ef­fort at the levers. I didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence much arm pump, even on ex­tended steep sec­tions. I could see this sys­tem giv­ing en­duro rac­ers an ad­van­tage on long stages where arms may tire from a lot of brak­ing.

An­other big dif­fer­ence be­tween the XC group and the en­duro set is the cas­sette and de­railleur op­tions. xtr has the wide-range 10–51 tooth cas­sette, a 10–45 tooth cas­sette, as well as the 11-speed 10–45 tooth cas­sette. Shi­mano’s ath­letes wanted more grad­ual gear steps for en­durotype rac­ing. Cross coun­try rid­ers pre­ferred a wider range of gear­ing. With an 11-speed cas­sette, you can run a shorter chain and the short-cage rear de­railleur to end up with some weight sav­ings. The short-cage mech will also help to al­le­vi­ate chain slap.

Some other no­table fea­tures of the group in­clude a lot of cock­pit cus­tomiza­tion op­tions. You can move your shifters and/or drop­per re­mote in­board or out­board more than with the pre­vi­ous I-spec lever op­tions. The shifter can also move the chain down two gears in one throw of the lever, with a sec­ond click of­fer­ing more re­sis­tance to help you to avoid over­shift­ing. New, larger plat­forms have been added to the xtr trail ped­als. The crank now uses a di­rect-mount chain­ring.

With a 1-by spe­cific, 12-speed driv­e­train, new silent free­hub and brakes with loads of power and mod­u­la­tion, Shi­mano has re­ally stepped up and of­fered a great high-per­for­mance group for high-per­for­mance-style rid­ing.

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